Batman and the Outsiders #1 review

Too much Gotham. That was my reaction when I saw the line-up for the latest version of Batman and the Outsiders. As well as the Caped Crusader, along with original Outsiders Katana and Black Lightning, we have his proteges Orphan and Signal.

And after reading this first issue, I’ve not changed my mind. It assumes buyers have read the set-up story in Detective Comics a few months back. We’re told the bad guy from those issues is still screwing up Duke Thomas, the Signal, but there’s no recap for those who came in late, or those of us who didn’t find him memorable.

Duke actually brings me to another problem I have. Writer Brian Hill doesn’t take time to properly introduce the players. The Signal’s light-based power is absent, Katana’s soul sword isn’t explained, Black Lightning’s reasons for being in Gotham rather than Metropolis aren’t mentioned and poor old Orphan is barely there. Batman, whom we can safely assume everyone knows, is at his annoying worst, obviously withholding information from his latest team.

The book opens with a young girl being orphaned by a brutal supervillain. It turns out both she and her father – for all the good it does him – have super-powers. The teenager, Sofia, goes on the run.

Meanwhile, the new Outsiders are failing to gel as a team.

By the end of the book Batman has tasked the Outsiders with finding Sofia, while he looks into Karma, the villain haunting Duke. He’s also going to ‘follow up on the Markovian black market’ – could someone give me a hand, here, I’ve read this book twice and seen no mention of Markovia? The nod to the DC-only country ruled by another original Outsider, Geo-Force, did get my interest – his joining the team would inject a bit of colour and more muscle into a gang with only one powerhouse, Black Lightning. I imagine Sofia will be signing up too, that’s an origin story at the beginning of this issue and no mistake – no DC Universe orphan gets to escape Batman’s clutches!

While I’m not grabbed by the mix of characters – I’ve never been a fan of Cassandra Cain, blame the creepy Batgirl costume she used to wear and the fact she never had much to say, while Duke was more interesting as a regular supporting character than yet another Bat-Teen – there is one great scene. Tellingly, it’s between longtime Outsiders Katana and Black Lightning.

That’s some deft characterisation, and Dexter Soy produces eye-catching art in terms of action and characterisation. Tatsu and Jeff seem like people worth spending time with. The rest of the issue looks equally good, with that opening scene another standout. And there’s a cracking full-page shot of Batman leaving a rooftop, with fine lighting effects from colourist Veronica Gandini.

The cover art by Tyler Kirkham and Arif Prianto is rather nice, too, making the new team members look terribly heroic. While Bruce Wayne insists Jeff is in charge, Black Lightning might want to note that logo – Batman and the Outsiders.

Hill, Soy and the rest of the creative team are talented so I’ll probably give this series another look next month – if only to see if the final page character reveal is for real or so blatantly X-Men cheesy that it’s a feint. I’m betting the latter.

10 thoughts on “Batman and the Outsiders #1 review

  1. Thanks for the review. I’m giving this one a pass, as the prequel series in Detective Comics is what pushed me off of that book, previously one of my favorite titles of DC Rebirth. And yeah, way too much Gotham, even if I’d like to spend time with Jeff and Tatsu. (And I’d have no patience for Batman shadow-leading yet another team. He can’t even get his *own* life in order these days.)

    I learned to like Cass in Detective Comics, but I’ve got no interest in Duke as “The Signal.” I recall his motivations were to help Gotham, but to not be another one of Batman’s proteges. The idea that he’s doing something new & different just because he isn’t named after a bird is laughable. He’s a character that has potential to work on a different level than punching badguys, and yet look what he’s doing. Ho-hum.

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    1. Duke has lost his USP, you’re right. Still, it could be worse, they could have brought in that dull young lass with the blue bit in her hair and the stun gun. Skylark? Bluebird? Budgie?

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      1. Oh, right! I liked her — precisely because she eventually stopped playing that game.

        I want Joker to have his own bird sidekick called Kookaburra!

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  2. Serious question: how many times has BATO actually worked? Other than the original Mike W. Barr / Jim Aparo / Alan Davis run, the answer feels like ‘never’.

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      1. Mike W. Barr did have a knack for creating memorable B-list characters.

        I really liked the basic concept of having high-frequency guest stars from Brave & The Bold as a Claremontian super-team, but it felt very of the moment. Claremont has been out of style for a very long time and Brave and The Bold is mostly a cartoon show for anyone under 50.

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  3. I was disappointed in this lineup, but I enjoyed this first issue more than you did.

    I think the Markovian black market is the same one that was part of the Young Justice Outsiders animated series this past winter. Someone is creating and auctioning off meta-humans as slaves. But, I totally see what you mean about set up. If I didn’t know something about this from other books and the series, I might not know what Batman is talking about.

    I also agree that I really hate this Batman sometimes. He guides and trains these people but refuses to ever just trust them with information. You’d think someone as smart as Bruce would want to arm his proteges with as much info as possible so that they would go into situations prepared. This is something Barbara Gordon figured out a long time ago when, as Oracle, she made it her business to trade in intelligence and information.

    I am looking forward to the next issue, though, because I did read that Detective Comics run and enjoyed it. This book could have done with having at least Halo in it. She could have added some fun or at least color.

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  4. Thanks so much for the Markovia explanation, I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of the original show. I know it’s well liked but there’s so much telly to watch that I rarely get to cartoons.

    I’d be interested to see Halo too, there’s a new version around… which reminds me, I still have the final issue of Suicide Squad Black to read. Dang, there’s that lack of time again.

    Great point on Oracle. I miss that character!

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