Friday, June 11, 2010

Review: Outsiders #30

How long can The Outsiders cling to the last spot on my pull list? That's the real question.

There are some things that are keeping me here. The presence of the Eradicator is what brought me to the book. The alternating art by Philip Tan and Don Kramer is eye-catching. And I haven't really read these characters before so their stories feel fresh to me.

The things driving me away are that the stories haven't really grabbed me. And I haven't really read these characters before so I don't have any attachment to keep me coming.

Outsiders #30 came out this week and as usual, it did just enough to make me think I'll be back next month. That said, it also wasn't a great book, lacking just enough 'oomph' to make me wonder (again) if next month's issue is my last.

The team has basically been ripped in half secondary to Geo-Force's madness.

Black Lightning, Metamorpho, and Owl-Man have been kicked out of Markovia and are trying to make their way back to the USA. Unfortunately, the War of the Supermen has started. Remember, Markovia has allied itself with New Krypton. As a result the other nations of the world have declared war on the tiny nation as well as the Kryptonians.

The heroes, flying in a Markovian jet, are fired upon by the Canadian air force and denied access to US air space. I did think it was funny that Owl-Man questioned the strength of the Canadian defenses when he seems incredulous that they have missiles to fire.

Even Alfred cannot use his pull to get the plane into the US. With no other place to go to, Metamorpho swallows his pride and calls his father-in-law Simon Stagg and asks for and is granted sanctuary. Stagg has always been one of those characters that seems self-serving to the point of crossing the legal line now and then.

The other half of the team, Geo-Force, Eradicator, and Katana, are trying to keep the peace in Markovia.

The citizens do not agree with the alliance with New Krypton and are near revolution. The Eradicator continues to espouse totalitarianism. He cannot believe that the citizens aren't walking in lock-step with the King. He makes the crowd disperse by firing his heat vision into the crowd.

I like the composition of the above panel, nicely crafted by Philip Tan. The up-shot angle gives it somewhat of a warped look, the buildings almost curving in on the Eradicator, drawing the readers eye to him. It gives it a surreal feel. The Eradicator, floating above the people with the sun behind him, evokes the feeling of religious iconography ... but the surrounding flames and smoke as well as his being deep in the shadows let's you know he is anything but holy and benevolent. Pretty nice.

Katana doesn't necessarily agree with the Eradicator's methods and actually draws her sword to convince him of the error of his ways. In the mean time, the Eradicator again seems shocked that Geo-Force even lets her speak as her station is so below theirs. My guess is their ideological differences will eventually lead to a physical confrontation.

Before they can come to blows, Geo-Force steps in. And then the Eradicator goes all 'Ben Kenobi when Alderaan blew up', doubling over in pain when thousands of Kryptonians are killed when the sun turns briefly red. Hmmm ... did he do the same when New Krypton blew up?

As I have said in prior reviews, Katana is the character that intrigues me the most. Like a true Shogun, she feels compelled to stay with Geo-Force even though he seems lost. Her motivations ... the grief she feels, her sense of what is right, and her obedience to Brion ... make her a cauldron of emotion. I think she has the most potential in this book.

Meanwhile, the other Outsiders land at the Stagg compound and are greeted by Stagg's new body guard, Freight Train. Train seems a bit too 2-dimensional to me. His first panel is basically a soliloquy of how he is going to kick the Outsiders ass. He seems young and cocky and brash but does anyone really talk like that all the time?

Sure enough, he transforms into a more metallic appearance and runs into the group, a large energy discharge engulfing them all. His powers aren't defined in any real way.

One thing the book does do very well is show just how fast the War of the Supermen was. We get the declaration of war at the beginning of the book and the end of the war announced here in the middle of the book. As a Superman guy, I thought this was the first time that I really felt the time crunch of the war. For these characters on the fringes of the battle, the war is over before it really began.

Despite the end of the war, these Outsiders are still associated with Markovia and are probably considered war criminals. They still don't have any where to go. I don't necessarily know if I buy it. These guys were fleeing the country when the alliance was announced. They have connections as high as the JLA. Black Lightning even fought the Kryptonians in the Arctic when Kandor was first enlarged. Should they really be political refugees now? Or is this just a way to make them true outsiders?

One thing that I haven't liked about the book is the characterization of Black Lightning. He has always seemed to be a level-headed guy, a peace maker more than a brawler. He lost his temper a few months ago, fought Geo-Force, and melted a Markovian village a couple of issues ago. Here, he goes after Freight Train after he says it must suck to not have a home.

Lightning takes the verbal bait and almost fights Freight Train. I don't know ... I don't think the Black Lightning I read in Metzler's and McDuffie's Justice League of America would talk or act like this. Maybe I am wrong.

But there is more malevolence housed in the Stagg compound besides Stagg himself, Freight Train, and (I guess) Black Lightning. Java, Stagg's Cromagnon assistant who has always loved Sapphire Stagg (and therefore hates Metamorpho) decides to take matters into his own hands.

Using the Orb of Ra, the magic item that gave Rex his powers, he knocks Metamorpho unconscious.

And then tosses the Outsiders body at Chemo! Looks like Stagg has got the chemical nightmare under his control. I think a Metamorpho/Chemo fight seems so obvious I am surprised I haven't seen it before.

So, overall, this was a middle of the road issue. The good (Katana, the time riff about the Supermen War, the Metamorpho cliff-hanger) just outweighed the bad (Freight Train and Black Lightning's characterization). It is enough to bring be back next month.

I will say I am enjoying Philip Tan's art and I was glad to see him do the entire issue here. His art is somewhat distorted or over-stylized in a way that doesn't distract but instead adds to the feeling evoked by the story. Those curved buildings in the Eradicator panel, Freight Train's ludicrous body type ... it just works.

Overall grade: C+

1 comment:

Floronic Man said...

i like how detailed your summary is. I refer to reviews when I forget about the events in last months issue. This applies for basically every comic. So, yeah, keep it up. I'm completely up to speed and am ready to read outsiders 31 right now. Thanks.