New 52 Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

We all knew going in that Red Hood and the Outlaws was probably going to suck.  It promised to really screw with established characters (some of whom had been utterly destroyed by recent awful continuity anyway, like Roy Harper, the former Speedy/Arsenal) and be one of the more painful shreddings of DC's past to occur in the New 52.  That was made clear from the outset, as soon as it was blurbed about.

We didn't really think it was going to be this painful.  Somebody better call the Batgirl of San Diego back into action, because DC obviously didn't really hear her out.  Or at least writer Scott Lobdell didn't.

The pitch here is that Jason Todd – formerly Robin, now a gun-toting vigilante called the Red Hood – and Roy Harper – former Green Arrow sidekick turned smack addict – run around having buddy-cop-style adventures and passing Starfire's body around like a plastic toy who loves to be passed around like a plastic toy because she is liberated.   That's what happens in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1.

Laura Hudson over at Comics Alliance has crafted a much more in-depth critique about how obnoxiously male writers tend to depict "sexually liberated" women than I could possibly manage here, so I'll direct you there to cover that particular angle.  Suffice to say that Lobdell has reduced Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran into essentially a highly advanced Real Doll.  Complete with installing a lack of memory of anything related to humanity.

That's right – as a function of her species, Starfire now does not retain memories of humans.  Therefore, she doesn't know who the Teen Titans are, she doesn't remember being engaged to Dick Grayson, she doesn't remember any of her friends because, according to Todd, "turns out Tamaraneans don't see humans as much more than sights and smells and they have a terribly short attention span about all things Earth."  She can barely even tell Todd and Harper apart.  It seems as if Lobdell has taken great pains to strip all the emotional motivation behind Kori's gregarious outlook and reduce her to nothing more than a sex vessel.  It's pretty insulting not only to women, but to male intelligence to boot.

Having heard Lobdell speak about his take on comics, he was really insistent on leaving the past in the past and trying to create new things, which is what he seems to be doing with this Essence person and this "All Caste" and villains called "The Untitled."  But there's a difference between leaving the past behind and taking a big dump on it before you do it.  The fact that he's also going to be writing Teen Titans is not a good sign, because with this take on Starfire, it's like he's actively trying to piss off anyone who liked them. 

The kicker is that this could have worked.  The opening few pages does play like a fun buddy cop movie – a sequel already in progress – and the easy roguish banter between Harper and Todd kinda works in that vein.  Kenneth Rocafort's art is also pretty decent, aside from putting a dumb-looking mouth on Red Hood's helmet-mask and giving the awkward-contortions-as-sexy Starfire basketballs instead of boobs.  There's even a pun I laughed at in spite of myself.  But as soon as Starfire enters the picture – literally introduced as "a pair of 38s" – it all goes off the rails and makes you want to punch the entire comic book industry.

Look.  I love me some boobs.  I like ladies.  I like attractively rendered women.  Crave is a site geared towards dudes, and there's always going to be that visceral 'hubba hubba' reaction we get from the sight of women.  That's fine, that's natural, and it's how a lot of us are wired.  But after reading Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, the main thought I come away with is this:

Do we really have to be such dicks about having dicks?