Outsiders #5 (1986)

Outsiders #5 (March, 1986)
“A Christmas Carol — 1985”
Writer/Editor/Co-Creator – Mike W. Barr
Artist/Co-Creator – Jim Aparo
Backup Artist – Trevor Von Eeden
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Letterer – John E. Workman
Cover Price: $1.50

With the Fourth of July out of the way, we get to dive into one of my favorite, er “features” here at the humble blog, Christmas on Infinite Earths… in July!  Even though the Phoenix five-day forecast reads…

… we’re still gonna retrieve that jug of eggnog we’ve been keeping in the freezer and don our gaudy sweaters to celebrate the… uh, season over about a week this month… just, probably not all in a row… I don’t wanna burn you/me/us out on the concept, plus we do have that Spidey-Special this Friday.

I think I can say this is a tradition since we also did this last year.  Twice makes tradition, right?  Well, we’re also going to keep another tradition going, and that’s starting Christmas conversation with coverage of… the Outsiders!  Boy did they get a bunch of Christmas issues!

We open on a flashback.  We learn a bit about a pair of accountants named Mudge and Morley.  These two shared a firm, and from the looks of it, a very strong friendship… however, one kept a very important secret.  Ya see, Mr. Morley was quite ill.  Rather than risk bankrupting their office to keep him alive, he just kept it to himself.  While they two were together they were visited by the corrupt Mr. Sinclair who time and again, wanted to procure their services… they declined each time.  However, following the untimely passing of his partner, Mr. Mudge would finally come around to the idea.  In the present, we join the Outsiders at their base… the topic of the day is, well, Mr. Tommy Sinclair… the corrupt ganglord!  In doing their research, the team figures one angle they might be able to use is Sinclair’s personal accountant, Mr. Eben Mudge.

Speak of the devil, we shift scenes to a young couple heading up the drive of a giant mansion.  This is Dan and Janice, the former is the nephew of Eben Mudge.  Their visit goes less than swimmingly… they try and give him a Christmas present, but he’s all “bah humbug”.  If the title didn’t already tip us off, I think we’ve got a pretty good idea where this is headed.

We rejoin Halo and Katana at home where they are in the midst of decking the halls.  The perspective in this panel looks a bit weird… either Katana is super-tiny, or their living room is the size of a school lunch room.  Gaby ain’t quite feeling the spirit, and at Tatsu’s suggestion, leaves to practice her flute.

Our next stop is Looker’s.  There’s a knock at her door… it’s the postman with a package for her… well, for her alter ego, anyway.  She opens it, revealing a note from mousy-Emily’s boyfriend, Greg… and a pretty modest looking dress.  She sobs.

From here, we shift to the evening where the Outsiders are gathered outside Eben Mudge’s mansion so they can enact their plan.  Black Lightning grips the electrified fence, overloading it and causing a blackout so the team can gain access to the grounds.  When they reach the window to Mudge’s study… okay, this is where it gets weird… first, Looker sends a note (written in Morley’s handwriting) into a book on his desk.

Then… then… as Mudge heads to his bookshelf, Katana spits a sleeping pill into his drink!

Eben returns to his desk with the copy of A Christmas Carol given to him by his old partner… takes a swig of his drugged drink… and starts to doze.

The Outsiders enter the study, and get to work concocting “act one” of their grand plan.  Looker works her mojo on the man, and when his eyes open he sees… his old partner, Harold Morley!  It’s actually Geo-Force in a mask and chains (a la Jacob Marley… oh, now I get it!  And, Mudge’s first name is Eben…eezer, d’oh!), surrounded by swirls of Metamorpho gas.  

He does the whole “you’ll be visited by three ghosts” thing.  The first of which is portrayed by Halo.  She takes Mudge “back to the past”, where he witnesses his younger self being dumped by the love of his life due to his greed and selfishness following the death of Mr. Morley.  This is all a Looker-illusion, by the way, which kinda begs the question… if she’s got such great power, why are the rest of the Outsiders even needed?  Halo sees what pain this is causing the older Eben, and questions their methods… it does seem a bit cruel to put the poor guy through this, don’t it?  I mean, he may be a crotchety old jerk, but… I dunno.

Next up is the Ghost of Christmas Present, portrayed by Metamorpho in a robe.  After greeting poor ol’ Eben, he transforms into a sleigh and delivers him to the home of his nephew Dan and his pregnant wife Janice.  They discuss how there are things more important than money, yadda yadda yadda.

From here, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come arrives… it’s Black Lightning in a cloak.  He silently brings him forward in time to his own retirement party.  A party where his employer Mr. Sinclair gives him the gift of… well, perforation.  Being of no further use, he’s shot full’a holes.

Well, since Eben isn’t, ya know… evil, this is all it takes for him to change his ways.  After he’s returned to his home, he runs to his study to call the police and spill the beans on Mr. Sinclair.  As luck would have it, Sinclair chooses right this moment to pay his accountant a visit.

Upon learning that his confidant is calling the cops, he barges in with his goon squad.  Luckily the Outsiders are still lingering about, and make short work of the baddies.  Mr. Sinclair is indicted.

We close out with Mr. Mudge deciding maybe Christmas ain’t all that bad as he celebrates with his nephew and niece-in-law (is that even a thing?).  In case you were wondering, the gift they gave him earlier was a gown.  Back with the Outsiders, Halo has rediscovered her Christmas spirit as well, and has flown off with her bell and “ski cap” which looks more like a Santa hat.

Our back-up strip features Black Lightning and Katana attempting to do a bit of Christmas shopping for Jefferson’s ex-wife, Lynn.  At that moment, we see a shaky man entering the employee’s entrance of the department store holding a Santa Claus outfit.  It appears as though he’s being forced into the situation by a creep holding his son hostage.

Jeff’s having some trouble deciding whether to buy a cheap piece of lingerie or a cheap piece of jewelry.  The salesman acts like a bit of a jerk when he asks to see something from the “budget collection”.  Elsewhere the shaky man suits up and heads into the security office… where he kayos a guard with a bottle before turning off the power.

With the power to the security system out, a goon squad runs in to rob the place.  Tatsu and Jeff head into the dressing rooms to suit up.

What follows is a couple pages of Black Lightning and Katana wrecking the fools.  The Shaky-Santa approaches Katana to let her know about his son being held outside.

They take care of the creep in the car… we get a father-son reunion, and everything ends happily ever after… well, except for the fact that Jeff still has to pick out a gift for his ex.

Welp… not my favorite issue of the Outsiders.  A pair of pretty uninspired Christmas romps… neither of which really did anything for me.

The whole first story felt, I dunno, unnecessary.  It’s established pretty early on that Looker’s powers would be all they would need to put poor ol’ Mudge through his hallucinatory yuletide tour.  Not sure why the rest of the Outsiders would even need to be present.

Also, drugging the old man’s drink?  That doesn’t seem very heroic, does it?  I mean, the Outsiders really walked the ethical tightrope here… just for some information, which I’m not even sure would be admissible.  I guess it’s lucky ol’ Eben ultimately decided to spill every last bean to the police.

Some of my favorite soap-operatic Outsiders storytelling methods are used here.  Little asides and vignettes are always welcome in this book.  We get that brief scene with Looker where she receives a gift from her lover… I enjoy things like that.  Hell, our entire back-up strip is basically an aside-vignette.

Also, as much as I hate to say it… the art here felt very rushed.  I know that these early Baxter books weren’t the kindest to art… giving a “flat” and lifeless look that wasn’t present on newsprint… but this definitely isn’t up to our usual Aparo standard.  The cover, however, is pretty excellent.

Speaking of the Baxter books… and this has no bearing on the story… but, I’ve never come across a copy of this issue “in the wild” that didn’t have some “spinal damage”… that is to say, the cover is splitting a bit at the staples.  Every single copy I find is in various states of coming apart.  It’s just this issue too… every other issue of Outsiders (and other Baxters) are just fine!  So weird.  Wonder if it’s just my neck of the woods, or if others have the same experience.

The back-up strip was… eh.  Not great but also not terrible.  I always enjoy Trevor Von Eeden, so his work here was definitely appreciated.  The story though?  I think “eh” covers it.

Overall, this is a tough one to recommend.  It’s one of the few issues of (Batman and the) Outsiders that I walk away from feeling unsatisfied.  As always though, your mileage may vary.

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