Friday, May 13, 2005

OUTSIDERS #23

The problem with this issue wasn't with the issue itself (okay, so mostly not with this issue). It was with the fact that we are two years into Outsiders and Judd Winick has done next to nothing in the way of character development and this is the story arc where it's coming back to bite him in the tuchus.

This should be a tense, fun, fast-paced arc -- last issue we saw proof that the team is build upon a house of cards and that house has been blown down. But it's hard to empathize with the team members as they react to the news of the betrayal when we haven't been given reason to care about them (as people or as part of a team) in the first place. Who out of this bunch do we have enough affection for that we would mourn their deception? Who out of this bunch has Winick allowed us to become vested in? The Outsiders are half veterans and half Winick's creations and the first group has been largely unrecognizable and the latter undeveloped except for stock situations and cheap comic relief. And tentacle porn in the workplace.

Emphasizing this opacity were the interrogation scenes. They were, by far, the weakest points in this issue -- those pages were where Winick could have and should have given us some character development, but none was delivered. Anissa is her usual Daddy's Girl Is All I Am self, while Grace snarls, Dick supports, Jen mopes, and Kory seethes... and neither the reader nor Roy learned anything new about any of them. Winick was lazy here. Grace is his own Mary Sue Sobstory creation and all she did was bully, he wrote Jen for years over in Green Lantern and he didn't even grant her that personality, and Dick and Kory have had teammates betray them enough times before that Roy referencing Terra or Jericho instead of being apologetic wouldn't have looked geekish, certainly not with Deathstroke back in the game. Instead, they were all bland reaction shots of predictable ranges of dismay.

Roy's himself is not much better. In the course of this 'Lockdown', Mister Harper's veering between hard-ass Arsenal, pissed at the betrayal, and everyone's buddy Roy, vaguely embarrassed at accusing his friends, felt off-kilter to me. He wasn't as hard as he needed to be in places and he was too easy in others. Why did he find a special polygraph for Kory, one that he knew would cause problems, but let Dick use a standard one that they both knew he could fool? Why did Grace get the last word in (again) -- Winick has consistently portrayed their interactions as Roy unable to be anything but Grace's toy, but this was one time and place where Roy's experience and anger should have carried the day. He's had a miserable year -- getting shot, having his daughter kidnapped, branded, and possibly assaulted, and then the professional and physical tuchus-kicking by Deathstroke last issue... He shouldn't have felt the need to apologize or negotiate with Grace or anyone else.

As for Roy's actions.. on the one hand, he's not only a lifetime vigilante-type, but he's also a trained federal agent, so doing investigative work and getting access to outside information and toys is not out of the realm of possibility. On the other... Shift has been deemed guilty by circumstantial evidence instead of positive evidence. He could have done any of these things, but there's no evidence that he did except that nobody else could have. Which is not enough to get a conviction in most places.

In hindsight, the revelation of Shift as the traitor wasn't really a surprise. Firstly because this issue is leading into a crossover with Teen Titans featuring bad things coming out of laboratories and the Outsiders needed their rogue bald dude, too. Secondly because there were no other serious candidates but Shift. We knew it wasn't Roy, Kory, or Dick; Anissa has no other function other than to be her father's daughter and they've done enough bad stuff to Black Lightning in the last year-plus; Indigo did the sum total of her evil back in Graduation Day and is still on probation; Grace ending up evil would have been either too trite after her recent revelations... or it would have been too cynical than what we'd expect from Sensitive Man Winick to have her faking her trauma and playing the Outsiders as the gullible saps that they are. But that's in hindsight, so I can't really accuse Winick of being predictable here.

Outsiders has generally been somewhere between meh and turbo-nuclear-Dark Shrew, so even rising to the range of a very flawed okay is something of an achievement to be celebrated. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. What was great was fill-in art team Shawn Moll and Kevin Conrad, who are responsible for a solid issue on a title that has gone through pencilers the way Spinal Tap goes through drummers. They also give us probably the sexiest Kory that has been seen in years.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Danny said...

Looks like Indigo was the traitor, not Shift. Predictable? You be the judge.

Wed May 25, 07:50:00 PM EDT  

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