There’s an important moral to this story… Don’t order pizza from a place with “Fish” in the restaurant name…
When you break it down, Titans is a solid book. I always enjoy it, but I’m beginning to become somewhat indifferent with it. Surprisingly, I feel that Titans has the opposite problem of most books being published by DC at the moment. When I read comics, I tend to feel as though the writers spend most of their time focusing on the plot, and then as a result neglect characterization and character arcs. So, I find it interesting that Titans appears to be all character work, and very little plot.
When reading, I typically lean towards character driven narratives, and love to explore the complexities of people as they encounter various scenarios. I also come from a belief that if you can write interesting, complex characters well, then that alone can carry a story. Because of this, you’d assume that I like Abnett’s work on Titans right now. But… That’s not necessarily the case.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying though. I love what Abnett is doing with our heroes. Each character has a gripping story running through the comic, and I’m genuinely invested in learning where each of these arcs will lead. Nightwing has his deal that he made with Deathstroke. Donna is dealing with the reveal that her entire history is fabricated. In addition to that, she’s caught in a pseudo love triangle with Arsenal and Flash – while the latter is dealing with his own personal trauma now that he has a heart condition following ”The Lazarus Contract.” Omen learned that a member of the Titans will betray the team, and fears that it could be her. She’s also been hiding the extent of her power. Then, to round things out, you have Karen and Mal. Mal gave up his powers for Karen. Meanwhile Karen discovered she now has powers, but it came at the cost of her memories… The only character that doesn’t appear to have any crazy baggage at the moment is Garth. He’s just embracing a budding relationship with Omen, and that’s about it… Or is it?
Getting a spotlight for the first time, we learn that Garth too has skeletons in his closet when the Trident comes from Atlantis to take out the “land dwellers.” So how is it? Honestly, it’s just more of the same. We get another issue, with another “shocking” character reveal, wrapped up in a one-and-done plot that isn’t that satisfying. We’ve now had three back-to-back issues that follow this format. Four issues total if you include the annual (which I loved), and five issues if you consider “The Lazarus Contract” since the only worthwhile aspect of it was the aftermath… With this perspective, it’s clear that there’s potential to explore a number of interesting elements, but the wheels are just spinning.
If I could watch each of these characters simply struggle and deal with these problems, and get nothing else, I’d probably be happy. This is a super hero comic though, so as much as I’d love to see a bunch of people sitting around, having incredibly engaging conversations, you have to find a way to throw in some heroics. I mean, let’s face it, you’re not going to sell any comics that only feature a group of heroes having conversations. You’ve got to throw in some punches, booms, and bangs (those are all technical terms). Unfortunately, the stories in the last few issues of Titans feel more like an afterthought than anything else.
I wish Abnett were telling an actual team arc to encapsulate these individual character arcs. This approach would help cohesively drive the book forward, while each character arc is handled naturally within its own time. It would also create a build in tension and suspense for the title that matches the same tension and suspense the characters are feeling amongst themselves. These one-and-done stories create too much of a start and stop pacing that clash with what the characters are experiencing. Even when the stories are good (Titans Annual #1 or Titans #12) there are only so many times you can follow this formula before it begins to feel tired. Throw in a weak narrative – for instance, a group of Atlantians trying to poison humans and kill the Titans by poisoning pizza – and you’re book is sure to start sinking.
Unfortunately, with this chapter, it isn’t just the narrative that’s weak. Garth’s story and reveal also falls short – especially when comparing his situation with every other characters’. It actually feels as though someone said, “Well, every other character is struggling with something, so Garth should too. Come up with something, and just throw it in. I don’t really care what it is, just do it.” And quite frankly, that feels cheap. To make matters worse, the Titans spend the entire issue bickering with one another. With all of these festering emotions, fears, and accusations building, Abnett could have delivered a poignant unraveling, but it all comes across as petty. The domestic troubles read more like an episode of Jerry Springer than anything else… And no matter how entertaining Jerry Springer was at times, this isn’t a compliment.
The Art: I’ve enjoyed Brett Booth’s art since the beginning, and that remains true here. In fact, I’d say that Booth’s art is actually the highlight of this issue. The storytelling elements of his art continue to be strong, as do the technical aspects of his pencils. There’s also a fun element to his work that fits a kinder tone of the characters that comprise Titans, so the script benefits in many subtle ways. The only thing I’m not crazy about concerning the art is the layouts. The overuse of long, narrow panels can get quite annoying at times.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
Turning to some specifics, there are only three moments worth talking about in detail.
First, I’ll cover Garth’s reveal that he knows magic. Maybe this actually is shocking and I just don’t realize it, but the whole, “Now you know everything” reaction before storming off felt WAY over dramatic. I mean, is it really a big deal that he knows magic? The team knows enough about his past that they should assume he knows magic, right? I found all of this to be rather flat.
[caption id="attachment_42808" align="aligncenter" width="768"] Despite my opinions on the narrative, this page is outstanding![/caption]
Nightwing vs Lilith. At the end of the last issue, Nightwing accused Lillith of being the mole. Granted she accused him of being untrustworthy in the issue before that due to his promise to Deathstroke, so I guess they’re even. Anyway, despite the accusations, they’re bother quite understanding of the other’s stance in this issue, and I can’t decide whether it’s respectable or weird. I’m going to side with respectable… but it is a little weird.
Nightwing: Agent of
Spyral H.I.V.E. This shouldn’t be shocking if you read solicitations. Despite knowing this, I still found the final page incredibly confusing. Are there supposed to be two Nightwings? Is that one Nightwing a visual symbol of his presence in the H.I.V.E. psychic link? I’m just not certain what’s going on here.
- You’re invested in Titans.
- You want a Garth-centric story.
- Mmmm… Pizza!
Overall: This chapter of Titans continues a disappointing trend downward, and that’s a shame considering Abnett has set each character up with an incredible personal arc. Unfortunately, over the past three months, he’s slowly shifted the book from one full of complex relationships to one that feels like a battle between the characters to determine which of our heroes has the worst, most dramatic life at the moment. If I wanted that, I’d watch reality television.