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Red Hood and the Outlaws #13 – Review

I'm just so happy the helmet doesn't have a stupid face anymore.The Blight’s brutal occupation of Tamaran comes to an end as quickly, I guess, as it began. Apparently, the key to their defeat is a little known strategy that can best be summed up as... actually trying to fight back. The Tamaraneans must not have considered that tactic, because it’s all that Starfire and the Outlaws seem to have to do to liberate an entire planet.

By and large, this story has been a character study of Starfire. Everything else has been secondary, especially the whole plot about Tamaran being invaded. The story started that way, and it ends that way with this issue. To its credit, the parts that focus in on who Starfire is are by far the strongest parts of the story. I’ve enjoyed how Scott Lobdell depicts Starfire’s oddly carefree yet chaotic life on Earth as essentially a vacation from the stresses and sadness inherent to her live in space and on Tamaran. It adds a nice element of tragedy that helps to balance out Starfire’s excesses.

Honestly, the plot just gets in the way of the good stuff. There’s a pretty nice scene that fleshes out Starfire’s relationship with her former first mate, the Dominator named DePalo. It fits into the plot just before a heroic sacrifice is called for, and it’s actually some really interesting stuff. It’s the kind of material I would have much preferred to see spread through the entire three issue arc rather than being clumped all together in a final moment here. Also, it would have been great to get similar material from the other notable crewmembers. It’s through them that we learn who Starfire used to be and who she is in this context. And since that is really the whole point of this story, a greater focus should have been given to it. As it stands, we just get a good glimpse at it, which is better than nothing and does serve as one of the best moments.

I had hopes for the new dynamic between Starfire and her sister Komand’r. It seemed like Lobdell was going to give us a more complex and interesting relationship. Prior to the New 52, Komand’r really wasn’t much of a character. She was the generic evil sister. The only slightly interesting facet of her was that the evil sister tended to be the more conservative one when it came to wearing clothes. So I was totally open to a new characterization for the character, and Lobdell potentially had a good one. I liked this idea of Komand’r not really being evil but being driven to dark places by guilt and perceived necessity. She loved her sister but would do terrible things if she had to despite it. That could have been good, but I knew it would be a very tricky balancing act to pull off.

I’m disappointed to say that Lobdell does not pull it off. He tips off to one side pretty hard, and Komand’r ends up going the loving sister route completely. Oh, there’s a hint that in future stories she could go the other way, but what we have here is not very compelling. Komand’r fades into the background of the story and is given nothing to stand out. It’s just such a shame, though. I really thought Lobdell had something good here.

Going back to the plot, it doesn’t get any better than the previous issues. While Lobdell does have the relatively unique idea of the Blight conquering other races in order to reproduce, they are ultimately wholly generic evil aliens. The way in which they manage to occupy Tamaran and are defeated is left utterly vague and nonsensical. I’m all for Starfire being a spacefaring badass, but what she does to save her world is just so simplistic that it’s impossible to imagine the Blight could take over any world. There’s virtually no sense of culture from either the Blight or the Tamaraneans either. Basically, this is bad science fiction. Worse, it’s lazy science fiction.

Wow. If only you tried fighting when the Blight first showed up.
Isabel, the flight attendant who ironically is luggage herself, continues to live. With the space story now ending, it seems her presence has indeed been completely pointless. It’s really nothing against the character specifically. I’m just not feeling Red Hood having a love interest, especially one as unremarkable and forced into the story as her.

Thought bubbles make a surprise appearance, and they really shouldn’t. We’re past thought balloons now. I know narration captions are essentially the same things, but there is something more refined and appealing about them. They’re the superior storytelling device. Lobdell resorts to thought balloons here, I assume, because he wants to restrict the use of captions in this issue to Roy Harper’s unnecessary narration. It would have been better for him to just bite the bullet and use captions, especially since he does end up using captions for DePalo’s thought bubbles. Yeah. I thought it was going to create a wormhole or something.

Timothy Green II continues to do an excellent job on the art. His style really doesn’t clash with what Kenneth Rocafort established, so it’s not like we’re getting this feeling that we’re suddenly reading a different book. But that’s not the most important thing. That’s not the one wonderful thing about Green’s art. There is one gleaming beacon of light that makes it feel like everything is better now.

Green doesn’t draw that face on Red Hood’s helmet.

This space story in Red Hood and the Outlaws has been good for Starfire’s character but not really anything else. It does feel like Starfire now has the making of a three-dimensional character, and I’ll be honest... that’s something I’ve rarely felt about the character even before the New 52. Besides that, Lobdell serves up some very weak science fiction and misses the mark with his new take on Komand’r. I find myself think that it could have been worse but it also could have been better.


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