Last issue, the Justice League disbanded the Titans and Roy decided to take on Intergang all on his own. We left Roy under heavy fire in issue #19 so it’s a bit jarring to find him relatively unscathed at the beginning of issue #20 (that armour must be really good). Anyway, he’s still in a tight spot and the NYPD are nowhere to be seen. Enter Cheshire, assassin extraordinaire and another creation of Wolfman and Pérez’s from the original The New Teen Titans series. In many ways, she’s a classic femme fatale, predictable for the audience but not so for Arsenal; Roy accepts the help of his old flame with barely any misgivings, which makes me wonder if he has ever seen a movie before.
Wally and Cheshire provide all the action this issue; if you’re looking for an issue of Titans featuring the whole team suiting up and fighting crime together, this isn’t for you. I’m happy with this though; sometimes a team of super-powered heroes feels like too much of a challenge for the villains of the world to overcome and the suspense dissipates. Spotlighting a single character gives the book a chance to tackle threats other than world domination and gives the reader a break to get to know the character better (personally, my ideal Justice League series would follow the template of the Justice League: Unlimited TV show and feature a different selected roster for each storyline). In Titans #20, Abnett wisely side-lines some of the team so he doesn’t spread himself too thinly.
Roy working on his own does unfortunately throw into sharp relief the odd stance the Justice League have taken. They’ve shut down the team but they’re not stopping them working individually which just means they’ve made each member more vulnerable. The fact that Roy is working a drugs case should be particularly alarming to them given that they’re supposedly concerned about Troia’s predictions of the future (Batman and Cyborg must know what Roy is up to; they keep tabs on everyone!). Donna says something weird this issue about Roy not having a mentor like Dick and Wally which leads me to query where Ollie is and why isn’t he looking after his protégé? If ever Roy needed to talk to someone he can trust it’s now but he’s stubbornly telling himself he knows what he’s doing and throwing in with a woman he knows isn’t trustworthy. Well, people do crazy things around Valentine’s Day, I suppose.
To the surprise of no-one but Roy, Jade sleeps with him so she can steal a bliss drug sample. Whilst doing this, it seems she’s persuaded Roy to take drugs again. Often, an enemy with affection for the hero (like Talia Al Ghul) will switch sides at the last moment or work undercover for them but I think this action seals Cheshire’s fate; she’s irredeemable now and Roy surely can’t forgive her. By the way, her accomplices are the master manipulator known as Brain and his partner, an ape called Monsieur Mallah (Gorilla Grimm, Gorilla Grodd, Jackanapes…DC really do love gorillas). Kudos, Mr Abnett; I did not see that coming!
Naturally, the arrival of Cheshire is likely to cause trouble for Roy’s relationship with Donna but that’s what keeps us coming back for more; Titans always puts the soap opera element at the forefront. Our heroes feel real when they have real problems so I was delighted to find the Titans are dealing with stuff I’d associate with people of their age – friends drifting apart, long-distance romances, addiction, and uncertainty about the future all feature prominently in this issue. Of course there is a limit to how much drama a character should be put through- Wally was trapped in the speed force, then he lost his relationship with Linda, then he was diagnosed with a heart condition, then Donna chose Roy over him, and now his team are parting ways. Fans of Mr West will be feeling frustrated if his fortunes don’t change soon.
Paul Pelletier’s portrayal of action this month is full of dynamic motion, page-turning surprises and (for those who have been missing these in Booth’s absence), jaunty frame angles. Adriano Lucas’ colours dial up the romance as Roy and Jade share a meal in a coral, flowery restaurant and there’s a bedroom scene that’s coloured almost entirely in purples and pinks. My favourite art in this issue has to be the expressive faces Pelletier draws, especially the concern radiating from Diana and the sorrow and rage written all over Donna.
• You’re a fan of Roy and would like to see him managing his relationships, addiction and a whole lot of guys with machine guns.
• You like character-focussed stories and don’t mind the Titans being divided for a while.
• You can bear to see Wally doing his sad face again.
Overall: A solid start to the ‘Titans Apart’ arc, it may be a predictable issue but it moves in some promising directions and has a lot of heart.