Finally! Five months after it was originally supposed to be released, we’re finally getting Batman & the Outsiders! If you’re like me and love these characters, then you’re probably super excited to get your hands on this book, especially considering the incredibly talented Bryan Hill and Dexter Soy are the creatives behind it. Now, the real question is, “Was it worth the wait?” Find out below…
*Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Throughout the years, there have been many iterations of The Outsiders. Most have been led by Batman, while a few others haven’t. For this run, we’re returning to the original formula of Batman pulling together a secret team, but instead of being an active leader, he’s more of a silent partner. Batman has placed Black Lightning in the position of team leader, with Katana, Orphan, and Signal serving underneath him. It’s a solid team, and one that I’m certain will grow to include additional members before over time. But even if it doesn’t, I’m perfectly happy with this roster.
Overall, this is a standard debut issue. This title picks up from Bryan Hill’s run on Detective Comics, where The Outsiders first came together against Karma. Each character is on their own, individual path, and nobody appears to be confident with the road ahead of them. There’s not really a reason for them to come together, and most of the team doesn’t have much faith in each other either… Until a mission helps The Outsiders find a common cause to fight for.
The plot presented here is what gives this story its momentum. Hill and Soy deliver action from the word go as a family is attacked by a metahuman named Ishmael. As it turns out, the targeted family is far from ordinary, something Ishmael reveals as he kills the father, and throws the girl, Sofia Ramos, to her death in a fiery explosion… The only thing is, she doesn’t die. Scared and confused, Sofia immediately goes on the run.
As it turns out the Ramos’ family was part of the Ark Program, where humans were experimented on to become metahumans. Most of the experiments were unsuccessful and resulted in the death of its patients, but the Ramos’ family was successfully altered and survived. After learning of the experiments, Batman destroyed the facility and set the Ramos family with a new life in Los Angeles. Mrs. Ramos eventually dies due to the trauma of her experiments, and now with Sofia being hunted, Batman tasks the Outsiders with finding and protecting her.
While the plot is intriguing enough, it’s the main characters and their depiction is what makes this issue a gift. There’s a distinct plot and mission for the team, but there’s no denying that Hill has placed a focus on the characters themselves. The dynamic between Batman and Black Lightning is great. Batman has pulled this team together, but Black Lightning doesn’t understand why, nor does he understand why Batman has placed him as their leader. All Black Lightning can see is failure in the team’s future, and Batman is basically telling him to figure it out. It’s a battle of trust and self-belief, and I can’t wait to see how this unfolds over time.
Then there’s Katana. Hill nails Katana! Lightning knows that Katana is more than a subordinate, and makes her his partner. He even seeks her out for wisdom and guidance – something she gives openly, even when she isn’t asked for it. There are two scenes in particular that are spectacular. One features Lighting and Katana sparring, as Katana tells Black Lightning that he doesn’t need her permission to quit, before going on to say that she’s here to challenge him. The second moment is at the end of the issue when she does just that – challenges him. The moment serves as a type of call to arms that made me wish I could read the next issue right now!
As excited as I am for Katana, she brings her own controversy to the team considering her history with her sword and her husband, as well as her willingness to kill. This is something that definitely won’t sit well with Batman, another element that I’m excited to see unfold. Meanwhile, Duke and Cassandra’s pasts also bring some drama to the story. Duke has never fully found himself, and when he thought he had, Karma smacked him down hard. It’s something he still hasn’t overcome and he is acting out due to it. Cassandra, on the other hand, still fears herself because she doesn’t completely trust herself. Cass is a huge x-factor for the team, and everyone knows she can be an obstacle as much as an ally. They’re all great, personal obstacles that hinder the team while also making them interesting. And for now… I’m completely on board.
As I said, this is a pretty standard debut issue, but it’s executed incredibly well. The plot is solid, and the characters are written well… but it’s the book’s potential that really makes me excited. The structure of the story and team allows for endless stories. Already, Hill is potentially teasing future conflicts with Lady Shiva (maybe even David Cain), the potential return of Karma, the Markovians – which could result in the introduction of Geoforce. Then there’s the immediate threat of Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins. Now, we already know that whatever plans Hill had concerning the League have been derailed due to the Leviathan event/ Year of the Villain. While I would have loved to explore what I assumed would’ve been Hill’s original trajectory, I’m also interested in seeing where this possible alliance between Ra’s and the Outsiders will lead (as teased in the Year of the Villain special). There’s a lot to sink your teeth into here, and we didn’t even touch Kaliber’s reveal! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the second issue!
The Art: Dexter Soy delivers the art for this issue, and, as expected, his work looks incredible! I really took notice of Soy while he was on Red Hood & the Outlaws, so I knew we were in for a treat here. The look of his art is aesthetically pleasing, and his work has hints of anime to it. This will undoubtedly resonate with many fans. He’s also a great storyteller. I love the diversity he creates in the appearance of the characters – from their height and build, to their physical presence and movements. It’s all good. Add in Veronica Gandini’s colors, and this is an incredible product from start to finish.
- You’re a fan of The Outsiders.
- You enjoyed Bryan Hill’s run on Detective Comics.
- You’ve been waiting for a great interpretation of Katana for a few years now.
Overall: Bryan Hill and Dexter Soy deliver a great debut to Batman & the Outsiders that is brimming with potential. The plot that is set up is entertaining enough, but it’s the characters that make this a real win! With a winning combination of characterization and plot, I can’t wait to see where this team takes us! If you’re a fan of anyone from the roster, then you need to give this book a shot. And with so many winks to what we can expect in the future… I have to admit I’m pretty excited!