Outsiders (vol.2) #1α (November, 1993)
“Blood & Ashes”
Writer – Mike W. Barr
Pencils – Paul Pelletier
Inks – Robert Campanella
Letters – Ken Bruzenak
Colors – Stuart Chaifetz
Editor – Bill Kaplan
Cover Price: $1.75
Happy New Year’s Eve, friends!
We’re going to be doing things a little oppositty here at the blog… we’re going to close out 2018 with an “Alpha” issue, and ringing in 2019 with an “Omega” issue! That’s right, back in ye old 1993, DC decided to release two different versions of Outsiders (vol.2) #1! Oddly enough, this happened two years before the Marvel event I usually blame for the Alpha/Omega issues, Age of Apocalypse! Good on ya, DC, rolling out the irritating stunts first!
Now, it is New Years… so, we do have a decision to make. Are we going to be more annoyed tomorrow by people quoting Neil Whatshisface Tyson about how “New Years Day is meaningless” or are we going to be more annoyed by the people who express outrage at those quoters?
Makes me wonder, before we had social media… how could we so effortlessly and carelessly attempt to ruin other peoples’ good time? That’s what we in the biz call “Progress”, my friends!
Anyhoo, let’s knock this one out… I’ve got about 18 hours of Twilight Zone episodes I’ve seen skatey-eight hundred times before waiting for me.
We open in Markovia, where a vampire has decided that his next feast will be on the Outsiders. He wanders passed a cave, where he gets the attention of a rather large bear… who decides its next feast will be on the vampire. A man (who we’ll meet in a bit) watches the whole thing go down, and seems more than pleased to see the vampire get his.
The following morning, we head to a different part of the country, where a pair of fellas named Barron and Wylde are visiting in order to try and sell the Markovian Royal Family some security. They are greeted by Brion (Geo-Force) Markov… who hands over a gift as a sign of a warm welcome. There’s a bit of a hiccup here, as Barron’s assistant, Wylde slaps the package away… just as it explodes! Wylde says that it looked different from the other packages he wrapped… which would imply that they brought it with them, though here, it’s clearly Brion giving it to them.
Inside the palace, the security salesmen meet Queen Ilona… wife to Brion’s late-brother, Gregor Markov. She is wheelchair-bound, and recently gave birth to Brion’s nephew, Gregor, Jr. The salesmen show their stuff… and it’s a pretty unimpressive-looking suit. Upon seeing the suit, Brion shoots them down. Ilona isn’t pleased with being upstaged in front of the salesmen, and reams him out in the next room. She says he “contradicted her”, which I didn’t see happen… maybe that’s a scene from the Ω issue?
Anyhoo, Queen Ilona decides it might be best for Brion to have some “time away”, and he doesn’t seem all that bothered by that. After he leaves, we see that this dialogue has been witnessed by a vampire named Roderick. It’s revealed that they (Roddy and Ilona) were behind the bomb in the package… which, again, makes me wonder how Wylde noticed it? Anyhoo, they realize they want Brion out of the picture, and figure they’ll have an “accident” befall him during his time away.
We jump over to Brion as he unpacks at his Summer cottage (complete with armed-guard at the door). The place is attacked by a swarm of vampires! Brion is able to hold his own, and even winds up staking a few! Before the last one “dies”, it tells its would-be target that vampires have infiltrated the country… and it’s already too late. Brion suits up.
Back at a hotel, Charlie Barron is trying on the “Technocrat” suit, when he receives a call from his wife. The phone cuts out, and so he and Wylde decide to have a look around to see what’s up. Once outside, they find themselves pursued by bear! Wylde unloads his pistol into its gut… which doesn’t do much to slow it down. The bear rips away at his belly, at which time Wylde jabs a knife into its throat… killing it. But, ya know… he’s probably going to die from his injuries anyway…
… or is he? Enter: that dude from the beginning of the issue. We learn that this man goes by the name Faust… as in Sebastian Faust, son of Felix. This is his first appearance, so… bags and boards at the ready! Anyhoo, Faust says it isn’t too late to save Wylde, and gets to work with the hoo-doo.
The result is a disturbing amalgamation of Wylde and the killer bear. Before our man-beast can get a good look at himself, the trio are descended upon by… vampires! Technocrat is able to take them out with some electrified darts.
Back at the Castle, Roderick prepares Ilona for her upcoming appearance on Markovian television… where she will announce that Brion Markov is a traitor to their people.
Speaking of Brion, once he enters the area, he finds himself attacked by
vampires Wylde! It’s a short-lived skirmish, and they are able to straighten things out pretty quickly… like in a matter of a panel or two.
The now-foursome heads toward Castle Markovia, and digs themselves in under the walls. Once inside they meet… the rest of the Outsiders! That’s Halo, Katana, and Looker. If we wanna know how they got here, we’re going to have to check out Outsiders (vol.2) #1 Ω… which we will, tomorrow. Anyhoo, they’re reunion is interrupted by the pontification of Roderick!
He sends some vampires out… which means we get a couple of pages of Outsider on Vampire action… including holy water! While this goes down, Brion gives chase to Roddy… who leads him right into Castle Markovia’s in-house TV/Media center!
Now here’s where it gets clever. Roderick wraps his hands around Ilona’s throat… Brion rushes over to pull him off of her… just as he does, however, Roderick snaps Ilona’s neck! Now, what’s so clever about that? Well… Roderick’s a vampire, and so he isn’t picked up by cameras… which means, all of Markovia just saw Geo-Force snap the neck of their beloved Queen!
Roderick takes advantage of the shocked Brion, and smacks him around a bit before taking his leave. When Geo-Force comes to, he heads into the hallway, where he is greeted by the rest of the Outsiders… who inform him that Looker has been killed! The following day, news of the apparent assassination has spread globally!
Ya know, I talked about a choice we have to make up in the preamble… and now, I’m met with another. What’s more boring? A whole lotta vampires… or a whole lotta zombies? Luckily, that one can (and will) end in a tie.
Gotta say, up to the very end of this issue, I just wasn’t feeling it. It was written in a rather confusing way… which, I mean, we could “write off” as being fleshed out in the Ω issue. That is, if some of these boggling bits actually are! I get that this is a gimmick, and I understand why they did this… I mean, during the early-to-mid 90’s, DC figured out a way to release two #1 issues in a month (week, even!). It’s a great way to juice sales, but that doesn’t make it a satisfying read.
We can look at the torrent of Team Titans #1‘s… each with a variant origin story. Scuzzy move? Sure… but, you didn’t need to buy all five to keep up with the ongoing narrative… the origin bits were just added flavor to flesh out characters who (I’m guessing) DC assumed would be around for a long time. With this stunt, we’re losing out on half the story… and, I mean… there are footnotes saying “Confused? Well, you wouldn’t be if you read the other half of this story!” That’s kinda lame, innit?
Okay, enough of the gimmick… what about the issue itself? Markovian intrigue never really rocked my socks, but the way this one wrapped up was incredibly clever! It really took me aback for a moment there… the entire world thinks Geo-Force snapped the Queen’s neck! Really well-done, and really compelling.
The new characters we meet here are… fine. Faust, Technocrat, and Wylde… decent enough, I guess. The latter two won’t really get much play outside of this title… which might be for the best. I will say that it is refreshing to see new (non-derivative) characters introduced any-which-way-we-can though! We don’t get enough of that anymore.
I’d be remiss not to mention that (despite the Image-looking cover) this issue is drawn by my main man, Paul Pelletier! Just love his work… though, his Halo kinda looks like she should be starring in Power Pack at this point. Everything else though, is tops!
Overall… this is a bargain-bin book at this point, and one that shouldn’t be too terribly hard to track down. I always look at this volume as the “forgotten” one. It doesn’t get all that much play. I’d say this is worth checking out for the art, and the twist ending! This issue (α and Ω together in one file) is available digitally. I’m almost tempted to grab it myself to see how it’s paginated!
I’ll close out today by being just the latest person to wish you a Happy and Safe New Year. There’ll be a lotta jerks on the roads tonight… don’t add to their number!