Art by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn

King Shark! Aqualad! Awesome! The Titans come face-to-face with the terror that has been putting blood in the water, and he sure has lots of teeth. But as they track down King Shark, Jackson Hyde comes after them. Can he find a home with the team? And will there even be anything left of the team once King Shark is through? Find out in Teen Titans #7, as “The Rise of Aqualad” concludes.

Percy continues to get better

Ben Percy has demonstrated remarkable growth in his tenure at DC, and perhaps no book shows that better than Teen Titans. While I enjoyed the first arc, I had a number of complaints about Percy’s use of humor, often feeling as though he was trying too hard. But here we are seven issues in, and the dialogue is tighter, the humor more on target, and the characters feeling more consistent and identifiable than they have before. A perfect blend of comics-action-fun and Damian’s unintentionally hilarious Napoleon complex made this an absolute blast to read both times.

Beast Boy is reined in, too. He’s still funny, but he’s also a lot more likable, because I don’t cringe at every other thing he says. I feel like Percy took the wrong approach with him before—playing hard to the side of Gar that hides his insecurity beneath outrageous humor. In this installment, though, he’s allowed to do what he does best: be fun. I don’t mind exploring the insecurities, but I think we should get to know his outer self a little better first; Percy tapping the breaks on the overbearing humor makes that easier.

The text isn’t perfect, with Starfire (probably) breaking character with one line, and with the overuse of Aqualad’s new nickname (I won’t spoil it for you, because it’s actually pretty good). But my complaints are minor enough that they’re easy to overlook. I suspect most of you won’t even notice them.

Aqualad’s sexuality does get referenced briefly here, and while some of you may take offense at me addressing this at all, there are likely plenty of folks wondering how it’s handled. At least for me, I think it was handled well in the last issue (where there was a little more time spent on it), and it was again handled well this time. I don’t get the impression that Percy is trying to sell any sort of message; rather, this is the nature of the character, and that nature is apparent through some of what the character says. Whatever your worldview, I can’t image you feeling like someone’s beating you over the head with anything.

Spoiler

Am I the only one who’s made positively giddy by that last page? The relationship between Manta and Kaldur was one of my favorite elements of Young Justice Season 2, and I’m looking forward to seeing that dynamic explored here in the future. I also want to see Damian kick Manta in the helmet.

Pham gets a little help

Artist Khoi Pham also continues to grow into his role, producing better work with each issue. He gets a little help this time from the venerable Phil Hester, who handles breakdowns for most of the pages. Everything looks great, but if I’m being honest, I actually prefer Pham’s layouts from prior issues. They tend to be less busy than Hester’s—a better use of empty spaces, and more to my taste. Your mileage may vary.

Some of Pham’s facial work ends up a little funky, but it seems as though those sorts of gaffes have become less common with each successive installment, and that trend line continues downward this time. King Shark looks awesome, Beast Boy looks amazing as ever, and the action looks as good as Pham’s excellent work throughout his time on this title.

A special shout-out to editorial

If Red Hood and the Outlaws has been the biggest surprise of RebirthTeen Titans would be close behind. These were books that sagged hard in The New 52, but I now look forward to each of them as much as any other books DC is publishing. Each book is the triumph of a great team of creators, and each book is edited by Alex Antone. Even with the near-instantaneous departure of rockstar artist Jonboy Meyers, Teen Titans managed to get better, and without missing a beat. The talent surely deserve their praise for this, but so does the guy working hard behind the scenes to bring them all together and ensure that the books are as tight as they can be. My thanks to Alex for helping to orchestrate the two biggest comebacks of the last year.

Recommended if…

  • You expect Teen Titans to be fun and filled with action
  • You have enjoyed the book so far, but you’ve been waiting for Percy to back off on Beast Boy
  • Aqualad!

Overall

Rebirth has perhaps been no kinder to any title than it has been to Teen Titans. Issue #7 brings Aqualad into the fold with energy, humor, and a little bit of intrigue. The Lazarus Contract looks fun, but I’m looking forward to what Percy, Pham, and the rest of the team have in store once it’s done. If you aren’t reading Teen Titans, you don’t know what you’ve been missing—and it’s time you found out.

SCORE: 8/10