After Cassandra saved Duke and Katana faced a crashing plane, we returned to the world of Outsiders this week, with a Batman who lost Alfred.
As a series that spun out of Tom King’s Batman run, Outsiders had a slow start getting into the flow of things, and at the start of a new arc, this series has started to continue the gravity of the situation and showcase more of Ra’s Al Ghul’s plan.
In past issues, Hill focused on turning Duke, Sophia and reawakening Cassandra’s own fear through Lady Shiva. As one of the few remaining members to become affected by Ghul, Black Lightning will learn soon about what it means, due to actions taken at the school he oversees as principal.
Seeing these line of actions makes me question what Ghul’s plan is and how Hill sees the series playing out. Hill repeats that Ghul wants to “Shatter his family” in terms of Batman. This comes off similar to DC’s recent Titans season, where Deathstroke does the same to the Titans. In this case, we have a Duke with Raven like powers he is learning to control. We’re also seeing Cassandra experience her own self doubt and struggles, similar to how Nightwing was portrayed. Finally, we are getting Katana and Black Lightning who have been showcased falling for each other in each issue, including the annual.
One of the newer aspects that this issue introduced, is a potential romantic relationship between Cassandra and Duke. As Hill adapts this for the characters, it feels odd to make a four person team have romantic interests in each other. It has the makings of Hill turning the current iteration of Outsiders into a team of couples, where there is little involvement from Batman.
In Justice League Dark, we’re given large amounts of involvement from Batman and Wonder Woman in both their older and current iterations. In the older runs of Outsiders, we’d get characters having romantic interest in each other, but not having every team member fall for someone else on the team. Instead, Hill gives us a bare bones team, compared to older series with characters like Nightwing, Red Arrow, Grace Choi and more.
As a series, I enjoy the moments with Katana and Black Lightning, but the lack of team members makes the series run into the same issues, especially when its set up the way it is; two guys and two girls, and they have romantic feelings for each other. This sets the team up for further abuse by Ghul, due to how relationships work in most superhero fare.
Having a team who has multiple characters who like each other, rather than working as a team, sets them up to fail. Instead we’ll see these become more of a crutch to the team as the series goes on, but I hope that Hill finds a way to revitalize the team, maybe with the addition of Sofia.
As for the action sequences, Dexter Soy has improved in this issue, with his drawing of the Batcave to the plane crash and Batman overlooking the city; each sequence has more to it than some of the previous issues. We’re seeing more large picture, wide angle drawings, instead of mid to close up sequences. The only downside to all these sequences for Soy, is the heavy use of dark colors, especially black to fill in empty areas. When this happens, it leaves the viewer with a lack of diverse panels. Instead, all DC artists have heavy use of black and empty space when drawing Batcave sequences, and the art feels weaker in these moments.
Overall, Outsiders remains an average series that’s a fun read at times, but after the end of the previous arc and start of the new arc, I’d recommend waiting until the Graphic Novel comes out.