Maybe I haven’t been very clear in my past reviews, but I love this book and think it’s the best in-continuity title hitting stands for DC Comics!
After a slightly rocky start, Batman & the Outsiders has been one of the most consistent books in DC’s slate, and each issue builds on what came before it. That approach – which honestly reminds me of how Chris Claremont approached X-Men – has led to singing the praising of Bryan Edward Hill and Dexter Soy for months now. We’ve been given a strong, long-form story that balances a multitude of characters quite well, while also balancing plot, progression, and action in addition to characterization. It’s a balancing act that this creative team is handling with near perfection.
In this chapter, we touch on three separate storylines. The majority of the issue is spent with Jefferson, who is with Lady Shiva following the conclusion of last month’s issue. Lady Shiva has something that Jefferson wants – information on who killed his friend – while Jefferson has something Shiva wants – access to her daughter, Cassandra. There’s clearly not much trust between the two, especially on Jefferson’s end since he knows Shiva is tied to Ra’s al Ghul, but there’s enough honor and respect to hear each other out.
Shiva makes it very clear that she’s not a puppet, nor is she indebted to Ra’s, but that her partnership with him is merely a means to an end. And after revealing a shared interest, she and Jefferson team up to both work towards their goals while actively stopping Ra’s. This leads into a chunk of the issue that has a respectable amount of action, and plenty of intrigue that ties back to events as early as Detective Comics: On the Outside.
Meanwhile, with Jefferson M.I.A., Katana is left to round up the Outsiders. Their use in this issue is brief, but effective as Hill efficiently navigates Katana’s morality, honor, and outlook within a single page or two. They’re not the only ones impacted by Jefferson’s disappearance though. Batman is forced to take the lead with Sofia’s rehabilitation, and it leads to an incredible exchange about how Batman views himself, his mission, and the people who insert themselves into his mission.
The character work continues to be the key element that keeps me coming back. With so many characters to explore, it can make the character arcs and the plot feels as though they move a little slow at times, but Hill and Soy balance that with plenty of action. And despite the weight that some of these exchanges can carry, this is, first and foremost, and action book.
Another thing this book does well is provide a substantial payoff from issue to issue. Too many books fail to establish their narratives and characters properly, so when we get to certain points in some stories, they feel hollow and haven’t been earned. That’s definitely not the case here. With every issue that I read of Hill and Soy’s Batman & the Outsiders, I gain something worth sinking my teeth into. No gimmicks. No cash grabs. No wasted pages recapping months-worth of stories. I just get a solid story with entertaining action and great characters – typically with an ending that leaves you eager to read the next chapter. Could we really ask for anything more?
Dexter Soy continues his run on art, and, as always, kills it. The look and aesthetic of his characters are always pleasing, and the energy that comes through during the action scenes account for so much of the book’s momentum. There are many pages of characters just talking though, and no matter how good Hill’s dialogue is, it could easily become stagnant or boring if not for Soy’s art. It’s clear that Soy spends quite a bit of time thinking through his layouts and how he’ll frame panels. The way he pushes in and pulls out on characters during conversations, as well as the panels that do nothing more than feature a movement or mannerism add so much to the “acting” of this book, and really sell the emotions. He kills it each and every time, and I can’t imagine the negative impact a lesser artist would have on this book.
- You’re loving this journey Hill and Soy are taking us on.
- You want to know what Shiva’s intentions are with Black Lightning.
- Bryan Hill and Dexter Soy should be reason enough.
Batman & the Outsiders continues to be an absolute delight to read! It’s the high-octane blockbuster that we want, but balanced with characterization and depth to near perfection. No page or panel is wasted with this creative team, and more so than any other book, I’d say you get your money’s worth here. Batman & the Outsiders is a commitment with great payoffs, and I hope this is just the very beginning of things to come!