Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Tom Raney (p), Scott Hanna (i)
DC's Young Justice and The Titans have been abolished following the deaths of two of their respective members. Several months afterwards former Titan, Arsenal, is building a new team, which looks a lot like the old team. The Outsiders are back, but will they be unique and interesting enough to compete with the litany of other team books in the market?
Apparently memories at DC are very short, or perhaps it is the readers that DC hopes have short memories. At any rate DC management has gone on a rampage of sorts, killing off lesser team books like The Titans, Young Justice and the Power Company (are Doom Patrol or Suicide Squad still around, I forget?). The big question for today is: will the Outsiders represent addition by subtraction? The creative team is definitely superior and has decades of experience between them. Writer Judd Winick is a veteran of titles such as Green Lantern and Green Arrow; penciller Tom has penciled and inked the likes of X-Men, Thor, Stormwatch and Mutant X among many others; and anyone who has enjoyed John Romita Jr.'s amazing storytelling will no doubt recognize top inker Scott Hanna who is returning to the DC sandbox after a long stint on Spider-Man and Thor. In fact, Raney and Hanna worked on Thor together for several issues.
The basic premise of the Outsiders follows that Arsenal has cut a deal with an unnamed mega-corporation to build a super-team as a tax loss. Now that's a razor thin high-concept and seems remarkably similar to the Power Company's origins. Nightwing, still reeling from the deaths of his former lover and Titan allies, is on the fence - he simply doesn't want to join up and be party to the deaths of people he cares for. Arsenal's answer is simple, just hire a bunch of people he doesn't care about; and apparently neither should we - more on that shortly. Arsenal then travels around the country offering jobs to other potential team members in a series of scenes right out of the Magnificent Seven (or The Seven Samurai if you really want to be accurate).
In parallel to Arsenal's corporate team building exercise a cruise liner is violently hijacked by what appears to be a military assault team. The villains, who naturally are revealed on the final page, remain off-screen throughout the attack. My first thought was, cool, The Outsiders will be taking on real-world dangers like terrorists, rather than space aliens and Egyptian Gods. Alas, not so, Winick has gone to the DC vault for his debut bad guy.
The Outsiders is ultimately pretty underwhelming so far. For a new comic, that I presume DC hopes will draw a new audience, there are far too many references to Titans and Young Justice continuity - just about every word coming out of Arsenal's mouth is describing something prior to the events in this comic. And the basic idea of a corporate sponsored super-team that hires its members for cash was literally just done on Power Company. Winick has assembled a cast of characters that is almost a carbon copy of the Justice League. You've got the moody Nightwing (Batman), the centered leader Arsenal (Green Arrow) and playing it for laughs is Metamorpho (Plastic Man). Next month the team is joined by another former Titan, Jade (Green Lantern). There are three female characters, invented just for this title, going by the names of Thunder, Grace and Indigo; each is a pretty vanilla character, none has anything interesting to say.
Artists Tom Raney and Scott Hanna do a great job of conveying the limited action in this debut. Nightwing and Arsenal look fantastic and I even like Metamorpho - except when he's channeling Plastic Man's comic sight gags. Raney's storytelling is sound and I never had to guess what the characters were feeling, though Winick's script didn't call for much beyond pissed off or jovial. However, it was halfway through the comic before I realized that Thunder was black and Grace was Asian; plus, their character designs were kind of underwhelming. But overall the art is very solid and highly colorful.
I love team comics, but there are so many these days a newcomer must seek to differentiate itself in a fairly dramatic way. While The Power Company lacked something in its execution the concept was fairly novel and they were set in San Francisco, a great place to live. But the Outsiders seem content to play in the same old DC sandbox and they're even located in New York, a setting that is no stranger to super teams. Winick borrows ideas that were clichés a decade ago (and that's being generous). His characterizations are pretty flat and there is nothing here that really inspires me to pick up issue two. However, like any television show, the first season is always a bit rocky. Even the Power Company was getting itself righted before the plug was yanked. This creative team is far too experienced to phone it in and I expect great things in the coming months. So, yeah, I'm critical of the Outsiders today, but let's judge what's happening six months from now.
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