By Will Barber – Taylor
Following on from the previous edition in which we looked at Jason Todd’s first appearance, in this edition we look at the Batman’s first outing with The Outsiders and the origin of that team in “Wars Ended, Wars Begun” (Batman and The Outsiders 1 – 2).
Bruce Wayne’s friend Lucius Fox is kidnapped while visiting the European country of Markovia. After the Justice League refuses to help him, Bruce quits the League then decides to don his Batman outfit before asking Black Lightning to help him. While in Markovia, Batman encounters other super heroes, who for various reasons are in Markovia. As they face a neo Nazi, Batman must pull his new comrades together, find his friend and depose a despot.
Batman and The Outsiders is a very bold story. The idea of one of DC’s leading lights suddenly leaving its biggest team up book seems unthinkable now and even back in the 80s it did seem a bit strange. But this is where the story begins. Another bold move that the comic makes is portraying DC’s top team up group as square and out of date. Superman comes across as slightly pompous and boy scoutish, while the rest or the Justice League seem very much to be “government agents”. Indeed, later on in the book Batman comments how The Outsiders feel more like the Justice League “when we were younger, before we got so bogged down by rules”.
This is probably the secret to the success of this fairly simple story, it shows a group of interesting and likeable heroes who aren’t authority figures and get done what needs to be done instead of failing to act because they are told not to. This makes the team more enjoyable and also more accessible to a rebellious teenage audience.
The main villain of the piece, Baron Bedlam is a wonderful example of an over the top comic book villain. He is son of the former Nazi puppet of Mavaria who dethrones the monarchy (as his father did with the aide of the Nazis) and appoints himself dictator. His interaction with Batman is wonderfully done with almost comic effect, as Bedlam attempts to put on the act of being the supreme intellect before being soundly defeated by Batman.
One slightly off character moment occurs between Bedlam and Batman. After The Outsiders led by the newly super power King of Mavaria, Geo-Force capture Bedlam, Geo Force suggests that they let the “poor people of Mavaria” deal with Bedlam rather than handing him over to the authorities. So Geo Force throws Bedlam over the side of the Royal castle with Batman promptly commenting that he “likes your [Geo Force’s] way of thinking”. Aside from the fact that Geo Force probably killed Bedlam it seems rather out of character for Batman to be complicated in murder as it goes against his ethical code.
However, aside from the slightly out of the blue character change Wars Ended, Wars Begun is a great little story which sets up The Outsiders book nicely and demonstrates what The Dark Knight is like with a bit of help.
In the next instalment of The Dark Tales of The Dark Knight, we look at “The Many Deaths of The Batman”!