Monday, November 30, 2009

Outsiders #24

Those of us old enough to remember the era when DC's Teen Titans was a genuine rival in popularity for Marvel's mighty X-Men franchise will no doubt recall the story of Terra Markov. The former Titan, who sold out her teammates in a partnership with Deathstroke and ultimately paid for it with her life, has risen from the grave wearing a black ring and sought out her brother, the current Outsider named Geo-Force. So has death's cool embrace calmed her erstwhile spirit, or is she the same traitorous scamp as a zombie?

This is the kind of thing I've always had trouble coming to terms with about DC's classic cast of characters. They've always seemed so quick to forgive, forgetting a lifetime of betrayal when confronted with just a modicum of questionable remorse. But as fate would have it, it seems that such tendencies annoy this issue's writer, Peter J. Tomasi, just as much as they've bugged me. Does Terra meet a completely hostile reception upon her arrival to the Outsiders' HQ? Nope. In fact, her brother goes out of his way to embrace that longstanding stereotype, welcoming her with open arms and immediately taking everything she says at face value. The rest of the squad, however, appears less willing to buy into her grand story of retribution at the moment of reanimation.

Not that Terra doesn't make a convincing argument. She tugs away at sensitive heart strings, begs her brother to save his lost sister's soul, to the point that even the most unforgiving reader might find a hint of promise in her words. But despite her knack for saying the right things, Terra doesn't find a lot of compassion in Owlman. He's the much-needed voice of reason, saying what most readers are probably thinking and doing his best to keep the squad from following their emotions into a potentially dire situation. The conversation that surrounds Terra's return is a tough one, without an immediate revelation about which side of the argument is in the right. It does a lot to establish the team as a group of distinct personalities, not to mention fight back the age-old label of DC's heroes as overly sympathetic fools.

Fernando Pasarin's artwork does its job admirably enough. He doesn't get a lot of exciting material to embrace in the majority of this issue, as it's largely dedicated to character moments, flashbacks and heated discussion, but Pasarin still manages to keep its pages interesting. His style is very technical, perhaps a bit lacking in vigor, but it's got character and his obsession with minute detail is a healthy one. On his one chance to impress with a super sized two-page spread near the book's conclusion, he makes sure the wait was worthwhile.

As has been the case with both major publishers' major events of late, I'm really starting to get tired of the lengthy setup stage of "Blackest Night." It seems like second gear is becoming increasingly difficult to find in these massive, imprint-spanning epics, and Outsiders #24 is just another symptom of that disease. It doesn't do anything wrong; in fact, it's done everything that's been asked of it and still managed to come out with a solid standalone story with strong personal ties to the team. But at some point, enough is enough and it's time to shit or get off the pot. This isn't essential reading whether you're following the crossover or not, but that doesn't mean it's without virtue. Borrow it but don't expect to get too involved.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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