Batman and the Outsiders #13 is written by Bryan Hill, illustrated by Gleb Melnikov, colored by Ivan Plascencia, and lettered by Clayton Cowles, and published by DC Comics. The issue starts “The Demon’s Fire” story arc, which sees Ra’s al Ghul gaining control of an alien spacecraft. Batman and Black Lightning come up with a plan to find the spacecraft and stop Ra’s; meanwhile, Katana comes to blows with Lady Shiva over the future of Signal and Orphan.
Batman and the Outsiders #13 reunites Hill and Melnikov, who previously worked together on Angel. Melnikov’s artwork is the definite highlight of the book; he shows that he can switch from horror to heroics fairly easily. He manages to make all of the Outsiders feel like distinct people, and most importantly they feel heroic. Black Lightning stands tall, electricity often crackling in his fists; Batman is mostly shrouded in shadows. Plascencia’s colors add to these images, making every page stand out.
Perhaps the best example of this comes from a page early in the issue, where Batman and Black Lightning are having their conversation. Batman stands atop a rooftop, his face covered in darkness and his cape billowing in the wind. Melnikov and Plascencia frame this as a larger than life moment; you’ll truly believe this is the Dark Knight. It’s an image I’d love to hang on my wall.
The actual story is fairly light. Readers only get a glimpse of what Ra’s is planning and Batman’s plan to stop him. While I understand that not every issue has to be an action-packed slugfest, this felt more like Hill was setting pieces into play so that future issues can focus more on the meat of the story. The conflict between Shiva, Katana, Signal, and Orphan is also nothing new; it’s been touched upon in past issues.
I definitely feel like the issue could have benefitted from more interactions between the main team members. The Outsiders are all but split in half. While Bruce Wayne and Jefferson Pierce’s not-quite-friendship has been a highlight of the book, that team element is sorely missed. Signal and Orphan continue to have a solid friendship; even if they aren’t in the issue that much, they remain the heart of the outsiders.
And even though this issue is mostly sowing seeds for future development, they are some mighty interesting seeds. Chief among them is the fact that extraterrestrial elements are involved. The team has mostly dealt with extremely skilled humans and a few metahumans; Hill and Melnikov greatly up the scale here. This is also justified in the story; Batman notes that Ra’s is willing to go to new lengths to achieve his goals.
Batman and the Outsiders #13 is largely an exercise in table setting, but features wonderful artifacts and an intriguing story hook. Now that the stage and story are set, hopefully, the next issue will feature more of the character moments and action sequences that make the series a standout.
Batman and the Outsiders #13 is available wherever comics are sold and through Comixology using our affiliate link.
Batman and the Outsiders #13 is largely an exercise in table setting but features wonderful artifacts and an intriguing story hook. Now that the stage and story are set, hopefully, the next issue will feature more of the character moments and action sequences that make the series a standout.
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.