Review – Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1: Enter the Soultaker

Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1
Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 – Bryan Hill, Writer; Max Raynor, Artist; Luis Guerrero, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Spotlight on Friendship

Ray: Every title uses an annual for different purposes, and this relatively new book has decided to use Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 it to split off part of the main cast and let Black Lightning and Katana have a story to themselves.

This is smart, because Duke and Cassandra are dominating the main story right now and their emotionally packed tale shouldn’t be interrupted. But this solo story lacks the character-driven feel of the excellent last issue and focuses heavily on the rather convoluted mythology of Katana’s backstory. We know from the early part of this series that Katana’s husband is trapped inside her sword and something’s wrong. A flashback shows that an ancient war has been raging inside the sword, between a fire demon and a mysterious sorceress who looks a lot like Katana. With the kids occupied with their own affair, Black Lightning agrees to help Katana figure this problem out and get back in contact with her husband.

The back-and-forth banter between Lightning and Katana has been a highlight of the series and that continues here, as they make their way through Japan and get information from a disturbed woman who Katana’s known for a long time. But the issue takes a strange turn at the halfway point, as Katana commits suicide to send herself to the spirit realm and engage in battle with the demon. Black Lightning is left to protect her body from shadow demons that seem to come out of nowhere. It’s an odd issue, and by the end most of the status quo is simply restored. What is worth seeking out is Max Raynor’s art, as the frequent DC pinch hitter turns in some of the best work of his career especially on the spirit realm segments. This issue has a lot of good points, and Black Lightning in particular is a character Hill writes very well. But Katana’s surreal supernatural departure is definitely not my favorite element of the series.

Demonic fire. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: This might be a rare occassion where I give a story higher marks than Ray. (It’s usually the other way around.)

But I’ve been pointing out in my Batman and the Outsiders reviews that I’m not thrilled with so much Batman in this title, as he tends to overshadow the other characters. So Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 does one thing right at the beginning: Batman isn’t here to insert himself in this story. Instead, this is a tale of two veteran heroes with unshattering loyalty to each other. They’re not only teammates, they’re friends, and we see how much friendship means to Jefferson. He’s not freaked too much when Katana kills herself, and he concentrates on doing what she asked, rather ponder what the heck might be going on.

He trusts her to know what she’s doing. She trusts him to watch over his body. I’m not convinced this is romantic either, so it’s a lovely example of a platonic relationship between a man and a woman. In the end, the status quo might be restored so far as the sword trapping souls, but Katana’s husband is at peace, Katana has regained her equilibrium and accepted her destiny, and the friendshp between the pair has deepened.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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