Kicking off a new story arc, the book becomes Starfire and the Outsiders as Kori takes the lead when her former crew needs her help to rescue her homeworld from a threat called the Blight. Yeah, the Blight. I guess it’s a step up from the Untitled or N.O.W.H.E.R.E., but it still has that generic air about it, doesn’t it?
It’s funny. I obviously can -- and do -- criticize so many things about this book that I try so hard to enjoy. But the one thing I’ve defended from the beginning is its portrayal of Starfire. All the outrage over the sexual objectification of the character was so ridiculous to me. Starfire? Sexually objectified? No way. And hey, has the sky always been blue? The only thing that was actually different about Scott Lobdell’s portrayal of Starfire was that she actually owned her promiscuity rather than just being the smiling sex toy happy to oblige the ogling eyes of the male characters. Now, she has layers of seriousness and intensity to her that honestly weren’t very prominent parts of the character before. Yeah, she’s slutty. But that doesn’t make up the entirety of her character, as the story of this issue explores.
The premise here is that Kori was, in fact, a badass captain of a warship before ending up on Earth. The crew of her former ship, which turns out to be where the name Starfire came from, come to her for help, and we immediately get exposed to a new facet of the character. In the context of other aliens, she’s not strange but commanding and respected. Now, I don’t know how tihs part of her history will fit in with the overall history of the new DC Universe. Then again, I’m pretty sure that DC doesn’t know it either. At this point with DC Comics, you kind of have to start going along with the ride if you really want a chance of enjoying their books. It has become fairly obvious that they are making things up as they go along much more than they have actually planned things. This is something that leaves me extremely worried about September’s zero issues.
As usual, I like the sentiment of what Lobdell is doing with a character more than how it actually gets pulled off in the pages. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s bad, but it does read as rather abrupt and not terribly thought out. As I’ve already said, the Blight threat comes off as nothing but generic evil alien fare. We’ve all seen it before. Even the design of their warships screams “generic evil alien.” I suppose next issue could flesh them out and give the Blight some actual substance. This issue doesn’t get much chance, because everything happens so abrupt. We go from a Miami hotel to Tamaran space ridiculously fast. It’s really a shame because this really would have been worth a somewhat slower pace with a more thought-out enemy for Kori to go face.
With the past two issues, I complimented Lobdell on his handling of Jason Todd. Because of this and my love-hate relationship with this book, I should’ve known his handling of Jason was about to dip downhill. And it does. Oh, this is going to be painful too. Jason has decided to try dating and goes out with that flight attendant from several issues ago. Why her? I don’t know. It really does strain credibility that Jason would hook up with this girl who kind of flirted him him a little on a plane weeks earlier. But there we go. The main reason I dislike it is that it just goes against Jason’s character. Jason doesn’t try to lead a civilian life. This is another element of Batman he takes to the extreme besides killing. He is the Red Hood 24/7. He came back from the dead and decided not to try to build a life for himself as Jason Todd. He doesn’t even bother with a fake on like Bruce Wayne does. But here he is with the sudden compulsion to date, and unfortunately, this is going to continue for the rest of the arc because guess who joins the Outlaws on their space adventure. I hope she either dies or runs screaming as soon as they get back to Earth.
One of the things I was most looking forward with this space story was that it would take us away from Earth and away from the damn All-Caste and Untitled plot. Because that wouldn’t have anything to do with a space adventure, right? Right. But unfortunately, part of the reason so much happens in this issue so quickly is that there are fewer pages for it. Why? Because we get a back-up story with Essence and the Untitled! ...Oh god! I will say that without it trying to involve Jason Todd and focusing instead on Essemce the whole Untitled story actually works much better. Because unlike Jason, Essence is a character who actually feels like she fits in this kind of story. This reads as something that really should be related to Justice League Dark instead of this book. It would still be nothing great -- because so far both the All-Caste and the Untitled are underdeveloped dime-a-dozen concepts -- but at least it would all be in a book where it actually belongs.
I’m really glad Kenneth Rocafort will be the new artist on Superman. I honestly do like his art, but I just hate his Red Hood. As I say in pretty much every review, I hate the damn face on the helmet. I can’t stand it. And you know what? Rocafort makes it even worse in this issue. He cheats. He’s now drawing facial expressions on the helmet in full force. Seriously, the expression changes to suit whatever Jason is feeling. I hate that so much. I even hate it when artists do it with Spider-Man’s eyes, and here Rocafort is doing it with the whole face of Jason’s helmet. ...It’s a really good thing he draws a sexy as hell Starfire.
Red Hood and the Outlaws may have hit a peak with its past two issues set in Gotham City, because this issue really does not leave me feeling good about it for the foreseeable future. While this space plot will be good for Starfire, I dread the forced love interest for Jason tagging along. On top of that, the back-up story with Essence makes it clear that we’re going right back to the Untitled story when our characters return to Earth. This issue just leaves me with so little to look forward to.
On that note, the September solicitation saying that it will reveal how Jason Todd returned from the dead horrifies me because I worry Lobdell will use it to tie Jason permanently to the All-Caste and Untitled. Juat ditch the Superboy punch and use a Lazarus Pit. Seriously. How hard is this? Why complicate it with unrelated plot elements? Try to remember you’re writing a Bat-character and ditch the League of Assassins knock-offs.