Outsiders (vol.3) #17 (December, 2004)
“Most Wanted, Part 1”
Story – Judd Winick
Art – Carlos D’Anda
Colors – Sno-Cone
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Associate Editor – Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50
Well, there’s a cover that just jumps off the shelves atcha, don’t it?
We open with a scene that doesn’t even feel like it belongs in this issue… Nightwing is relieved of his duties as leader of the Outsiders. He isn’t kicked off the team, or anything… they just don’t want him to lead them. A later chat, which also feels kind of out of place, between Roy and Kori reveals that Jade will be taking over. Roy then storms off to do… something. Not sure what it is, but it looks like the Outsiders are uneasy about it.
We jump ahead three weeks later, and join Grace and Shift (Shift was that gaseous-looking character we were all led to think was Metamorpho). They are stomping around a storage facility looking for a weapons cache… and, wouldn’tcha know it… they find one! They wind up getting attacked by the baddies… but are able to overcome the odds off-panel.
Feild-Commander Jade calls in to get their “twenty”, and learns that all’s quiet on whateverthehell front they’re currently on. Then, Grace sees a light coming from a door she hadn’t noticed. She approaches, crushes the door into scrap… and finds, a room full of children strapped to beds!
As if that wasn’t shocking enough, Grace notices that they all bare a particular brand on their lower-backs.
We jump ahead six days, and rejoin Roy who is feeding Lian some… either pancakes or dry toast. Gotta say, Lian’s got some of the worst dialogue here. It feels like an attempt toward Bendis-speak, but it falls completely flat. I mean, she refers to a classmate as a “big stupid head”. Is this real life? Do kids really say that… or is that what people think kids say? Was “poopy head” a step too far? Anyhoo, Roy receives a call from Jade, who is concerned because Grace didn’t show up to that day’s briefing.
The order of business… and this is important for my upcoming complaint… the Penguin is moving one of those drugs that gives the user superpowers that showed up in like every superhero book during the mid-2000’s (hell, even today!). Just remember that Jade has led the team on a weapons bust and a drug bust since taking over leadership.
We shift scenes to join Grace… who is beating the holy hell out of, well, some dude. She’s looking for answers on the branded kids… unfortunately, before she can get any… that “some dude” passes out. At this point, Roy shows up on the scene… and boy howdy has that Dorito crumb on his chin grown! Grace spills the beans about the kids… to which, Roy comments that Grace herself has the same brand on her lower back!
Grace share her origin… her time as a child slave. She explains that she would be strapped to a bed in between “rentals” to folks who would have their way with her. Lucky for her, her powers manifested when she was around twelve… but the others didn’t get such a break. I want you to remember this bit too. Grace was abused until her powers manifested. We’ll come back to this in the very next scene.
We shift ahead to Grace informing the rest of the Outsiders of both her findings, and her past. And, get this… Jade thumbs her nose at the idea! Jade feels like the Outsiders are “better suited for the bigger picture”. That they should leave things like child sex-slaves to the police or firefighters! Okay… here comes. Since Jade took over leadership of the Outsiders… they’ve done a weapons bust… and a drug bust. Those are part of “the bigger picture”?! Those are “too big” for the police?! What the hell has happened to Jade?!
Grace continues to plead her case… to which, Jade responds “It’s not what we do.” Putting aside that the Outsiders just used their “abilities” to stop a weapons shipment and an inner-city drug-run… let’s look at Jade for a moment. We know she’s a victim (or at least a target) of sexual abuse… and we know that, like Grace, it was only due to her powers manifesting that she was able to get away. What’s more… Jade was able to get revenge on her abuser! And here she is poo-pooing Grace’s opportunity?! The hell?
At this point Dick, who has been hanging out off to the side, decides to finally interject. He sides with Grace… he think this child slaves situation needs to be brought to the light. Which makes me wonder… was Jade okay with not even reporting this? Who in hell put her in charge? More importantly, why is she being written so ridiculously out of character?
Starfire inquires as to what Dick means… should they call the police? Well, no… not exactly. Dick suggests (as if the cover didn’t spoil it) that they turn to America’s Most Wanted. Shift thinks it’s a silly idea… and so, Dick pleads his case. He thinks John Walsh might be the best guy to have on their side… as his life’s mission has become protecting children. Plus, this would get more eyes on the situation than just going to the police. Sounds like a good idea to me… it’s almost like Dick should be leading this team or something!
Anyhoo, we wrap up with the big reveal… the Outsiders visit John Walsh.
Okay, now it’s pretty easy to look at this cover… give it a giggle, and just dismiss it as a PSA or “very special issue”… but, you really get the feeling like their hearts were in the right place.
It seems almost unfair to look at this as a “comic book” and judge it like we would any random issue of Superman… but, that’s kinda what we do here. I feel like, had this come out in the 80’s or 90’s, it would’ve been one of those one-shot freebies they’d send to schools or something… so it’s kinda weird seeing it as just the next issue of Outsiders.
From the nuts and bolts, it does kinda feel like this story might’ve been “shoe-horned” in. If we look at the opening bit… it really doesn’t look like it “fits”. It’s as though there was another story that was supposed to stem from that, but we wind up with this story instead.
Let’s talk characterization… in particular, Jade. What the hell, guys? Is she so far up her own ass as team leader that she’s forgotten just what it is that heroes do? Child sex slaves is somehow the “small stuff” they shouldn’t sweat? I mean, in a perfect world, the police could deal with the Joker without help from Batman… hell, in a perfect world, there’d be no Joker, but I think you get my point.
The mid-2000’s were a time rife with characters being written out of character in order to facilitate whatever story the writer wants to tell. I mean, this was the same year Civil War (the less terrible one) came out over at Marvel, where Mark Millar and company drove that last stake into the heart of true characterization. I feel like the way Jade is being written… so aloof and dismissive, should get her immediately removed from leadership… if not the team altogether.
You get the impression that Winick thought this all up in the shower one day… and had to find a way to keep lobbing easy “pitches” that he could then knock out of the park. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. Jade as the contrarian here… is not only out of character, but it’s also freaking pointless! Why not have her on board with the hunt for Tanner? Why not play up her inexperience as a team leader to know how to go about doing it efficiently? You’d still get Nightwing offering his two-cents, and the America’s Most Wanted tie-in.
As a comic book, I have some problems with it. With that said, I still feel like Winick and Company had their hearts in the right place when they put this together… so, ya know… no harm, no foul. The art here is… inconsistent. Not bad, but the character models change a bit from page to page… panel to panel even. It looks like Jade must be taking some bad-ass biotin here, because her hair gets one hell of a growth-spurt about halfway through the book. Though, in fairness… three weeks had passed.
Overall… is this a book you need in your collection? Well, for the novelty of a John Walsh photo-cover… sure, why not? It’s probably the best John Walsh photo-cover of a comic book you’re going to find. If you’re a John Walsh completionist, it should go without saying that you need this book. The man himself has one hell of a story… he’s turned his own personal tragedy into something incredible. For the story of this comic… well, it’s an important subject… but the way they get to it is kind of maddening. This issue is available digitally.