Teen Titans #21 review

Damian continues his warpath against the villains of the DC Universe, and this week, he brings the Teen Titans toe-to-toe with Gizmo!

Adam Glass’ run on Teen Titans has been a bit of a mixed bag so far, but mostly, it’s been good. The “mixed bag” stems from a range of tones presented, as well as a widening classification of genre. There’s an inherently darker tone brought forth from characters like Damian and Emiko, but then the rest of the team embodies a much more lighthearted presence.

This month’s issue is told from the perspective of Roundhouse, a new character that is easily the most juvenile of the team. Now, when I say juvenile, I don’t mean that in a bad way. He has a young heart, and since he’s new to this superhero gig, everything is epic and grand to him. The reality of this lifestyle still hasn’t completely set in, so he views the Teen Titans – and heroics in general – as something that’s fun… And guess what? It is fun!

That’s something we need to be reminded of from time to time. Comics are meant to be entertaining, so there should be some fun infused from time to time. Not all comics need to be fun, nor do they need to be fun all of the time, but if you have a bunch of kids saving people, I feel it’s warranted. The only problem I can find with the fun aspect here is that other readers might find it off-putting due to the book’s previous tone.

Before this issue, we viewed the narrative from Damian, Emiko, and Wally’s perspective. Of the three, Damian and Emiko’s outlook is darker, while Wally’s honestly just feels jaded and full of misguided angst. He’s a teenager with a chip on his shoulder. What do you expect? But of those three, we now make a drastic shift to Roundhouse, and on top of that, a villain in Gizmo. Needless to say, the change can feel jolting if you’re not prepared for it.

Most of the fun aspects are shared between Roundhouse’s outlook and the Teen Titans’ encounter with Gizmo. The sheer silliness of parts of this issue is enjoyable, but I do wonder if the audience that would really appreciate this take is still around… And more importantly, are the people that are currently reading the book due to the promotion of it’s darker subject matter open to anything other than doom and gloom? We’ll have to wait and see.

The action found in the issue is entertaining enough. Each of the heroes get to make a play at Gizmo, but if I’m being honest, the threat is mostly contained within the first ten pages of the book. A new conflict is introduced immediately after this, but it doesn’t necessarily read or play well. When the Teen Titans are forced to deal with a bomb that’s set to decimate an entire building, the narrative begins to spin its wheels and fall apart. Rather than letting the bomb serve as enough drama, Glass decided to infuse melodrama by creating conflicts amongst the team.

Now, to be fair, there’s reason for the bickering, and Glass addresses this point by the end of the issue, but that doesn’t mean the interactions are executed well. If I were to describe pages 10 – 16, I’d have to say its “petty, millennial melodrama.” For the most part, the dialogue doesn’t read well and the characterization feels off – some of our heroes opt for letting people die for crying out loud – and the issue itself begins to slip quickly in quality.

It’s not until page 17 that we finally get a really interesting development. In fact, the entire issue regains its footing and races for a finish! By the end of the book, not only did I feel satisfied, but I’m anxious to read the next issue.

Djinn and Roundhouse steal the spotlight for this issue – a welcomed and needed focus that will allow readers the opportunity to connect and buy into these new additions. The book also ends on a “cliffhanger.” I used quotes because I feel the outcome will be obvious, but who knows? Maybe Glass will pull the rug out from under us and shock us all… He did it with Suicide Squad after all.


Djinn treats us to the most interesting character development by revealing that if you wield her ring, then you are her master. Beyond that, her powers are limited unless she’s in service to a master. In this issue, she allows Robin to become her master so they can disarm the bomb tied to Gizmo. While the moment itself is quite standard, the potential of stories that can be told in the future because of this development is endless!

As for Roundhouse, you’re either going to like his personality or you won’t. I think he’s fun to a degree, but he really wins me over in this issue by showcasing his heart heroic nature by potentially sacrificing himself by allowing Crush to launch him into space with the bomb, saving thousands of lives. Will he die? Probably not. If he does… Damn. He totally didn’t call his mom.

The Art: Bernard Chang adds a youthful feel to this book, and I think it helps to create balance within the narrative. I know some people will prefer pencils that embrace realism, but Chang’s work adds a certain energy to the book that is needed. He’s also a great storyteller, and when the script bogs during the middle of the issue, he illustrates it in a way that encourages you to turn each page.

Marcelo Maiolo accents Chang’s pencils perfectly with his colors as well. Page after page, we’re treated to panels full of vibrant color. When I first saw the design of some characters, I was hesitant. I thought they looked a little hokey. Now that I’m seeing everything in context, they work incredibly well together. The energy of Chang and Maiolo’s efforts create a dynamic presentation that most likely won’t receive the appreciation it deserves from casual readers.

Recommended if:

  • You’re looking for a lighter, more fun tone in Teen Titans
  • You’re intrigued by the developments established in previous issues.
  • You want to learn more about Roundhouse and Djinn
  • No, really, you want to learn more about these two

Overall: Adam Glass delivers another solid issue of Teen Titans. While the script isn’t perfect – in fact, it bogs quite a bit halfway through before finishing on a high note – it still serves as a satisfying read. Roundhouse and Djinn provide some great developments that continue to add texture and layers to the arc, while Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo seal the deal with dynamic, engaging art! If you haven’t given Teen Titans a proper chance, then you need to rethink that decision. If this creative team has proven anything, it’s that you only think you have this book figured out!

SCORE: 6.5/10