Review! ‘Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 2: The Starfire’ [Spoiler-free]

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I don’t have a wide range of critical observations to make about Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 2: The Starfire, but I will say this as encouragement to check the series out: this book distinguishes itself from the other Bat-books as it is the only doesn’t take itself too seriously. Or seriously at all–it would get in the way of the fun.

Red Hood V1

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS, VOL. 2: THE STARFIRE is a riotous fun read that doesn’t have enough substance to make it an all-time classic, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy they heck out of this collection.

STORY 
The Starfire picks up where Redemption left off, with these miscreants who only marginally trust each other traveling around on a suborbital spacecraft and getting into trouble. Jason is dealing with the aftermath of his trigger-happiness, Kori and Roy are awkwardly dating, or something, and bad people are doing bad things. The plot of this collection arcs through a series of conflicts, smoothly connects with the Night of the Owls event, does its own thing in outer space, and then dumps Red Hood off in Gotham City for his own Death of the Family horrors and sends Roy and Kori on to something else (perhaps a guest appearance in Superman: H’el on Earth?). The story is nothing remarkable for comics or for science fiction, looks a lot like Sinestro’s arc in Green Lantern regarding the salvation of Korugar, but is considerably more fun than any of them. Any complaints that I could levy against the story are mitigated by the amount of enjoyment that I took from reading it.

And perhaps that’s what makes Red Hood and the Outlaws worth reading, to me; first, it’s legitimately funny, and though Scott Lobdell hasn’t been the most consistent writer comics has ever seen, he seems to know these characters and how to make them work together–a practice that almost always creates a story that ends up being more than the sum of its parts. Secondly, it looks great, with Kenneth Rocafort’s art and his attention to detail standing out as one of the two or three finest among New 52 pencils at this point.

RHatO #11 Clip

While some of the issues that critics have taken with Rocafort’s representation of females in RED HOOD may warrant consideration (regardless of that character’s history), the book contains genuine character development in its wayward anti-heroes (clip from RHatO #11 by Lobdell & Rocafort, 2012)

PENCILS & ARTWORK
The book has gotten some negative buzz on this score, with the sexual representation of Starfire (and in this volume, Isabel) raising some critical eyebrows, but while the princess from Tamaran hasn’t historically enjoyed robust layers of clothing, her character model in this volume is perhaps a response to those criticisms: Starfire takes unflinching, unswerving command of her namesake space cruiser in a suit of heavy, if tight-fitting, armor.  Sexual politics and posturing aside, this book is Starfire’s show, and her strength comes as a result of both her decision to rise above her trauma-laden past and her ability to value Red Hood and Arsenal as teammates and individuals. Her sexual identity has no bearing on what this book communicates, as female agency as a theme is assumed in its premise rather than defended in its narration; we see this in Isabel, too, to a lesser extent.

BACKLOG PRIORITY
Hey, look at that–I guess I did have a few critical observations.  At any rate, a friend of mine once described Red Hood and the Outlaws as the Firefly of DC’s New 52: it’s a fun book that runs concurrent to the big, serious business of the Justice League, but there are mythic stories embedded here that make it worth picking up.  Its contrast to other titles, and its seeming distance from the other interconnected arcs, make it unique among the New 52, but its adherence to familiar tropes might keep it off the top of the pile.
PRIORITY RATING: 7/10

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