Friday, February 25, 2005

OUTSIDERS #21

As mentioned last issue, anyone who couldn't guess that Batman was behind the Outsiders frankly deserves to be a fan of Judd Winick's recent work. [No, the moratorium on Winick Griping does not extend to either Outsiders or Green Arrow.] Bruce Wayne's involvement seemed imminent the minute Roy started talking about a corporate sponsor -- that, or it was going to be one of those irony moments with LexCorp or some other villain's cash being behind Optitron. But why go for irony when you can settle in to the same old groove?

I was in a mellow mood to start reading this issue -- Winick did well in Batman this week, so maybe the inevitable Bruce-Dick confrontation would work... but it was not to be. These aren't those men.

Winick has written a rather sullen and spiteful Nightwing in Outsiders thus far, an embittered man consciously deciding to not demonstrate his ample leadership skills and content to emulate his mentor for the interpersonal skills despite having railed against that behavior for most of his adult life. Presumably it's part of the Outsiders' mandate to be a team and not a family, but all Winick has used Dick for is as an example of What Not to Do -- he's careless with teammates' lives in the field and his aloofness out of action only exacerbates their distrust. Neither Kory nor Roy have had much impact on him -- with the notable exception of Roy's recovery issue -- and I have to wonder if readers who aren't coming from a history of seeing a much more accessible Dick Grayson will be much interested in the sudden humanization in this issue.

All of the questions Dick asks Bruce are eminently reasonable -- both in general and in the specifics of the Dick-and-Bruce show. Sure, Dick has only himself to blame for expecting Bruce to open up to him, but this -- Bruce basically buying a new superhero team for Dick to lead in the wake of the dissolution of the Titans after the deaths of Donna Troy and Lilith Jupiter -- is a bit more of a transgression than the usual sort of Bat-cipherhood. This is a master mind-@$#% by Bruce and Dick explodes in righteous indignation at his mentor and it would have been a fantastic battle royale in the finest Devin-Grayson-during-Gotham-Knights style of Bat-psychoanalysis.... If Winick hadn't dropped the ball completely on the Batman end.

Yes, Bruce is irascible and unreasonable and opaque and enjoys being perverse. And I buy a Bruce rattled by recent events -- the deaths of Jack Drake and Stephanie Brown, the collapse of Gotham, etc. -- and still unwilling to let Dick see his pain, let alone help him. Dick is his son and his subordinate more than he is Bruce's friend. But there's Bat-opaque and there's.... this sort of opaque, which is muddy and unclear in its purpose and seems instead to just say "you all know Batman is irascible and unreasonable and opaque and enjoys being perverse, right?" without giving a good wherefore. Bruce sounds childish here, like a teenager having a melodramatic fit, and I really hope that that wasn't Winick's aim because it's an awful omen for Batman. 'I'm a bad man and you shouldn't trust me (love me, like me, have faith in me)' is so 16-year-old drama queen and it's probably too much to hope that it's the last we ever see of it from Winick.

As for the rest of the issue... Winick's mad-on for Roy Harper continues -- the competent father/friend/CBI-Checkmate Agent/superhero is obviously Earth I to Winick's Earth II version -- and I'm still boggling at how Arsenal could not realize that it wasn't Batman he was talking to all this time, especially when he's known Batman as Bruce Wayne for at least a decade. That it wasn't, that it was in fact Deathstroke... If Slade Wilson hadn't become the Wolverine of the DCU, showing up in every. single. book as the Villain to Fight, if he wasn't already haunting the Teen Titans as 'revenge' for Jericho's fate... maybe. But not now, when he's getting more action than a tuppence floozy and most of it being just as cheap.

I suppose I should just be happy that there was no more on-panel tentacle porn, right?

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