SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman and the Outsiders #1 by Bryan Hill, Dexter Soy, Veronica Gandini and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Batman is considered to be the ultimate superhero by many. His superior fighting prowess, impressive detective skills, unparalleled strategic mind and unlimited contingency plans make it hard to do better than the Dark Knight. However, for all his talents, it's his leadership skills that come under constant question.
Whether it's with the Justice League or among his own family in Gotham City, Batman is time and again proven to be untrustworthy. Add in the fact that the trauma he faced still haunts him to this day, and he's clearly a broken man unable to help those around him. For all his talent, it's hard to see how he could ever be considered leadership material.
Batman and the Outsiders #1 drives this point home by introducing a new Outsiders team that is not just totally directionless, but is set to suffer from Batman's clear negligence and manipulation. Bruce Wayne is a bad leader, and this issue lays out the entire case, plain as day.
A Team With Too Many Leaders
Every team needs a strong leader, but when a group of superheroes seemingly has more than one position of power, chaos ensues. Traditionally, the Outsiders have always been Batman's team, but when Black Lightning was recruited in Detective Comics, he was meant to be both their leader and teacher. In Batman and the Outsiders #1, however, everything is in question.
While Batman claims that Jefferson Pierce is in charge, everyone knows the deal. Bruce Wayne receives progress reports from Black Lightning, and he delivers them missions to undertake. By all accounts, Batman is still in charge of this team, while Jefferson is merely middle management. Unfortunately, they both seem to be playing everyone else against each other.
While Black Lighting and Batman butt heads over the direction of the team, Jefferson also feels resistance from those he has been tasked to train. Signal and Orphan are still very much Batman's people, so they reject Jefferson's teachings. Still, when Batman delivers instructions on high, Black Lightning offers the team a chance to go against their de facto leader, if they so choose.
The entire operation seems to be a flaming mess from the go, and it's probably only going to get worse. Considering Batman is the one who brought them together, gave Jefferson control over the team and continues to meddle in their business, we can lay the blame at the Dark Knight's boots.
Batman's Team of Castoffs
Batman has made a career out of bringing in kids off the street and turning them into superheroes. However, how many of those children have ended up dead? How many of them have been seriously and grievously injured? Despite his insistence on recruiting young, Bruce Wayne doesn't exactly have a good track record for success.
Perhaps this is the truth that has been weighing on Batman's mind when he decided to pass the training of Signal and Orphan onto Black Lightning. He tells Jefferson that they are better off learning from a man who has the patience and talent to give them the attention they need and deserve. Apparently Batman is just too busy and distracted to be bothered to care for these kids.
Black Lightning, to his credit, rightfully calls out Bruce Wayne for essentially dumping them off with a babysitter. Instead of them being better off with a teacher, Jefferson exclaims, "You mean you're better off without them," in the sense that he just doesn't want to take the time. Perhaps most telling is the fact that Batman really had nothing to say about the matter.
Though the comic does not go into what is happening in the Dark Knight's life right now, this is a universe that is constantly filled with threats. He is fighting Bane over in Batman, contending with the Arkham Knight in Detective Comics and trying to keep the universe together in Justice League. We know Batman is a busy guy, but that doesn't give him an excuse to abandon those who rely on his guidance. It's hard to not see this team as Batman's castoffs.
Batman and the Price of Caring
The final strike against Batman in this book is the fact that we yet again see him have absolutely no idea how to take care of those around him. Considering Bruce's long documented disregard for mental health, it should come as no surprise that he would put people unfit for duty into the field without much care.
Duke Thomas is very clearly still traumatized from his life-threatening injuries against Karma, who basically cemented in the kid's head that he makes Batman a worse hero. Cassandra Cain, meanwhile, was the victim of psychological abuse at the hands of her father, to the extent that she can barely speak. Even Katana, the veteran that she is, talks to the ghost of her dead husband. It's a band of castoffs that Batman can't be bothered to care for.
In this way, his best attempt at being responsible is to hand them over to someone else. If you've been following Batman comics over the last year or so, you will see just how often this is his first -- and only -- method of caring. Just see what his "care" did to Gotham Girl in "The Price," or how the Sanctuary project went wrong in Heroes in Crisis.
Beyond this Outsiders team, Batman is viewed as a leader in the community, but he continually fails those who come to him for help. Batman and the Outsiders is setting up an unstable environment that will one day lead to tragedy. Jefferson Pierce sees this truth, which is why he tells Batman, "You keep us in the field, one way or another, you're going to get a set of coffins."
Batman is a bad leader, and it feels like the only hope any of them have is that Bruce will see this and recuse himself from the situation before it's too late. He needs to take his hands off the wheel here. We know how insecure and stubborn Batman is, though, so it's hard to see how this will work out well in the end.