Outsiders #1 (November, 1985)
“Nuclear Fear, Part 1: Beginning With a Bang!”
Writer/Editor – Mike W. Barr
Artist – Jim Aparo
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Cover Price: $1.25
Hey, I hear tell that we’re going to be getting another Batman and the Outsiders volume in the coming months. Figured, why not go through some more Outsiders #1’s’s’s’s.
After a pretty neat fold-out page featuring the Outsiders in their new West Coast locale, we hop over to a discussion between a Professor Wye and a shadowy Doctor Shanner. They’re talking about the dangers of nuclear power. The doc tells her to imagine what would happen if a nuclear explosion went off in Los Angeles.
He goes on to explain how the mushroom cloud is really just the beginning… there’s also that fallout to worry about. Wye doesn’t need much “selling” on the idea… she’s well aware of the concept of Nuclear Fear. Together they’re wanting to shut down the Esperanza Canyon Nuclear Power Plant set to open that weekend. After Wye takes her leave, the Doc introduces us to his “Nuclear Family”.
We shift scenes to the Outsiders new digs, off the Santa Monica Coast. Inside they’re reminiscing over the “good old days” where they were just the back-end of “Batman and…” Jefferson regrets having bad-blood with the Bat, but really… whattayagonnado? Then, Looker saunters in and suggests they toast their new home… and even allows Halo to engage in some underage drinking (much to Tatsu’s dismay). After getting a bit tipsy, they get down to business. Wouldn’tcha know it… they’re talking about the Esperanza Canyon Nuclear Power Plant too! Only, they’re just hoping everything goes off without a terroristic hitch.
The next day, we visit with the team as “civvies”. Gaby and Tatsu are sharing a house on Stone Canyon Drive, Rex and Sapphire have a place in Marina Del Ray, and Brion is staying at the Markovian Consulate. Meanwhile, Looker is keeping herself busy “trancing” a big modelling agent into giving her a gig.
We jump to Sunday… the day the Nuclear Plant opens. Halo is pretending to be an anti-nuke protester to better fit in. Black Lightning senses a whole lot of electricity in the vicinity… coming from the direction of that odd “Nuclear Family”. He dismisses it though, suggesting he just got a “vibe” from the daughter’s boom box. Katana, Metamorpho and Looker are around back checking the place out. Brion, as a Dignitary, is getting a guided tour of the facility.
We hop into the security box, where Professor Wye appears to be manning the gates. She dictates her book on fear into a tape recorder, however, is interrupted by… some folks dressed like they’re up to no good, who just happen to have the right codes to gain entry.
These goofballs run right into the Outsiders… and it doesn’t work out so well for them. After Metamorpho makes them look like fools, Looker trances them into both falling in love with her… and fighting with each other for her affections. Professor Wye tries to contact them… but, doesn’t get any reply.
Nearby, that Nuclear Family makes their way to a pretty poorly-hidden secret hatch, and they let themselves in to the Plant.
Their presence is immediately noticed… and the Plant goes into defense mode.
This really riles up the folks lingering in the area. The protesters are sure that this is a sign of the end-times… the place is about to go boom! It doesn’t, of course… but we’re really playing with the concept of fear here. How fear makes us think, and act. Inside, the Nuclear Family break into the Nuclear Core… and, uh, soak up the juice!
The Outsiders show up just in time for a face-off with the Family. After a brief (and careful) struggle, Halo locks’em in a stasis aura. It’s here where they learn that the members of the Nuclear Family… well, they ain’t breathin’!
They take the Fam back to base, and introduce them to Doctor Jace (rhyme!). She deduces that these characters aren’t human… they are, in fact, automatons.
The Outsiders would really like to meet the maker of these bots… and Looker has an idea on how they might accomplish that. They… uh, let the Nuclear Family go! It looks like Mama Nuke has been left behind… but, I could’a sworn I saw her leave too! Hmm…
We head back to Dr. Shanner’s place, where he and Professor Wye are talking about everything that went down at the plant. Wye is upset because they were never supposed to damage the joint… just threaten to! At this point, she is introduced to the Nuclear Family.
She immediately recognizes them as the same folks in a photo on Shanner’s desk. He explains that these were members of his own family… taken from him by nuclear poisoning. The very same nuclear poisoning he himself is currently suffering from!
He continues, and elaborates on his plan. They’re not just going to threaten the public… they’re going to blow up Los Angeles! There is an audible gasp in the room… coming from Mama Nuke. Uh-oh.
Turns out “Mom” is actually Looker in disguise. She attempts to trance the Doc… but gets clobbered from behind before she can. We wrap up with the threat of a nuclear Los Angeles on the horizon.
Probably not my favorite issue of Outsiders… and also, probably not the one I’d have used to launch a new volume. It really doesn’t feel all that much like a “showcase”… which, I dunno… I think “New #1’s” kinda need to be. Hell, these days… it isn’t unusual for a “New #1” to be Part 2 of a story… so, maybe I should just leave well enough alone!
This is a story playing upon very real fears of the day. It might be hard to imagine for younger folks, but we were (or at least I was) scared of nuclear war back in the 80’s. Not sure if stories like this were part of the cause… or just a reaction, but… the fears were real. It was a different kind of fear… I was just a youngling at the time, but… this was something I couldn’t count on my parents to “fix”. We were all powerless against it.
Let’s talk that Nuclear Family. There’s something… I dunno, unsettling about idyllic 1950’s Americana, ain’t there? Not so much scary… but, I’m always left thinking that there’s something dark just below the surface… and in this case, I’m right… because these characters are robots with the express purpose of making Los Angeles go boom!
I appreciated the way Doctor Shanner sorta-kinda used Professor Wye. He let her use those masked goofballs… knowing that they were only going to be a distraction, only there to facilitate the Nuclear Family’s passage into the Plant. Now, Wye is in too-deep… she’s kinda stuck sleepin’ in the bed she made.
Overall… not a bad issue, just probably not the one I’d have launched a new volume with. The art suffers a little bit from the Baxter paper… but, we’ve been over that before.
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