Batman and the Outsiders 9 review

Ah Looker, proud possessor of the worst name, shallowest personality and nastiest costume in DC history. Probably. Certainly, as created by Mike W Barr and Alan Davis she was a contender. All she wanted out of life was to move from plain to zoftig, and when her powers gave answered just that wish she adopted a name to reflect that (well, in US parlance – as a Brit who’d never heard the term, I pretended it was Cockney rhyming slang). Worse, she donned a one-legged costume with Margaret Thatcher pussy bow and complemented the new look with freakish Seventies Marvel eye-make-up (see Dazzler and Marionette).

And other than a fine Clayface story in Detective Comics, I soon lost track of her, as Batman and the Outsiders entered a cycle of cancellation and rebirth. Along the way, I heard Looker had become a creature of the night, gaining vampire powers to add to her already considerable psychokinetic abilities. Oh, and I saw her in an issue of Wonder Woman, hosting a daytime TV show, as vampires do.

But here she is, in a title I’ve not read since the first issue, despite enjoying Julian Lopez’s artwork therein. The Outsiders just hadn’t gelled for me since they emerged One Year Later as a harder team, and this looked to be more of the same, but with the promise of such hated characters as Cassie Caine, aka Bat-Mute. Still, who could resist Dougie Braithwaite and Brian Reber’s cover, and the chance to see if an old friend’s dress sense has improved?

And hoorah, it has. Here, Lia Briggs is Looker in sexy leather coat, boots and scarf. It really works for her. Sadly, after serving a handy plot purpose – reading the mind of a troubled astronaut – she collapses. Bless.

Still, it was nice to see her, and if she were to stick around, along with writer Chuck Dixon, I’d likely be buying up the back issues and signing on for more. But we know Dixon’s fallen out with DC and, in the words of Ben Affleck, is gone baby gone. Which is a shame, as he provides a masterclass in comics writing, introducing the characters, presenting the plot, adding characterisation, inserting action and finding a proper place for humour. Said laughs come from Metamorpho – though I find his current look too creepy to allow for much laughter – and, good God, Katana and Batgirl. And I hate Cassie Caine. Heck, it’s beyond hate, it’s a vocation. She’s a reformed mute assassin in a gimp suit who went back to the dark side. I have no idea how come she’s back on the side of the angels, but I’ve no room in my brain to work it out, so astonished am I that a wee gag about shopping had me liking her. What’s more, Dixon then wrote a scene making me feel sorry for her. It’s just not on.

That reaction was also prompted by the sensitive pencils of Lopez; boy, is that guy good, giving heroes individual faces that express recognisable emotions. Aided by the inker known as Bit (is someone shy?), he also does great monsters, cool cars and spooky undead lady effects. If I’m not going to be reading this book regularly, could someone at DC reassign him, please? Mind, would he go – he seems to be having great fun drawing the decolletage of Mrs Man-Bat, apparently the resident all-purpose scientist, alongside some fella named Salah who enjoys amusing asides with a red Omac named Remac. Oh how I hate all things Brother Eye.

I didn’t hate this comic, though. Heck, I may go out and buy all the Dixon back issues anyway. Chuck Dixon has sucked me in. Just my Looker.

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