The Outsiders are back, and this time, they resemble the original team more than the "New 52" versions that populated the DCU in more recent years.
Their return came in June's Dark Days: The Forge #1, when the Joker shared knowledge about Bruce Wayne's dark-ops team - a group called the Outsiders, made up of Metamorpho, Black Lightning, Katana, Halo, and Geo-Force. The team got another shoutout in this week's Dark Days: The Casting.
The team is just one of several concepts introduced or revamped for Dark Days- and presumably DC's summer event Dark Nights: Metal, which unites writer Scott Snyder and his Batman collaborator, artist Greg Capullo.
The Outsiders is a familiar team for long-time DC fans. They've had their own title off and on over the years, and their inclusion in one of The Forge's scenes indicates they will almost certainly be part of Dark Nights: Metal, which would be a nice reunion of sorts for fans. But what's their past and current purpose?
As the name suggests, the Outsiders is a team of heroes who don't quite fit in with the more mainstream superheroes of the DCU. They were brought together as a team by Batman in the early 1980s by writer Mike W. Barr and artist Jim Aparo, appearing in their own title called Batman and the Outsiders.
Batman decided to form the team after the Justice League refused to help him rescue his friend and associate, Lucius Fox. The League wanted to avoid an international incident, because Lucius was in the midst of a military coup in the fictional nation of Markovia. But a group of lesser-known heroes ended up helping him with his crisis, and he asked them to stick around.
Included in that original team was Black Lightning, Metamorpho, Geo-Force, Katana, and Halo - the exact same team make-up that's featured in The Forge.
Eventually, that team began to function on its own, without Batman, and over the years has been relaunched in various forms.
In the "New 52," the comic book continuity that launched in 2011 by changing and scrapping much of DC's history, the Outsiders had a similar origin - formed by Batman to function outside the normal superhero landscape.
This time, however, the team functioned more as a black-ops arm of the international organization Batman Inc. The members of the team were different from the first incarnation in previous continuity, but they didn't stick around long - similar to the post-"New 52" fate of Batman Inc. itself.
Although the name 'Outsiders' was also used for a group of characters in Green Arrow during the "New 52," the concept wasn't the same - although it might be important that Katana was a member of that group as well.
Yet aside from the Batman Inc. incarnation, the traditional "Batman-formed Outsiders team" hasn't been featured in DC continuity for years.
Now, in Dark Days: The Forge, the Outsiders are introduced as a team that resembles the original team but has a distinctly secret mission that serves Batman's purposes.
In The Forge, which is a prequel to DC's summer event Dark Nights: Metal, the Outsiders are said to be helping Batman investigate a mysterious metal.
The issue established that Batman has been studying the "dark energy" within this metal for some time. He discovered that the energy is connected to various characters' immortality during his various adventures over the last few years.
The Forge reveals that Batman has a black-ops team working on an island within Aquaman's realm (but he didn't tell Aquaman). He's getting help from Mister Terrific to find the vibrational frequency of the "dark," but this also appears to be done in secret.
And within a hidden part of the Batcave, Hal Jordan and Duke Thomas (one of Batman's recent protéges), a new Outsiders team is introduced, this one resembling the original.
However, this Outsiders team is specifically called a "black-ops" team. They're called the "first team" - "the first of many tasked with investigating all of this" (presumably referring to other groups like the one on the island).
The Outsiders are called "a team that could move 'outside' Batman's usual realm of influence." This team of costumed heroes operates without the knowledge of the Justice League, the government or even the Bat-family. (In fact, Duke is shocked to learn of the Outsiders' existence.)
Their powers cover a wide variety of abilities: Metamorpho has the power of transmutation into various elements; Geo-Force is super-strong, can fly, and manipulates the Earth and its gravitational force; Katana is a master fighter and wields a powerful, supernatural sword; Halo generates various "auras" that give her various powers, such as flight and heat blasts; and Black Lightning, who can generate and manipulate electricity.
In The Forge, the Outsiders are said to have discovered "more hidden truths about the metals." The team will probably play a role in Dark Nights: Metal, and Snyder has indicated that James Tynion IV (who co-wrote The Forge with Snyder) wants to use the team in an upcoming Detective Comics story.