Or – “Go-Kart Mozart Was Checkin’ Out The Weather Chart Seein’ If It’s Safe Outside…”

out3.jpgI tried recently to explain to one of my customers (Gatekeeper Hobbies, Topeka, Kansas. Come buy stuff!) why I enjoy Judd Winick’s work on The Outsiders. As I did, I found myself in that weird position where I had to explain away my PROBLEMS with the current status of the book before I could tell him what was good about it. I’m sure the Germans have a word for the need to justify your enjoyment of something (maybe it’s Hurneyvurneyfarfarghnughen?), but it’s a weird position for me to be in. I know I’m liking the book, or at least parts of the book, but for the life of me, I couldn’t articulate the positives. Now, I can…

out1.jpg…I’m in love with Grace. No, really. I am. And I think I’m supposed to be. One of the hallmarks of Winick’s writing is what I call “The Pam,” the character who subtly gets the “Dungeon Master’s Girlfriend” treatment. Jade in Green Lantern… Sara from Barry Ween… And the ass-kicking Ms. Choi here. Okay, maybe there’s more to it than that, but most of the reason that I like this book is in the characters. I think back to the moments that matter to me, and they’re all just character bits. Thunder’s banter with her dad, Indigo flying away with a casual “Later, skaters!,” Jade and Starfire mortified to catch Indigo and Shift having sex and the resultant discussion of how many rooms in Titans tower got a full dose of “Boy Wonder,” if ya get my drift. Even when the plot isn’t working for me, the team dynamic remains, as well as Judd’s use of character, dialogue, and nuance.

We start this issue with a weird timeshift. We see Dr Sivana’s henchwoman Sabre going toe to toe with veteran Outsider Katana. Suddenly, Katana slams her namesake blade to the floor with a burst of eldritch lightning… and we flashback to 45 minutes earlier, seconds after the cliffhanger of last issue. Nightwing is nearly unconscious, poisoned by Sivana, and the team is stunned as he explains exactly what’s going on.


That, apparently, is as delicate as he gets. Sivana is another of the great joys of this book, an evil genius WHO ACTUALLY ACTS LIKE A GENIUS. He’s a psycho, certainly, but he’s the kind of man whose thought processes are ten steps ahead. Think of him as a slightly less evil version of Bill Gates. All-out combat occurs, and Sivana’s iron maiden proves more than the equal of the Outsiders. When he likewise poisons Katana, the team finally agrees to hear the li’l domehead out. They gather in Sivana’s lair and realize with dawning horror that he’s been pulling the strings all along. Their initial mission? Sivana manipulated it, using Grodd and the Joker to do his dirty work. And their lowest moment ever? Sivana’s work as well.


As the other shoe drops, the whole team is stunned to realize that their early missions were all engineered to give them a sense of accomplishment, while getting roadblocks out of Sivana’s way. Doesn’t it just give you an empty feeling in your gut to think about that? You think you’re doing good, but you’re just aiding an even greater threat. Harsh. As for the Brain’s cloning experiments, they were designed to give Sivana metahuman DNA to play with, to find out if his Luddite bomb could be geared to their various metabolisms. You remember the Luddite bomb? Wipes out the memories of humanity, but only as to the use of technology? A nasty piece of business, that, but one where you’re not certainly what one is intending to accomplish with it. Metamorpho asks the obvious question…


Ahhh, yes, good intentions. They make for some fine pavement. The good doctor is the most dangerous kind of genius: a genius with a mission. Humanity, says Sivana, has reached the boiling point. They’re going to blow up soon, unless someone saves them… someone like him. The good Doctor intends use his Luddite to create him a finer world. Then, Thaddeus Bodog will be able to take power as the only one who knows how the technology works. The world will PUT him in charge, and there will never again be any threats to his control or leadership. And what of the Outsiders, his “kids,” are they mere tools in the game? Oh, no. The Big Red Cheesegrater has a proposition for them.


Thunder rebukes him, telling him he’s off his nut, but Sivana’s not having any of it. You don’t get to be as smart as him without knowing how people tick (unless you’re Luthor, and then you just don’t care). No, Sivana says, Thunder’s words come from her relative youth and naivete. “I know that Mr. Mason… and Grace… and the Boomerang kid… even the Boy Wonder are thinking quite seriously about my offer.” Frighteningly, I think he’s right. His message heard, the not-so-good Doctor does one of the scariest things so far: he simply turns the poison off. That’s just disturbing, especially when you ask yourself if he can turn it back ON. Nightwing gives the signal, and this is where we came in. Blah blah Sabre, blah blah fight, blah blah Katana smashes her sword, and the team’s hidden ace is revealed.


Good night, Thaddeus. Katana’s mission for Sabbac? “Take out the lab.” As the demon obeys, Sivana and Sabre are forced to retreat (“I didn’t plan on having to combat any HELLFIRE!” Heh…), leaving the assembled Outsiders to ruminate on his words. Oh, and the doc has ONE of his tiny Luddite bombs, giving him the ability to replicate even more. And he’s done the most dangerous thing of all… planted the seed of doubt in the minds of the Outsiders.


I don’t know if he’s as good a judge of character as he thinks he is. Sure, Nightwing might consider it for a split second, but even the most amoral of them (which is probably Junior Boomerang) wouldn’t REALLY be a part of this. I hope… This issue finally puts some closure on the mysteries that have been surrounding the Outsiders since OYL began, and next issue promises to start explaining what we missed, and maybe even elucidate on the mystery of Grace’s origins. In any case, a lot of the frustrating things about the last few months weren’t present here (although the multiple pencillers problem continues) and even though Katana’s new look doesn’t realy work for me, I find that this book finally breaks free of the “every other issue is good” curse. Outsiders #43 leaves me without any nagging feelings of “Yeah, but…” and earns its 3 star rating.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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