DC’s second try with RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS is the perfect example of why we all love a good comeback story. Heavily criticized for his work on the premiere title, Scott Lobdell has had to make a lot of changes in hopes of redeeming the book. Fortunately, he delivered, and we noticed. Given a fresh start and armed with a new artist, Vol. 2 of RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS (despite still being in its infancy) already surpasses its predecessor in almost every way. And although there are numerous improvements to the book since it’s start in 2011, we’ve narrowed down the top 5 reasons we think the “Dark Trinity” outlaws is better than the original.


red hood and the outlaws Starfire

REASON #5: NO STARFIRE CONTROVERSY

It didn’t take long before New 52’s: RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS managed to enrage it’s readers. Issue #1 of the pioneer series met scathing backlash at the portrayal of the fan favorite character, Starfire. The alien princess, once characterised as a sweet girl; naive to human culture, was now the personification of promiscuity and hollow fantasy. Degraded to merely a notch on both of her teammates’ belts, coupled with suggestive poses and exaggerated assets, Starfire was permanently marred for the rest of the book as just “the hot chick” and could not be taken seriously as an essential member of the team. Her reputation was set early on and despite Lobdell’s attempts to redeem the character throughout the rest of the series, the damage had been done.

LISTEN: Want to know our thoughts on the Red Hood? Here’s our podcast on the origin of Batman’s Red Hood

The Amazonian rogue, Artemis, replaced Starfire as the only female outlaw in Rebirth. Though still very new to the comic, Artemis is shown to be driven, skilled and completely independent. Her dialogue shows no submission to Jason and as of now she has no romantic feelings for any of her fellow outlaws. This is important to note because it is a popular theme in comics; to have the female character begin a romantic relationship with the hero for no legitimate reason other than drama. 

However, Artemis shows that just because a female character is on the team, doesn’t mean she has to flirt or be attracted to any of the males. She isn’t stereotyped as someone’s love interest simply because she’s there. While I do believe Jason and Artemis might share romantic moments in the future (because face it, that’s just how comics work), it will feel more natural without the oversexualization of the leading lady. Jason and Artemis’ dialogue show a good progression of trust and friendship between the two. If the pacing of their relationship remains this consistent, than any sparked feelings this time around will feel more genuine. 

 

REASON #4: ONE VILLAIN AND ONE PLOT

Although RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS had many villains (the Untitled, Crux, the Blight, Suzie Su, etc.) none successfully fulfilled the purpose of creating a threat that advances the plot. Most of the villains were unoriginal, prosaic, and unable to create a story worth investing in. Meanwhile, the few antagonists who did show potential were written off or killed before they could make an impact on the story. The lack of consistent villains left the series non-sequential and sporadic with no real direction.

In addition, the majority of the villains featured in the New 52 series were centered around Jason and did not create a viable threat to the outlaws as a whole. Each one (save for Crux and the Blight) only seemed to have a personal vendetta against Red Hood. And while that could make for a good arc in a solo Red Hood comic, it did not do well for the series. With such a unique and original series such as this one, RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS needed a forcible villain. It needed a threat crucial enough to explain why Jason would need a team. The villains should have unified the outlaws. Instead, the stories mostly alienated Starfire (no pun intended) and Arsenal from the plot rather than drew them in.

 

red hood and the outlaws Red Hood and Artemis

 

Lobdell, however, did not waste time creating a new villain in Rebirth. Instead, he stapled Black Mask as the main villain and used him to bring the outlaws together. Using a well known villain who doesn’t need as much introduction and exposition allowed Lobdell the time to delve into the outlaws and properly develop the plot at a steady pace. The story holds your interest and gives the outlaws a viable mutual threat that keeps the book moving on the right track. Although not much about the plot has been revealed, the direction of the story proves to be more solid than the original.

REASON #3: ACTUAL OUTLAWS

The premise set for the outlaws was to be a team of “anti-heroes” with no real allegiance to good or bad. They simply do what they think is right, often with little to no regard to a standard moral code. Starfire and Arsenal, however, just don’t fit that description. Their rich history and reputation for being “good guys” just didn’t make them ideal outlaws, but that didn’t stop Lobdell from trying.

Changes were made to Starfire’s personality in New 52 to make her more cold and unfeeling. Despite her powers being connected to her emotions, in this series she decides to repress her feelings. Opting to keep people at a distance and even lying to her friends about her Tamaranean physiology, Starfire claimed that after enough time she would forget any human relationship.

 

red hood and the outlaws Starfire

 

This attempt to characterize Starfire as a cold and heartless warrior did not sit well with readers. This isn’t just because she is known for being joyful, warm and loving, but because it degrades what makes the character unique. The fact that Starfire remains optimistic despite her tragic backstory is what sets her apart. No matter how frigid and merciless she became under New 52, she was not fitting for an outlaw.

In contrast to Starfire, Arsenal does have a history of questionable motives. Gaining infamy both inside and out of comics for his public heroin addiction, Roy may seem like a good outlaw, but once again it doesn’t fit his personality. Unlike Jason, Roy Harper yearns for redemption. He truly wants to take control of his life and ultimately bring good into the world. Joining Red Hood, a notorious murderer and felon, is counterproductive to his cause.  Arsenal fundamentally seeks atonement for his past actions and doesn’t want to continue down his dark path. In conclusion, Roy Harper’s goals just aren’t conducive to an outlaw lifestyle.  

READ: Find out what happens to the outlaws in our review of RED HOOD/ARSENAL #13

Artemis and Bizarro, however, are a perfect fit for what the story wants to portray. Neither character is completely good nor bad, which makes their actions as outlaws much more believable.

Artemis’ attitude can be summed up as self-serving and arrogant. She seeks only the Bow of Ra, a weapon to which she feels entitled. Her motives are more selfish than evil and yet she shows concern for Red Hood’s cause. Artemis is the perfect outlaw because she is ruthless in getting what she wants, by any means necessary, yet knows where to draw the line. Artemis is strong, passionate, and in the end fights for the greater good. Even if her methods are somewhat — unconventional.

Bizarro may at first seem like a — well, bizarre choice for a teammate, but at a closer glance he does have a place on the roster. The simplicity of the character allows for the same duality in his moral code that the other outlaws posses. In other words, just like Artemis and Jason Todd, Bizarro can do bad as well as good. He is often persuaded or manipulated into doing the bidding of anyone who he deems a “friend,” therefore his actions cannot really be deemed evil nor good. However, although Bizarro may not have any personal motives or goals of his own, he will protect his friends by any means necessary. Violent or otherwise. And isn’t that what being an outlaw is all about?

 

REASON #2: NATURAL CHEMISTRY

New 52’s RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS did not spend much time establishing sincere relationships between its members. Everyone was simply connected through their back stories, and whatever was missing was conveniently explained through a flashback. We did not see the outlaws develop actual attachments to one another until later on in the series. Instead we had to blindly believe that the three outlaws not only worked as a team, but genuinely liked each other.

 

red hood and the outlaws Jason and Roy Harper

 

Jason and Roy shared an apparent history that we could only take at face value. It was later explained in issue #20 that Jason Todd (still going by Robin) had saved Roy Harper in their youth. While the issue did shed some light on their relationship, up until then, there was no real basis for their friendship. Just the idea that they “knew each other.”

Jason and Starfire’s relationship on the other hand, was mostly written off as a “same place, same time” circumstance. Issue #6 revealed that Starfire had saved Jason from drowning when he washed up on her secluded island. The two bonded over Jason’s past, his anger and affiliations with Dick Grayson (although she claims not to remember him). While some connection is established here, it wasn’t enough to justify Starfire’s addition to the team as well as her agreement to help Jason Todd rescue Arsenal. Instead, her consent to the mission was simply accredited to her “dislike for soldiers.”

 

red hood and the outlaws Jason and Bizarro

 

Going forward in Rebirth, however, Lobdell decided to focus on forging a believable team with a convincing origin. Jason Todd’s relationship with both these new outlaws is more unique and genuine, making it much more delightful to read. We get to see the outlaws’ relationship slowly but surely form and unfold before our eyes. Jason’s witty battles with Artemis are also entertaining. The two work together and prove to have a strong and energetic presence both in script and in artwork. It is especially endearing to see the way Lobdell writes Jason’s connection to Bizarro. Jason empathizes with Bizarro because he knows what it’s like to be alive with no real direction or purpose. He strives to prove that Bizarro is not just a shell of Superman, but is actually a person behind all his power.

The unique feelings amongst the three characters sets up a strong team dynamic. These connections will prove to be key for strong character development in the future. The results so far are exemplary.

READ: See what started it all! Learn about the tragic death of Jason Todd here

 

REASON #1: EVERYONE GETS THE SPOTLIGHT

Jason’s name may be the headliner for RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS, but variety is the point of a team-based comic. Variety in stories, variety in plots, variety in character development. To put it simply, we want to read about more than one person. Unfortunately, RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS did not give that to us. The majority of the series spent its time following Jason bouncing around to wherever his adventures took him next. While the other two outlaws eventually got their moments in the spotlight (Starfire even having her own story arc) the run never felt equal amongst the three. Starfire and Arsenal felt more like sidekicks who had no real involvement in the plot.

 

red hood and the outlaws ARTEMIS

 

Although Jason may still be the star of the show, he is in no way the only star. Rebirth solidifies each character as their own person with their own goals and motives. Artemis seeks a weapon while Bizarro just wants to find out who he is. We get enough of each character to truly appreciate them as individuals and not as Red Hood’s affiliates. Given the path Lobdell has decided to take with these characters, it has the potential to be one of Rebirth’s most successful titles.

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One Comment

  1. Hunter Green

    November 13, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Nice article. I love the Red Good.

    Reply

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