Oh, I do love to be surprised. Last week I was rather doubtful that the latest Outsiders revamp would be for me*, but here's the first issue and it bodes very well for the future.
The special saw Alfred, post Batman's supposed death, accept his request to put together a new version of the Outsiders, one pretty much identical to the first. And here they are: old members Katana, Black Lightning, Halo, Metamorpho and Geo Force, and newbies Owlman and (bleurgh) the Creeper. It's pretty much a talking heads issue, as Alfred explains the team's new rules - members must cut themselves off from the world for months at a time as they track down a hidden enemy with ties to the original Outsiders' terribly unimpressive Rogues Gallery.
But talking heads do not a bad comic make - this not being Marvel, Tomasi gets to have his players speak in complete sentences, rather than ones filled with ums, ahs and 'the hells'. And those sentences carry clever little pen portraits of the cast, bringing readers up to speed on their personalities. The familiarity of the members with one another is a delight, and the unfamiliarity of Owlman makes for a telling scene. Creeper, I still can't see the point of - as Alfred tells the new team they were chosen to represent aspects of his personality, presumably Creeper represents the scary creature of the night (that outfit would scare anyone) but I can't see his loose cannon ways fitting in with Alfred's tight mission statement. With luck the man who puts a lie to the idea that there are no bad characters will be back in limbo soon.
(Oh, and what on earth bit of Batman does Halo represent? The eternal optimist? The guy hasn't smiled since 1983. And why isn't my girl on Garbett and Scott's spiffy cover? Is she perhaps standing behind the Creeper's fun fur?)
The main story closes with the team setting off on their first mission as we see terrible things happening in Germany. I'm serious - a puppy is in danger! That guarantees I'll be back next month.
As does the back-up, an actual worthwhile Origins and Omens short which again shows how well writer Peter J Tomasi gets the Outsiders. He quickly recaps the members' backgrounds before Guardian Garden Gnome Scar gives us her usual depressing preview of things to come once the Blackest Night arrives. And the future events actually grabbed me - that never happens!
The short is also notable for showing how much better original artist Jim Aparo's character designs are than today's versions. Compare Halo's all-black suit with hologram belt to her original swirly number with My Little Pony hair. Compare Katana's samurai armour to her new Tarantula-wannabe outfit. Laugh at the pretty tea stains on emaciated Metamorpho's head after seeing the original bruiser version again. And penciller Lee Garbett and inker Trevor Scott - who also handle the main strip - draw them real pretty. Could we maybe have a campaign to bring back the old looks? Goodness me, they even make the original Black Lightning uniform look good.
Ah yes, Garbett and Scott. I mentioned in my bletherings on Batman 682 that I'd like to see this pair given a regular gig, and here it is. Another reason for me to watch this book for awhile. The art doesn't look quite as good as in the Batman story, but given how the Outsiders traditionally goes through creative teams, they were possibly given the gig at short notice and had to rush. Let's see how they settle down.