It's another Blackest Night tie-in but the main reasons Outsiders bobbed near the top of my pile were the questions that have been distracting me for months.
Will Halo get more than two lines of dialogue?
Might her fellow Outsiders remember that her civilian name is Gaby, not Violet?
And when will Writer Peter J Tomasi stop telling us he's responsible for both story AND words?
For there's really no need to overcompensate. I know he's a writer, and a good one. Certainly this is one of the best-scripted crossovers yet. Tomasi begins with a splendid three page scene recapping the history of the issue's featured Black Lantern - Tara Markov, aka Terra - as it relates to the Outsiders. Specifically her brother Brion, otherwise known as Geo-Force. Terra's narration is tight, to the point, ending with a kick in the stomach.
We then rejoin Terra at Outsiders HQ, into which she broke last issue. I was expecting a knockdown, drag-out fight between the sibling soil-shifters and spare Outsiders Metamorpho, Black Lightning and Owlman; instead, Terra pours her heart out, telling soppy old Brion she's fighting the Black Lantern ring's insistence she hurt him. She says she realises she has no right to ask for forgiveness for the crimes committed in life but does request one boon - oblivion. Terra says she wants nothing more than the darkness of the grave.
We don't hear Brion's answer, as the rest of the issue we're on the road with Katana, Creeper and Halo as they bring Arkham Asylum escapee Killer Croc back from Louisiana. And yes, Halo speaks - she's positively chatty, engaging in girl talk with swordswoman Katana, Tetsu. And no, she doesn't point out that even though she's back in the body of dead sociopath Violet Harper, people should still be calling her Gabrielle Doe, as she was known to the Outsiders for ages before learning of her alien/human background.
Perhaps if the chat had gone on longer the subject would have come up, but the road trip is interrupted by three more Black Lanterns - Katana's late husband and children. Hubbie Maseo uses his own magic sword to stop and split the lorry she's driving, scattering superheroes and villain in a corker of a spread and the two equally strong pages that follow. The family reunion that follows is creepily touching, easily one of the most effective scenes of the DC-wide event, and it's refreshing that the strong-minded Kata is on the verge of caving in when her colleagues take action. Halo is no-nonsense in her attack, while Creeper sets off to find the still-strapped-into-a-chair Croc. I cannot bear the Creeper but double threat Tomasi gives him such terrifically nutty dialogue that I enjoyed him for pretty much the first time ever.
The book ends on a satisfying not-quite-a-cliffhanger note, but so far as next issue goes I'm more interested in seeing what happens with Terra and Brion. I began the scenes with her thinking, oh yeah, more of her duplicity, but by the end I was thinking that maybe the teen corpse is sincere. When I wasn't wondering how come a decomposing skeleton girl has such lovely blonde hair.
I appreciated seeing Owlman, the team's supposed Batman substitute, advising Brion to engage his brain when Terra appeared, and as a newspaperman I was delighted to see him namecheck AP as a way to find out information about Blackest Night. Turns out he wasn't talking Associated Press, but Alfred Pennyworth. Dang.
It was also fun to see that when Terra is reading the team's emotions, everyone has just one apart from Metamorpho, whose mixed feelings reflect his Battenburg body.
Artist and illustrator Fernando Pasarin, aided by inkers and embellishers Scott Hanna and Prentis Rollins, turns in a surprisingly beautiful job given he has so many corpses to draw. Apart from the road smash scene, highlights include Creeper and Croc snoring away together, Gaby and Tatsu's moving slumber party and Katana's
I'd like to give a shout-out to letterer and calligrapher Travis Lanham for such fine touches as Terra's earthy narrative boxes and the EC-style title lettering. Colourist and, hmm, tinge technician Brian Reber balances the pages superbly as we move from artificially lit interior with soiled corpse (I'm such a child) to night-time exterior with alien lighting and zombies.
Oh, and the Outsiders logo on Tom Mandrake's lushly textured cover looks a heckuva lot better on one line than artificially broken, as is usually the case. Keep it that way, editor and coordinator Michael Siglain.