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The Teen Titans are on the run! After a rough battle in the Birdcave, the team has flown the coop. Robin hopes to regroup and make a better showing next time, but the best solution may be far simpler—and far worse—than he had hoped. Major spoilers about the end of this issue ahead.

More of the same—which is pretty good

The story begins, as it did last time, in flashback, only this time we get to see Damian and his cousin Mara, before the son of Batman abandoned his place in the League of Assassins and left for Gotham. Percy writes Damian-as-insufferable-jerk quite well here, making Mara’s vindictive pursuit of the Titans far more sympathetic than it did last issue: the young Robin is contending with a monster of his own creation.

There’s some good conversational dynamics in the rest of the book, and some welcome humor courtesy of Beast Boy and Kid Flash, but there’s also something I had hoped we could leave behind with The New 52:

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This sort of “they think we can’t handle it” whining happened a lot in both of the previous Teen Titans runs, and it’s tough to read. It’s one thing for young heroes to bemoan an unwarranted lack of respect—such as during the first season of Young Justice—but, it’s quite another when these heroes are either untested or have come up wanting once they are tested. I get it—Damian’s an arrogant kid, and he’s the last person who would ask for help cleaning up a mess like this. But for this moment, he’s reading more like the horribly-written Red Robin from the New 52 days.

And speaking of character problems, here’s how things come to a close:

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I understand the basic logic of this, and why Damian thinks it will save the team, but unless it’s a ruse, this just makes no sense. Joining back up with Ra’s means becoming an assassin again. After all of the excellent work done by Tomasi and Gleason to bring this character from conflicted to confidently by his father’s side, this feels like a substantial step in the wrong direction. Given that we’re getting Damian’s thoughts in the narration boxes, I have no choice but to believe that he is sincere, or that Percy is deliberately misleading us with narration. I’m not nuts about either scenario.

On the plus side, Percy’s artful, prosey narration makes a lot more sense for Damian than it did for Green Arrow back during the writer’s first run with that character. Young Master Wayne would no doubt be well-read, and so the reference to Browning’s Childe Roland works on a character level, even if the reference feels a bit forced in this particular story.

Welcome, Khois Pham

New series artist Khoi Pham joins the team this month, and his work on the opening flashback shows considerable storytelling skill.  The conflict between Damian and his cousin Mara gets most of the attention, while their grandfather Ra’s only appears in wider shots. Those wider shots are also the only ones that feature any scenery, making the close-up swordplay feel very personal. The setting in those moments is, in a sense, Damian and Mara’s private battleground.

Most folks reading this book probably know who Ra’s is, and can even recognize him by his distinctive features, but Pham’s strategic use of him in the layouts helps keep the focus on his grandchildren. Certainly, his lack of dialogue helps; however, even wordless close-ups would have made him a bigger player in this scene, so credit to Pham for a good sense of just how much we needed to see.

Pham likewise nails the action in this opening sequence. If you were disappointed at the departure of Jonboy Meyers for aesthetic reasons, then you may still be disappointed; but if Meyers’s energy was the main draw, you should find Pham an excellent replacement. Unfortunately, the plot transitions to a series of conversations for the rest of the issue, so we don’t get as much action as we might want, but at least Pham gets a chance at the beginning to show us what he can do.

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Sadly, things aren’t as commendable during the rest of the issue. With the fighting pyrotechnics left behind, Pham’s character work needs to carry more weight, but it struggles to do so. He has problems with facial consistency throughout, sometimes producing panels that look as though they were penciled by an altogether different artist. Even gestures and posture get a bit weird, and those were both strong categories in the introduction. None of it looks terrible all on its own, but it’s difficult to get immersed with all these things trying to yank me out of the story.

Some notable problems, but no story-killers

So the plot has its weaknesses, and the artwork has trouble once the story gets more intimate, but it still largely works. Fun with Gar and Wally, an excellent flashback, and a grave ending (even if it does flow out of poor character work) help keep Teen Titans afloat for another installment.

Recommended if…

  • You appreciated Jonboy Meyers for his layouts and energy, but weren’t too attached to his aesthetic.
  • You’re new to Damian Wayne.

Overall

Teen Titans #3 is a mixture of quality very much in line with the earlier installments in this series. Comic relief and gravitas distract from the sometimes questionable character work, while an overall decent outing from new artist Khoi Pham helps start things off with enough pizazz to carry a lot of weight once things slow down later on.

SCORE: 6.5/10