Bryan Hill delivers the second chapter of Batman & the Outsiders, and while this issue is action-packed and high energy, it’s not as good as the debut. Is this a problem with the book itself, or an unfortunate symptom from DC’s delays and mandates? Find out my take below.
If you didn’t check out Batman & the Outsiders #1 last month, then you missed out on a decent debut. Granted, my colleagues would most likely disagree with me on this based on our last watercooler discussion concerning the title. Anyway, spinning out of Detective Comics: On the Outside, Batman and Black Lightning decide to move forward with the Outsiders. Batman needs a covert team, as well as a leader who can serve as the type of mentor that Cassandra and Duke deserve, and to him, Black Lightning is that guy.
Batman & the Outsiders #1 provided a solid set-up for the team, establishing distinct arcs for each individual character. With Black Lightning questioning his role as a leader, as well as Batman’s intentions and methods, it’s up to Katana to ground herself as the foundation of the team. Her confidence in Black Lightning as their leader, as well as her belief in what the team can accomplish, gives Jefferson the confidence he needs to step up. As co-leaders, Black Lightning and Katana take Orphan and Signal as their protégé’s to help train and develop them into the heroes we know they’re capable of becoming. But considering Duke and Cassandra are both suffering from some potentially crippling fears, you can’t help but wonder if this team is ready for the trials and tribulations ahead of them.
When victims of metahuman experiments are hunted down, Batman pulls the Outsiders together for their first official mission. Their job is to locate and protect Sofia Barrera, one of the last remaining survivors of the Ark Project experiments. But the Outsiders aren’t the only ones after her. Ishmael – an assassin associated with Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins, is also after her in hopes of recruiting her. Unfortunately, for both parties, the mysterious Kaliber is a step ahead of everyone and reaches Sofia first. Despite the cover depicting a brawl between Sofia, Kaliber, and the Outsiders, it turns out the Kaliber is actually an associate of Batman’s and is there to help the Outsiders. Kaliber’s mission it to keep Sofia safe until he can pass her off to Jefferson and team – a mission that we quickly learn is easier said than done.
There are some genuinely nice moments between Sofia and Kaliber early on, and despite being brand new, they’ll win your favor rather quickly. Sofia is the real draw here, and we get to see brief, yet deep, personal struggles she’s battling. As for Kaliber, he’s fun, but for whatever reason, DC and Hill quickly retcon the idea that he’s from the future, and shift his story away from what was established last month.
While Hill’s decision might be irritating, it’s not the real problem here. The problem is pacing. The story moves incredibly fast, and everything unfolds so quickly that neither the plot, nor the characters, get a chance to breathe. There are no quality character moments like the ones we found in last month’s debut, and if I’m being honest, our titular heroes are practically cameos in this issue.
One of the things I was looking forward to, was seeing how Hill would continue the individual threads for Jefferson, Tatsu, Cass, and Duke… but we get nothing. Zilch. Even the action is a bit of a letdown. Despite Dexter Soy’s incredible work, the fast pace of the narrative causes everything to come up a little short. The same way that the pacing prevents the script from breathing, it also prevents Soy’s art from having the opportunity to breathe and unfold organically. There are some moments of entertainment, so it isn’t all bad, but there’s nothing to really sink your teeth into. Knowing Bryan Hill and the type of work he’s capable of though – just go read his recent issues of Angel – I can’t help but feel that he isn’t necessarily the one to blame for this.
We know this title was delayed so that DC could retool the first handful of issues for Year of the Villain, and I suspect that the shortcomings here are a result of that interference. So, is the pacing a result of mandates and Hill having to condense his story to tie it to the greater universe? Perhaps. Regardless, this is the issue we got, and whether there are mandates or not, shortcomings are shortcomings.
The Art: Dexter Soy delivers the pencils for the issue, and while I’m a fan of his work, I wish he’d had more pages to play with for the fights here. I love the sharp, crisp look of his panels, and his ability to imbue energy into his action is incredible. There’s an intensity to his art that fits this title quite well, and I don’t feel as though he was set up to provide his best work here. I still love Veronica Gandini’s colors though, and there’s no denying that her work helps shape the overall tone of the book.
- You enjoyed the first issue.
- Batman, Metahumans, and Outsiders! Oh my!
- Ra’s al Ghul appears! That always leads to something epic… Right?
Overall: Batman & the Outsiders #2 is a mixed bag. While the issue is action-packed and high-energy, it fails to provide a narrative that feels worthy of sinking your teeth into. Neither Bryan Hill nor Dexter Soy get a chance to allow their work to breathe, and that results in an issue that feels somewhat generic and formulaic. I personally expected this considering the title’s delays and interference, but I’m remaining optimistic that Hill has a quality plan in the near future