Fans have been waiting for Batman and the Outsiders #1 to arrive for some time. Originally slated for a late 2018 release before disappearing, the series has finally arrived, bringing the title back for the first time since 2017. Written by Bryan Hill along with art from Dexter Soy, this take on the Outsiders team features a team comprised of Black Lightning, Katana, The Signal, and Orphan along with Batman, and it's one that is both familiar and fresh at the same time.
What's fresh is how Hill approaches the introduction of Batman and the Outsiders. Instead of kicking things off with the actual Outsiders team, he instead does a bit of table setting. Readers are introduced to a character who is very clearly going to be significant later at what might be both the worst moment of her life as well as her origin story. The tragedy at the center of that opening ends up being the mission that will bring the Outsiders together, and from the way things start, they will need that unity.
While the book brings in three reader-favorite characters with Batman, Katana, and Black Lightning, Orphan and Signal's presence on the team makes things skew more towards the Bat Family than previous incarnations of the team, and that's both exciting and problematic. The Bat Family isn't exactly known for being particularly the most together of heroes, and that's something evident pretty quickly in the issue. Hill doesn't flinch from the idea that these Outsiders are struggling to work together. Black Lightning, placed in a leadership position, can't trust Batman, Katana is Katana, and both Orphan and Signal -- but specifically Signal -- are dealing with their own traumas and trust issues. Add in a sense of power imbalance between the older heroes and the younger ones and you've got a recipe for potentially spectacular team failure.
That raw, complex team dynamic is perhaps the biggest strength of the issue. Hill has given readers just enough of a look at the ragged edges and strained seams of this Outsiders team that it makes them interesting and prompts the question of "what's next" from the reader. He presents the relationships in just enough of a nuanced way that they aren't stale or stereotypical. There's a depth there that makes it worth reading. And that's important because it might be the thing that holds the whole story arc together.
Pretty quickly, Batman and the Outsiders #1 descends into something of cliché territory. An evil metahuman creation program exploiting poor families isn't a clear and present threat -- that's been handled already -- but the aftermath remains in the form of that mystery girl from the cold open. She's survived horrors only to now find herself with powers and hunted, and while that's kind of basic, that's the cliché part. Throw in a Batman big bad, some time travel, and what can't help but feel like a too-close copy of Marvel's Cable or even the Terminator, and you can't help but feel like you've read this story before.
But, even if we've read this story before in other forms, we've never read an Outsiders version of it. Making Black Lightning the driving force of the team is a unique approach. The inter-team conflicts and struggles are also familiar, but they're presented in a combination that genuinely opens the doors for some fresh stories about what it means to be part of the Outsiders team. The title is clearly positioned to be much more than just the mission at hand, which is good because the Outsiders team is one that is always an enjoyable one to follow and has been missing for far too long.
Bottom line? While there are some potential pitfalls with cliché story elements and overly complicated team dynamics, Hill has set up for what could be the most promising Outsiders series yet. The unexpected approach to the team and the story with the cold open is an engaging way to kick things off, and Soy's vibrant art keeps even the heavier sections of the story moving in a way where it never gets dull. It's a promising start to the series, and one worthy of the Outsiders' legacy.
Published by DC Comics
On May 8, 2019
Written by Bryan Hill
Art by Dexter Soy0comments
Colors by Veronica Gandini
Letters by Clayton Cowles