I know I’ve said this before… but this is the best issue of Hill’s Batman & the Outsiders to date!

The Story

There’s no doubt that Batman & the Outsiders didn’t have the best start. The book’s debut was delayed a few months as Brian Hill and Dexter Soy were forced to incorporate the Year of the Villain/ Doom War event into their narrative. The decision, unfortunately, derailed the book before it ever got started, and made the opening arc feel unfocused as the book tried to establish a foundation while also appeasing the mandates of the powers-that-be. Honestly, it wasn’t great, and Hill had some learning curves to overcome on his own as well, but since then, he’s managed to build and craft a rather intriguing story that is really beginning to pay off for those who have stuck with the title. This issue is no exception. In fact, as I mentioned above, I really do feel this is the best issue of Batman and the Outsiders yet.

For those of you who haven’t been tuning in, Batman has pulled the Outsiders together so they can help save a metahuman named Sofia from Ra’s al Ghul. Ra’s plans to manipulate her and train her into becoming one of his assassins, and it’s something Batman can’t allow considering the promise he made to protect Sofia years ago. Under Ra’s al Ghul’s tutelage, Sofia donned the moniker Babylon, and was rescued by the Outsiders, but it may be too late. Did the Outsiders reach her in time, or is the damage already done? That is what we explore in this chapter!

I feel as though the Outsiders spent two or three issues talking about saving Sofia before they actually took action, so, when that plot finally started progressing, I was quite excited. But what really surprised me is that the story didn’t go where I expected it to go from there. I fully expected Hill and DC to deliver a six-issue arc that ultimately ended with Sofia joining the Outsiders before they started a new mission. I’m not saying that would’ve been a good direction – quite the opposite – it’s just what I expected. What the sixth issue actually did was introduce a whole new string of elements and plots, and it became quite clear that Hill has had a long-term plan this entire time.

See, converting Sofia has been presented as Ra’s main objective, but having the Outsiders rescue her was nothing more than a ruse to allow Ishmael to get to Duke and Cassandra. Why? To recruit and/or manipulate them as well. What makes all of this even better is that Ra’s isn’t alone in this scheme. He manages to create doubt in Batman by revealing Karma is alive, and also throws in a surprise by revealing that Lady Shiva has stakes in all of this as well. Granted, Shiva’s focus appears to be strictly in regards to Cassandra, but still. Anytime Shiva is involved there’s an inherent wildcard that anything could happen at any point. So, coming into this issue, I couldn’t wait to see where Hill would take the story.

The book starts off by shedding some light and backstory on Ishmael. So far, he’s been nothing more than Ra’s general, and despite some great action sequences, there really hasn’t been anything overly interesting about him. Thankfully, this issue gives us a glimpse into his past and allows to understand why he serves and follows Ra’s. More importantly, this revelation directly ties to Sofia’s current situation.

Black Lightning, Katana, and Kaliber are flying back to Gotham with Sofia, but it’s clear that Ra’s has done a number to her in the short time that he’s had her. She’s bought into the idea of Babylon, and has even begun to grow comfortable with her powers and new, potential life. She’s even gained confidence in herself because of Ra’s “freeing” her. Considering this, it’s unsure whether the team can trust Sofia, much less treat her as anything other than a prisoner. Katana tries to reason with her, but there may not be any reason left in her. This revelation leads both Katana and Jefferson to question if Batman really is the best hope for her.

Meanwhile, spared thanks to her mother’s deal with Ra’s, Cass pursues Ishmael in hopes of rescuing Duke. She partners with Batman to gain Duke’s location, but when Bruce heeds her to wait for backup, she chooses to ignore it. Cassandra and the Outsiders have encountered Ishmael twice, and both encounters resulted in the team licking their wounds, so it’s understandable that Bruce wouldn’t support Cass going after Ishmael alone… But this time it’s different. You can tell based on Cass’s body language and confidence, she’s not the same person that confronted Ishmael previously, and she wants him to know that.

Cass hasn’t had much of a spotlight throughout the run of the book, but there has been a subplot lingering that she’s been holding back. I’ve been waiting for her to step into her own this entire time, and we finally get it in this issue! If you’re a fan of Cassandra Cain, then you will love this issue! This is easily the most “Cassandra Cain” that Cass has been since pre-Flashpoint… And it’s epic!

As great as this moment is – and it is great – there are moments that follow that are equally as good and surprising. You think you might have an idea of how things will unfold with Sofia and Duke, but I’m willing to bet you’ll experience some surprises. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m going to refrain from going into any additional details about this issue, just know that before the issue ends, Cass fans will be really happy.

The Art

Cian Tormey steps in to cover art duties this week. While his style is definitely different than Dexter Soy’s he does a respectable job and really delivers on the storytelling aspect of this issue. Whether it’s the panels featuring Cass stepping into her own, or setting up the twists/ reveals, there’s a certain energy to Tormey’s work that really sells these moments.

I will admit that his character designs are just ok, and in some ways look generic when compared to Soy’s, but this is a minor detail and a matter of preference. I was surprised to see a change in the colorist though. I feel as though publishers usually maintain the colorist to help provide some consistency when there’s changes to pencils, but they opted to bring in Adiano Lucas for this issue as opposed to keeping Veronica Gandini. If I’m being honest, this shift distracted me more than anything else.

Recommended if

  • You’ve been waiting for the book to find its footing.
  • You like a nice twist.
  • Cassandra finally gets to showcase what she’s really made of!

Overall

I’ve seen some people refer to Batman & the Outsiders as a slow burn. I don’t think it’s that at all. I think, more than anything, Hill needed to get editors out of his way, and he just needed a few issues to really find his footing. At this point, he’s done that and then some! Batman & the Outsiders #7 is a stellar issue that delivers on plot progression, characterization, and throws in a surprising twist as well! I don’t know where Hill plans on taking this book, but I know I’ll be along for the ride because the title deserves your time and attention.

SCORE: 8/10