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.
Everyone loves a good apocalypse story, which is why they're so prevalent among X-Men comics. From Age of Apocalypse to Days of Futures Past, and everything in between, Marvel's publishing history is filled with alternate futures and time travelers who move between realities in order to save the world.
DC Comics hasn't had as many, but that doesn't mean it's a foreign concept in the DCU, so it's a change of pace but not really a surprise to see the latest kick off. In Batman and the Outsiders #1, the series sets up a storyline involving time travelers from the future coming back to the past in order to save everything. If that sounds familiar, it should, because the whole thing is very much based on Marvel's divergent timelines. In fact, several characters and concepts seem to jump from the pages of the X-Men, in what is surely an intentional pastiche along the lines of Marvel's Squadron Supreme being a Justice League analog.
Here Comes the Man Called Kaliber
As Bryan Hill and Dexter Soy bring their new Outsiders team together, they also introduce a new character by the name of Sofia Ramos. Batman reveals that her family was experimented on against their will, and now she has superpowers of her own. She can increase her strength proportionate to the amount of pain that is inflicted on her -- a pretty miserable ability, but a power nonetheless.
She goes on the run after a superpowered attacker kills her father, but by the end of the issue she encounters a man named Kaliber. He refers to himself as a time traveler sent from the future to save the world against a terrible fate. Since he's also a cyborg with a big gun, it's clear he's meant to make readers think of Cable of the X-Men.
Kaliber is there specifically for Sofia because she is apparently destined to usher in a new era after the world has come to an end. Keep the Cable comparison going a little further and it's possible that Sofia is also a stand-in for Hope Summers. Over at Marvel, she was destined to bring about a new era for Mutantkind, and Cable traveled through time to protect her.
Age of Batpocalypse
Beyond the Cable and Hope comparison, there's also a clever little reference to another time-traveling Marvel character. At the beginning of the issue, Sofia and her father are attacked by someone who calls himself Ishmael. Though her father is killed, Sofia escapes and manifests her powers for the first time. Can you see guess who Ishmael is a stand-in for here?
If you know Moby Dick by Herman Melville, the answer would be easy, since both villains are named after characters in the novel. Ishmael is a sailor who served aboard Captain Ahad's boat -- thus, the Ishmael in Batman and the Outsiders #1 is very surely a pastiche of the X-Men villain Ahab, who most recently appeared in MArvel's Extermination event.
According to Kaliber, Ishmael is serving Ra's al Ghul, who is likely responsible for the destruction that takes place in the future. It is Ra's goal to one day thin down humanity and ensure the planet can continue to survive without the consumption of so many natural resources. Can our new heroes stop this future, or is their fate inevitable.
If this is how the arc is starting off, it's impossible to say how many different version of Marvel characters we could see before it's all done. It will be interesting to see how far the similarities between Kaliber, Sofia, and their counterparts will go, and whether or not others will show up. Things could get very fun over the next few issues.