Outside of big franchises like Avengers and Justice League, ensemble series work best with a certain degree of soap opera style drama. It’s one of the things that has made the Teen Titans and the X-Men so beloved. Batman & The Outsiders #3 shows us whether this series can accomplish that same standard.
Bryan Hill, Dexter Soy, Veronica Gandini, and Clayton Cowles test the Outsiders in this issue, with an unexpected result.
We see parallel stories in this issue- Batman putting the Outsiders to the rest, while Ra’s al Ghul does the same to the captive Sofia. Ra’s has the goal of converting the young woman to an acolyte of the League of Assassins. Batman’s goal is much deeper and much more personal…
Hill’s story accomplishes what it sets out to do, but I really love that we don’t realize what that is until the last few pages. We get more insight into who Sofia is, though what Ra’s wants her for is a bit more undefined. However, the villain is definitely incredibly threatening here, living up to his reputation while pulling away from some of his past incarnations, feeling less haughty and more driven and evil.
Where the issues shines is in the story of the Outsiders. We get a red herring at the beginning of the issue that Batman is going to lead them through a training exercise. However, we largely end up focusing on the Signal, who has been dealing with PTSD since he encountered Karma in Hill’s Detective Comics story. This story unexpectedly takes that on, showing Duke finally accepting that he needs help while the team rallies around him to provide it. It’s not at all what I expected, but it’s exactly what the story needed.
Soy and Gandini continue to do great work. Gandini uses a palette that is both bright but dark, which makes the issue feel very bombastic. She also fills the pages with light, making sure the shadows don’t swallow the characters, but put emphasis on them.
Soy is able to hit the action beats extremely well, with a great flow across the page, and layouts that emphasize the action. He really excels at the big moments of the issue, whether it’s the splash page that reveals Ra’s for the first time, or the quieter panels of the Outsiders rallying around Duke Thomas as he asks for help. He gives those moments the space they need to breathe, but also ensures they’re depicted in a way that has maximum impact for the reader.
The Outsiders’ mission is just beginning and this issue shows why this might be the best incarnation of the classic team yet.
Batman & The Outsiders #3 is available now from DC Comics.