Teen Titans/Outsiders: the Insiders

New Expanded Review

By Geoff Johns, Winick & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-247-6
Once upon a time superheroes, like firemen, sat around their assorted lairs or went about their civilian pursuits until the call of duty summoned them to deal with a breaking emergency. In the increasingly sober and serious world after Crisis on Infinite Earths, that precept was challenged with a number of costumed adventurers evolving into pre-emptive strikers…

After the deaths of two Teen Titans, Arsenal convinced the heartbroken Nightwing to run a covert and pre-emptive pack of self-professed “hunters”: seeking out and taking down metahuman threats and extraordinary criminals before they could do harm …

Nominally the fourth Outsiders collection this tome is also technically a Teen Titans graphic novel, as a case involving the kids overlaps and crosses over with the covert hunters’ latest disaster as originally seen in Teen Titans #24-26 and Outsiders #24-25 and 28…

This edgy chronicle is set in the slow and ponderous build-up to DC’s Infinite Crisis crossover event with lots of long-running story-threads pulling together ready for the big bang, and the tense tale contained herein collects a shared storyline that began with ‘The Insiders Part 1’ by Geoff Johns, Matthew Clark & Art Thibert, from TT #24, wherein Superboy, who had always believed himself a clone of Superman, discovered that part of his DNA was Lex Luthor’s – just as a deeply embedded psychological program activated, forcing him to mercilessly attack his fellow Titans.

With Wonder Girl, Cyborg, Kid Flash, Beast Boy, Raven and Speedy out of action the severely injured Robin desperately contacts the team’s mentors, but the Outsiders have a few problems of their own…

‘The Insiders Part 2’ in Outsiders #24 (by Judd Winick & Carlos D’anda) opens moments after the embattled team – Nightwing, Arsenal, Shift, Jade, Grace, Thunder and Starfire – have discovered that the innocuous Indigo (a robotic being from the future who travelled back to our time and inadvertently caused the death of Omen and Donna Troy) is in fact the deadly artificial invader Brainiac 8, with her affable cover personality finally subsumed by the cybernetic monster within. Her mission has always been to ensure the future dominance of the planet Colu by assassinating key Earth heroes and re-configuring the time-continuum, and now the time has come…

The battered heroes unite in the third chapter as Lex Luthor and the first Brainiac rendezvous with their corrupted pawns. With a wave of robotic automatons reprogrammed by the former Indigo massing to attack humanity, the Titans once more confront Superboy in a cataclysmic battle…

Despite being painfully outmatched, some vestige of their comrade still remains and they narrowly survive, whilst Brainiac 8’s conversion also seems less than total and she alternatively taunts and begs the Outsiders to kill her if they can…

The crisis culminates when Superboy at last turns on Luthor, and a heartbroken Shift finally acquiesces to his former lover’s pleas and destroys Indigo in a manner only he can…

In the aftermath a key member quits the outsiders whilst in ‘Soul Searching’ (Johns, Tony Daniel & Marlo Alquiza from Teen Titans #26) the restored Conner Kent ponders his recent actions and agonises over whether a test tube hero with the genes of the World’s Wickedest Man has any right to happiness or any spark of the Divine, before mystic Raven offers him a shred of redemption, whilst from Outsiders #28 ‘Letting it Go’ (Winick, Clark & Thibert) shows the individual survivors each commemorating their lost comrade Indigo in their own unique way

In case you’re wondering: issues #26-27 were a fill-in tale starring Batman and the original Outsiders and are neither germane nor included here…

Riotous, rocket-paced and compellingly poignant, this engaging Fights ‘n’ Tights thriller reset and repositioned both series for the cosmic shenanigans to come and, whilst not perhaps the sort of tale to tempt a casual reader, will certainly delight any devotee of Costumed Dramas.
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