With a cover trumpeting 'Superman and the Outsiders', rumors of a 'bold new direction' (I am a sucker for such stuff), respect for Philip Tan's art on Green Lantern, and curiosity about Dan Didio's writing ability, I picked up Outsiders #26.
I will admit that the potential link to the Superman titles was the big selling point. If not for that I don't think I would have picked up the issue. In fact, I have never really read The Outsiders at all despite the fact that includes a couple of my favorite B-listers: Metamorpho and The Creeper.
So this was the chance for DC to grab me. It sort of worked.
Now remember that I come into this issue with only passing knowledge of all of these characters. What I know of them is what I have been able to glean from their appearances in other comics like Final Crisis crossovers, etc. 'Bold new directions' should be easily accessible to new readers who shouldn't feel lost. Unfortunately, I felt a bit lost.
First off, we meet a clearly unhinged Geo Force. He is dealing with a lot of issues and seems to exhibit a manic/depressive mood with a borderline personality. He seems to polarize his teammates, some who will follow his lead of the team, others questioning his actions. I can understand those questions since it is implied in this panel that Geo Force tried to gore himself with a sword to the neck.
But even in this first scene, we see Geo Force talking to Roy. As a new reader I was trying to figure out why Red Arrow/Arsenal was in Markovia. Turns out that this Roy is Owlman. Again, as someone trying this comic for the first time in an issue marketed as a good jumping on point I shouldn't be confused. Maybe those little character boxes we have seen in Legion of Super-Heroes, R.E.B.E.L.S., and in Matt Fraction's Uncanny X-Men would have been helpful here.
As confused as I was about Geo Force's overwhelming angst, I was more confused about Katana and her compulsion to kill anyone who stands against her.
This is again part of the problem of jumping in. Maybe Katana has always been a killer and I have been misled by my few interactions with her in other comics. But it seems off, even to Black Lightning who joins her on a mission against coastal pirates.
This isn't to say I didn't like this characterization. To be honest, the ruthless Katana was the most compelling character in the book. But I wonder if long-time readers of the book and fans of the character would agree.
What is clear is that the team seems to be in disarray with an unstable leader at the top. Katana and Metamorpho seem to agree with what Geo Force is doing. Black Lightning, Owlman, and the Creeper seem unsure.
Team dynamics and personality conflicts are important plot points in team books like this.
But the big news was the final panel. The Eradicator is back and is now a New Krypton liaison to Markovia. Furthermore, Geo Force has decided to not only upset team dynamics, he also decides to rock the international relations by declaring Markovia as a sanctuary for Kryptonians on Earth (something in direct opposition of the UN declaration).
Now my knowledge of the Eradicator unfortunately ends around the time Reign of the Supermen ended. So I don't know much of his career as an Outsider or why he hasn't been around in a while. But this is a tantalizing hook for Superman fans.
I do think it was tough to drop into this book and these characters' storylines and histories without much preceding knowledge. I have to say I felt a bit lost in some of the interactions.
Philip Tan's art seemed rushed in some places. That said, the Katana battle scene on the boat crackled and were the strongest art pages of the book.
But overall, I don't know if this worked for me as a new reader. I will probable give the book a couple of more issues because of the link to New Krypton. But if that wasn't here, I don't think this issue sold me enough to keep reading.
Overall grade: C
I always seem to hearken back to Birds of Prey #56 as a great example of a 'bold new direction' issue. First off it says 'bold new direction' right on the cover! The cover art is attention grabbing ... Black Canary poised in battle.
I had only passing knowledge of Black Canary and Oracle before this issue. I had not collected Birds of Prey before this and only knew the characters from appearances in other books. Still, this issue showcased their powers and personalities in a clear way so that I didn't feel like I was lost. It also had a great cliff-hanger that made me come back for more. I collected Birds of Prey for the next 4 years (until Gail Simone left) because of this issue. I have since followed Simone to most everything else she has written. That is what a 'bold new direction' issue should do. Grab you and not let go.
You could even point to Supergirl #34 as another good example.
That said, I am on board with the Outsiders for a bit. Hopefully things will become a little clearer for this new reader.