Review: Outsiders: Five of a Kind trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

For an Outsiders fan like I am, I'll choose to believe that Outsiders ended with with the crossover Outsiders/Checkmate: Checkout. That trade ended on a subtly sweet note where Nightwing realizes he doesn't really want to lead a team he can't consider friends, and turns the team over to Batman instead. Outsiders: Five of a Kind picks up in that same place, but turns that subtle scene on its head, making Batman seem more like his stereotypical pre-Infinite Crisis controlling self than his more recent portrayal. Outsiders: Five of a Kind isn't all bad, but for a fan of the previous team, it's not quite the send-off I hoped for.

Outsiders: Five of a Kind is essentially a frame story by Tony Bedard wrapped around a collection of one-shots written by multiple writers--and it shows. The book starts with a Nightwing/Captain Boomerang team-up which not only mis-characterizes Batman, but turns Nightwing and Boomerang into enemies in a way completely out of line with the past year's worth of Outsiders stories. The Tony Bedard-written Martian Manhunter/Thunder team-up portrays Thunder as a slang-talking, attitude heavy cut-up instead of the pre-med Tulane graduate she's been; the Metamorpho/Aquaman story delves deep into Rex Mason's inscrutable history, and continues to have Batman act like an ass.

Those three poor stories are balanced by three better ones that keep me from counting out Outsiders entirely. Bedard's final story, where the Outsiders infiltrate a villains bar to battle the Suicide Squad, feels like a Judd Winick Outsiders story, and has nice art by Matthew Clark--and Bedard begins to redeem his earlier Thunder story by having the character rejoin the Outsiders, Batman or no. The Grace/Wonder Woman team-up offers another multi-layered portrayal of Grace, the character find of the twenty-first century. And the best of all is the return of 1980s Outsiders-writer Mike W. Barr, who pens a continuity-heavy but accessible Katana story; I sincerely hope, as Katana states later, that Batman indeed doesn't continue to have the character play the role of driver for the team.

This final volume of Outsiders isn't an indication of anything, really, given that Bedard was replaced on Batman and the Outsiders by Chuck Dixon even before the series got started, and we all know what happened after that. I think Judd Winick did a great job portraying a different kind of superhero team in Outsiders, and I doubt that magic is soon to be recaptured; I'll be interested to see how Batman and the Outsiders stacks up.

[Contains full covers, "What Came Before" text page.]

Going to the third volume of Checkmate now, and then maybe to some Booster Gold from there.
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3 comments:

  1. "I'll be interested to see how Batman and the Outsiders stacks up."
    Umm... just wonder don't read...
    I have been reviewing all of the single issues and have to tell you that the story is slow paced and going nowhere. Maybe as a whole collection it will not seem as slow and uneventful.
    By the way, great honest review keep them up.

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  2. Going for Booster Gold next? Good choice. To me it's one of the better stories out there. Batman and the Outsiders seems to be dragging along pretty slowly now anyway.

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  3. Thanks all; please do chime in when we get to Batman and the Outsiders!

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