Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1, written by Bryan Edward Hill, illustrated by Max Reynor, colored by Luis Gurrero, and lettered by AWL Studios’ Troy Peteri, is published by DC Comics. Here, Black Lightning accompanies Katana to Japan where she tells him the story of her ancestor Miyako, an elemental sorceress. Long ago, Miyako used her power to slay the malevolent Tsutomo. But, the past has come back to haunt Katana, as Tsutomo’s spirit rests within her Soultaker sword and is tormenting her husband Maseo’s spirit. As Katana travels to the spirit realm to save her husband, Black Lightning ends up assaulted by Tsutomo’s shadowy forces.
The best part of the Outsiders comic has been the character dynamics between the team, especially Lightning and Katana. Hill has taken care to develop their relationship as mutual friends, and centers the entire annual around it; when Katana tells Lightning that the path she’s walking down might drive her insane, he responds with “I won’t let that happen.” Even though he is way out of his depth, he’s willing to help her save her husband.
Katana also finally gets the chance to confront the demons that have plagued her since the first issue, both literally with Tsutomo and figuratively as she speaks about a part of herself that wants to die. As someone who’s often struggled with his mental health and suicidal tendencies, this was an important scene to read. It shows that even if you have a magic sword or electric powers, you can still struggle with self-doubt and depression. It also showed the importance of having friends who will stick by you and help you with the healing process.
Reynor steps in for Outsiders series artist Dexter Soy, and while the art style may have changed, the anime influence still remains, particularly in the sequences set in the Spirit Realm. Tsutomo cuts an imposing figure, towering over Katana and sheathed in blood-red armor. Even scenes where he doesn’t fully appear are horrifying to witness, as his gloved hand reaches out and slowly starts crushing Maseo’s head. Reynor also manages to capture the atmosphere of Japan, from the busy city streets to the interiors of the shops and even the traditional clothing that Miyako wears. The action, when it happens, is brutal; bodies are cleaved in half by Katana’s sword, blood spraying in nearly every panel.
Gurerro employs a wonderful contrast with his coloring work that helps to separate the real world from the spirit world. The Spirit World is mostly warm red and pink hues, growing darker as the violence escalates. In the real world, misty blue and green dominate, punctuated by the bright white flashes of Lightning’s electric bolts. Gurrero also brings the city of Tokyo to life with its flashing neon signs and towering buildings. Readers will actually feel like they’re in the heart of the city.
Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 not only ties up a longstanding plot point from the series, but it also serves as a great stand-alone story that only strengthens the bond between Black Lightning and Katana. I highly recommend it for both newcomers and fans who are already following Outsiders.
Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 is available wherever comics are sold.
Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1
Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 not only ties up a longstanding plot point from the series, but it also serves as a great stand-alone story that only strengthens the bond between Black Lightning and Katana.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.