Cassandra and Duke take the spotlight for this issue of Batman & the Outsiders, and while I’m enjoying this book, I do feel as though it will be better consumed as a trade.
This is going to be an interesting book to discuss because I have a range of thoughts and emotions towards Batman & the Outsiders. As I said in my introduction, I am enjoying this title. I think there are a lot of great elements and themes found within the book, and I think it is, overall, entertaining. At the same time, I don’t feel as though Hill has completely found his rhythm in writing ensembles for comics. Each issue, so far, has contained such a narrow focus on a specific character or mission, that it feels like the plot barely moves from issue to issue. That remains true here.
When reading for trade though, I have no doubt that this will most likely benefit the title because the issues will follow one-another like scenes in a film. The story won’t have to endure month-long pauses just to switch the focus to highlight other members of the team. It will also take away the thought of, “This month’s issue focuses on…” but, rather, will feel like a seamless transition. For now though, as it is, Batman & the Outsiders does carry a bit of an unfocused narrative that slingshots us from one plot to the next each month… And that’s not exactly great for monthly reading.
There’s also the pesky little problem of feeling a bit predictable. Now, I don’t want to say that the book is obvious, but it does feel a bit like paint-by-numbers. And that’s not to say that anything is bad, just that when I read an issue and a reveal occurs, I don’t get excited. I just think, “Yeah, that makes sense.” For example, with the spotlight shifting to Duke and Cassandra for this issue, we get to see them encounter villains tied to their past. As exciting as that may seem, the two people they encounter are rather obvious when all is said and done. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable, it’s simply not as effective as it could be.
Continuing the recent trend, Ra’ al Ghul’s dealings are definitely the most interesting aspect of this title. He’s barely in this issue, but he’s indirectly causing quite the stir. We learn more about his grand scheme – specifically that he has plans for Duke and Cassandra – but I can’t help but feel that there’s still more to this. I mean, it’s the Demon after all. Part of his plans for Duke and Cassandra involve giving each of them a gift of truth (which is where the character reveals referenced above come into play). While this is interesting – and it is – it’s quite clear one of the new characters has an angle they’re working as well! (Cue dramatic music!)
So, the two truths that Ra’s reveals to Cassandra and Duke are Lady Shiva and Karma. I’m not completely sure what the truth is supposed to be concerning Shiva, but I know that with Karma, it’s that he’s alive. Out of the two, Shiva is the one that is clearly working an angle because she wants her daughter for herself. Despite agreeing to her wishes, I can’t see Ra’s giving up Cass so easily. But in an even greater twist, Shiva asks about Ra’s plans for Duke as well, and she wouldn’t do that unless she also had interest in him. This should get interesting!
In no way do I think Shiva is good, but I do think she operates under her own idea of honor. And if we’re sticking with continuity from the beginning of Rebirth (valid questions considering this whole Generations thing DC announced), then Shiva and Ra’s should still have a bit of a grudge with one another. Also, any time I get to see Cass and Shiva fight… I’m down. And while we’re on the discussion of fighting, Shiva is the one person I don’t mind Cass losing to in hand-to-hand combat, so I won’t complain about her getting beat in this issue.
Moving on to Duke, his “light” is referenced quite a bit in this issue. I don’t feel as though DC ever clearly set up exactly what it is that Duke can do though, much less why it’s critical, s0 I simply don’t care. Maybe Hill will be the one to officially shed some light on this. Get it? Shed some light? Okay, okay… Bad joke. I know. But seriously, I’m already not fond of the idea of Duke being a metahuman, and not clearly establishing his powers doesn’t help.
If there’s one major downfall for this issue, it’s that Sofia is nowhere to be found. She’s referenced in the opening scene, and that’s it. She’s easily been the most interesting aspect of this book, and she’s also been the one constant this title has had since the beginning. Not having her included, even for just a single scene, is a miss on Hill’s part. But this goes back to what I said at the beginning of the issue in regards to Hill not fully having the ensemble thing down for comics. Overall, the book is entertaining enough though, and I’m still in it for the moment.
Dexter Soy continues his work in the art department, and it’s good, but I feel as though something is lacking. I haven’t quite put my finger on what exactly that is specifically, I just know I’m not responding to his art the way that I typically do. Part of me still believes he’s not getting enough of a page count to let his art breathe – especially during action scenes – but at the same time, this title is lacking in the way of progression, so… It’s quite the conundrum. Hopefully this is sorted out in the near future.
- You’ve been waiting for Cass and Duke to take the spotlight.
- You’re invested in Ra’s al Ghul’s dealings.
- Character reveals.
Hill has a solid story on his hands with Batman & the Outsiders, but the book is far from perfect. While there’s endless potential here, Hill hasn’t quite found the balance between plot, characterization, and balancing the characters well. In retrospect, Soy’s art, while good, feels as though it’s lacking something here. It looks good, but it simply isn’t packing the punch I’ve come to expect from his work.