With my pull list a bit swollen and with a number of upcoming new titles (Legion, Birds of Prey, Brightest Day) all guaranteed a spot, I wonder just how long I will stay with the Outsiders. Is the mystery of the Eradicator and the tangential interaction with the New Krypton storyline enough to bring me back? Remember, I basically have never collected an Outsiders title before so have almost no connection to the characters.
Outsiders #28 came out this week and was the third issue in the 'bold new direction' laid out by Dan Didio and artist Philip Tan. Of the last three issues, I enjoyed this one the most. That doesn't necessarily mean much. I have been somewhat perplexed by the first two as I try to catch up on characters' personalities and motivations. And this issue was basically a 'punch em up' between two heroes, one of my least favorite classic plots.
The writing at times can be a little heavy-handed, reminding me of the over-the-top grandiose style of Stan Lee (I suppose that is compliment). Perhaps most importantly is that Philip Tan was back on art and his work was top notch.
The book basically is an issue long battle between Black Lightning and Geo-Force as they struggle to iron out their philosophical differences and control of the team. Didio opens the scene with some somewhat ponderous prose, "Once upon a time there were two men each a hero in his own right, the King and the Commoner, born worlds apart, their friendship forged in battle ... ".
The inertia of the words is in stark contrast to the dynamic work of Philip Tan. Tan's work is just over-stylized enough to mesh with the frenetic action of this whole book. Black Lightning's body looks just distorted enough (his deltoid is the size of his waist) to add some impact to his release of this bolt. And Geo-Force here looks like he was taken from Keith Giffen's 'Five Years Later' Legion book, his lower face hidden in shadows.
Metamorpho doesn't want to see his friends hurt each other and so attempts to fly off and separate them.
Surprisingly, the Eradicator won't allow it, stopping Metamorpho from interfering. He says that Geo-Force needs to deal with this challenge alone. I still don't have a sense for the Eradicator's motivations here. Is he simply a 'might makes right' sort, thinking that the strongest should rule? Does he want the two Outsiders to pound on each other for some nefarious reason? Does he think Geo-Force will win, and that Geo-Force is more suggestible as a leader? Whatever the reason, I don't think the Eradicator is a 'good guy'. If he truly is 'Kryptonian', he probably is a Zod lackey.
More surprising is Katana's response. I don't know enough of her back story to quite understand her motivations either. That said, she feels like she is 'lost' to me and looking for someone to follow so she won't have to make any decisions for herself. Maybe she supports the fight because she simply wants one voice controlling the Outsiders, someone she'll march behind ... rather than getting mired in a leadership battle. Regardless, I like the last panel here with half her face covered in shadow, maybe conveying she is of two minds here, maybe suggesting that there is some growing darkness inside her.
So the rest of the team lets Black Lightning and Geo-Force continue to do property damage to a Markovian city. Black Lightning keeps confronting Brion, speaking his concerns about Geo-Force's mental health.
It is a point almost made when a battered Geo-Force sees Terra, someone long dead. It turns out that this 'Terra' is a young villager who Brion has hallucinated into his sister. It's a scary moment. Geo-Force is a heavy hitter and clearly on the brink of insanity. Luckily he is able to shake himself back into reality, wondering how he could have become this monster frightening his own subjects.
The 'insane super-hero' is always an interesting plot for me, especially when they are walking a fine line, appearing to be of sound mind. I find these plots more fascinating than when the hero goes outright psychotic (like Hal as Parallax).
Unfortunately this moment of clarity is shattered by a Black Lightning attack. And with that, Geo-Force sinks back into his madness and enters the fray again. And with that moment lost, things look bleak. It's not a bad moment ... a nice 'what if' ... what if Jefferson walked up to Brion at that point with his hand out in friendship rather than Black Lightning unleashing a bolt to Geo-Force's chest. Maybe everything would be different.
With the fight getting out of control, Metamorpho finally decides to intervene, taking Katana and Owlman with him. The Eradicator follows.
That means that the Masters of Disaster walk away freely. This sort of cements the lack of priorities in this team right now. While they bicker, the villains walk.
In the mean time, the Black Lightning/Geo-Force fight continues and man it is brutal. At least three times in the fight I wondered how either guy was still standing. I don't have a good enough sense of either guy's 'invulnerability'.
Close to being finished off, Black Lightning seems to reach a new level of power, emitting what looks to be a black energy force globe, shattering blocks of the Markovian village. I don't know if I like that just prior to releasing it he says 'kiss my black ...'. Yeesh.
It absolutely is a devastating event, leveling buildings and the other Outsiders. Just like Geo-Force, Lightning also has a moment of clarity realizing that this attack, even if unprecedented and unforeseen, could have killed people.
And again, unfortunately, that moment of clarity isn't taken advantage of. Geo-Force shows up, says Lightning is guilty of acts of aggression, and that the penalty is death.
In another surprise, Katana stops him from landing the killing blow. Hmmmm .... interesting.
It is clear that there will be no reconciliation between these two. So Geo-Force splits the team. He asks Katana and Eradicator to stay and demands that Black Lightning, Metamorpho, and Owlman leave Markovia immediately. Didio ends the issue by coming full circle, repeating the motif of that opening prose.
So this issue was okay.
While the fight between the two heroes dominated the issue, the art really shined. Tan's art just worked in those scenes.
And I am pretty curious about some of what has been started here. As I said, the 'hero on the edge of sanity' is always a good plot to mine so Geo-Force's story is intriguing. And I wonder just what the Eradicator's motivations are.
But for me, the biggest draw right now is Katana. She seems like she is on the outer edges of an emotional whirlpool. She seems sad. So the question is will she fight and escape this vortex? Or will she be sucked down into Geo-Force's madness?
So, for the time being, I am still in.
If any Outsiders fans out there want to fill in some of my gaps here, or tell me if I have misread things completely, please chime in.