Out of all of the titles that DC has chosen to release during this time period, I’m happy that Batman & the Outsiders is one of them! I’ve been singing this book’s praises for some time now, and I don’t feel as though it’s had the sales or support that it deserves. Hopefully, with little new selection to choose from, more people will give this book a chance. But if you haven’t been reading since the beginning, I highly recommend that you catch up rather than just jump in!
Up to this point, Batman & the Outsiders has been a balancing act for Brian Hill and Dexter Soy, and it’s one that – albeit, after a rocky start – they have managed quite successfully. While following an entire team of characters, as well as their antagonists, the creative team has managed to ebb and flow between plot and characterization in a way that reminds me of how Chris Claremont approached comics. Sometimes you’re getting issues that are mothering but big, bombastic action, and other times you’re getting a deep dive into the characters. This issue falls into the latter, and if I’m being honest, is more set-up and exposition than anything else. That’s not a negative thing though, especially when looking at the big picture.
Now, since a little time has passed since the last issue, allow me to jog your memory. After saving Sofia from Ra’s, Ra’s turned his sights on each of the Outsiders, individually, looking to tear them down in spirit. The attacks resulted in a number of different character arcs, including Cassandra meeting her mother, Duke having his powers altered, and Jefferson losing one of his closest friends. While each of these plots have been interesting in their own respect, it was Jefferson’s arc that really drove the narrative of the story. Before all of this, he was simply a hero who was training a team that set out to save a girl (Sofia). Now, he has a personal stake in this. Ra’s made it personal for him, and to exact revenge, he’s found himself teamed up with… Lady Shiva.
That’s right! Lady Shiva has chosen to actively betray Ra’s in an attempt to get and protect her daughter, Cassandra. Together the two set out to prevent Ra’s from getting his hands on alien tech that could devastate the world – a mission the ultimately led to an all-out brawl between Ra’s assassins and the Outsiders. This issue picks up in the aftermath, and in many ways is a moment to breathe, while also setting up what’s to come.
Knowing that time is of the essence, Batman moves to take action against Ra’s. To do so, the team will have to rely on Lady Shiva. If that weren’t questionable enough, they’ll also need the abilities of Sofia, who is still trying to come to terms and find peace after Ra’s tortured and brainwashed her. The entire fate of the mission is in the hands of two x-factors that the team isn’t certain can be trusted, but it’s all they have.
Per usual, Hill and Soy deliver quick pops of characterization that help ground the book. The standouts are scenes between Bruce and Jefferson, and Cassandra and Shiva. Throughout the run of this book, Jefferson has questioned and challenged Batman’s ethics and moral. After finding himself in the same murky waters lately, the two are overdue for an exchange, but it’s one that’s handled quite gracefully by both men… Until Bruce goes into how he manages being both Batman and Bruce Wayne. At this point, I respectfully have to disagree with how Hill characterizes Batman.
Cassandra and Shiva’s moment isn’t too far off in theme either. There’s definitely a lot of tension and distrust here, but one thing becomes very clear from both conversations – don’t question intentions, and don’t judge someone before walking a mile in their shoes.
In a strange turn of events, we also get an exchange between Jefferson and Tatsu that I could’ve done without. Typically, Katana’s scenes – especially the character-driven moments – are my favorite. There’s just something about her code and honor that I find fascinating because it is such a different stance from the standard American way of thinking. But here… I wasn’t a fan. I understand what Hill is doing, but I can’t say I like the direction he’s going. It just felt like a poor move.
With the character beats out of the way, the Outsiders set out to encounter Ra’s. Naturally, I’m expecting the team to come face-to-face with Ra’s generals – that’s what’s happened every step of the way thus far – and while that is the case here, this encounter is very different than anything that’s come before it. In fact, I’d say this encounter is quite shocking. I don’t want to give anything away, but you won’t expect the developments pertaining to Ishmael, Karma, and Kaliber.
By the end of the issue, you’re set-up with a tease that we will finally get to see the Outsiders reach Ra’s and deal with him directly, but it’s also clear he’s going to make each and every one of them suffer as a consequence. Ra’s has leveled up, and to showcase his newfound power, he gives the Outsiders a tease by making Lady Shiva suffer! It takes a while for some plot developments to occur, but when they do, they come fast and heavy, and will definitely leave you eager to get your hands on the next issue!
Dexter Soy continues his stellar work on art! For practically a year now, I’ve been praising Soy not only for the look and aesthetic of his work, but also for the layers of storytelling that he brings to the table. If you are familiar with titles he’s worked on, then you know he always delivers quality, high-octane action, but Batman & the Outsiders definitely presents challenges from a characterization perspective. There are so many moments that just feature characters talking or set-up/ exposition to establish a foundation before continuing the story, and Soy is tasked to make it look interesting…. A task that he conquers each and every month.
Whether it’s the way he approaches his layouts or frames his panels, to the “acting” that he delivers in the characters, Soy always finds the nuances and subtleties in specific moments and highlights them. Under another artist, there’s a chance that the quiet moments or emotional moments wouldn’t translate as well, but that’s not the case here. Hill and Soy feel so in-tune at this point, that I can’t help but look at this work and wonder, “If they’re this good together now, what incredible works will they create together in the future?”
- You want to follow a long-form, layered story.
- You prefer stories that balance character development with plot.
- Dexter Soy and Brian Hill working together should be reason enough.
- Seriously! The book is great! If you’ve been sleeping on it, then wake up!
While Batman & the Outsiders #12 is undoubtedly a slower-paced issue and maybe a little more low-key than one might want after more than a month’s hiatus of new comics, you can’t deny the quality of the issue itself or the role it plays in the overall title. There are incredible and shocking moments found here, as well as the promise that we will finally get to see the Outsiders face Ra’s, directly, in the near future! And if the glimpses we’ve gotten of how Hill handles Ra’s, then we’re going to be in for a real treat!