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Outsiders #11
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Will Conrad

In the late Modern Age, there have been two well used devices in superhero team books. First, writers like to use thinly disguised heroes and villains from other comic companies for a quick fix that'll both take a jab at the competition and tickle the fanboys pink… or maybe some other color, depending on the fanboy… Chris Garcia might go "buffalo firemist" (check your crayola box). Second, there's the "Hey, remember this guy?" strategy, wherein inactive/forgotten heroes or villains are reintroduced to kick off a new conflict and cause further color shifts in the readership.

Judd Winick's Exiles was a great exercise based almost entirely on these approaches (though dominantly in the latter), and Outsiders holds promise for delivering even more of the same. Oh, yeah; in case anybody still doesn't know, the Outsiders kinda accidentally set free the thousands of supervillains from The Slab, the uber-prison in Antarctica, so you can pretty much put every second-string baddie in the DCU back on the "active" roster.

Our current outing with the team that never says "die" (but says "oops" a hell of a lot) devotes the entire issue to Arsenal's recovery after taking five hollow point bullets to the chest. We open with Roy beating the crap out of a punching bag as he recalls the shooting and the intensive surgery from three months ago. A shower and beard trim later, his sugar rushin' daughter Lian bounds in just long enough to tell him the new beard makes him look like Oliver Queen. Another beard trim later, Roy rendezvous with Grace Choi for some hardcore, pulse-pounding, world-shattering- uh… hugging… yeah. But Gracie can't help noticing that Roy would have been just as happy beating the crap out of someone as being with her, and the way Roy tries to sneak out in shame says it all. The way he acts when trying to prevent the late night mugging that follows says even more, though.

It's hard to say whether this is a good issue to jump on to or not. On the one hand, it's got decent standalone quality to it and you don't really need to know anything going in. However, the story's doing more to tie up a loose thread than start new ones, so there isn't much to get a new reader involved, here. Winick's warm, real world (sorry, I couldn't resist) humor and knack with dialogue aside, anyone who isn't already reading Outsiders may want to wait a month before jumping in. Unless you're a die hard Arsenal fan, that is.

More than the story, though, it feels like Will Conrad's pencils just aren't representative of Outsiders. I'd like to say his faces are too subtle, but there's a difference between subtle and inexpressive, and when a book's as much about it's characters as this one, you need to strike closer to ChrisCross's extreme expressions or even Tom Raney's balancing act (which worked so damn well when they revealed Rex wasn't really Metamorpho).

Here, Conrad fails to put much nuance into any of the faces, fudges the anatomy on a couple profiles, and even manages to make Grace look less asian than ever before. And I'll forgive the way Roy seemed to get an extra haircut in the middle of the book, his disappearing/reappearing soul patch, and how Nightwing managed to hide a semiautomatic under his skintight outfit, but replacing the submachine gun Roy was shot by in issue #6 with a finger-sized pistol in the flashback really killed the credibility of how Roy's body armor failed and left all those nipple-sized scars on his chest. Realism in a comic? Dangerous, I know, but when a story lacks elemental men, flying aliens, and robots from the future, these are the questions that start to come up.

I also have some minor qualms with the coloring team's work, but it's mostly about eye color swapping and "swoosh trail" effects. Nothing major. Just slightly annoying after the job they've done throughout the series.

Final Verdict? This was an okay ish that didn't feel like filler, but it'll be nice to get back to the clean-up of Slab escapees. Next month's trip down memory lane features Psimon. See? You're changing colors already.


Jason Schachat

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