Outsiders #14 (1986)



Outsiders #14 (December, 1986)
“The Looker Murder Case!”
“Starting Over”
Writer/Editor – Mike W. Barr
Artists – Jim Aparo & Mary Wilshire
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Cover Price: $1.50

Halo… has braces?!  Now tell me, what soulless heathen could pass up a story like that?


Not me!





We open cold with a scene of a man with a knife plunged in his back.  The Outsiders are investigating the scene… while Looker is behind bars.  We’re not there yet, but we will be!  But first… something far, far, farrrrr more important.  Halo… gets braces!



Tatsu and Gaby walk throughout the mall, with the latter doin’ the whole “woe is me” deal that many teen-agers would in the same situation.  She refers to herself as “Gaby Doe: Robotgirl”, and runs off threatening never to go back to school again.  Is she really the only High Schooler with braces?



We shift scenes to the offices of Carl Cramer.  He’s stolen a photo from Looker’s apartment which confirms that she’s really the mousy Emily Briggs.  He’s been hired by a Mr. Dumont… but, he says he doesn’t have to tell him anything… so long as Looker “plays ball”.  This proposition earns him a smack in the face… followed up by some hypnosis.  After she leaves, we hear a scream coming from his office.



The next day at Canyon High School… a pair of young ladies try and chat Gaby up… but she ghosts them.  We know she’s just self-conscious about her brace-facedness, but they’re taking it as she’s being a stuck-up snob.



That night, Gaby is so distracted that she’s forgotten that tonight is her Birthday Party!  The Outsiders all show up, gifts in hand, to celebrate.  Gaby is still a bit uncomfortable about entertaining… until she sees the stack of presents, which she giddily opens.  Just in case you forgot when this book came out… check out her loot!



Before it’s time for cake, Rex makes a boneheaded remark about Gaby forgetting all about her metal-mouth.  This, naturally, gets her blushy… and she scampers away.  Just then, there’s a knock at the door.  It’s an officer, with a warrant to arrest Looker for the murder of Carl Cramer!



Down at the station, the officer deduces that Looker did the deed because… get this, Cramer was building a model ship… a Brigantine… and Looker’s real last name is “Briggs”, so… they take this as a clue.  I’d like to know what Police Academy this guy graduated from… was Steve Guttenberg there?  Jeff (Black Lightning) doesn’t quite know what to say… but he and Brion agree that the safest place for Looker is behind bars… because, clearly… someone is trying to frame her.



And so, it’s time to investigate.  Gaby and Tatsu head to Warren Kennels to chat up one Belle Warren.  Belle ain’t the most hospitable host… and fires a rifle in their direction.  When they finally get to question her… she agrees that she has a cause to kill Cramer… and actually she wishes she had… only, somebody got to him first.



Next, Rex heads to the apartment of John Rupert, an Accountant.  While Rupert sleeps, Rex goes through his belongings… including a metal box.  Upon opening it, an alarm goes off… which wakes its owner.  Rex confronts the fella… who, comes clean… about embezzling.  Ya see, he once ran with Cramer… but has since gone clean.  Even going as far as changing his name to distance himself from his past.  Satisfied, Rex leaves.



Finally, Jeff and Brion head to an (all-night?) Discount Watch shop owned by one Phil Melton.  Melton confuses the heroes for members of Infinity, Inc. and tells his story.  Yeah, he had reason to wanna “off” Cramer… but he didn’t do it, see?  Not completely convinced, Geo-Force and Black Lightning leave.



Congregating at Cramer’s office, the Outsiders tap into Looker’s telepathy to fill her in on everything they found out.  Allowing her to “see” through their eyes, they ask her to tap into her photographic memory and tell them if she notices anything different.  She notes that there had been a ship’s bell… only, it’s missing now.  Everyone (sans Gaby… and me) have figured it out!



We rejoin the team back at the Police Department where they present their case to the officer.  If the killer took a “bell”… might it be Belle Warren whodunnit?!  Well, no… that’d be too easy, and almost make sense.  In fact, it as Phil Melton the Discount Watch King… because, get this, bells are used to tell time on ships.  Ay yai yai.  Oh, and also… they found some blood evidence linking him to the murder, which will probably hold a bit more water in court than “a tchotchke was missing from his desk”. 



We wrap up with Looker breathing her first bit of fresh air in 24-hours… and latching onto Brion so they can confront that Dumont guy.  Gaby still doesn’t wanna go to school… but, whattaya gonna do?



We’re not done yet, folks… it’s backup time… starring Windfall.  Who?  Well she was a member of the Baron Bedlam’s Masters of Disaster alongside her sister New Wave.  She’s since had a change of heart… and finds herself in a small village in Markovia, the site of one of their earlier raids.  She swipes some clothes in order to fit in with the locals…



… and walks right into a young fella named Nikolas who is on his way back from a day of hunting.  He claims that there is a bear terrorizing the village, and he was out trying to take care of it.  They hit it off immediately, and he invites her to his place so his mother can fill her belly with a hot meal.



We learn here that Nik’s father and older brother were killed in the battle with Bedlam… which makes Windfall feel kinda bad.  They invite her to spend the night, however, she finds it too difficult to sleep.  She suits up and heads out.



She comes upon a group of hunters (including Nikolas)… and gets clobbered in the back of the head with the butt-end of an ax.  Before we know it, she’s tied up to a stake, and just about to be roasted.  Windfall is able to extinguish the flames with her powers… but she knows she won’t be able to keep it up.



Just then… that bear shows up!  The hunters scamper, knowing that the beast will take care of their little witch problem.  Windfall is able to break free, and after a distraction from Nikolas, the bear finds itself impaled on the stake.



We wrap up with Nikolas telling Wendy that it’d be best if she left… next time, he’s not sure he’ll stick around to help her.





Okay… this was a “cute” story, I guess.  I had fun with it, but can’t help but notice how strange and convenient the whole thing was.  I mean, the whole mishagoss is predicated on the murdered dude (who apparently loves puzzles!) having a model ship on his desk.


Something I’m confused about… primarily because, coming in (relatively) cold, I lack the context.  If people (like the arresting officer) know that Looker’s real name is Briggs… than what was Cramer’s secret?  Just the fact that she looks different as a civilian?  I suppose that’s enough… but, I’d figure it wouldn’t be too difficult to connect the dots if you know her real name.  I dunno.


Our three suspects… all had reason to wanna “off” Cramer, which is fair enough.  Not sure why the… ya know… Police didn’t follow these leads, but whattaya gonna do?  I guess they really thought the “brigantine on the desk” was enough to prosecute.  So dumb.


As was the conclusion.  A bell tchotchke missing from Cramer’s desk indicates that the Discount Watch King dun did the deed?  The hell?  This assumes that Melton even knows that a ship’s bell indicates time.  Of course, it’s all moot since they also have the blood evidence… which, really… is all they needed.  Not sure why we needed to confuse things with the knick-knacks.


Also… Halo gets braces.  It’s these sorta-soapy elements that always keeps me coming back to the Outsiders.  It’s not quite as soapy as New Teen Titans or the X-Men… but, we do get really neat “civvie” moments like this for the team members.  I mean, we also get Gaby’s birthday party… which was a lot of fun, and also really brought me back to the late 80’s!


One problem I have… and this really goes for all of the early-ish Baxter books.  The paper doesn’t really do the art any favors.  Here, Aparo’s work looks more like it would fit in a newspaper strip than a comic book.  Not horrible or anything, just not up to the standard set by his non-Baxter work.


The back-up… was what it was.  It’s the story of reflection… and the concept of redemption, and it made its point.  Art here was pretty good… though, I’m sure (like Aparo’s) it would have looked better on newsprint.


I appreciated that Nikolas had a sort of crisis of conscience.  He remained to help Windfall with the bear… but, wasn’t sure he’d “have her back” next time around.  Makes perfect sense for a guy who had been affected by her former villainy.


Overall… like I said, a cute issue, but kind of a throwaway.  Still worth checking out, in my opinion… especially if you’re into some soapy-superheroics.  This issue is available digitally.





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  1. I always felt the braces thing was a cop out, they had been building up that Halo had some bad health news and finally the reveal was braces? Did they see a dentist after the Nuclear Family mess?

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