Monday, November 12, 2012

So Here's the Thing About Red Hood and the Outlaws and the DCnU

I just finished reading the first 7 issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws, in the form of the graphic novel Redemption. The titles of each chapter/story is a song title! How cool. With punchlines. I didn't notice that in issues 10-13, so I went back and checked. Yup. So cool.

I enjoyed Scott Lobdell's work on Wildcats back before the old DC/Wildstorm universes collapsed, so I never had a problem with his working on the book. And I've always enjoyed Kenneth Rocafort's art, so that wasn't keeping from reading this from the start. No, my problem was with Jason Todd, a character I never, ever liked, and a Roy Harper seemingly unconnected to Green Arrow/Ollie Queen. My problem was with the DCnU. I hated the concept, hated that everything I loved was wiped out, and hated that my favorite character was seemingly going to undergo the biggest change, and be teamed with the hated Jason Todd. It was just too much, y'know?

But then.... I got enticed into reading Nightwing because a gal who works at my LCS, someone whose taste I trust, kept telling me how good it was. And she was right. So, through Nightwing, I got sucked into one of the mainstream DC characters of the DCnU, because the only books I'd decided to read were the ones not so ingrained in my mind, like the still newish Batwoman. Changes to that character weren't as jarring as they would've been if I'd been reading her adventures for a decade.

So, Dick Grayson was still the same character, with a somewhat different background as regards Haley's Circus, but it fit and the story was good and in my mind, the fact that DC chose to do a half-assed reboot rather than just start everyone from scratch to avoid the age disparities and other weirdness, somehow didn't matter as much. Plus, time can heal grief.

See, of all the characters who deserved a reboot, it was Roy Harper. Only, my preference was to back him up to when he still had two healthy arms and a happy and healthy daughter named Lian who was the joy in his life. A Roy Harper who loved Donna Troy and was just a goofy jerk with a good heart and a good soul who carried a lot of baggage that included abandonment issues and a history with drug addiction. That's what I wanted. And that's not what we've got. What we've got is something, or rather someone, just as good.

Yeah, no one's more surprised I wrote that last sentence there than me. Truly. So, I've come up with a way to deal with this and be able to read about this Roy and other characters, and while I'm not going to read most of the Bat books or most of the Super titles, I can enjoy a few of them without reservation. This isn't our multiverse. That's the only explanation that makes sense, at least, to me.

These versions of Roy and Jason are different enough from the ones from the old DCU that I can easily accept them as totally new characters, living in a separate universe, perhaps even a separate multiverse, perhaps one of many such multiverses layered upon each other, and the ones we knew before are still happily going about their lives and for me, that backs up to the aforementioned Roy and Lian in happier times days, moving forward from there without all that nastiness. In fact, in the old DCU in my memory, Ralph and Sue Dibney are still alive, Ted Kord was somehow resurrected (his death was faked perhaps, in a situation similar to the one that brought back Steph Brown). Steph is still Batgirl, Babs is Oracle, and there's the old version of Earth 2, etc.

But in the DCnU realm, well, things sure are intriguing. Which brings me to the specifics of Red Hood and the Outlaws. I didn't much follow the Red Hood in the old DCU, so I don't know how much of his background after being revived is new here, but his training with the All Caste and how it changed him for the better, has tempered him and made him bearable. The way he's starting to care about his partners and how he slowly stops hating Bruce and Dick show a character who is growing and maturing and becoming, *gasp* likable. To be honest, I'm amazed by that.

Roy's background is still sketchy. I hope they fill that in. I read the GA 0 book, so I know how he became Speedy, but what I need to know is why he no longer is Ollie's partner. And it was only Jason, with Kori helping, who saw fit to try to rescue Roy from Qurac. It seems Roy was a Teen Titan, but what's his relationship, if there was one, with Dick? I have so many questions and I don't know if/when we'll get them and that's all right. Because reading this book and seeing his relationship with Jason and Kori develop is fun. Kori is this Roy's Donna, a woman who can see the goodness behind the jerk. I like this Roy. He's funny, and idiotic at times, and very smart and clever. And when he thaws out a half frozen Kori, she tells him he's a kind man. He responds by telling her, "Shhh. You'll ruin my reputation. I'm supposed to be an idiot." That, at it's core, is the Roy of the old DCU, and as long as the core is there, it doesn't matter if the background details have been changed.

Which brings me to Kori and the outcry when scans of pages were reviled throughout the comics blogosphere last fall. You must remember those pages. Kori flaunting her body. Jason and Roy ogling her like idiot schoolboys. I feared the worst from seeing those pages, another reason I was avoiding the book. And that was wrong because in context, they're just a few pages out of so many that are nothing like that. It's all part of character development and things develop faster than I expected.

It was unfortunate that so many female characters in the new DCnU were started off on such poor footing, thematically and visually. But where Voodoo, for instance, never felt like a real person, or even a real alien person, Kori felt real to me from the start, and never has she seemed so alien. Her alien nature is more than physical here; it factors much more in her behavior than ever. This is a Kori who has hidden from humans because they fear her abilities. She just wants to be left alone. Her memory issues, rather than being amnesia as the few scanned pages and some reviews had indicated, are really a function of her alienness; she recalls what she needs to remember and nothing more. Things humans focus on are often unimportant to her and therefore, not worth her retention of them. Yet she is a strong character, one who makes her own choices and lives with the consequences. She's no one's fool and no one's toy. If anyone's a toy, at least at the start, it's the guys she chooses to take to bed. Yet, she is also damaged, a former slave living alone on Earth, and she finds a family of sorts with two damaged humans.

My favorite part of the entire GN, which has many wonderful scenes, are the cherished memories they have to leave as collateral while they are seeking clues after an attack on the All Caste. Kori's is about a triumphant moment while in slavery. Roy's is when he tried to goad Killer Croc into killing him, and Croc, realizing what Roy was doing, refused to oblige. And Jason's was the most poignant, that of a night, while he was Robin, that he was too sick to go on patrol and Bruce chose to stay in and watch TV with him. And when Kori and Roy reclaim their memories, Jason tells the holder of his memory to keep it. I actually got choked up by that.

Redemption is the perfect title for this story arc that has these three characters finding parts of their humanity they thought they'd lost and finding a bond with people as damaged as they are. Through their bonding as a team and as friends, they start to heal. They will never be what they once could have been; the damage cannot be undone. But they can be more than they are, and by the end of issue 7, they aren't the same characters they were at the start of issue 1. There is so much humanity in this book, and so much sharp writing. These characters are on an emotional journey as well as embarking on typical superhero adventures, and I'm gonna be sticking around for as long as it's fun.

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