What had been a somewhat interesting direction begun by writer Peter Tomasi in Outsiders: The Deep comes to a screeching halt in Outsiders: The Hunt. In the title as without, the reason for this about-face seems to be the rather uncertain role the Outsiders (characters and title) play in the DC Universe. As such, this Outsiders volume essentially bows to the whims of both the Batman: Battle for the Cowl and Blackest Night crossovers, and one almost feels bad for the characters being tossed around so much.
The end of Outsiders: The Deep actually found the team in much the same position as Nightwing and his Outsiders were once, having publicly exploded an enemy base and in danger of having their covert group revealed. Instead, the previous story gets little mention; the Outsiders return to the Batcave to find themselves locked out and their covert charter revoked, shunted to clean up Arkham baddies escaped during Battle for the Cowl largely just to have something to do.
Indeed, that's what those three Cowl tie-in issues feel like -- giving the title something to do. I'm not a stickler for power equality from title to title, but it takes two or three Outsiders to capture each of three relatively minor Batman villains -- Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, and Clayface; it seems a waste of the Outsiders' (let alone the reader's) time. Tomasi offers a particularly creepy Clayface story, and I liked the Man-Bat cameo in the Croc issue, but none of these are distinctive or memorable outings for the villains.
The final two issues cross over with Blackest Night, in that Geo-Force meets the Black Lantern Terra and Katana is attacked by her dead husband and sons. Katana's family has been an important enough part of her character that the sequence is more engaging than the exploits of the evil-and-still-evil Terra; I appreciated that Tomasi, one of Blackest Night's architects, goes even so far as to have Katana discover the Black Lanterns' mastermind through her struggles with the zombies. It's also a good turn that, as in JT Krul's Titans/Blackest Night crossover issues, enemies become friends in the face of the zombies; I liked the nuances of Croc teaming up with Creeper (giving a bit of flow from the Cowl issues) and Creeper himself ultimately betraying Croc.
I do think Tomasi missed an opportunity, though, when Geo-Force had to dispatch the Black Lantern Terra, finally acknowledging her evil. The conflict of DC Universe: Last Will and Testament was Geo-Force blaming Deathstroke for corrupting Terra, and Deathstroke wounding Geo-Force lead in part to the hero's tougher attitude in this series. Does Geo-Force "killing" the Black Lantern Terra equal some understanding of Terra's own role in Judas Contract? Unfortunately, that's not explored here in the way I might have hoped.
At the end of the book, all the Outsiders go home, and it's astounding given the previous volume's "you will be under deep cover forever" premise. That DC even has an Outsiders book, you'll recall, comes from Judd Winick's 2003 Outsiders that took the "twentysomething heroes" place of Titans; with Titans returned -- and its own concept in disarray -- Outsiders loses the "second generation" role, nor am I sure the "Batman's covert team" concept works either. There's sufficient Bat-family out there (maybe more than sufficient) plus the rumors of Batman's new world-wide recruiting endeavor.
With the team benched at the end of this book, and no greater purpose apparent from the book's solicitations, I'll likely pass on the next volume even with the promised New Krypton tie-in; I just don't "get" DC's current version of the Outsiders, or how it differentiates from your average generic superhero team.
I'll add one caveat to that. What Tomasi does do well (here and in his writing in general) is bring forth the individual personalities of the character; especially, he never loses sight of how long many of these characters have known and worked with one another. The slowly building conflict between Geo-Force's single-mindedness and Black Lightning's compassion is true to the characters, and I enjoyed the camaraderie between Halo and Katana; even, too, that Tomasi lets Katana admit she's tired on a long drive instead of positing her as an ever-powerful ninja automaton.
One thing I'll give the Outsiders is that they're truly believable as a family; I just wish The Hunt had the force of will and purpose that Outsiders seems to have lost some creative teams ago.
[Contains full (but not variant) covers. Printed on glossy paper.]
Up next we're rocking Red Robin (it did have to be said) and then some New Krypton and Justice League. Don't miss it!