Review: BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #17 (Final Issue)
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: Marcio Takara
Colours: Veronica Gandini
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman and the Outsiders #17: Series finale! The war with Ra’s al Ghul reaches its end, and none of the Outsiders will ever be the same. And none of them might ever be a team again! Did Batman choose the wrong allies to assemble to fight Ra’s? Or did those allies make a mistake in believing in Batman? The critically acclaimed series comes to its end!
Not only is Batman and the Outsiders #17 the end of Bryan Hill’s story, it’s also the end of the titular team. It serves as an epilogue to the team’s battle with Ra’s Al Ghul, as the members ponder how the encounter has changed them. They also come to varying decisions about their futures.
The team is gathered at a rural property near Gotham that Bruce Wayne has gifted to Babylon. They have gathered there to relax and celebrate their victory. Their recent ally, Lady Shiva, is also present. Both her and Bruce seem to be competing for the loyalties of the other team member. Bruce tries to keep them as part of his network of heroes, while Shiva tries to enlist them by casting doubts on Bruce’s motives.
The interesting thing is that there may be more than a little truth to what Shiva tells them. Batman has been known to be manipulative. He might be putting a show of being open and frank with each of them, but it’s impossible to know if he’s genuine or not. Even Black Lightning admits that he can’t discern how Bruce is really feeling.
Batman ends up keeping the loyalty of the Signal and the Orphan for now, so it appears that they will continue to appear in the Batman books as part of the Bat-Family. It is mentioned that Cassie is intending to seek out Stephanie Brown (a.k.a. Spoiler). Perhaps this is a hint that there will be a forthcoming DC title featuring the pair. With the Batgirl series also coming to an end, maybe there might be a new Batgirls title in the works. After all, both of them have borne the name in the past.
On the other hand, Babylon decides to discover her future alongside Shiva. She desires vengeance on people like her father’s killer. But she feels that merely sending them to jail for their crimes won’t satisfy this desire. Shiva also notes the irony that although she has lost a daughter to Bruce, she has similarly taken a young girl away from him.
Finally, Black Lightning and Katana side with neither and strike out together to forge their own path. During this story, Jefferson’s power level has increased significantly, putting him on par with the DCU’s other powerhouse heroes. I had feared that this might be a temporary change, made only for the purposes of this story. However, I was pleased to see that this seems to be a permanent change for the character – provided the next writer to use the character follows up on this.
Katana also reveals that she has had an increase in power. She now has fire-based powers that she received during the pair’s adventure in Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1. The pair set off together to explore their newfound abilities together. Considering that, apart from Batman, these are the only two characters from the original incarnation of the Outsiders, perhaps they will end up forming their own version of the team – maybe with some other familiar faces like Geo-Force, Halo, or Metamorpho.
I find it somewhat unique and refreshing that there is no villain battle, except for the competition between Bruce and Shiva. Also, at no time does any of the cast appear in costume apart from the issue’s cover. I like it when a title has an issue where the characters can interact as themselves outside of a superhero fight. Quite often, the threat of the month will allow little room for reflection or character growth and subplots will go ignored. It’s a nice change to see the heroes in another context once in a while.
Unfortunately, Dexter Soy is not providing the art for this issue, but Marcio Takara does an admirable job in his place. I do feel a bit disappointed that we didn’t get much of a chance to see Takara’s rendition of the heroes in costume and in action. But while I’m sure it would have been a treat visually, it wouldn’t have fit in with the story Hill was telling.
Unfortunately, this title is another victim of DC’s recent decision to cut back on the number of titles they are putting out. With the way things are going in the world these days, it’s hard to blame DC for having to make some hard decisions. After all, DC has often carried titles well past the point that other publishers might have given up on them.
However, it is disappointing that ultimately we never got to see what else Bryan Hill might have had planned for the Outsiders. I think it might have been better if he had chosen a bit less ambitious storyline, so that we might have gotten two or three story arcs instead of just the single one. Hopefully, the Outsiders will return in some form in the future.
Sadly, it’s time to say farewell to Batman and the Outsiders. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of the team. I look forward to seeing the team members wherever they might pop up in the DCU. Thanks to Bryan Hill, Dexter Soy, and the rest of the creative team for a stellar series.