It’s nature versus nurture! Aqualad faces the horror of his lineage, but he’s not alone. The rest of the team scrambles to his aid, but will it be enough to foil the determination of the deadliest helmet in the Seven Seas? Find out in Teen Titans #11, as “Blood of the Manta” comes to an end! SPOILERS AHEAD. AVAST!

The Blood of the Manta is cold

As much as I love Young Justices second season—especially the dynamic between Aqualad and his evil dad—I must say I prefer Percy’s take on their relationship thus far. I trust we’ll eventually get to the more confident Jackson/Kaldur that we saw in the show, but I appreciate that this iteration of the character is being shaped by his father, and I think the way Manta plays with his son’s impressionability works well. Perhaps the vulnerability that we saw in Young Justice lies somewhere beneath the surface, and I would love to see Percy explore it in the future, but it was the right call to eschew sentimentality in these early stages. Let Aqualad see how messed up Manta is and grow from that, then let him entertain thoughts of redemption in the future.

The rest of the book? It’s actually really good, too. Other than some awkward dialogue around Kid Flash, the team dynamic once again works out very nicely, both in and out of battle. Beast Boy’s humor—which can go either way—hits the mark this time, and having Starfire take the lead seems to be a good choice. She’s physically capable, sure, but her age and experience make her a more fitting choice for a leader, and she clearly has more control over her emotions than Damian does.

Best-looking issue of Teen Titans in years

The team of Hester and Pham really hit their stride this time. Hester’s breakdowns have become a bit roomier and easier to process, and Pham’s lines have never looked this good on Teen Titans—an improvement that I suspect may be to the credit of inker Trevor Scott. Charalampidis’s colors are exquisite, particularly when we’re underwater, and he likewise handles the various energy swells—from Manta, Jackson, and Starfire—with great skill. This issue is almost entirely action, but the battle never drags, because the artwork is near-perfect. Hopefully this particular team stays together for a while, because I feel like we’ve finally found the sweet spot.

Another solid arc in the books

Teen Titans isn’t the best book on the stands, but it’s a solidly entertaining one. Other than a few rough spots, Percy writes relationships well, and he’s a great fit for this title. The artists likewise seem to get the delicate balance between light-hearted fun, serious action, and emotional resonance that a book like this requires, and they’re really delivering on all of those right now. For my money, it’s books like this one and Red Hood and the Outlaws that have benefited most from the Rebirth reset. Instead of drowning in convoluted stories and overbaked reality show drama, they have focused on interesting character relationships and stories that are simply enjoyable. Not every title has to explore gargantuan crises or the meaning of human existence. Teen Titans promises an exciting story and a good time with memorable characters, and it delivers almost every issue.

Recommended if…

  • Black Manta!
  • Aqualad! With powers!
  • Even though you like Damian, you recognize he’s a little turd and Starfire’s a better leader anyway!

Overall

Teen Titans #11 closes out “Blood of the Manta” with very strong showings from Manta and his son. Percy writes the villain as cold and ruthless as he ought to be, and beginning Aqualad’s story in reaction to such a father should provide fertile ground for complex character growth in the future. The team dynamic works well, and the artwork is first-rate—maybe the best Teen Titans has looked in years. Whether you’ve been following along since the beginning, or you’re just now taking notice, Teen Titans #11 is a great finale to a very solid arc, and you owe it to yourself to check it out.

SCORE: 8/10