As part of my vague ambition to pick up every Batman title which ties into Night of Owls, with the exception of books I don't care about, today saw me pick up my very first issue of 'Red Hood & The Outlaws'. This is the series which got everybody annoyed with how Starfire - whose name is Korian'dr or something, and that's ridiculously great fun - was portrayed. She came across as a vapid sexaholic, and that was bad. But on the basis of this most recent issue, she's not alone in being a vapid dick.
The main three characters in the book - Red Hood, Starfire, and some bloke who I presume would be called 'Red Arrow' if that weren't the name of a flight team - are all annoying, shallow, vapid idiots. It's not just Starfire. Red Arrow in particular comes across as a horribly annoying little man, boasting about how he's had sex, and doing it in the most convoluted ways possible. Meanwhile Starfire goes on and on about nobility and being good to people, while Red Hood himself is self-obsessed to the point of sheer obnoxious bewilderment. All three of the characters are absolutely painful people.
That's not to say they're badly-written. On the basis of this one issue, I have no idea whether writer Scott Lobdell is aware of how awful his trio are. He might be doing this deliberately, or it may be accident. I'm choosing to believe he's doing it deliberately, but there are scenes - such as the fight here with Mr Freeze, in which readers must surely be rooting for Freeze even while Lobdell humiliates the poor scientist - which seem like we're meant to like the protagonists. Regardless, the main thing to note about this book is the artwork, by Kenneth Rocafort, whose work is absolutely stunning and a real surprise.
The best comparison would be to describe his art as a spiky, angular version of the smooth work Francis Manapul is doing over on The Flash right now. Not only does he create inventive, intricate panel layouts which change the focus of the fight scenes and throw an unusual energy and pace into how they play out, but he also has a knack for body language and expression. These characters feel realistic, even when swinging around a city covered in large jagged cliffs of ice. The work he puts into the issue is simply staggering, and reason enough to buy it. Lobdell's script seems to be playing into the fact that Focafort will transform any sequence into something fascinating and clever, and wisely knows when to hold back and let him shine.
Red Hood is an interesting book. It'll need an investment of time before the characters start to click for me, but Focafort's work is a severe temptation to give the series as much time as Lobdell wants.