Batman and the Outsiders #3 (1983)

Batman and the Outsiders #3 (October, 1983)
“Bitter Orange!”
Writer/Co-Creator – Mike W. Barr
Artist/Co-Creator – Jim Aparo
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.60

Hey, here’s a “reading project” I’m actually sort of keeping up with!  Batman and the Outsiders, as I’ve said before, has been one of the nicest surprises of this blogging endeavor.  There’s just something so damn comfortable about it.  Doesn’t hurt that the writing and art are great too, right?

Anyhoo, let’s get down to it.

We open at Horton Chemical, it’s 4:00 AM.  Inside a night watchman pours himself a cup of coffee as he laments the drudgery of his existence.  He is alerted by a nearby “klink” that he just might not be alone on this night.  He peeks his head around the corner… and is gassed for his trouble.  At the same time, on the other side of the world… or wherever Markovia is, Geo-Force is bidding adieu to his brother, the new King, Gregor.  He is leaving with Batman and the gang, but promises to return.

On the flight home, Brion recounts the events that brought him here… and questions his decision to follow this strange crew of Outsiders back to Gotham. 

They approach Wayne Manor while Alfred is clipping coupons… no, he’s clipping out the news article on a chemical plant bombing.  Batman radios in “on channel seven”, which is code that indicates to Alfred that he is bringing visitors with him… and his dual identity needs to be kept under wraps.  The Outsiders are surprised that they’re entering under Wayne’s place… which Batman brushes off, claiming that Bruce is just funding the cause.  The Outsiders are advised that until he can find quarters for them all, they’ll have to stay at the Manor… next they enjoy their first complimentary continental breakfast.

Meanwhile, at Gotham Square Garden, a masked man instructs his crew that they are going to keep bombing places until Gotham City decides to listen to them… okay, sounds reasonable.  The fella plays on his underlings’ status as Vietnam veterans… playing up the anti-war rhetoric they faced upon their return stateside.  It’s here we learn that this fella is… Agent Orange!  Named after the gas that disfigured him during the war.

Later, we join Bruce Wayne and “Jane Doe” at a Psychologist’s office.  They are discussing ways in which they might help Halo rediscover her past.  While the men talk, Halo starts playing the piano, showing a strong musical acumen.  Bruce sees this as a clue.

On the drive home, Bruce suggests “Jane” pick a new civilian name, and she settles on Gabrielle… however, keeps the surname Doe.  He pulls the car over and takes her shopping for some non-superhero duds.

That night, Batman meets with Katana at Bruce Wayne’s old penthouse.  He offers the pad to she and Halo.  Katana initially refuses, claiming that she wants to keep her identity secret.  Batman spoils that by calling her by her real name.  Way to put a lady in her place, Bats!

The rest of the team arrives, and Batman takes them down a flight of stairs to their new headquarters.  Before they can call their meeting to order, Batman receives a call from Alfred to inform him that something is amiss at Ames Farm.  He jams out, and tells the Outsiders to stay behind… for they are “not ready yet”.  At Ames, Batman conducts some surveillance… and is soon joined by Katana and Halo.  Hey, I thought he told you to stay behind!  They look on as two militant men bury some toxic waste.

The Outsiders jump into action.  Batman tells Katana to “take them alive”… so of course she kills the first dude she sees.  Other baddies blast bullets into Halo, but they go right through her.  Agent Orange arrives via helicopter and begins pumping gas at Halo, which is actually effective in putting her down.  Katana cuts the Agent’s gas-mask hose, causing him to flee before he is overcome.

Off on the side, Batman spots a surviving baddie and proceeds to interrogate him.  When all he gives is his name, Halo and Katana jump in to play good cop-sadistic cop, which leads to a pretty funny gag.

They learn that Agent Orange’s base of operations is Gotham Square Garden, however arrive just in time to see the baddie leave.  Black Lightning and Katana take care of the militia Orange left behind… they make pretty quick work of ’em.

Batman and the rest are flying over Gotham Bay after Agent Orange’s chopper.  As they approach, he deploys his giant gas-bomb.  Batman hops onto the chopper and instructs his teammates to take care of the bomb.

Geo-Force, Halo, and Metamorpho neutralize the threat, and as just as they begin to celebrate see Agent Orange’s helicopter explode!  Moments later, bubbles form in the water… and Batman emerges, with Agent Orange in tow.

They all return to Gotham Garden so Batman can humiliate unmask Agent Orange in front of his men.  Hey, whattaya know… he isn’t deformed after all!  He was just a manipulative twit!

It’s always a good time with the Outsiders!  Such a great mix of superhero action and soapy fun… with a fair amount of humor thrown in as well.  This might not be over-the-top with the comedy, but when it hits… lemme tell ya, it hits pretty good.

These comics of the early 1980’s show what a lost art storytelling can be.  Here we had so many subplots weaving their way through, steps are taken in characterization, there’s drama… and it was all framed by a nefarious threat.  I so miss the days before decompressed storytelling.  We actually get a full story here… and still, we have ample reason to return for the next issue(s).

The Halo/Gaby mystery is working so well… it doesn’t monopolize the entire story, but it’s still attended to and advanced.  Of course hindsight being what it is… we know where it’s headed… and, if you’ve been following this blog with any regularity, you know I wasn’t a fan of the resolution.  That said, I can definitely appreciate how the lead-up was handled.

I think Batman was well-handled here as well.  Of course, he saves the day… but we’re used to that.  I like him as sort of an outsider… to the Outsiders.  I mean, the gang know one another at this point… Batman is still a mystery.  On the subject, I never took the time to consider that he and Alfred might speak in-code.  I really like that detail… really reinforces that Batman is always thinking a few steps ahead.

Overall… I can’t say enough good things about Batman and the Outsiders.  This is definitely a series that is worth tracking down.  The hardcover collection was recently released, also the whole shebang is available digitally.  If you’re a fan of the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans, I think you’ll also really dig this.

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