Saturday, July 2

Batman and the Outsiders #40 (7/11)

“Land's End”

I received my June comics yesterday. This one had been delayed from its scheduled release during the previous month. Honestly I don't know why. It's not like a whole lot of work was put into it. It is a very lame final issue for a series that should have been put out of its misery a while back. I stopped buying it months ago, only picking this one up because of the Batman connection. Only this last issue is actually titled “Batman and the Outsiders,” and supposedly it was to tie into the ongoing Batman Incorporated story.

Quick history: This is a title (or rather series of titles – it's been canceled and restarted Lord knows how many times) that just has never worked for me except for a brief period a couple years ago. I bought the very first Batman and the Outsiders comic thirty-odd years ago when it replaced the great Batman team-up title Brave and the Bold. I didn't stick with it long then, not really finding any of the characters that interesting, nor the concept, one of the earlier examples of Bruce Wayne being a bit of an ass and giving up on the Justice League, breaking off to form his own team that he could dominate. I only picked up occasional issues as part of crossovers and the like until a couple of years ago when the latest series was retooled in the wake of Bruce's apparent death. Following instructions left by Bruce, Alfred recruited basically the original Outsiders who together, it was argued, combined aspects of the “mix” of talents and characteristics of Bruce himself in a team. And that worked, at least for a while, under the pen of a really good writer, Peter Tomasi. It didn't really garner great sales, however, so they tried something new yet again. And for me, the wheels spun off really quick.

The last year or so has, if I understand it correctly since I only read the first couple of issues, the team fractured and fighting against itself, against the backdrop of a now-megalomaniacal Geo-Force who is also the king of the little DCU Balkan country of Markovia. Apparently that led to a major confrontation last issue that culminated in Batman somehow having to step in and interdict a US nuclear strike against the kingdom (!). Not that, I gather, that last bit was even told in the pages of the previous issue – I'm not certain because, again, I didn't read it, but my impression is that we only find that out in Batman's inner monologue and memories. And from there this issue basically comprises a series of double-page spreads as Batman reminisces about the history of “his” team, until a final confrontation where he takes back over the team and puts Geo-Force in his place simply by the weight of his personality. And he takes “his” team and goes home, leaving Geo-Force to mull over the ruins of his country in a few pages that are obviously written to draw out some sympathy for the super-hero king. Talk about going out with a whimper. It falls flat, probably because I have nothing invested in the character. It could well be Didio's writing. Who knows. I don't want to pile on the “hate Didio” bandwagon, but I've honestly been unimpressed with his tenure as muckety-muck at DC, and what few examples I've seen of his writing have seemed pedestrian at best. I'll say no more. I've given way too much time to writing the blog entry for this issue as it is.

I take that back - in one area Dan Didio
has impressed me, or at least entertained me.  As a high-placed "muckety-muck at DC," he has over the past few years conducted a number of sessions at various conventions, including the big San Diego and New York Comic Cons, where if nothing else his sheer love of comics and of DC in particular shines brightly.  So I think his heart's in the right place even if the execution of projects he heads or oversees often fall short.  Sure, he's got a rep for not quite being straight with the fans, playing it a bit too coy and clever, but he seems better suited ultimately in a cheerleading role than as a creator.  Just my humble opinion.  Or not so humble.  Whatever.

And I do want to identify a couple of positives with this issue, as well.  First, there's the cover, which is a bit of an homage to the very first, original Batman and the Outsiders #1 cover by the great Jim Aparo.  Second, there's the exchange near the beginning between Batman and government agent Amanda Waller after he stopped the nuclear attack:  "I'm guessing you hacked into our system."  Silence from Batman.  "Heh, always knew you had a back door into NORAD."  Then, after a bit more repartee, her parting shot is, "[w]hile you do, I'll close that back door you found."  The screen goes dark - as Batman mutters, "Good luck finding the rest of them."

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