Here’s a quick summary of Issue #1:
The issue opens with Jason Todd/Red Hood breaking his buddy, Roy Harper/Arsenal, out of a prison in the Middle East. There’s not much to the plan, with our two heroes blasting their way out of the building and taking off in a military issue jeep. Soon, they spot tanks ahead, and it looks like there will be trouble, but Starfire shows up and decimates the tanks in an instant. Yea for aliens!
Later, Starfire changes into a super skimpy bikini and arches her back a lot. Jason and Roy sit on the beach nearby and watch while sipping their drinks. They also discuss how they both remember Starfire, but she doesn’t really remember them. Apparently, all humans look alike to her. Then, Essence shows up looking to chat with Jason.
While Essence and Jason discuss the mysterious The Untitled, Starfire asks Roy if he wants to screw. Roy is caught off guard and asks if Starfire is Jason’s girl. Starfire scoffs, stating she is free to do what she wants. Satisfied, Roy and Starfire head off to boink.
Jason continues to have a super cryptic conversation with Essence, moving on from the mysterious The Untitled to something called The All Caste. Then, Essence disappears. Jason notices Roy and Starfire in a post-coital nap when he grabs his Red Hood bag from their room, and heads off to the well of The All Caste, which is apparently somewhere in the Himalayas. All of a sudden, Jason is surrounded by scary, convict-looking thugs, and he’s eager to shoot them.
Kenneth Rocafort gives a noble effort. I won’t say that Rocafort is my favorite artist of the DC Reboot in any manner, and it’s not like there aren’t any awkward drawings in this book, but he does manage to make Red Hood look pretty awesome in action and he certainly sells Starfire’s sex appeal. There’s really only so much an artist can do with a script as empty as this, and Rocafort does a good job with what he has to work with.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 make me feel better about liking Catwoman #1 so much. If you’ve read my review of Catwoman #1, then you know that I had my concerns regarding the sexuality of the main character and whether, while appropriate as a main trait of Catwoman, the focus on that attribute caused her to be portrayed simply as a male fantasy. I eventually decided it worked for the character, especially given the damaged psyche present underneath the surface. If I still had any doubts that Judd Winick did it right in Catwoman #1, they were completely dismissed once I realized how perfectly Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 was an example of how to do it wrong. Starfire is so sexualized and one note that she spends most of the issue posing provocatively for her male teammates and ends up bedding them both (at least that’s what Jason Todd suggests). This would be all right if it was coupled with the strength and resourcefulness of Selina Kyle, but the aloof Starfire’s entire purpose seems to be to show up in a skimpy outfit and take care of the baddies in the blink of an eye without thinking too hard. Oh, and you can totally score with her after the battle. Good thing she escaped those slavers...
Did they want new readers? Jason Todd’s background. Roy Harper’s history. Starfire’s origin. Essence and her history with Jason. The Untitled. The All Caste. These are all brought up in this first issue, implying a vivid and complex history for each of these characters, yet nothing is really explained that well. If we’re doing a reboot, why all the old history? If we’re keeping the old history, why isn’t there more focus on clarifying that history for the new readers? Catwoman’s Winick actually wrote the recent animated version of Red Hood’s origin, Under the Red Hood, and, with the quality of the film, I’m sure some new readers would be interested to pick up a book showing the continuing adventures of such a tragic character. Sadly, I think that this book will only confuse and drive away new readers from the medium.
A cliffhanger of suckage. I’ve been hitting this point pretty hard with all the New 52 issues. This is not the time to be half-assed, and if the reader gets to the end of issue #1 and doesn’t immediately want to start issue #2, then, in my opinion, that’s a failure. Sadly, that’s the feeling I got when I finished Red Hood and the Outlaws #1. By the time I got to the unimpressive and confusing end, I just didn’t care anymore. Maybe Jason Todd should have stayed dead.
The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is...)
Fan buzz seems to be mostly on the negative side for Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, but most reviewers seem way more willing to pick up the next issue than I am. If Lobdell can explain the changes to Starfire, most old readers seem willing to follow. Still, I agreed most with Jonathan Messinger’s review at Time Out Chicago which stated, “...it's just outrageously cynical and behind the times. And, like the rest of this book, it's trash.
That’s it, comic book-sniffers! If you haven’t bought it yet, skip this issue. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d really like to get back to Starfire, who’s been stretching in front of me. I’m pretty sure I can hit that. Wish me luck!
‘Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer