Batman and the Outsiders #1 – Bryan Hill, Writer; Dexter Soy, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: A Good Start Hindered By Explaining the Batman Association
Ray: After an extended wait since Bryan Hill’s well-regarded Detective Comics arc and a strange re-solicitation that made many people wonder if the book was ever going to come out, Batman and the Outsiders is finally here with a solid first issue that throws us right into Hill’s eclectic group of Gotham defenders. Combining classic Outsiders heroes Black Lightning and Katana with teen Gotham vigilantes Duke Thomas and Cassandra Cain, with Batman serving as behind-the-scenes leader, it’s an appealingly diverse team that has suffered a bit from the wait between arcs. That’s especially glaring with Duke, who is clearly suffering from PTSD as a result of the near-death experience had with Karma and is lashing out at Black Lightning as a result. This is a good, realistic touch that actually does better with mental illness than a recent comic book event has been, but I think it would work better if it hadn’t been so long since Duke took those hits and Karma disappeared from the map.
The Outsiders are sort of in a weird spot, and this issue does a good job using that for drama. Black Lightning is leader, but he’s been asked to mentor two of Batman’s proteges who don’t entirely trust him and Batman’s dropped a lot of problems in his lap. Katana is helpful, but also vague and it’s never 100% clear who’s in charge here. Hill’s always done a great job writing with Black Lightning, and seeing the confident teacher and veteran hero out of his element works. What works a little less well is the main plot, involving a teenage girl who was given metahuman powers through experiments and is now being pursued by a group of 90s-style cyborg-enhanced hitmen – both wanting to kill and to recruit her. It’s not much more than a plot device to pull the Outsiders into action, but it does its job. There’s some Year of the Villain teases involving Ra’s Al Ghul, but overall this first issue works well because of how strong Hill’s characterization is and how good it is to have these characters back.
Corrina: I know why Batman is involved in this. Everything with Batman sells. So he’s needed to launch the series. But, creatively, it seems a mistake to have him be the one that gathers the team. It would work far better if Jefferson were the proactive one who noticed that he needed to step into the breach to mentor younger heroes or simply provide them with support, as with Katana.
But I expect now that the obligatory Batman set-up is out of the way, there will be more time to focus on the other Outsiders. (One could read Jefferson’s comments on not knowing what Batman wants as meta-commentary on Hill not knowing what DC wants, given the strange delays in this book.)
Some of the art is spectacular, including the great lightning special effects early in the story. The story of the teenage girl has some similarly excellent art as she’s tossed off a highway overpass but that’s undercut by the sexy pose she’s given as the gas tank explodes. (It doesn’t hurt her or, at least, not that much. No fridging.) And I’m also not too impressed with the design of the new character at the end.
I am psyched to see Jefferson in action and glad to see Katana as her original self. I hope to see more of Cassandra, and while I’m not thrilled Duke’s confidence has been shaken, his road to recovery could be an excellent story.
In short, I recommend the series but I hope the next few issues allow the team to shine.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.