Review: BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #8
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: Dexter Soy
Colours: Veronica Gandini
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman and the Outsiders #8: Queen takes rook in this master’s game of chess played by the Demon’s Head himself, Ra’s al Ghul, as he cultivates more of the Outsiders for his taking. Cassandra Cain is caught in the middle between friendship, family, and her own moral judgments. Meanwhile, Black Lightning continues to make his moves while Batman seems to be away on “Bruce Wayne” business.
Batman and the Outsiders is the bleakest issue of the series so far. The title has caught up with recent events in Batman. This is the first comic outside of Batman that has mentioned Alfred’s passing, so it’s our first look at how Bruce is coping with the loss of his mentor and father figure.
Unfortunately, it’s he’s not coping well. He’s blaming himself for allowing Alfred to be murdered by Bane and it’s shaken his confidence. But with the Outsiders facing Ra’s al Ghul, they need Batman at his best. Batman tells Jefferson, “They need Batman to be certain. Right now, I am not certain.” The team now face one of the Batman’s deadliest foes with an emotionally wounded leader, which could prove disastrous for the team.
Batman warns Black Lightning, “Be careful Jeff. When they come for you, they come for what you love. And they leave you with hate.” Bruce’s words prove prophetic, as Ra’s strikes at the school where Jefferson works – a move calculated to wound him.
The Signal shares a secret with Orphan that he has been hiding from Batman and the rest of the team. He appears to have shadow-based powers: “I can pull the shadows into me. And I can spread them from me.” He is afraid that when he tells Batman about these powers, Batman will try to protect him and pull him from active duty.
I wonder if these powers portend a change of identity and costume for Duke. Darkness-based powers don’t really seem to fit in with his Signal identity or his bright costume. Might Duke end up being a new Doctor Mid-Nite or Obsidian? Or will he find a way to make it fit his chosen theme?
The issue isn’t entirely dismal though. There are a couple of bright moments. The newly christened Babylon refuses to give into Ra’s al Ghul’s brainwashing and flee with Kaliber. She doesn’t immediately agree to side with Batman and join the Outsiders, but at least she is willing to let them convince her that they have her interests at heart.
Also, Black Lightning is forced by an imminent plane crash to stretch his control of lightning beyond anything he’s ever done before. He manages to create a electrical sphere that carries him and Katana safely to the ground. This raises some interesting questions about how powerful Jefferson Pierce actually is. He could be much more powerful than anyone ever realized.
Dexter Soy’s artwork is beautiful and perfectly suited to the Outsiders. He perfectly captures the mood of the issue. I was especially impressed by how he conveyed the sheer power of Jefferson’s new way of using his lightning powers.
Despite this being a rather bleak issue, I can’t fault it for that. By bringing the Outsiders to such a low point, Hill is demonstrating the seriousness of the threat that Ra’s al Ghul poses. This is not an everyday “beat the villain then go on with our lives” scenario. It’s a battle where victory will cost them dearly, but defeat will destroy them utterly. No, the gloominess of the issue is entirely justified.
The conflict with Ra’s al Ghul is picking up steam now, and I look forward to seeing what Bryan Hill has in store as the story continues to play out. The Outsiders have always been a favourite of mine through their various incarnations, and this iteration is living up to the legend so far.