Review: BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #9
[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 #9: Ra’s al Ghul and his army of assassins have turned their attention away from the Dark Knight-and toward Black Lightning! They’ve done something terrible to him that can never be fixed, and Black Lightning will need the Outsiders to stop him from crossing a line that could change his life forever.
In Batman and the Outsiders #9, the focus is on Black Lightning. Ra’s al Ghul has been working to drive a wedge between Batman and his hero he has chosen to lead the Outsiders – and he is succeeding. Ra’s has orchestrated the assassination of one of Jefferson Pierce’s longtime friends and Batman is unable to offer him any solace.
Jefferson tells Batman, “Bruce. I want to kill him,” to which Batman replies, “I know. And Ra’s knows I’ll never allow that”. Bruce is against killing anyone, regardless of how justified that killing might be. Plus, he knows how badly Jefferson would be harmed by giving into that desire for vengeance.
Bruce cannot allow Jefferson to kill Ra’s. Bruce doesn’t even want to put him in temptation’s way by letting him lead the team in the fight against Ra’s. So, Bruce asks Jefferson to sit out the conflict. This is a move that Ra’s knows will only exacerbate Black Lightning’s fear that Batman will undercut his leadership of the team.
And there are other cracks growing in the team. The Signal has kept the powers that he has receive from Ishmael a secret from Batman. But he quickly realizes that keeping secrets from the Batman is a pointless endeavour when Bruce confronts him.Duke is coming to accept these powers, and is putting them to a field test. However, Bruce suspects they are a trap. “Do not trust these powers,” he tells Duke.
Orphan is also keeping her encounter with Shiva a secret from Batman. Batman isn’t pleased to learn this, and he lectures both young heroes, “Neither of you can make these choices alone. And both of you have lost your way.”
Clearly, trust is eroding amongst Batman and the young heroes. Both are keeping secrets from him. Secrets that he seems to know about anyway. And his response is to lecture them and tell them they are not capable of dealing with their situations. He clearly wants to protect them, but they feel that protection as smothering.
Ironically, this is where Superman enters the story. Knowing that his friend is hurting from the loss of Alfred, Clark offers to step in and take care of Ra’s for him. But like the members of his team, Bruce rejects Clark’s offer out of stubborn self-sufficiency. Clark backs off, showing a core difference between the two heroes. Clark knows to back off when his protection is not wanted, but Bruce doesn’t. Hopefully, Bruce will come to know better before it’s too late to salvage his team.
And then there’s the cryptic offer that Shiva makes to Jefferson to help him gain vengeance against Ra’s. I suspect that Shiva’s offer is part of Ra’s al Ghul’s plan to alienate Black Lightning from Batman, but it’s possible that Shiva is playing her own game.
I have to admit that I was starting to think this story’s pacing was a bit too slow, but as it has progressed, I see that Hill has been taking his time to set everything up properly. This approach has let the cracks in the team develop organically instead of seeming to appear out of nowhere. Hill has been doing a better job at developing the story than I initially realized.
Batman and the Outsiders #9 makes it clear that there’s a rocky future ahead for the team. Even if they vanquish Ra’s al Ghul, they are unlikely to emerge from the conflict unscathed. And the damage to the team’s unity might never be fully healed.