I've been a fan of Judd Winick's Outsiders since the beginning, and constant readers know how much I liked the first One Year Later trade, The Good Fight (read our review). Perhaps, unfortunately, nothing could quite measure up, because while the next Outsiders trade, Pay as You Go, is quite well-written and readable, it lacks a certain "oomph" that The Good Fight possessed.
The main difficulty with Pay as You Go is that, by its nature, this is a flashback story. The tenet of One Year Later is that all the DC Comics stories jumped one year ahead, with the details to be filled in later; the details of the missing year that Pay As You Go fills in, however, are ones the reader can more or less already guess at. Additionally, anyone reading one or more DCU titles already knows the status of a bunch of these characters, making any concern for their lives and limbs non-existent.
That's not to say there aren't some fun moments here. How Thunder and Grace started a relationship is hardly as important as the fact that they're together, but Winick's characterization of Grace, letting her vulnerability show, is great writing. The secret of the character Shift was not as shocking as I'd imagined, but seeing him go up against the Flash character Warden Wolfe was a thrill, as was the Checkmate cameo. And we can't fault Winick for a somewhat gratuitous Red Hood appearance when we remember that he was the one who created the character's current incarnation in the first place.
What's best about Pay as You Go is that it functions as a nice farewell to this series. Sure, there's two more trades left, but both are crossovers; Pay as You Go is the last pure Outsiders trade. As such, most of the original team is together here, and the short present-tense chapters pit them against Dr. Sivana, who reveals how he's been beside the team for most of the series; even the burgeoning relationship between Thunder and Grace hearkens back to the team's origins. Outsiders has been a gigantically controversial series for DC Comics, but I enjoyed it very much and will miss it when it's gone.
[Contains full covers, "Previously" page.]
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