Outsiders Trade Post: Five Of A Kind & The Chrysalis

outsiders five of a kind Outsiders: Five Of A Kind (DC)
Written by Ninzio Defilippis, Christina Weir, Tony Bedard, Mike W. Barr, G. Willow Wilson & Marc Andreyko, drawn by Freddie Williams II, Kevin Sharpe, Koi Turnbull, Josh Middleton, Cliff Richards, Matthew Clark & Ron Rondall
Collects Nightwing & Captain Boomerang #1, Katana & Shazam #1, Thunder & Martian Manhunter #1, Metamorpho & Aquaman #1, Grace & Wonder Woman #1 & Outsiders #50

As I mentioned in my year-end review of my favorite trade-reading experiences of 2012, I really enjoyed my re-read of Judd Winick’s Outsiders. He seemed to have a real vision for that book that kept things moving for nearly 50 full issues.

And then things changed. In Winick’s run we learned that the team was actually having its strings pulled by Deathstroke dressed as Batman instead of the hero himself. Batman eventually steps back in to take control of the team he originally started, utilizing the One Year Later-established idea that they’re actually a group of international terrorists as a way to do good in the darkness.

That basic idea lead into the Five Of A Kind trade which collects several one-shots that are supposed to team current Outsiders up with other heroes Batman trusts in an effort to see who should actually join the team. But, that’s not really what happens, not that that’s a terrible thing. The Nightwing/Boomerang issues follows the concept pretty well, but the one with Katana, by Batman & The Outsiders writer Mike W. Barr is basically a story starring her with Shazam popping in in a supporting role. The real running theme between the issues is that Batman’s kind of a jerk, which winds up losing more team members than his actual cuts (or was that all part of his plan?!).

While the comics in this collection don’t necessarily do what they set out to, it is interesting as an artifact of continuity old and then-new. Nightwing and Boomer deal with Chemo after he was used to destroy Bludhaven, Katana dives deep into story elements going back to her early days, Martian Manhunter and Thunder face off against Kyle Rayner villain Grayven and Grace and Wonder Woman operate in a post-Amazons Attack DCU. Heck, there’s also a lead into Salvation Run as well as nods to Countdown. So, there’s a strange mix of older stories being referenced and newer ones, making this a unique collection that probably won’t have much appeal outside of completists.

batman and the outsides vol 1 the chrysalisBatman And The Outsiders Volume 1: The Chrysalis (DC)
Written by Chuck Dixon, drawn by Julain Lopez with Carlos Rodriguez
Collects Batman And The Outsiders #1-5

The events of Five Of A Kind lead directly into a new series called Batman And The Outsiders written by Chuck Dixon. The series would go through a large number of creative and personnel changes as well as a switch back to the simpler Outsiders title before getting the axe. When these issues came out, I was still at Wizard and had a direct pipeline into what was going on behind the scenes, so we knew why Catwoman and Martian Manhunter were really leaving the team. It reeked of editorial interference, but Dixon’s a pro and kept things moving right along.

This time around, I tried pushing a lot of those memories out of mind and it helped me dig this story even more. By the way, the team consists of Grace, Metamorpho, Katana, Martian Manhunter and Catwoman (who both left by the end of the second issue). Thunder’s hanging out trying to prove herself worthy while Batman brings in Geo-Force, Batgirl and Green Arrow to help out on the various missions. Oh, there’s also a reprogrammed OMAC called REMAC who goes on to become more interesting in the second volume.

I think Dixon handled himself pretty well on this book, which also goes on to bring back some villains he created for Guy Gardner (pre-Warrior) and Detective Comics. There’s a big corporation experimenting with OMACs and rockets and space or something. It didn’t feel like the hows and whys were as important as the whos with this one, which isn’t a drawback for me. I dug the personal interactions between these characters, many of whom were on the original team. We also got to see them use their powers for infiltration purposes which works out really well.

Dixon was on for another arc/trade which I want to get my hands on. After that, the concept shifts a bit. At that point, Batman’s gone post-Final Crisis and R.I.P. and it’s revealed that the team he put together is actually there to replace him should anything happen. Yeah, it’s egotistical to think that you’d need a group of people to replace just you, but we’re talking about Batman here, so it makes sense. I don’t remember how well it was executed, but I’ll probably get my hands on those trades eventually and let you know how it goes.

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Corps Revolt Of The Alpha Lanterns & The Weaponers

Green Lantern Corps: Revolt Of The Alpha Lanterns (DC Comics)
Written by Tony Bedard & Sterling Gates, drawn by Adrian Syaf & Nelson
Collects Green Lantern Corps #48-52, 21, 22

I actually read these two volumes of Post-Blackest Night, Brightest Day Green Lantern Corps trades at the same time I read their Green Lantern and Emerald Warriors counterparts, but kind of ran out of steam writing about GL books again. Like those books, these have a somewhat new status quo with the Honor Guard’s ranks swelling to include Kyle Rayner, John Stewart, Ganthet (now a Lantern), Stel, Soranik Natu, Boodikka and Hannu after they save the universe from Cyborg Superman…again. I really liked this trick the first time it was pulled back in one of Johns’ earliest arcs on Green Lantern and I get the recurring theme of Cyborg wanting to figure out a way to die and thus using various machines to help him get that (Manhunters earlier, the Alpha Lanterns and Stel’s robotic people here). That’s what the majority of this arc deals with, which I appreciate because it’s not like the other books and so obviously a set up for War of the Green Lanterns, but the more I think about it now, the more original I wish the story was. Bedard does a good job of working with these characters, their relationships and their quirks, but, like I said, I wish it was more on its own and blazing new trails. What I’m saying is, Cyborg Superman needs a long break (does he even exist in the New 52?).

Meanwhile, this collection also brings together the two issue arc by Sterling Gates that chronicled Boodikka, some of her past and her present as an Alpha Lantern. These aren’t the greatest stories to ever be told, but you guys know how much issues getting skipped over bothers me, so I’m glad they’re in here.

I know I sound pretty down on this book, but I like how Bedard handled the characters and Syaf’s art is growing on me. He does good, bold characters, has some solid faces but comes off a little muddy (that might be on the inker or colorist, though). I also dig this team. It might be further away from the previous GLC idea of “NYPD Blue in space,” but I have an affinity for these characters from the old days.

Green Lantern Corps: The Weaponer (DC)
Written by Tony Bedard, drawn by Tyler Kirkham
Collects Green Lantern Corps #53-57

I enjoyed this second volume a lot more than the first. Not only is the team I enjoy already established, but it deals with evolving issues like Kyle’s relationship with Soranik and her father Sinestro as well as a new villain who has the power to wield an aspect of the White Lantern in The Weaponer. See, this guy actually created Sinestro’s first yellow ring on Qward by harnessing the power of their god the Anti-Monitor. Because he was successful, Sinestro returned and essentially enslaved his fellow Qwardians to make enough yellow rings for the burgeoning Sinestro Corps. This eventually made him an outcast to his people which made him go a bit mad. There’s some Brightest Day stuff in here that I don’t really know about (including the very clumsy inclusion of Firestorm for an issue or two) but the important thing is that the Weaponer figured out how to manipulate some of the white lantern energy into all kinds of weapons.

Since he understandably hates Sinestro, the Weaponer takes Soranik captive and tells Kyle that he’ll let her go if Kyle brings Sinestro to Qward. But, Sinestro refuses. Instead he sends his corpsmen into the fray and a war erupts. This is the kind of stuff I dig if you’re going to get away from the space cop idea. Space army works just as well in my book if it’s handled well. There’s an added element here that I also found interesting as the Sinestro Corps members wind up on opposite ends of a battle with some Green Lanterns because all the Corps have a cease fire on the heels of Blackest Night. How the various characters dealt with that bit of business was fun to watch. I also appreciated the ending which I won’t ruin, but showed exactly what kind of character we’re dealing with in the Weaponer.

I really dug Kirkham’s art on this book. I don’t know how many of his comics I’ve actually read, but he’s got a really nice dynamic style that works well with the mix of constructs, muscles and drama found in these pages. Flipping through the book again, I’m hard pressed to find a panel that doesn’t look kinetic and interesting.

KEEP OR DUMP? There’s no real question here, I’ll be keeping both of these books. I’m pretty proud of my Green Lantern trade collection (I’ve got everything post-Rebirth up to but not including War Of The Green Lanterns. I think it’s a solid series that I’ll keep getting the books for, though, as always, I’m curious to see how things transfer over into the New 52. That’s something I’m completely unfamiliar with at this point, but I hear things carry over pretty well. However, if it turns out I don’t like where things go, I’ll go back and evaluate where I want to cut off my involvement with the collections. Wow, I really made that sound a lot more in depth than it is.