Batman: Outlaws
Doug Moench, writer,
Paul Gulacy, artist
(DC Comics, 2000)

Outlaws is a story which starts with great potential.

Following the high-profile assassination of a U.S. senator in Gotham City, the federal government authorizes a full-scale crackdown on vigilantes. An elite force is sent to Gotham to bring down the Batman and his associates: Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, the Huntress and, to a certain extent, Catwoman. The 154-page story is certainly packed with enough action to satisfy any fan.

But it misses by a wide margin the story it should have told. The leader of the government operation is a criminal himself, secretly creating major situations in order to keep his big-budget squad in the government's good graces. He's an assassin and a traitor to the highest degree, and it falls to Batman to bring down his pursuer. The government mandate as a whole fails to be convincing, with operatives using lethal and destructive force in crowded urban settings without regard for civilians -- a methodology which would not be tolerated even once, to say nothing of the numerous assaults over the several days or weeks this book apparently covers.

The book is also built upon a false premise often used by writers of various Batman tales, presuming that Batman and his cohorts are all urban legends to the majority of the population. It's a tough line to sell when Batman openly participates in Justice League activities, Robin is a member of Young Justice, the Huntress is a former JL member and Nightwing is the former leader of the Titans.

The story Outlaws should have told is the one it began with: the federal government decides to crack down on vigilantes. A story about Batman & Co.'s efforts to cope with a legitimate government operation would be fascinating; this, on the other hand, was simply a high-powered slugfest and shoot-em-up.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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