Comic Book Review: Outsiders #50

DC has mercifully pulled the plug on Winick’s run on the Outsiders. While I think Winick did turn in some enjoyable issues, I think it was time for a change at the writer position. The Outsiders had begun to grow stale and Winick had morphed this super team into a bunch of depressed slackers who seemed more at home in a grungy coffee shop than fighting crime across the globe. I love Bedard’s current run on Supergirl and the Legion of Super Heroes, so I have high hopes for him at the helm of the Outsiders. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Outsiders #50.

Creative Team
Writer: Tony Bedard
Pencilers: Matthew Clark & Ron Randle
Inker: Art Thibert

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Grace having to be restrained from going after Batman for his decision to kick Nightwing and Thunder off of the Outsiders. Batman, in his typical Bat-dick manner, tells Grace to listen good because he rarely repeats himself. Batman replies that Luthor’s Everyman Project tainted the public’s trust in super-heroes. That Black Adam murdered an entire country. That the Amazons waged war on America. That the general public is starting to view metahumans as walking weapons of mass destruction. That the public feels that metahumans should be controlled, identified and monitored. (Hmmm, sound familiar?)

Batman says that any super hero that operates in public will be under the scrutiny of the FBI, CIA and Department of Metahuman Affairs. That teams like the JLA, JSA and the Titans are watched carefully and that this limits their options. That the Outsiders must be viewed as a team of outlaws and Batman didn’t want to brand Nightwing and Thunder with that reputation.

Batman then tells the team (which consists of Metamorpho, Martian Manhunter, Grace, and Katana) that they will infiltrate a criminal after hours place in Gotham in order to make friends and cultivate some ties with the criminal community.

We cut to Thunder at her apartment looking at a team photo of the Outsiders. Thunder is crying. Thunder then gets a text message from Grace telling Thunder that she is still a part of the team no matter what Batman says. Grace text Thunder to meet her at a specific location.

We shift to the criminal after-hours club in Gotham. We see a team of four teen-age wannabe villains getting into the club. Long time villain, the Bolt takes umbrage with unproven wannabe villains getting into the club and threatens to take one of them out.

Matches Malone suddenly appears on the scene and tells the Bolt that the kids are his friends and that asks that if the Bolt lets it go then Matches will owe him one. The Bolt agrees. Matches then introduces himself to the four young super villains and tells them that he thinks they might become good earners and that he is looking to give them a chance. We see Catwoman in the club watching Matches.

The four wannabes go sit at Matches’ table while Matches telepathically checks in with Martian Manhunter. J’onn tells Bruce that he is linked with the rest of the Outsiders and that he hasn’t picked up anything unusual yet. Suddenly, J’onn tells Bruce that he senses a familiar mind. Bruce responds that he already knows that Selina Kyle is at the club as Catwoman. J’onn responds that he senses someone else. Thunder.

Matches immediately marches over to Grace and demands to know if she invited Thunder against his direct orders. Grace responds that Thunder belongs with them. Matches responds that Grace just endangered Thunder’s life.

We see Thunder arriving outside of the club just as the Suicide Squad busts on the scene. The Suicide Squad raids the club and Deadshot orders that they arrest every single metahuman villain in the joint.

And we have a massive brawl on our hands as the Suicide Squad consisting of Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Bane and Boomerang start taking people out. Grace is less than pleased with having to fight her ex-teammate in Boomerang even though Grace calls Boomerang a sell-out.

Bane comes walking out of the club with several people in tow and somehow mistakes Thunder for Plastique. (Yeah, I can see how that might happen.) Batman then appears and tells Deadshot to tell Waller to call off this operation before it backfires in her face. Deadshot’s answer to Batman is a hail of bullets. Batman disappears.

The Suicide Squad leave with several super villains in their custody. Batman asks J’onn if he knows what he has to do. J’onn says he does and that he will be in touch with Batman soon.

We see the rest of the Outsiders all entering their submarine. Grace tells the four wannabe super villains to stay out of jail. The Outsiders then take off in their sub. Grace mentions how their outlaw image should definitely be cemented after tonight. Suddenly, the Outsiders realize that they have a stowaway on board of their sub. It is the Catwoman. Catwoman purrs that Batman couldn’t start his own band of super-crooks without Catwoman being on the team.

The Good: Outsiders #50 was a fun read. Bedard turned in a nicely paced and plotted issue. Bedard clearly establishes the purpose and direction for this new incarnation of the Outsiders. That is an important move in order to try and attract new readers who may have been turned off by Winick’s interpretation of the Outsiders.

It is obvious that Bedard is taking Marvel’s Civil War and SHRA concepts and importing them into the DCU. Is it original? No. Is it surprising? No. Comic book companies often copy each other. You could claim that Marvel was copying DC: The New Frontier published in 2003 when it came up with the idea for the SHRA and the Civil War. So, it isn’t any big deal to see Marvel and DC constantly stealing plot ideas from each other.

I have to say that I actually enjoy DC’s take on the public’s mistrust of super heroes and the government’s desire to keep a close watch on all super heroes much more than Marvel’s SHRA. The main reason is that the take on this concept that Bedard gives us in this issue is actually fun and entertaining. Bedard is just trying to come up with a concept that will provide for action packed and exciting stories to read. Unlike Marvel with the SHRA, Bedard isn’t trying to indoctrinate the reader or make some grand political statement.

At no point would I remotely connect Civil War, the SHRA and the Initiative with the word fun or enjoyable. Laborious, grim, brooding, political, and preachy would probably be the words I most associate with the SHRA and the related stories. Marvel’s take on this concept has come off painfully one-sided and many of the stories are preachy to the point of propaganda. Now, I agree with a lot of the political beliefs that Marvel is trying to indoctrinate the reader in, but I strongly dislike anyone preaching to me no matter if I agree with the viewpoint or not.

Much of the one-sided political preaching of many of the titles dealing with the SHRA has really ruined any enjoyment I might with the SHRA concept. Marvel also failed miserably in the execution of the SHRA by not doing their proper legal research and actually drafting a copy of the SHRA that all the writers could reference when writing their stories. If you want to claim that your story is “realistic” then you better put in the hard work to make sure it comes across that way.

On the other hand, Bedard is just trying to entertain the reader and provide a cool plot device to have the Outsiders become an outlaw organization that will butt heads with the hated government agencies that so willingly trample any civil liberties in the wake of 9/11. Now that sounds fun.

Also, I like the use of Amanda Waller as the villain in this story. Waller is a character that the reader is already wary of with her actions over in Checkmate. It is nice to use a character like Waller that really fits the role perfectly of an overreaching government official who wouldn’t mind going all out like Janet Reno and stomping over civil liberties at the drop of the dime.

It certainly is more fun than watching a character get ruined and butchered into something unrecognizable to the character that he has been portrayed as over his 44 year history. I’m not mentioning any names. I’m just saying.

At any rate, Bedard’s use of the recent events in the DCU like Black Adam’s murderous rampage, Luthor’s Everyman Project and the Amazon War as the foundation for the public’s mistrust of super heroes is a nice way to cohesively tie this new direction of the Outsiders into the current climate of the DCU. It is always nice when writers use past events as building blocks for new concepts and plotlines.

It makes perfect sense that the public would view super heroes as walking weapons of mass destruction. And it makes sense that the American government would be eager to watchdog all metahumans everywhere. Bedard is setting the stage for what should provide for plenty of action packed and entertaining stories.

I dig the roster for this version of the Outsiders. Grace is a powerhouse brawler who boosts the raw power of this team. Metamorpho also is a heavy hitter, but more importantly, his powers make him perfect for a team designed for covert missions. Katana being a ninja and Catwoman being the ultimate thief also make for perfect additions to a team built on stealth for their covert missions. I always have liked Selina Kyle and I’m excited to see how Batman and Catwoman co-exist on the same team.

Martian Manhunter is another great choice. His powers of invisibility and telepathy are ideal for a covert operations group. Plus, J’onn is a powerhouse that boosts the team’s power levels. J’onn also plays the important role of the counter balance to Batman. J’onn has a strong moral compass and should temper the more ambiguous sense of right and wrong that Batman possesses. Plus, J’onn in the only member of the Outsiders that Batman considers a true friend and Batman actually respect’s J’onn’s opinion.

I love how Bedard writes Batman. Bedard gives Batman a take no shit attitude. Batman speaks with the appropriately terse dialogue using only the minimum amount of words necessary to convey his meaning. No doubt that Bedard’s Batman is somewhat of a dick; however, Bedard also shows another side of Batman. We see Batman’s respect and friendship that he has with J’onn. The reader quickly notices how differently Batman treats J’onn compared to the other members of the Outsiders.

It absolutely rocked seeing Matches Malone in this issue! I have always been a big fan of Batman’s Matches Malone identity. You just don’t see enough of this persona of Batman. Matches works perfectly on the Outsiders and will enable Batman to maintain a criminal connection for the Outsiders as well as interact publicly with the Outsiders without drawing a connection between Batman and the team of outlaws.

The appearance of the Suicide Squad was cool. They are a great team that is always entertaining. I like that Boomerang is now with the Suicide Squad. This should provide plenty of bad blood between Boomerang and his ex-teammates which should lead to some good drama.

Bedard certainly served up plenty of action in Outsiders #50. I imagine that we can expect lots of action packed issues during Bedard’s run on this title. Bedard also displayed a fairly good sense of the personalities for each member of the Outsiders. The dialogue was solid and I’m sure Bedard will be able to quickly generate some quality chemistry between the teammates.

The Bad: I’m just not crazy about Clark and Randle’s artwork. It is just too inconsistent for me. Some panels look great while others look awful.

Overall: Outsiders #50 was a fun read. If you like adventure and action then you will certainly enjoy this incarnation of the Outsiders. It also appears that Batman will be acting more as the brains of the team giving the other members a chance to shine on each individual mission. I sort of view Bedard’s Outsiders as the A-Team of the DCU.