Katana’s history a solid read in Outsider’s Annual

As Tatsu and Jefferson take a break, Hill weaves a tale where Katana kills herself to save her husband from being tormented by the spirits trapped in her blade.

Compared to Hill’s main storyline, this standalone issue featured a more engaging story in certain aspects. Hill’s focus on the older members gives us more on Jefferson and Tatsu’s growing relationship. The dynamic between the two shows that it could be either a romantic relationship that Hill looks to establish or a close friendship between two people who look after each other like family.

Following the two as Tatsu seeks to save her husband, we are introduced to more of Katana’s backstory and how she’ll get her soul into the blade. During the sequences about Tatsu’s past, she tells about the voices of madness she hears in her head. In the beginning, she mentions that the blood that runs in her veins is from a famed magician who controlled elements and how darkness incarnate was trapped within the realm her sword leads to. She refers to the magic she possesses as madness herself, and something that drove her to almost dive off a cliff as a child. It wasn’t out of despair that she wanted to dive into the ocean though, it was because the voices in her head that she’d imagine herself falling as she’d stand at the edge, and she’d picture herself falling, only to not do it.

Hill’s delving into Tatsu’s past and the history of her blade and ancestors was a nice stroll down memory lane, by adding to the backstory of a character I feel hasn’t gotten as much recognition until more recent films and television series used her. Giving more development to her history and using this issue as a means to describe her sword and past were both well done and enjoyable for me to hear about.

Another aspect of Hill’s writing in this issue was how Katana gets into her blade’s realm and what goes on in their. In the past, most series just touch on her husband’s soul being trapped in her blade, but the series tend to stop there adding no further explanations. In Hill’s case, we get to see a realm with other souls trapped in there, some by Miyako, Katana’s ancestor. As Tsutomo, evil incarnate, seeks to break free from the realm of the sword by torturing Masseo, Katana’s husband; Hill brings to life Katana’s way into the realm and what happens when she is in there.

Through the act of seppuku by her blade, Katana’s entrance into her blade’s realm results in some of Tsutomo’s followers escaping to kill Katana and free Tsutomo. Luckily, she has Black Lightning to protect her unconscious body.

Inside the realm, we get an awesome sequence of sand flying up as she lands in the realm, followed by a few decent fight sequences by Katana in an effort to stop Tsutomo. The world was mostly sandy with a temple and nothing else, while the panels for fights were average and less than special. This resulted in mostly less than exciting sequences from artist, Max Raynor.

Where Raynor did deliver, was at the beginning of the story when Katana gives the backstory on the fight between Miyako and Tsutomo, that resulted in her sword’s realm. During the fight, she describes the different elements that were controlled by Miyako, resulting in an awesome two page spread of Tsutomo and his followers being burned alive as the sand turned to oil and gets hit with lightning. Raynor has the ability to draw some awesome sequences, but he failed to create fulfilling fight sequences and instead delivered average scenes of city streets and kicks and slashes.

Raynor’s decisions on close-up to medium shots and far away shots throughout the pages was a decent mix, but the variety in the poses that characters had for multiple sequences was not as strong, instead we were treated to average and mostly uninspired work, compared to the sequences I’ve seen from other artists at DC.

As the first annual in the ongoing Outsiders series, this was by far better in terms of story than some of the chapters in the current arc. We also were treated to one or two well placed action sequences, similar to what we have come to expect in the main story arc. Where this annual faultered most, was in the delivery on the art for the overall 40 page issue. Two or three pages doesn’t make-up for an unfulfilling art aspect in the series. I do enjoy Hill’s writing and he managed to make the issue worthwhile, I just wish there was more from Raynor than what we got in the end.

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