This issue marks the finale of the “On the Outside” arc, which is going to feel pretty strange, I think, because it also serves as the launch point for the next thing coming. That’s not atypical of comic books, but maybe I’m just not feeling like Bryan Hill brought out a very satisfying conclusion to the situation with Karma and his obsession with Batman not being the best that he can be.
Last we saw Karma, he was Bat-rocketed out of a bomb situation in which Black Lightning and Cass Orphan rescued his school bus hostages, but Batman was unable to subdue or capture our mercenary with the fancy alien tech helmet.
Fast forward to the Batcave where Batman has just welcomed Katana into the fold.
No, I must go it alone cliché
It almost feels like we’re starting a whole new book right here: from the fact that there’s practically no mention of what just occurred and Batman gives us the mother of all info-dumps about Markovia, the helmet, and Martina Dementieva. The cover of the comic teases Brainiac, but just hold that thought. And keep holding it.
Because Karma has already taken another hostage–and one far less interesting than a busload of children, though Batman is careful to tell us all about how he’s working nights to support his diabetic wife so he can go with her to dialysis. My brain literally started itching. You had a bus full of children in the last comic. Shouldn’t this guy’s targets escalate from less to more? Not that the security guard’s life isn’t just as important as the kids, but he’s one person. They were a dozen. I don’t know. Feels like a really weak choice. Or maybe we’re supposed to care something extra because he works at Wayne Tower and Bruce knows him personally.
The truth is it’s hard to know who and what to care about. With the addition of Katana, all of the characters are once again reduced in purpose. Karma was obsessed with recruiting Cass, but we barely even see her in this book. Signal just complains about wanting to help (again, Hill seems to fall back on stereotypes here), and don’t even ask me where Batgirl has gone off to. She must be busy in the Honeymoon Suite with Dick, I guess.
And Katana? Batman brings her into the game, but then tells the whole crew that he must face Karma alone. I’m just going to pretend that makes sense somehow. And it’s about as predictable as them playing backup to Batman’s solo quest to fight Karma with brawn and…bad thoughts?
It takes four superheroes to deal with a bunch of hired paramilitary-looking thugs
Miguel Mendoça is generally solid throughout, though one action panel in which Batman descends from a height to take out a baddie feels poorly angled–the perspective doesn’t really make sense. Orphan doesn’t look all that cool or interesting in her costume, and until we get to Batman’s final fight against Karma, there’s not much in the way of interesting backgrounds or environments. That said, I kind of like the comic-booky feel of the introductions in the Batcave–the hologram of the world displaying all of the players looking on is fun, and the quip between Black Lightning and Katana is a nice “everything you need to know in five words or less” moment.
There’s a dual set of epilogue-type moments at the end of this book and both are rendered especially well. One with a strange blink and you’ll miss it guest cameo that feels sort of shoe-horned in–it sort of makes sense, but there’s no particular reason we need it and it feels oddly timed. The other ending sets us up to see what we’re dealing with in Martina Demetieva. I like the effect Mendoça uses here, even if it left me wondering if Martina just sits around in her office wearing a bathrobe and smoking cigarettes as a habit. The emphasis on her ashtray in the first panel is such a weird detail.
This isn’t the worst comic ever, but it isn’t great either and nothing really stands out . It’s just right smack in the middle.
All that said: the variant cover by Mark Brooks might be worth the price alone.
- You just like a big splashy heroes-doing-things sort of book.
- You’re a big fan of Katana!
- You’ve been reading Justice League and trailing this Markovian Black Market thing.
The tech is magical and kind of silly, the reveal of the larger Big Bad is predictable, and Hill crams this full of characters who seem to struggle for purpose and spend most of the book arguing about the ways in which their specific talents are absolutely needed to contribute to the success of the mission. Karma proves fairly lame and the team dynamic doesn’t have any kind of particular hook. They’re just a team of sidekicks with a variety of gizmos doing the backup work on Batman’s orders.