Outsiders (vol.3) #1 (August, 2003)
“Role Call, Part One: Opening Offers”
Writer – Judd Winick
Penciller – Tom Raney
Inker – Scott Hanna
Letterer – John Workman
Colorist – Gina Going
Associate Editor – Lysa Hawkins
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50
Today we’re going to take a look at the opening chapter of that other series that spun out from Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day… the one that, at least at its onset feels a lot like a Titans book should!
We open on a cruise liner in the Atlantic Ocean. The captain and his crew notice an smaller craft floating in the surf, and suggest (since they aren’t in fishing waters) that it may be suspicious. Wouldn’tcha know it, no sooner do they say this that the lights go out, and the find themselves being boarded by some hulking figures… and dead, they also find themselves rather dead.
We shift scenes to Brooklyn, New York… it’s about three months since the events of Graduation Day (and the subsequent dissolution of the Titans), and Arsenal and Nightwing are discussing the future. Roy is keen on putting together another team, however Dick ain’t feeling it. He feels as though anytime they put a crew of Titans (Teen or otherwise) together, people wind up dead. Haha… you just wait, Dick!
Roy tries to reason with him… suggesting that, whenever they put a team of Titans together, rather than forming a team… they’re building a family. He feels things might go a bit better if they acted more like the Justice League… just a team of acquaintances who happen to be the most powerful people on the planet… minus the most powerful people part. We get a pretty cute scene of Roy suggesting potential members.
Dick’s starting to come around to the idea… and starts making a recruitment plan. Roy halts him in his tracks… he’s not trying to get Dick to put together a team, he’s recruiting him for the one he’s already put together!
And so, we hop into flashback mode. First stop, New Orleans… thirty-two days ago. We see an older man being roughed up by some street toughs. While doing their misdeed, they are approached by Anissa Pierce, the daughter of Black Lightning Jefferson Pierce… current alias: Thunder (if you recall, her sister Lightning would eventually join the post-Infinite Crisis Justice Society of America).
Now, her powers aren’t quite as “stormy” as her name might suggest. She has the ability to control her density… meaning her physical hardness, and weight. One of the punks learns this the hard (pun!) way when he goes to jack her jaw.
During the skirmish, Arsenal arrives to engage in some recruiting… and, I gotta say it… this “soul patch” Arsenal really kinda skeeves me out. It looks like he’s got a Doritos crumb on his chin… really unpleasant.
Next stop… Metropolis, twenty-three days ago. We pop in on Chaney’s… a night club that attracts a certain type of clientele… that’s right, folks… it’s a Meta-Human Bar! When a Nosferatu-looking fool and a lizard man get into a scuffle, we meet the club’s bouncer… Grace.
It just so happens that she is next on Roy’s intergalactic recruitment list. Oh, and also… they used to do it. If you’re new to Judd Winick books of this era… there’s a lot of “doin’ it” going on.
Next stop… S.T.A.R. Labs-Los Angeles, six days ago. Roy is visiting an old friend who has just returned from the dead. We saw his return back in Graduation Day… of course, we’re talking about Metamorpho. He doesn’t seem to remember a whole helluva lot about his past… and his powers seem a bit “off”. This will eventually come around and make sense. It doesn’t take much for him to agree and join the team… he’s just happy to be sprung from S.T.A.R..
We return to the “now”, and we’re back on board that cruise liner. The Coast Guard begins an approach… but is blown out of the water pretty quickly.
Back in Brooklyn, Dick and Roy realize they have an annuity but they need cash now… so, they’re off to visit C.T. Wentworth. Wait, wrong guy… heckuva jingle though. Anyhoo, this Wentworth is actually a long-dead electronics magnate who was quite the paranoid fella during the “duck and cover” era… and so, he built one hell of a bomb shelter. One that Roy bought and renovated to at as the headquarters for the not-Titans.
Dick looks around, and meets Thunder and Grace… and doesn’t appear to be terribly impressed. I feel ya, muchacho. He’s suddenly alerted to a dangerous presence, and hurls a nightwing-a-rang toward the door… where it’s caught by Indigo! Remember her? Sure ya do… she was the initial “big bad” of Graduation Day. Roy informs his bosom bud that Indigo works for the good guys now… not only that, she’s also a member of their team!
Some arguing ensues, because… well, it’s a pretty contentious situation. Dick doesn’t exactly feel safe with a murdering robot from the future “having his back”, and I can’t say that I blame him. After all, if not for Indigo… Lilith and Donna would likely still be alive. Metamorpho interrupts the exchange to suggest they take a peek at one of the video monitors… and wouldn’tcha know it, it’s the cruise liner barreling into the docks… we also learn that our hijacker was… Gorilla Grodd and his army!
This aged a bit better than I thought it would. This was a perfectly fine “gathering the forces” issue… giving introductions for a new (and legacy) character, and providing a decent shift from the Titans series it sprung from.
Everything is well done, however… and this is just me personally… there’s something about Judd Winick’s writing… especially during the early-to-mid 2000’s, that rubs me the wrong way. It’s often hyper-sexualized… and comes across as pretty “empty”. Like there’s a try-hard “hipness” to it… that just feels so shallow. Also, lectures… lots and lots of lectures. It’s strange, because I loved his work on Justice League: Generation Lost during Brightest Day… but, here… all the pieces are there, but it doesn’t feel “right”. Dunno… maybe it’s just me.
I’m not too hot on some of the character designs here (though, the art itself is pretty great)… it feels like somebody who was behind the times insofar as trends concocted some of these looks. It feels like when back in the 80’s and 90’s they would give characters a bad mohawk to show they were “with it”… that’s how I view character designs like Grace. It feels almost instantly dated… if she were to make her debut a couple years before or after, she’d have to look completely different… which might seem like a silly complaint when Marvel is still trying to squeeze Dazzler into comics and make her work. Also… Roy’s soul patch… looks so gross… Doritos crumbs, man… blech.
Overall… this was more hit than miss… even a decade and a half hence. Some odd character designs, but that’s certainly not something that’s limited to this book in particular. I’d say it’s worth checking out… it was one of the foundational books signifying the changing times at DC Comics as Dan Didio was taking control, and in part helped set the tone for the line going forward. It’s been collected in trade and is available digitally.