Titans Special #1 introduced readers to a new team with a new mission; this month their trials begin with the action-packed Titans #23!

If only they had a catchier battle-cry…

Because the focus of the issue is on the mission at hand, not every character gets time to shine (e.g. Nightwing is just the one-note Leader) but we’re given enough information to get a good sense of who each of the Titans are; the in-depth characterisation can come later. Unlike the previous line-up, this is not a team of friends which means the reader can get to know them as they get to know each other; there’s no need to read back issues to understand their relationships (I also like that it’s a predominantly female line-up; it’s a rare move for one of  DC’s major team books). There’s already friction between Dick and M’gann but rather than slow the book down for a debate, Abnett wisely embeds their argument in a single frame of pre-mission flashback.

There’s even time for differentiation between the team telepaths; Miss Martian is cold, calculating and principally utilizes her abilities to psychically connect the team (elegantly conveyed in green-rimmed panels and thought bubbles. I’d love to see this faculty used tactically in a tense situation when facing a villain) while Raven is kind and uses her empathetic powers to track, read and calm emergent metahumans (Unfortunately, she does also give us a huge dump of unnatural exposition which is totally unnecessary if you’ve already read Titans Special #1).

I was a little thrown to find Donna Troy delivering quips this issue. She’s been one of the moodier members of the Titans lately so this seemed really out of the blue; however, it is realistic. People are multifaceted and even those with the gloomiest outlooks can surprise you with a day of levity (for some it’s even a way of masking their pain, which could be what Donna is doing). We also get a glimpse of her brutal side, suggesting that perhaps the Troia storyline hasn’t entirely run its course. I guess if Abnett wanted a completely fresh start, this series would have begun again at issue #1 like Justice League. I like the idea that some of these old plots might be waiting on the back burner for their moment as it means Titans #1-22 had a lasting impact. Plus, successfully juggling multiple storylines is a sure-fire method of winning over a sophisticated readership. Two of DC’s most popular books right now are doing it but are also paying a price- Scott Snyder’s Justice League has neglected the heroes so far (we haven’t even been properly reintroduced to John Stewart and Kendra Saunders yet) and the plot of Geoff Johns’ Doomsday Clock moves along by inches because there are a lot of threads to revisit each issue (though multiple plots mean you’re more likely to find one you’re intrigued by in an issue). Overall it’s a positive thing but there are pitfalls to be wary of.

Spoiler

A few more items that caught my attention:

  • The monster the team fight this issue is immune to all of their powers. This isn’t an encouraging start for a team hand-picked by Nightwing specifically to face this threat!
  • The monster in question is a generic, hulking devil-like creature. I’d like to see more originality in superhero canon-fodder; I feel like every other issue I pick up has something similar.
  • Was Donna Troy’s shield always so small? I feel like it’s shrunk so much as to be impractical!
  • No supervillains turned up in this issue. That’s a good thing in terms of pacing and maintaining supervillain mystique but the Titans can’t just fight emergent metahumans every issue. We’ve been promised Brother Blood and he even mentioned other worlds (in Special #1), which would be a fun new direction for the team!
  • To kind of paraphrase Hannibal from the A-Team, I love it when the DC Universe comes together! Tyler (the disturbed young metahuman on the cover) should be sent to Tom King’s Sanctuary (see Heroes In Crisis)!
  • The issue ends very abruptly with a three-panel tease for #24. I haven’t seen this technique in a long time so it really confused me this time around but I guess we’ll get used to it.

Beast Boy looks suspiciously happy in this scene…

The main cover is pretty cool but, thanks to a simpler composition, Stjepan Sejic’s variant is even better!

Brandon Peterson is used to team books and emergent metahuman powers; he’s better known for his work on X-Men. His visuals are clear and striking, though I’m not crazy about his sparse backgrounds (there are notable exceptions like an opening vista of New York which must have taken ages to draw) or an odd, unique layout in which the boom room arrives inside a sound effect. His is not an organic style – the shading is far too regular to have been done by hand – but emotion is well conveyed in the characters’ faces (plus, unlike Sejic’s piece above, Peterson’s work makes it clear that Raven is younger than her fellow Titans, with an impish little head and upturned nose).

Peterson loves looking up noses!

Recommended if…

  • You like comics with a good balance of triumph and tragedy.
  • You like series with a lot of storytelling potential.
  • You like nostrils.

Overall: A solid start to the new arc, Titans #23 is action-heavy but has good character moments. It’s not quite special yet (we’re only two issue into the new direction, after all) but Abnett has the cast and skill to make it the Titans Rebirth series the fans deserve.

SCORE: 6.5/10