Reviews of Old Comics: Batman and the Outsiders #32
Batman and the Outsiders #32
In Markovia, the new future Queen is being interviewed in a motorcade when it is attacked by the Masters of Disaster. As they apprehend the future Queen, the reporter that was interviewing her slinks away.
In Gotham, the organized criminal element is taking advantage of Batman and the Outsiders being missing to pool their forces when the criminal Matches Malone, Batman in disguise with Geo-Force disguised as his bodyguard with the rest of the Outsiders listening on the rooftop. Batman gets the criminals to reveal where they have stored plasma that was stolen. Batman cues the Outsiders into action. Metamorpho and Halo fake Batman’s silhouette while Black Lightning shorts out the power. Batman and the Outsiders take out the criminals. As the police take away the criminals, Geo-Force reestablishes radio contact with Dr. Jace, against Batman’s protests, and learns not only of the crisis in Markovia, but that Batman intentionally withheld it from the team.
Batman feels like the Outsiders have become too much like the Justice League, off saving the world instead of helping protect individuals, including ones that died while he was with the outsiders in the underground world of Abyssia. He angrily disbands the outsiders. To his chagrin, Halo suggest that the Outsiders continue without Batman. Batman swings off with one last angry comment about everyone eventually leaving him to fight his war against crime alone. The Outsiders go with Geo-Force to rescue Markovia from its invaders, who we briefly see are being led by the villain that brought the Outsiders together, Baron Bedlam.
In a second story, Emily Briggs is relishing her new appearance after returning from Abyssia. She rekindles the passion in her marriage with her husband, who takes her shopping at her request. People fawn over her beauty which she uses to her advantage and delight. This all makes Emily’s husband uncomfortable. Emily returns to work at Gotham Bank and confronts her boss for giving his unqualified mistress a promotion over her. The Boss now reconsiders for the strikingly beautiful Emily, but she quits rather than work somewhere that would have her get ahead on her back rather than her own two feet. Back at home, Emily uses her new telekinetic powers to smash an old picture of herself before the transformation, insisting that her husband start calling her Lia. The go to bed with her husband concern very evident.
The story is great except if you’re a fan of Batman. Batman acts extremely self-centered here, and in disbanding the Outsiders, very manipulative, and at the end of the story, bitter and petulant. However, this flaw makes Batman human, which separates himself from the other heroes in the DC Universe, in that he is flawed. That’s the weak point in the story, and it’s only weak if you see Batman as perfect and always in control.
It is also the perfect end for the development of the Outsiders. Batman formed them to help in his war on crime, and their last three adventures before this were multi-issue storylines that took them to another dimension, stopping Kobra from throwing the world into nuclear war, and to a lost underground civilization. Batman needs Gotham to give his mission meaning. Gotham City is a character in Batman stories as much as Robin or Alfred are. Outside of Gotham, Batman really loses any sense of purpose after a while. The Outsiders, as a team, need to be able to meet a variety of threats that slip under the radar of the Justice League, and rooting them in Gotham as Batman’s soldiers limits their effectiveness.
Lia Briggs’s story is very simple and very personal for her character. Despite being turned into a perfect physical specimen, she still has the issues that she dealt with as a mousy banker. Her husband’s uneasiness with her developing indulgent personality does not bode well for their relationship, foreshadowing Lia’s need to go to the Outsiders for a place to call home.
Alan Davis’s work is astounding. He adds a fluidity to action and is able to bring emotion to characters. He’s as adept here illustrating Lia talking to her husband, as he is the Outsiders taking down street gangs. A character like Lia whose defining quality is her beauty is sometimes hard for an artist to pull off, but he’s one of those artists that can do it, because he conveys it not just with physical attractiveness, but with her posture. Since he did this issue, his work has only gotten better, and he’s definitely an artist that you must follow. At this point in his career, he wasn’t as adept at using shadow to his advantage, and even the first story, which is taking place at night, often seems drawn, and colored as if it’s brightly lit. Nevertheless, the storytelling is dead on, and technically sound in every other respect.
In all my research I cannot find that this issue has been collected. However, since DC did collect the first 19 issues in a Showcase Presents Volume, there is hope that they will complete the collection. You should be able to find a copy in bargain boxes with no trouble, so don’t pay more than two or three dollars for this one.
FINAL RATING: 8.5 (out of a possible 10)
It’s obviously a transition issue, but a well done one.