Or – “Second Verse…  Is It The Same As The First?”

Two former sidekicks…

One alien princess…

One stormy controversy regarding gender depictions…

Will Red Hood & The Outlaws quiet those offended by number one?

RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #2
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Cover Artist(s): Rocafort & Blond
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, on Red Hood & The Outlaws:  In the revitalized DCU, Batman has still had several Robins, one of which is the lad called Jason Todd.  As before, something happened (although I’ll wager it wasn’t being beaten to death with a crowbar by the Joker, who had been named Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations) that caused him to give up the role, and led him down a dark path to his new identity as The Red Hood.  Roy Harper, former sidekick of Green Arrow, has likewise trod a dark path, but I fervently hope that the events of “Rise of Arsenal” have been retconned away because “Eww.”  As for Princess Koriand’r of Tamaran, we’re not sure what her deal is, but she claims to have little or no memory of what has come before (though it DOES seem to include a stint with the Titans, if the dialogue in issue #1 is what it seemed to be.)  Three heroes treated poorly by fate and mentors, working under the radar in a wilder and less predictable DCU, the are The Outlaws…

OKAY, SO I MAY BE WRONG ON THAT JOKER THING…

The first page is a flashback, some Chandlerian narration by Jason Todd, telling us of what took him from Batman sidekick to ninja with a crimson helm, and it explicitly references his death at the hands of the Joker.  But, in this new timestream, Talia Al Ghul gathered his corpse, put him in the Lazarus Pit, and delivered him to the secret warrior caste that we saw last issue, nestled in a secret mountain lair.  I suddenly remember why I had a soft spot for Scott Lobdell’s writing back in the 90’s (I think he was on X-Force?) as the leader of the caste, an ancient woman named Ducra, takes Jason down in a split-second, literally.  “I can still train you to fight when you’re unconscious,” she scolds him, “All you have to do is stop being such a yutz.”  Heh.  I didn’t read the Red Hood mini that came out earlier this year, so I can’t say how much of this resembles it, but it’s interesting to see Talia in both stories as Jason’s enabler.  Back in the non-flashback, Jason and Roy have some interesting banter, and Roy actually tries to be an adult and address his actions with Jason’s “girl”, Starfire, but Jason has no interest in discussion, going so far as to deny that the three of them are or are ever GOING to be a team.

…BUT WHAT’S GOING ON UNDER THE HOOD?

Jason is a much more sympathetic central voice this time around, and with a little more explanation, the loss of his friends in “The Hundred Acres Of All” (located in the wood behind Christopher Robin’s house) gains some resonance.  The boys land in Hong Kong, and are greeted by a limousine hired by Starfire, who is fully clothed and living up to her royal stature.  (So, if Roy is the dark-haired gun for hire, and Kori the princess of a lost world, and Roy the enthusiastic farmboy with the antiquated weapons of the past, does this mean that Roy and Kori are siblings?  And who gets to play Boba Fett?)  Roy again tries to clear the air, to no avail, before our power trio leaps out of a helicopter into a gorge in the Himalayas.  The art is, as last issue, stylish as all hell, and Jason’s gadgetry includes a really super-cool glidery thing that allows him to sort of fly as Rocafort puts together a neat wide-screen action sequence.  Jason’s tragedy deepens as the issue ends, and Lobdell gets in some lovely character work between The Red Hood and his lost teacher, ending with a pensive and upset Jason coming to grips with reality.  “Let’s go kick some @$$… TEAM.”  It’s a good strong ending in a very X-Men vein, and is clearly the next step in Jason’s turn from jerkass to leader…

THE VERDICT:  BETTER THAN #1, GREAT LOOKING ART.

This issue gets a lot more done than last (which, to be honest, was probably intentional, what with last issue being not just a #1 but a relaunch #1 designed to shock and awe) and the central conceit of each character is a lot more enjoyable.  Last issue’s standoffish schmucky Red Hood gets some emotion, the hyperactive Arsenal gets some depth, and Starfire’s distant, almost clinical interaction with her fellows is expanded upon, and built into a haughtiness that fits with her royal roots.  The fact that she is shown to be capable of more than eye-candy and sidekick boffing helps greatly.  I am a bit troubled at the portrayal of Talia in this issue, lacking her own usual Greta Garbo holier-than-thou gravitas, but the portrayal of Ducra and other secondary characters is just enough fun to keep me from worrying too much.  Red Hood & The Outlaws #2 does a lot to assuage MY irritations from last time ’round, and is a nice ‘team-builder’ issue, earning a well-done 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I suspect that many people aren’t going to give this one a second chance, given the furor in September, but I am well on the way to forgiving this title it’s weaknesses based on what I’ve seen here…

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  The death of Jason Todd happened “about a year and a half ago”, in continuity.  Do we have any idea how long Mr. Grayson was Robin, or how much overlap there might have been?  (I haven’t read any of the #2 bat-books.)

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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33 Comments

  1. October 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm — Reply

    Hey Matthew,

    I just finished the first 52 issues (I’m aware I’m way behind) and I’m also struggling to piece together the overall continuity. I don’t know how long Dick Grayson was Robin, but it was long enough for him to establish himself as Nightwing, take over for Batman and then go back to being Nightwing. Likewise, Jason’s “death” a year and a half ago doesn’t make sense, seeing as how Tim Drake mentions he used to be Robin in the first issue of “Teen Titans” and he mentions how he thought he put the superhero life behind him. So unless Tim Drake was Robin for only a couple of months . . . Jason Todd “dying” a year and a half ago doesn’t make sense.

    I hate to agree with Stephen . . . but it’s seeming more and more likely many of these books are set in separate continuities, if not separate Earths altogether.

    • ~wyntermute~
      October 21, 2011 at 5:17 pm — Reply

      “The death of Jason Todd happened “about a year and a half ago”, in continuity.”

      Yeah… This whole “New 52” thing seems to be turning into “52 new convoluted timelines, depending on which parts of which characters we’re retconning, and which parts we’re not. Oh, and remember, Nothing Before Now Matters. Except when we tell you stuff that happened Before Now actually matters. Don’t think toooo hard about it; you’ll get a headache.”

      • October 21, 2011 at 6:59 pm — Reply

        Very true wyntermute.

        And while I like not having to buy six Bat-titles to read a single story, I had to say I’m a little disappointed by the continuity of the relaunch, or lack thereof. Like the guys pointed out, there’s clearly **some** continuity, as the same mysterious woman appears in every first issue. But at the same time, you can’t really connect the comic books if you wanted to, because they all seem to be operating on different wavelengths and different time frames.

        • October 22, 2011 at 7:25 am — Reply

          But at the same time, you can’t really connect the comic books if you wanted to, because they all seem to be operating on different wavelengths and different time frames.

          But then, not having to buy all four bat-books is a selling point for some people, and not connecting the comics doesn’t bother many readers at all… Mileage varies, and all.

          • ~wyntermute~
            October 22, 2011 at 5:22 pm — Reply

            Very =very= true, but… If “continuity doesn’t matter”, why are they force-feeding the Mystery Woman into every title? She’s practically a giant blinking neon “RESET BUTTON” in case “this” (whatever ‘it’ ultimately turns into, after ‘it’ runs more of its course) doesn’t work.

            • October 22, 2011 at 8:01 pm — Reply

              She’s practically a giant blinking neon “RESET BUTTON” in case “this” (whatever ‘it’ ultimately turns into, after ‘it’ runs more of its course) doesn’t work.

              Really? I don’t get that at all. I guess it’s all in how you look at it…

          • Krypt0nian
            October 22, 2011 at 8:03 pm — Reply

            So even though DC has expressly said the opposite you’re still going with the reset button. Conspiracy theories do nothing for me.

  2. steve
    October 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm — Reply

    wouldn’t they sell more copies by just having Starfire go topless? Sheesh.

  3. TaZ
    October 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm — Reply

    Much better than Issue #1. Still not thrilled with the teen-box sex obsession but having Jason Todd show his similarity to Bruce Wayne and giving him a “path” to follow as well as explaining how he was able to amass a fortune (busting crooks and then stealing their loot…kinda Frank Castle-ish, eh?). Roy Harper is more tolerable as a renegade redneck anti-hero than a one-armed knife-wielding heroin freak with a dead child. Of course, I would have a soft spot for the redneck, baseball cap wearing guy in the group.

    • ~wyntermute~
      October 21, 2011 at 5:19 pm — Reply

      Yeah, at least this “Arsenal” is wayyyy more upbeat than the preFlashing one. That Roy Harper felt like he fell out of the movie “Requiem For A Dream” — the most depressing film I’ve ever seen in my life.

  4. Armaan
    October 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm — Reply

    What I want to know is how old Damien is and when he was conceived. Because Batman’s apparently only been Batman for six years. I’m preeeetty sure that Damien Wayne’s older than six.

  5. Andrew
    October 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm — Reply

    I understand the shying away from the sexy sexy times, but Im still enjoying Red Hood and the Outlaws. It reminds me of a really good “shoot ’em up” and kind of a bit like Burn Notice. Yeah its not Shakespeare, its not Watchmen, its not going to win an emmy but every now and then I want to see a good shoot em up kill em up bang bang fun time.

  6. Jimmy
    October 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm — Reply

    Not only does Jason reference being Robin until a year and a half ago, but I believe he claims to have been Robin for several years, which shrinks Dick’s tenure considerably. My current timeline, assuming a 6 year Batman
    Years 0 to 1.5: Dick as Robin
    Years 1.5 to 4.5: Jason as Robin, Dick as Nightwing
    Years 4.5 to 5: Tim as Robin
    Years 5 to just before 6: Dick as Batman, Damian as Robin

    It works, and if we assume Bruce sired Damian BEFORE he became Batman, while he was training with Ra’s / Ducard, it actually makes decent amount of sense

    • October 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm — Reply

      Nice breakdown.

    • KevinpBreen
      October 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm — Reply

      0-1.5 would have to include Batman before Robin, so Dick was Robin for a year but Jason for 3 years? Also, was Bruce’s training with Ras/Ducard ever comics canon? I thot it was only in the movie.

      • October 23, 2011 at 7:39 pm — Reply

        Also, was Bruce’s training with Ras/Ducard ever comics canon? I thot it was only in the movie.

        I suspect that the movie continuity is going to be eerily familiar to what we see in the New 52. Corporate SYNERGY!!!

        • October 23, 2011 at 9:14 pm — Reply

          A past with Ducard has been explicitly referenced in Batman and Robin #2; the assumption that Ducard is still Ra’s is at this point an assumption, but one that I’m comfortable making.

          And that is a good point that we do have to have Batman before Robin, so Dick was probably only Robin for a year or so; I find it intriguing that given the pieces we have that Jason is the longest tenured Robin.

          And thanks Andreas; glad you liked it / it helped!

  7. Grotesk
    October 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm — Reply

    It would be nice if there had been more consensus about the new continuity before they rolled out all the titles. The timing issue mentioned above, for example. Although…

    If the new continuity is examined closely (perhaps by a thinktank of Very Smart Persons calling themselves The Can(n)onade — get it?), and characters within it become aware of the inconsistency, then that could lead to what I’ve been thinking is the whole point of the new continuity, which is that when DC is done with showing off their creativity with the Post-Flashpoint reboot, there will be a New Crisis, the realities will collapse, the different versions of everyone will meet and fight it out (spiritually, physically, whatever), and only the stronger (read: better-selling) will remain in yet another new continuity which will be called Earth-(insert calculus formula here).

    Then again, I would have bet that Brand New Day would have only lasted for a couple of years before it was undone. Instead, it’s apparently spread to another branch of the multiverse.

    Damn that Franklin Richards! :: Shakes fist ::

  8. eric
    October 22, 2011 at 12:07 am — Reply

    Dan Dodo bird is going to come out at one point and just say dont pay attention to continuity just pay attention to the good stories.

  9. Krypt0nian
    October 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm — Reply

    I’m. Of sure why time dilation is a problem now. Let’s not pretend that any of comics continuity makes sense when held up to a stopwatch. Wolverine is in 5-6 books and could not possibly have enough time in a week to get all of that done. All of the events in Batman’s life couldn’t have possible happen to one person pre-Crisis, post-Crisis or any other period of his career.

    The way Morrison handles it is the right way. Everything happened. Don’t worry about the timeline. That’s the way New DC is handling things. Events will be referenced, but not dwelled on. As it should be.

    All of this handwringing makes me think we’re old ladies.

    • Krypt0nian
      October 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm — Reply

      Err “I’m not sure”

    • Damascus
      November 7, 2011 at 4:10 am — Reply

      Agreed. Plus, we have a very recent beginning to all of this. If someone were to look at these events from even a few years in the future and they were unaware of the relaunch, there wouldn’t be much of this problem. We’re all acutely aware of the sweeping changes and we’re either reading the issues or the reviews of most of the issues and for the first time in my comic reading, I’m actually aware of everything that’s happening almost company wide in DC comics instead of the 3-5 issues I’m normally interested in. I’m willing to bet if anyone could afford to do that with Marvel titles, there might be other inconsistencies, much like the Wolverine reference (and Spider-man too).

  10. Balian_Ironguard
    October 22, 2011 at 6:04 pm — Reply

    I was willing to give this one a second chance because barring the obvious, the first comic had the germ of something interesting. I wasn’t disappointed as this issue is picking up speed. Scott’s story telling choices need some catching up to mesh with the rockstar art, but this one pulled me in for another issue.

  11. eric
    October 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm — Reply

    The continuity is not bothering me so much as just certain things asking us to suspend our disbelief with certain characters. The main thing being Kory. When she was with the Titans she became a model etc. Okay is this how she makes money? Where this is going is how did she fly ahead and rent the vehicle? How does she pay her bills? Things like this would help fill in some holes sometimes.

    • Krypt0nian
      October 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm — Reply

      Since its a relaunch, any or all of the details could be diffeerent or the same. There have only been two issues out and plot wise, her source of income has not been an issue yet. We’re going to have to give them time to fill in decades of history slowly over time.

    • Damascus
      November 7, 2011 at 4:21 am — Reply

      Maybe she has some access to some of Jason’s money. Kind of like a petty cash drawer.

  12. Ricco
    October 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm — Reply

    I liked it, I was iffy on it from the 1st issue but this one kept me interested and sold me for issue 3.

    Personally I see Kory as a girl who was a slave for too long and is emotionally stunted, latching to the people around her for support which would explain why she pretends not to remember Grayson. He is no longer in her life so she pretends he never existed so she can be with the team without risking rejection/complications.

  13. KevinpBreen
    October 23, 2011 at 3:21 am — Reply

    One thing nobody seems to mention continuity wise is that while this book and BATWOMAN imply a previous Teen Titans, there is no mention of such in TEEN TITANS, where the TT are just forming.

    • Ricco
      October 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm — Reply

      Does it imply a previous TT or Young Justice? Either way the words “F continuity ” come to mind.

    • October 23, 2011 at 9:16 pm — Reply

      In 52, when Lex licensed a group of heroes as Infinity Inc., there was no mention of the previous Infinity Inc by the newly formed team–it was left to the old-timers in the JSA to raise an objection and remind the new team of the history that went along with that team name. I don’t know if this is in fact a similar situation, but that’s the way I’m choosing to read it at this point.

  14. SnowWolf
    October 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm — Reply

    Always hated Jason. Always felt Roy was a lackluster character… too many issues for me to get behind. never gave a damn about Kory, truth be told. With this new version, however, I can say that I see a lot of potential in the Jason Todd as Red Hood character and I find I am willing to follow him, for now. Roy as a “looser” dude has potential as well. Still don’t give a damn about Kory; I prefer smart and strong over bobbing-boob-bimbo and I’m not seeing anything yet that makes me care one way or the other about her.

    Overall, I’m liking this book now that I’ve read #2 and am willing to spend some hard earned bucks to keep following it, which is the only real litmus-test I employ these days.

  15. October 27, 2011 at 3:54 pm — Reply

    I was actually starting to wonder if Damian Wayne was born before Bruce became Batman, since he has only seemed to be Batman for around 6 years now and Damian is definitely older than 6–then again, the recent Batman and Robin shows Damian as more of a test-tube baby so maybe Talia found a way to accelerate his cellular growth. I dunno. (I’ve been in and out of DC continuity and only jumping back in since the New 52, so I may be missing something more obvious)

  16. October 27, 2011 at 7:00 pm — Reply

    That’s an interesting theory, Ethan. I dunno. It’s possible. Maybe DC is bringing “Batman Begins” into continuity, and Ra’s al Ghul was directly involved in Batman’s training. If so, it’s certainly possible Talia could have secretly had a fling with Bruce before he became Batman. Then again, that contradicts the storyline where she and Bruce were married for quite some time.

    Ahhh, continuity. Don’t you just love it?

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