Batman and the Outsiders #1 Review

DC unveils the newest incarnation of the Outsiders with Batman and the Outsiders #1. The Outsiders return back to their roots by once again assuming their position beneath the command of Batman. I dig DC’s newly recast Outsiders team as well as their mission statement and the role that they will play in the DCU. Chuck Dixon has been tapped as the writer for this title. Dixon is an excellent choice to head up a title based on a team of heroes that engages in black ops. Dixon is very familiar with Batman’s character and should do a fine job handling him on this title. Also, Dixon gets the credit of being the last writer who actually was able to make Nightwing a quality read. At any rate, I have high hopes for Batman and the Outsiders #1. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Julian Lopez
Inks: Bit

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Katana and Catwoman parachuting into the headquarters of Jardine Limited in Central City. They take out the guards on the rooftop of the building. Catwoman reminds Katana that Batman instructed them to not kill anyone.

We cut to Batman and Thunder in the Batcave coordinating the team’s mission. Batman comments how Jardine Limited is a closely held corporation based out of Belgium. That Jardine was just approved by the NRC to handle radioactive materials. Thunder asks Batman if they are making a weapon. Batman responds that it is certainly clear that Jardine Limited is up to something.

We cut to a wacky protestor spray painting “No more psionic testing” on the side of Jardine Limited’s building. Jardine’s guards rush out and beat the protestor up and drag him into the building.

We shift back to the Batcave where Batman notes that Jardine Limited has a paramilitary security force in the payroll rather than contracting with an outside agency. Batman wonders what Jardine is doing with massive amounts of Berkelium and Californium. They are radioactive materials that have no practical industrial applications.

Thunder asks Batman why she is with him and not with the team. Thunder says that Batman knows something she doesn’t know. Batman retorts that there is a lot that Thunder doesn’t know.

We zip over to Jardine Limited’s building and see Metamorpho in his gas form sneaking into the building through the air vents.

We hop back to the Batcave where Thunder yells at Batman why he is making her sit this mission out instead of being with the team. Batman replies that she is here as a favor to her father and Batman wants her to watch and learn why she doesn’t belong on this team. Thunder asks if Grace knows about this. Batman answers that Grace’s opinion doesn’t matter despite her special relationship with Thunder.

We slide over to Grace making her way through the sewers toward Jardine’s building. We then cut to Brussels, where the President of Jardine Limited, Mr. Jardine, gets a call from the head of security at Jardine’s building in Central City. The guard says that “psionics” is on a list of trouble words and that they just captured a protestor spray painting that on the side of the building. Mr. Jardine tells the guard to find out what he can from the protestor and to not release him.

We cut to Katana and Catwoman trading barbs with each other. Katana mentions that Batman has kept this mission compartmentalized. Catwoman asks if that means Batman doesn’t trust them. Katana replies that Batman has trusted her with his life many times.

We shift to the guards interrogating the protestor about what he knows about psionics. The protestor refuses to give them any answers. Therefore, the guards start beating up the protestor.

We zip back to the Batcave where Thunder is stunned that Batman knows about her and Grace being lipstick lesbian lovers. Thunder accuses Batman of spying on them and liking watching them get it on. Batman replies that Thunder’s immature behavior during the critical time of orchestrating a dangerous mission shows exactly why she doesn’t belong on this team. Batman then says that he noticed Grace and Thunder’s body language and surmised that they were good friends. However, he didn’t know they were lovers until Thunder just told him now. Thunder looks stunned.

We cut to Metamorpho rendezvousing with Katana and Catwoman. Metamorpho leads them to their destination. They arrive at a massive locked door. Catwoman decipherers the code for the lock and Metamorpho uses his powers to make a key to open the door.

Our heroes enter a huge lab with a large pod in the middle of it. Catwoman comments that this lab is set up to bombard the pod with massive amounts of radiation. One of Jardine’s guards detects our heroes’ presence in the lab and signals the alarm. Grace, sitting in the sewer under the building, hears the alarm and springs to action.

We cut to the protestor being questioned by the guards. The protestor transforms into the Martian Manhunter. J’onn asks if the guards have any more questions for him. J’onn then kicks ass on the guards.

We shift to the lab where all the guards suddenly run out of the lab. Metamorpho thinks it is because the guards are scared of the heroes. Catwoman disagrees and says that it is a planned retreat. We hear a voice announce that the lab is clear for gamma exposure. Catwoman says that the radiation levels are rising. We then see increased radiation levels activate the pod. The pod bursts open and out steps an OMAC. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Batman and the Outsiders #1 was a quality read. Dixon did a great job kicking off this new title. Dixon delivers a tightly plotted issue. The story unfolds pleasantly as the various players click into place. As the story naturally unfolds, Dixon is able to create a nice sense of tension in the reader that continually builds up until the hook ending of this issue. It is obvious that Dixon has a clear direction in mind this opening story arc. This is a welcome change from Winick’s Outsiders which suffered from a lack of any real direction and often stumbled around randomly.

Dixon certainly gets this new title going with a fast start. We begin with the mission already underway. Dixon wisely chooses to start with some action and allow Batman’s monitoring from the Batcave as a convenient plot tool to fill the reader in on the necessary back story for this mission as the action unfolded. Dixon manages to create a nice blend of dialogue heavy scenes along with the action scenes. This makes Batman and the Outsiders a well balanced read.

Dixons does a solid job crafting plenty of good dialogue. There is a nice flow to the dialogue and each character has their own distinctive personality. Dixon manages to begin to create a little chemistry between these new teammates. It usually takes a little bit of time for new teammates to really gel, however it is nice to see Dixon trying to establish team chemistry from the very start.

I dig the tension between Catwoman and Katana. Clearly these two women are jealous of the other one’s relationship to the Batman. Katana takes pride in having earned Batman’s trust through their years working together. Catwoman, of course, has a somewhat more lustful past with Batman. I have a feeling that Katana is less than thrilled that Batman has invited a person like Catwoman to join the Outsiders. And there is no doubt that Catwoman is a trickster and will take pleasure in trying to pluck Katana’s nerves.

My favorite scenes were the ones between Thunder and Batman. To no surprise, Dixon does a good job writing Batman. Batman talks with in direct short sentences not wasting words in getting his point across. Dixon’s Batman has that necessary air of arrogance surrounding him. Batman has his proper commanding presence and he exercises his control with the intent on letting everyone else around him know that he is the man in charge. And Dixon makes a point of telling the reader that the Outsiders are on a need to know basis with each mission. Batman only lets each member know just what their own role in the mission is and that is all. Even though Batman is a no-nonsense character, Dixon does avoid writing Batman as a total jerk.

Dixon understands that first and foremost that Batman is the world’s greatest detective. That is why I love that Batman is playing the role of the brains of the Outsiders rather than being part of the muscle. Batman’s greatest weapon is his mind and that makes him the perfect leader for this strike force. Between Batman’s mind, the Batcomputer and all the resources of the Batcave at hand, he is more of an asset to the Outsiders behind the scenes than he is in the field with them.

While Batman assuming the leadership and control of the Outsiders is fitting of his character there is an ever greater reason why Batman should play the role of the brains of this strike force. This setup prevents Batman from hogging the spotlight and allows the other characters to flourish while on the mission. The other Outsiders will be able to get all the glory while in action in the field. Batman is in more than enough titles that he doesn’t need to play an active role in all the missions on this title.

This helps lessen the move of having Batman commandeer this title once again. I know as a Legion fan, that I hated it when Supergirl hi-jacked the Legion’s title and Waid allowed her to take center stage, hog the spotlight and make all the rest of the Legionnaires seem irrelevant. Dixon is wisely avoiding this mistake with Batman and the Outsiders.

I like how Dixon has Batman handle Thunder’s immature reaction with not being on the mission with the rest of the Outsiders. This move was a bit of commentary on Winick’s Outsiders. Winick’s Outsiders were undisciplined, uncoordinated and generally a mopey mess. Not this current version of the Outsiders. Batman is a stern leader who refuses to accept anyone on his team other than those who can carry out their role on a mission with precision and excellence. All that matters is the team as a whole and the mission at hand. Gone are the days of wallowing in one’s own self interests. Batman will make sure that anyone on his Outsiders will be willing to think of the team first over their own personal desires.

I also like how Batman totally plays Thunder as she outs both herself and Grace as lovers. You have to be one calm, cool and collected person to keep a secret from the Batman. This further demonstrated the difference between Thunder’s impulsive selfish nature with Batman’s cold and calculating personality.

Now this is a late edit to the review. Evidently, many people feel that Dixon was being homophobic in this scene. I was even called homophobic because I liked how Batman handled Thunder in these scenes. I had to re-read my review to see what I said that could have possibly even remotely been construed as homophobic. I still have no idea how anyone with a rational bone in their body and half a brain in their head could have come to that conclusion.

At anyrate, I certainly can see where people may not be thrilled with Batman using the word “special” to describe Grace and Thunder’s relationship. I still don’t see the scene as homophobic. I just think it is the case of a writer who simply doesn’t know how to write gay characters. I’ll be interested to see if Dixon gets comfortable enough to do a quality job writing the relationship between Grace and Thunder.

I dig the roster of this newest incarnation of the Outsiders. The teammates assembled by Batman are perfect for a team that is built for black ops. The Outsiders are now a strike force designed for covert missions. You have Katana, a ninja, and Catwoman, a master thief, who both provide the necessary stealth and skill to break in and out of places. You have Metamorpho whose powers make him useful in sneaking into places and getting past security defenses.

Then you have Martian Manhunter who can turn invisible and shape shift which makes him perfect for stealth missions and for infiltrating the enemy. J’onn’s telepathy also provides for a covert manner for the teammates to converse with each other. And then you have Grace who isn’t designed for stealth at all. Grace fills the role for the moment when the Outsiders get caught and all hell breaks loose. Grace and J’onn are the two powerhouses that give the Outsiders some much needed brute strength in an all out brawl.

And this roster made for some nice action scenes in this issue. Dixon made sure that this debut had enough action in it to keep the reader interested and the pacing lively. I loved how this team ran like a well oiled machine. They displayed good teamwork and moved with precision. This was such a nice change of pace from the often bumbling Outsiders that Winick gave us.

The only two characters on this roster that I’m not that crazy about would be Grace and Thunder. I find both of them to be rather uninteresting and one-dimensional characters. I might even call them “misfires.” I guess Winick is lucky that Dixon was gracious enough to not call Winick’s lipstick lesbians “misfires” and have a giant anvil randomly drop from the sky and kill both of them.

All right, it looks like I need to further explain my comments in the paragraph above. Gather around people. The above paragraph is a direct slam on Winick and what he did over in Titans East #1. I found it offensive that he would label characters created by other writers as “misfires” and gleefully use an issue to kill all of them off. I was being sarcastic that Winick should be grateful Dixon didn’t employ the same offensive and myopic view towards other writers’ characters and label the two characters that Winick created as “misfires” and kill them off.

I didn’t really think I needed to explain this in so much detail. I figured most people who frequent The Revolution read the Titans East #1 review and knew where I was coming from with the above paragraph. Evidently, I was wrong. From now on I will be very obvious when I am making a comment, being sarcastic and am joking so people who get bruised easily will understand where I’m coming from.

Now, do I think Thunder and Grace are great characters? Not really. Grace looks like a reject from the Grunge Era and is rapidly becoming a very dated character. And Thunder has about as much personality as beige wallpaper. Having said that, I have learned over and over that a talented writer can get me to like just about any character. Now, is Dixon the proper writer to bring out the inner potential of Grace and Thunder and make them interesting and fully developed characters? Probably not given his past comments about gay characters. But, I won’t make any snap judgments and will give Dixon a chance to show me what he can do with these two characters.

Dixon manages to pull off a nice hook ending with the unexpected appearance of an OMAC. OMACs always make for some fun action scenes so I’m sure we will get plenty of fighting in the next issue.

I’m glad that the Outsiders finally have a mission purpose, an identity and a clear direction. Winick’s Outsiders was like MTV’s Real World while Dixon’s Outsiders is more like the television show 24. Winick’s Outsiders floundered in neutral for so long. The team lacked any discernable mission statement. There was no identity beyond being angst ridden slackers who spent every waking moment trying to be tragically hip and trendy.

Dixon’s Outsiders have a definitive mission statement. They are a covert strike force designed to handle threats too messy and political explosive for high profile teams like the JLA, JSA and Teen Titans. This team has a personality of heroes who aren’t shy about getting their hands dirty. The addition of Batman to the team gives them an immediate identity. And Dixon appears to have a clear direction for this team based off this solid debut issue.

The reader gets treated to some great looking artwork by Julian Lopez and Bit. The best looking scenes were the ones of Batman and Thunder in the Batcave. They were fantastic looking. I really dig how Lopez draws Batman. Lopez and Bit certainly give this title a nice look and are an improvement over the art on the Winick’s version of the Outsiders.

The Bad: Since Chuck Dixon took over this title so late in the game, instead of Tony Bedard, there are going to be some quick changes to the roster. Evidently, Catwoman and Martian Manhunter are going to be leaving the team at some point and Geo-Force, Green Arrow and Batgirl will be taking their places. I’m not too sure how I feel about that swap, but I’ll withhold judgment until I see what Dixon has in store for us. I definitely am not thrilled about Batgirl’s impending arrival on this team since my dislike for her character is only rivaled by my dislike for Supergirl.

Overall: Dixon does a nice job getting this new title off and running with a quick start. This title is very balanced and treats the reader to both solid writing and good artwork. If you had been turned off from Winick’s version of the Outsiders then I definitely recommend you giving Batman and the Outsiders a try. If you like covert operations themed comic books then you will also enjoy this title.

8 Comments

  1. The whole handling of the Grace/Thunder “special relationship” just seemed weird to me. For any other writer, I might be more inclined to give it a pass, but Dixon is the most well-known homophobe currently writing comics, and doesn’t believe gays belong in anything other than mature readers’ titles, so the word “special” (which carries a vague note of condescencion) and the idea that Batman could be unaware of them being lesbians (they aren’t subtle, certainly not while Winick was writing) just carries some vaguely unappealing implications.

  2. Do you think the rumor is true that DC would kill Bruce Wayne? I mean I do sort of it see it as the natural progression of the DC universe and lets face it, if anyone should die in these Earth destroying battles it would be the superpowerless guy but at the same time Batman is the cornerstone of DC. What do you think Rokks?

  3. DC actually managed a win this month, albeit by about 1%, for the first time since June of last year, I believe. Of course, a bunch of Marvel’s titles were late (including WWH), but the gap has narrowed a bit now that the Civil War aftermath is winding down. October was a bit of a lull as far as events go, so we’ll see how the Winter crossovers (like Messiah Complex) and the ramp-up to, respectively, Final Crisis and Secret Invasion affect things.

  4. As for killing Batman, I could see it, but only for a finite story. I wouldn’t necessarily object either; Captain America’s death is the best story being told this year (with Sinestro Corps jockeying closely), and I’m sure there’s plenty of great stories that you could tell in a “World Without Batman”.

    Now, if they were planning this to be a permanent change, it would never work, but I can’t see editorial ever convincing itself that such a change would stick (or even wanting to).

  5. I noticed. The comment in your “Outsiders #41” review that they posted seems like it could be misconstrued, specifically the part about whether or not we need gay characters in comics (you definitely have a point about the overuse of lipstick lesbians, though; not I mind some hot lesbian action, myself, but they’re the kind most pleasing to male fans, such as myself; the only gay male couple in DC that I can think of are Obsidian and Damon in Manhunter (wow, I miss that book; but then, it starts up again sometime in the new year, and I suppose I should be grateful it’s continuing at all, since it, objectively, sells terribly)).

  6. You once stated “The overwhelming majority of comic book readers are males between the ages of 16-34. Now, the overwhelming majority of that population is straight. The overall gay population of America is very hard to estimate and there have been estimates that vary widely from as little as 2% to as high as 8%. Either way you slice it, you are talking about a very small percentage of the American population and a very small percentage of comic book readers. And, I think it is a safe statement to make that the population that dominates the comic book readership and sales market probably aren’t going to go crazy for smoochy-smooch scenes between two dudes.” and “I’m sure that gay readers want to read about gay superheroes. However, the bigger question is do the vast majority of comic book readers who control the market want to read about gay super heroes?”

    In another review, you said “I never liked either Bucky or Jason on their first go around. I found them both to be pretty gay characters without much use.”

    You pretty much had a negative reaction to Frenchie being gay.

    Here you say, “I guess Winick is lucky that Dixon was gracious enough to not call Winick’s lipstick lesbians ‘misfires’ and have a giant anvil randomly drop from the sky and kill both of them.”

    Furthermore, judging from most of your reviews you seem to be conservative, and the conservative position to homosexuality is generally a negative one.

    So yes, I said I thought you were homophobic (though I didn’t call you any names). Someone can be homophobic without being brimstone-spewing God-hates-fags Fred Phelps homophobic.

  7. I haven’t read this issue so I guess you can take these comments with a grain of salt but books like this where the team is largely constructed out of creator preference are far less interesting to me than teams that are formed more organically.

    Teams like the X-Men, the Legion and most recently the Order have a genuine reason to be together and even though the X-Men’s popularity has spawned numerous solo titles, those characters, and the characters of teams like them work best in a team environment.

    Going the other way and taking solo characters and forcing them into a team environment just isn’t as appealing to me. That is something the likes of the X-Men and the Legion will always have over the “heavy hitter” teams like the JLA and Avengers. That’s not to say you can’t tell great stories with those kinds of teams, because obviously you can, I just prefer to see a more natural team environment over a forced one.

  8. I was reading the weekly crisis and that rumor about Batman is not true, so I apologize for my earlier post. But i do agree with island about the world without Batman storylines being interesting. BTW, Rokks you are an internet celeb among comic book fans :)….

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