Review: BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS ANNUAL #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: Max Raynor
Colours: Luis Guerrero
Letters: ALW Studios’ Troy Peteri
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1: The soul of Katana’s husband, Maseo, is experiencing great unrest within her sword! The Outsiders must find a way to relieve him, or else the blade itself may shatter, unleashing not only Maseo but whatever unknown spirits and sorcery are trapped with him in the Pandora’s box of Katana’s blade!
In the series’ first annual, Bryan Hill dials the focus in on Katana, as she and team leader, Black Lightning in a story that delves into Katana’s past. We have known that Tatsu Yamashiro’s husband is among the souls imprisoned in her sword, the Soultaker. However, Hill reveals to us that Maseo is the captive of the demon Tsutomo. Katana must enter the blade to save him, and turns to Black Lightning to protect her body in the physical realm while her soul fights the Tsutomo within the blade.
I like that the relationship between Black Lightning and Katana is being explored. They clearly seem to have a closer affinity than among the rest of the team, but there has also seemed to be a distance between them as well. This is evidenced by the fact that Katana frequently refers to Black Lightning as “Raijin”, a reference to the Japanese god of thunder and lightning. However, at the end of this issue’s battle, Tatsu acknowledges that their friendship has become stronger, referring to him by his first name, Jefferson, for the first time.
Hill also shows us that Tatsu has dealt with an apparent death wish since childhood. However, Tatsu comes to realization that this is not a compulsion to end her life, but rather to transform. “The voice is not telling you to die — I am telling you to change. By finally giving in, she has come into her own power and is able to overcome the demon.
Tatsu realizes that she is still changing, and reaches out for another she can trust. Jefferson offers to be this voice. Black Lightning has shown a reluctance to accept Batman’s assurances that he is truly the team’s leader, but once again we see that he is willing to take on the responsibilities of the position.
I liked the touching brief reunion of Tatsu and her husband Maseo. Katana does seem to have an innate wisdom, which is evidenced by her realization that she cannot stay with Maseo. But it was good to see that they did get a fleeting moment of happiness before Katana had to return to the physical world.
I also found the character Eiko intriguing. We only see her briefly, but we learn that she and Tatsu come from the same village, and that she seems to have some connection to Japanese mythology similar to Katana’s. Perhaps Eiko might pop up later as a threat or ally to the Outsiders in a future story.
I don’t mind that this annual focuses on two members of the team. Any team book can benefit from spotlighting on individual members, and the whole team doesn’t have to appear in every issue. However, the cover strikes me as somewhat disingenuous, showing Batman so prominently. The cover implies that Batman is a major part of the story, while Black Lightning has the same prominence as Orphan and the Signal who, like Batman, do not appear in the issue. But, I suppose Batman sells comics.
Despite the somewhat misleading cover, the story is a solid one that gives adds some depth to both Katana and Black Lightning. It also makes me curious to see what the changes for Tatsu that Hill is hinting at. It is clear that some interesting adventures lie ahead for the team.