Last issue, the Titans abruptly vanquished Psimon, Mr Twister and the Key, broke the spell controlling Gnarrk and Mal, and Donna Troy somehow punched Troia back to the future. Time for a breather, then. Last issue promised ‘Next: Titans vs. Justice League’ which is kind of what you get in Titans #19 if what you imagined when you read that tagline was a lot of childish bickering.
Half of the issue revolves around Arsenal chasing down Intergang drug dealers while occasionally calling Donna on the phone, building on his recent profession of love to her via a conversation with her evil doppelgänger from the future. I’ve never been a big fan of Roy’s but I did enjoy this section- Though I always miss Brett Booth’s pencils when he takes a break from Titans, Paul Pelletier handles the action brilliantly here. A lot of artists leave gaps in their fight scenes and expect you to imagine what happened but in this issue’s opening brawl, its easy to trace the movement of Roy and the criminals from one large, clear frame to the next. Also, he pins some thugs’ hands to a wall with his arrows, which is pretty cool (you’re probably used to this kind of thing if you read Green Arrow but I don’t so I’m not).
Its also a nice change of pace that he’s not taking on a supervillain. Perhaps the most notable moment in Roy’s history was his battle with drug addiction in 1971 and Troia predicted in the last arc that this is a battle he will eventually lose. Consequently, Roy takes the fight to some Brooklyn-based drug dealers in an attempt to prove he won’t become the Roy of Troia’s future. Once the last thug is subdued, there’s an intriguing moment when Roy picks up a handful of drugs and scowls at them. I don’t think I’d like a rehash of old storylines so I don’t want Roy to relapse but the idea of Troia’s predictions coming true is an interesting one. A lot of time travel stories deal with the idea that attempting to change the future just causes time to fight back in an unexpected way- that every change we make is just a ripple in the river while the current remains intact.
The other half of the book is the aforementioned argument and takes place three days earlier at Titans Tower. Roy and Garth both point out that Batman dresses them down like a bunch of children, which is pretty uncomfortable, but Batman is usually hard on his fellow crime fighters so I shouldn’t be surprised (As ever, Diana takes a more gentle approach which makes me wonder why she didn’t take the lead in this meeting). How did the League find out about Troia? It turns out Nightwing told them, though I’m not sure why- maybe to warn them in case she returns?
Batman does most of the talking here- Everyone is to blame for the mistakes made on the Titans’ last mission and he doesn’t pull any punches in telling them this. It does occur to Wally and Dick that this is total hypocrisy and I think this might count double for us as readers, especially if you’re reading Justice League at the moment. The matter of the team’s public perception comes up though I don’t remember the public being present for the last arc. I was reminded of the PR disasters that befell the League in The Villain’s Journey arc- that was much worse! This also leads to a larger question- should vigilantes care what people think of them? They’re already criminals. I suppose if you’re a team of friends with a headquarters in Manhattan that changes things.
The matter is eventually settled by the team leaders, Batman and Nightwing. Bruce still doesn’t give an inch- his mask stays on and its clear he’s disappointed in the former boy wonder. I felt so sorry for Dick in this scene, which I guess is the idea. Just as in a real argument, Bruce throws a cherished memory back in Dick’s face by recalling the time in Justice League #51 (coincidentally also drawn by Pelletier) he told him he was good enough to lead the Justice League. Selina really needs to calm that guy down.
I don’t really think Donna will become Troia one day- its not logical. For a start, there are plenty of other immortal heroes in the DC universe to keep her company. However, I do agree that Wally shouldn’t be in what Batman bizarrely calls ‘active service.’ As he explains, one accident could change history. Speaking of Wally, two of my favourite frames from the issue are below. Pelletier’s pencils suit the heavier tone this issue; Booth shines most when he’s drawing a cartoonishly lithe figure like Wally in action. Andrew Hennessy’s colours are muted where possible to transmit the gravitas of the situation (the heroes are brightly coloured but as they decided to wear their costumes for an argument, there’s no avoiding that) and I especially like what appears to be a hazy sunset over Manhattan creeping through the Tower windows.
Poor old Wally. At least he’s versatile.
- You’ve always dreamt of the Justice League and the Titans having a big, sometimes petty, family argument.
- You’re a completionist and would like to see how Dan Abnett is setting up the next arc.
- You’d like to read an issue Wally doesn’t die in.
The decision the Justice League and the Titans come to feels to me like a contrivance for the sake of a future storyline so by extension so is this issue. Abnett and Pelletier haven’t wasted an opportunity for some old-fashioned family drama (which has always been a part of Titans and Teen Titans) intercut with a bit of satisfying action but I doubt anyone will be remembering this issue wistfully or re-reading it for fun.