Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Discount Bin Finds -- Batman And The Outsiders #21

Triple The Action -- One Low Price!  BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #21
This is another find from the Borderlands sale, one of only a handful of Outsiders comics I have ever found in the shop. It would seem that I am the main Outsiders fan for their clientele, and considering I only became an fan last year, well... let's just say I have first crack at all the slim pickings.

As far as a single issue to find in a discount bin, though, this is an excellent candidate. Not only is it entirely self-contained, but as promised on the cover, it's a trio of short tales, each with a different artist and focusing on a different member of the team -- Katana, Geo-Force, and Black Lightning. Amusingly, on the first page, Halo and Metamorpho complain that they don't get features, but remind the reader to come back next month for the third part of "The Truth About Halo." It's worth nothing that while Trevor von Eeden had done some work on this title, Outsiders co-creator Jim Aparo is not found here, nor would he work on this title any more in the future, replaced with Alan Davis (who draws the intro). I know he came back for the Baxter paper series, but that was a while away still, so I am not sure why he's not on board here. Still, the three artists here (Jerome Moore, von Eeden, and Ron Randall, respectively) all turn in some nice pages, each one different enough from the others to really stand out.

The first tale, "Silent Treatment," stars Katana, who is charged with transporting a rare vase to a museum and keep it from harm. The gimmick is that there is no spoken dialogue; instead, the "narration" is the radio play-by-play of Gotham's footbal team, which just so happens to match up with the action. Barr always seemed to like Katana, and this story shows off her strengths very well, as she is not only able to elude capture through her fighting skill, but her intelligence and guile as well. It's a fun short, and the football angle makes for some great puns, but if you don't like gridiron than this may not make a whole lot of sense.

Up next is a story with everyone's favorite Markovian prince, Geo-Force, called "Jaws, 4--Gotham, 0." Clearly inspired by Jaws 3-D, released about a year and a half earlier, we find Brion visiting a Sea World knock-off and meeting up with a pretty reporter who is unhappy to have "minor celeb" duty. Things take a turn, though, when the developer of a mechanical shark turns his creation on the park, and Geo-Force flies into action to save the day... and get a date. von Eeden's roughish pencils give this short a lot of energy, and Barr's satire is biting without sounding over-the-top or too silly. Stories like this, which show Geo-Force as a likeable sort of goof, really show off the character's strength. He's like Wonder Man in that respect, which is probably why I have grown to like him.

Finally, Black Lightning stars in the the last story, entitled "The Roar Of The Ghetto-Blaster." Barr and Randall slip a little "Created By" credit in for Isabella and von Eeden, though why von Eeden didn't just draw this one I don't know. Anyway, Jefferson Pierce is not having a good week. When trying to track down on of his dilenquient students, he runs into a violent, costumed anti-slum protestor named the Ghetto-Blaster, who is destroying the run down tenements in Gotham City by force. Black Lightning is less than impressed with his disregard for the safety of those arounf him, and stops him -- earning him the ire of the frustrated and angry crowd. Beating a retreat, it seems that Jefferson's more moderated views are rejected, even by his straying students. Lightning is able to win the day, though, when he finds out that the Ghetto-Blaster is not destroying the slums to help the neighborhood, but trying to find the money he stashed after a bank-job a decade earlier. It's worth nothing that this story reads like something which would not have been out of place in Black Lightning's mag in the 70s, and that BL figures out that Blaster is a criminal through his use of prison slang, not entirely unlike that one issue of World's Finest starring Green Arrow!

Overall, I really enjoyed this comic. Three short stories make it almost like a superhero anthology, especially with the three different artists and the vastly different tones in each feature. Barr still seems to really enjoy writing his characters, and gives each one a definite and distinctive voice (well, not Katana this time out, but you know what I mean!). This also serves as a good introduction to the Outsiders for someone who is not already familiar with them (similar to The Brave And The Bold #200, but in solo environments instead of as a team). If you happen across this issue for a good price, buy it.


tomztoyz said...

That's funny. I remember this comic when it was new. To be honest I never really got into it but the artwork was always pretty cool.

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Thanks, Tommy

Luke said...

(Batman And The) Outsiders is a relatively new joy for me. Before about two years ago, I had no concept of the team, it's members, or history. I happened to pick the title up after the "One Year Later" jump, and then dig into the history, which lead to the Showcase, which lead to me hunting issues of it in back issue bins! Go figure!

And yeah, I adore Aparo's Batman. One of my favorite renditions of the Dark Knight Detective!