Batman and the Outsiders #19 (1985)

Batman and the Outsiders #19 (March, 1985)
“Who’s Afraid of the Big Red S?”
Writer/Co-Creator – Mike W. Barr
Artist/Co-Creator – Jim Aparo
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Cover Price: $0.75

Welcome to the first day of our Twelve Days of Christmas on Infinite Earths series!  Gonna take this right up to the day itself.  I was planning on starting the Christmas/Holiday special on December 1… but then remembered how burned out I got on horror books during the month of October… Figured a “Twelve Days of…” would suffice.  Hell, if I’m still doing this next year I think October will get a “13 Days of Halloween” type’a thing to assuage extreme disinterest.

Anyhoo, that’s neither here nor there… let’s get right into it.  Today we’re going to be discussing another Christmas-themed issue of Batman and the Outsiders.  Whenever I flip through my bins, I’m always surprised about how many Christmas-themed issues the Outsiders had!

We open with Halo bursting into Wayne Manor… well, that certainly won’t attract any attention, right?  Luckily it’s late on Christmas Eve, so nobody’s really lurking about.  In such a panic, she nearly knocks poor Alfred over, spilling his tray of baked treats… she’s got some horrible news for the Batman!  Well, it had better be important, Bruce has some Holiday reading to get to… she claims that Brion (Geo-Force) is on his way to kill someone!  He settles her tea kettle and asks her to start at the beginning.

Earlier that night we see Brion setting up his Christmas decorations (and smashing his thumb with a hammer).  Gaby arrives and they embrace.  This is in between Part 1 and 2 of The Truth About Halo, so at this point she is living with her “family”… she’s been a bit adrift from her Outsider pals.  After becoming reacquainted, Brion produces a tiny box, one that might be the size of an engagement ring.  This prompts Halo to “have a talk” with her man… 

They both sit down with sullen looks on their face… they gather their gumption and at the same time they both announce that they don’t love each other!  Hey, how easy was that?  That almost never happens… might just be the most unbelievable part of this comic book!  Anyhoo, Gaby says she’s just been confused… finding out who she is… finding out she’s got a family… yadda yadda yadda.  Brion says that he feels he might have been projecting his love for his dead sister Tara (that’s Teen Titan Terror Terra to us), which is… kinda creepy, but I suppose I can forgive it.  He never knew Tara, and feels as though he missed out on loving/protecting her.  So, I guess he sees Gaby as his “little sister”… Hell, that’s exactly how he refers to her when she opens her gift… which is a halo on a chain.

Halo decides to call Tatsu (Katana) to tell her about her gift, and to invite her over to Brion’s.  We briefly shift over to Tatsu’s place, and we see her decline to answer the phone.  As she listens to Halo’s message she looks forlorn.

At this point, back in the “present”, Bruce Wayne is all… “Get on with it!”.  It’s really quite funny… I, myself, had almost forgotten that this was a flashback.  Anyhoo… moments after trying to call Tatsu, Brion’s phone rings.  On the other end is one of his classmates, a girl named Denise.  She just overdosed on sleeping pills and perhaps realized she’s not quite ready to die.  Brion heads off and Gaby calls the paramedics.

Moments later, we see Geo-Force carry the poor girl from her home and deposit her in the back of an ambulance.  The paramedic informs him that she’s “got a chance”.  Brion promises that the one responsible for this will pay.

Gaby asks for clarification… and he mentions that Denise had muttered something as he carried her out… something about a professor of theirs… Dean Raeburn.  Doesn’t that just sound like a teacher’s name?  Like, I couldn’t make up a better one if I tried!  Anyhoo, he crushes a brick in his hand, and heads off… to kill Raeburn!

This catches us up… Gaby went to Batman because she didn’t know what else to do.  Clearly she couldn’t stop Geo-Force herself… Hell, Batman might not even be all that much help if it became physical… this leaves Bruce having to rely on one ace he still has up his sleeve… and if the cover didn’t already spoil it for ya… that ace, is Superman!

Alerted to a flipped switch in the Batcave, Clark Kent leaves the festivities of the Daily Planet Christmas party and suits up for “work”.

A bit later, Superman meets up with Halo so that she can fill him in on all the details.  Gaby is immediately smitten with the Man of Steel… she’s kind of acting like Ice would in his presence a half-decade later.

We shift scenes to a bell-ringer Santa Claus being held up by a street punk.  Luckily Black Lightning and Katana are out patrolling the area on this night.  Pierce zaps the baddie, and the Santa runs off to “get the P’lice”  He even refers to the Outsiders as “Youngblood”… which makes me realize neither Black Lightning nor Katana are drawn with feet on this page.

The pair stop the baddie from reaching his gun while they discuss Tatsu’s current “Gaby” problem.  She claims that their separation needs to be permanent… for Gaby to truly move on and live with her family, Tatsu feels as though she should step aside and not be in the way.  Black Lightning thinks what we’re all thinking… and it is just one word, “Bull.”

We rejoin Geo-Force just as he arrives at Dean Raeburn’s cabin.  He busts through the wall, Kool-Aid Man style, which causes Raeburn to go for his gun… bad move… Geo-Force crushes it in his hands.  We learn that Raeburn withheld Denise’s scholarship… unless she, ahem, “served his pleasure“… I know that’s probably the least offensive way that can be stated, but somehow it sounds the grossest!  He then lifts Raeburn off the ground threatening to cave in his skull!

Luckily, Superman (and Halo) have arrived in the nick of time.  Geo-Force is lost in rage, and accuses Superman of protecting Raeburn… which, he sort of is… but he’s protecting Brion too.  Geo-Force does what everybody does when they’re on the wrong side of Superman… he hauls off and punches him!  Which works about as well as you’d imagine…

Superman throws Brion from the cabin, fearing further physicality in the cabin would hurt or injure everyone present.  Brion slides back and hammers Superman from behind.  Here we get a pretty neat use of Brion’s powers… he can affect gravity… and since Superman’s powers are due in part to Earth having far less gravitational pull than Krypton… Geo-Force can somewhat level the playing field.

We briefly cutaway to Metamorpho and his lady Sapphire as they complete their Christmas shopping.  Sapphie thinks they’re done, but Rex has other thoughts.  He wants to buy a gift for her father… the same dude who tried to have him killed a few times.  Aw, what the heck, it’s Christmas!

Back by the cabin, Geo-Force is just walloping Superman!  They continue their philosophical discussion as they fight.  Geo-Force feels as though Raeburn’s gotta pay with his life… while Superman, obviously, argues that there is a system in place to deal with people like the Dean.  Brion argues that it will simply be Denise’s word against the Dean’s… and sadly, he’s not wrong.  Superman realizes that the fighting is futile… he looks around to make sure nobody is around, and with a thunderous clap… triggers an avalanche.

He plucks Geo-Force out of the powder, and returns to the cabin to confront Raeburn.  Of course, the Dean is none too quick to come clean… in fact, he threatens to sue for damages!  As if by magic, Batman appears holding a yellow envelope.  Inside are six signed affidavits from victims of Raeburn’s “pleasure favors”, which along with Denise’s, will hopefully put this perv away.

We wrap up with battle-bruised Brion visiting Denise in the hospital.  She is well on her way to recovery.  She asks what day it is… and he informs her it is Christmas.

Man I love this series!  Just can’t get over how much fun I have whenever I check out an issue of Batman and the Outsiders.  Never expected much from it, but damn… this is some great comics.  Between this and the New Teen Titans going on at the same time… what a great time it would’ve been to be a DC Comics fan!

A lot of stuff happened here… so let’s try and piece it all out.  We’ll start with one of the things that made me chuckle… Gaby telling Bruce the story… and losing her place in it!  I thought this was so well executed… because I lost my place in it too!  When Bruce put his hand on her shoulder, it was just as though he was reminding me that there ought to be a point to her tale.  So great!  It also shows us that Gaby is sort of acting like a normal teenager might.  Of course, since we already know “The Truth About Halo”, that’s kind of iffy… but, the way I look at it… we’re all kind of a product of our environment.  Who and what we are surrounded by can have a profound impact on our behavior.  If everyone around Gaby is treating her like she’s a teenager… it might stand to reason that she would begin acting as such.  Orrrrrrrrr I might just be thinking too hard.  Either way, loved this bit!

The Tatsu (which I type as Tatus EVERY time) and Gaby relationship is another interesting part.  I’m not sure what kind of vibe we were supposed to be getting from Tatsu’s feelings… I consider Barr to be a pretty subtle writer, similar to Marv Wolfman… I dunno if we’re supposed to read more into Tatsu’s affections.  Granted this may all be revealed in an issue I haven’t yet checked out.  If I were to guess, I would say that Tatsu has some protective urges… everything she has done for Gaby thus far has been what she considers to be in her (Gaby’s) best interests.  I know very little about Katana’s past… for all I know she might, just like Brion, be projecting “little sister” feelings toward her.

Brion and Gaby deciding that they love one another… but don’t love one another was pretty great.  Just another one of those things that make you realize that these are (for all intents and purposes) young people.  People who are confused about their emotions… those who may misdirect their affections.  It really humanizes them, and I appreciate it being here.

Moving ahead a bit… we’ve got the philosophical debate between Geo-Force and Superman.  Superman has mostly (well, maybe not during the Golden Age) been portrayed as letting the system work… and getting involved when it doesn’t.  Brion, being… again, a young dude… doesn’t quite dig that idea… especially when what has gone down has affected him personally.  I really like that Batman was able to dig up a half-dozen more victims of Raeburn’s “advances”… it paints an interesting picture… nobody was there for them, the way Brion was for Denise.  No matter how personally one takes an affront to justice, there is always going to be injustice.  Or, again… maybe I’m just thinking too hard.

Brion took this personally… and just maybe, he doesn’t trust “the system”.  Gotta remember, he’s from Markovia… a country that was taken over by the Soviets.  He may understand first hand that the “system” doesn’t always work.  He mentions that it would be a simple game of “he said/she said” should it escalate… which, as noted above, is sadly true.  I’m glad this cynical view saw print… because it is very real.  There is a maturation in comics during this era.  There is skepticism… doubt… distrust.  It would be refreshing, if not for the subject matter!  He even kind of stumps Superman with his cynicism!

Which takes us to the super-avalanche.  It’s a little thing, but I love that Barr and Aparo had Superman make sure the coast was clear before triggering it!  This shows a more conscientious Superman as we ready ourselves for the post-Crisis era.  I mean, we’ve discussed stories in which Superman set off massive earthquakes just to screw with the baddies… likely causing a ridiculous amount of damage, destruction… and casualties!  Here however, he makes sure nobody will be hurt before slippin’ the slopes.  Very well done. 

Overall, if my gushing didn’t make it obvious… this issue (and series) is definitely worth your time.

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