During “Battle for the Cowl,” Arkham Asylum was razed and the inmates were sprung. Black Mask marked many of the escapees and that leads us to the here and now in “Outsiders.” Mysterious events in Gotham (most likely “Blackest Night”) have required Alfred to abandon the team he brought together, but not before sending them after the Arkham escapees. Katana, Halo, and Creeper are sent after Killer Croc. Geo-Force and Metamorpho try their luck at tracking down Clayface. Owlman and Black Lightning, meanwhile, try to bring Mr. Freeze to justice.
Tomasi quickly tries to change gears on this book, and uses the rogues gallery of Batman to draw in some attention. After all, are you more likely to pick up a book starring one of Batman’s rogues or an issue with some villain you may never have heard of? Right. Batman does have a cool collection of foes, and since Batman isn’t quite Batman, why not share the foes across the DCU? Tomasi’s grasp of the characters seems a little shakier here than it did in the previous issues. Geo-Force is more colloquial, Metamorpho is a little more dense (no pun intended), and Creeper is more loony than crazy — think Alzheimer’s patient as opposed to psychopath. The concept is great: Batman is busy, Alfred is hiding, and the escapees need to be captured, but the execution is a little flat.
Flat is not a word that applies to Pasarin’s art. His characters are lifelike and nearly tangible, but some of the panel layouts are poorly framed. There is a panel where Geo-Force drops part of the sign from the Arkham Asylum gate, but in the pacing of the storyline, it looks more like Geo-Force is turning away from the camera, one half-step shy of mooning Alfred, who is giving the team orders via hologram. The framing choices Pasarin makes are easily modified, and even easier to forgive, as they are few and far between. Pasarin is well suited for this team of low profile heroes on the fringe of the “real” world. I can’t wait to see what he does with Croc and Clayface.
I found the villains included here to be interesting choices, especially as someone who thoroughly enjoyed “Batman: the Animated Series” in the 1990s. I can point to that series as one of the reasons I still read comics. In that series, these three foes — Clayface, Killer Croc, and Mr. Freeze — were among the more prominent foes Batman encountered after Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, and Joker. I also like the move to have Tom Mandrake do the covers for Outsiders. This team is supposed to serve as a sort of black ops, or shadow strike force, and who better to craft the covers for such a group than Mandrake, the modern master of comic art shadows?
The first arc of Tomasi’s scripting the adventures of “The Outsiders” may have chased (or even bored) away a few readers, but this storyline has the potential to reward those who stuck around. After all, these are fan favorite characters (for the most part) going up against fan favorite foes. This book certainly appears to be on an uptick, once Tomasi gets the voices of his cast straightened out.