Before you venture into Titans Annual #1, my only advice is don’t judge it too quickly. Some plot and characterization that feels a little forced initially, pays off by the end of the issue. So, if you pick up this book, make sure you read it entirely.
Let’s talk about this story. Four members of the Titans (Nightwing, Wally, Donna, and Garth) wake up with four members of the Justice League (Batman, Aquaman, Flash, and Wonder Woman) in an unknown location. They don’t know where they are, and more importantly, none of them know how they got there. Seems like a simple mystery where we get to see members of both teams join forces, right? Mmm… Kind of.
Instead of jumping into a team dynamic, we’re instead presented with drama. Before the story can even gain momentum, the featured characters start bickering with one another in a childish fashion to determine who should be the leader. The exchanges are met with grand standing, as well as demeaning insults pertaining to the Titans’ “place” compared to their mentors. It all feels petty.
After a bit of this drama, the heroes begin to brainstorm what their situation could be. I would like to say that at this point, the childish blows stop, but unfortunately, they’ve just become passive aggressive. By this point, I’ve read a third of the issue, and all I’ve encountered is panel after panel of the Titans being presented with a sense of level-headedness and unity, while the experienced Justice League members arrogantly reject notions from their younger counterparts (with the exception of Flash). Convenient, right (since this is a Titans book and all).
It’s as if the mentors disapprove of their former proteges. To a degree, that’s how the circumstances are portrayed anyway. The relationships just don’t feel natural, and I’m beginning to become irritated with how one-sided the story is to paint Dick, Wally, Donna, and Garth in a positive light, while the League is portrayed as jaded heroes.
As the story progresses further, we learn more about the threat behind these events. Our heroes are faced with multiple challenges, and as they conquer those obstacles, they begin to work and communicate more cohesively. Finally, halfway through the issue, the dynamic between these characters starts to feel more natural.
The League members’ stance and opinions are presented with more finesse – helping curb their appearance of being total jerks – as they shed light on why they are approaching the situation at hand the way that they are. Surprisingly, the more Abnett delves into this aspect of the story, the more I begin to forgive the League members for acting the way they were. Each of them were taking a stance for valid reasons, and no matter how harsh those stances seemed in the beginning, I slowly found myself shifting to their side… Holy crap! Abnett you evil genius, you!
Anyone reading Justice League and Titans can easily tell you that there’s a difference in dynamic between the two teams (and no, it’s not because Hitch has been turning out terrible scripts… but yes, that is part of it). The difference I’m referring to is friendship. The Titans are clearly friends, and you have to wonder if they friendship could potentially be so strong that is serves as a fault. Or, is their friendship the cause of the team’s success. It’s one of many questions brought up as a conversation is presented, examining this theory.
If that weren’t brilliant enough, there are pretty substantial plot points concerning Wally (or at least the League’s perception of him), and more importantly, Donna Troy. While this starts off as an ensemble focused book, Donna Troy is the character who walks away with it. The story sets up a character arc for Donna that is not only intriguing, but equally heartbreaking. If that weren’t enough, the story also introduces a villain into the mix that is tied to a separate threat… I’m just going to assume that it all has something to do with the character behind Rebirth. That catches your attention, right? I thought so!
The Art: Can we talk about Minkyu Jung’s art? I’ve noticed his work before, but I haven’t had the chance to review his art, so this was the first time that I actually looked at it with an analytical eye. Simply put, it’s incredible! I’m a big fan! He has a style that resembles Francis Manapul with a hint of Marcus To, which if you’re not keeping score, adds up to panel after panel of stunning art.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
Batman. Batman is kind of awesome here, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s his typical self in this issue, and isn’t the best at playing well with others to a degree, but is ultimately just serving as the character who is willing to ask the hard questions.
Perspective. The moment friendship was brought up as a trait that benefitted the Titans, I completely agreed – especially when Wally claimed that the League operated strictly on respect. My outlook on which team was “right” and “wrong” in this issue become less clear once some of the League’s outlooks presented themselves as valid stances. If you ever want me to become invested in a story, just throw me a dilemma such as this, where there is no clear right or wrong answer.
Donna. I’m not extremely familiar with Donna Troy, so I can’t say for certain how much of a bombshell this actually is (or perhaps it’s just a welcomed continuation of previous continuity), but the reveal that she’s not human, and was instead created as a weapon to be used to kill Wonder Woman… Sold! Give me more of this! I can’t wait to see how Donna’s arc grows and alters over time.
Arthur. Aquaman came off as a total jerk in this issue. From calling Wally a protégé, to questioning Nightwing as a leader, then throwing in the “nation ruling” bit, he came off as a real gem. There was some redemption at the end when he expressed concern about the fact that none of them actually knew Wally before he returned, but it didn’t completely change my opinion on his actions.
- It’s a Justice League/ Titans team up.
- You enjoy reading different character perspectives that are explored respectively and without bias.
- You want to learn the League’s take on Wally.
- Donna Troy fans, this is an issue for you.
Overall: Expect to be irritated with Titans Annual #1… Well, in the beginning anyway. What appears to be a mess of an attempt in bringing characters together, slowly alters and changes to form a gripping and emotional story that will have you questioning each team’s approach to working together, as well as the what might be brewing for certain characters. This is a fun, action-packed, and emotional issue that hits all of the write notes by the time you reach the end. If you’re reading Titans or Justice League, this chapter is well worth your time!