This week in Titans, Dick and Donna get new coats! Also, the team are on the trail of the Blood Cult, who have nefarious plans for the Source Wall energy.

Given that the Boom Room can travel anywhere, I wondered in my review for issue #25 whether the team would ever travel outside the United States and as if in answer, this month they do; Welcome to a deserted village in Norway!

I’ve mentioned before how the Source Wall allows Abnett to introduce any concept he likes and by the same token, the Boom Room permits him to transpose the action to any environment. I think this is a great way of adding variety to proceedings. In fact, it occurs to me that Abnett, an experienced writer of books, comics and radio dramas pertaining to Doctor Who, has cleverly used some of the cornerstones that have made the Time Lord’s adventures so popular in Titans. They have a box that can go anywhere, each instalment stands on it’s own while larger arcs go on in the background and they encounter a different bizarre threat in each adventure (the episodic format of the series is excellent for new readers as every issue is a jumping-on point) . Thanks to Miss Martian, they even have an enigmatic, shape-changing alien!

Almost as soon as the team set foot on Scandinavian snow, they’re attacked by enormous blood-monsters. That means plenty of action this week, and it’s particularly cool to see the team working together so well and adapting their approach when things don’t go their way. It’s satisfying that the aforementioned teamwork is orchestrated by Nightwing, every bit the leader as he leads the charge on the battlefield and dissects events afterwards.

The book is well-balanced as the action is followed by a period of discussion. I’ve said many times that Titans thrives when the emotions of the team are at the forefront so it’s unsurprising that one of the book’s best scenes involves a heart-to-heart between Garfield and Dick. Beast Boy’s words of comfort ring true; like many of us, he starts out grasping for a positive spin to put on matters before coming to an excellent conclusion that would certainly cheer me up if I were Nightwing (I wish I were; I’d certainly love to have a physique like his).

In fact, there’s very little to criticise here. I can’t decide if the mind-link is a help or a hindrance, I have no idea why Beast Boy hasn’t been turning into animals until now and I highly doubt that Donna would use the word ‘recomposing’ in the middle of a fight but these seem very minor concerns, really. I think the only things that might bother some readers is that the Titans and the Blood Cult haven’t met yet. This can be irritating for two reasons; 1. We’re five issues into the story so the pace isn’t exactly swift if the villains haven’t introduced themselves yet, and 2. We’ve already been to the Church of Blood so we know more than the Titans, which rarely feels right.

Spoiler

A few more miscellaneous observations:

  • Ben Rubel, the guy we met in Titans #25, made his debut in Supergirl’s Rebirth adventures in 2016. Having a frightened civilian like him along for the ride highlights the extraordinary nature of the superheroes’ work.
  • Since Rebirth, I’ve found the Justice League to be unnecessarily harsh with the Titans. Strangely, they don’t crop up this issue even though an emergent event leads to 912 deaths.
  • I can’t help arguing with myself about the final scenes of the book: It’s a bit weird that there are three pep-talks following the massacre; I don’t think the dead villagers would want the Titans patting each other on the back but, it’s not the heroes’ fault as the damage was done before they even arrived.
  • I’m impressed with the number of plot-threads Abnett is juggling; Donna was vicious in issue #23 and she’s drinking during the day in this issue, M’gann is struggling to conceal the White Martian within (yes, that’s happening all over again), Raven has lost her soul-self (I’d be making that a priority if I were her), Beast Boy can’t control his powers, the source energy itself is causing trouble and now the Blood Cult are on the rise.
  • I’m curious to see whether events in other DC titles will affect the story in Titans. Nightwing is suffering a significant ordeal in the pages of Batman, and ex-Titans Roy and Wally don’t have the greatest time at Sanctuary in the inaugural issue of Heroes in Crisis.

Brent Peeples is back on pencils for this issue and I definitely enjoyed his work more here than in issue #24. There’s still the occasional sparse background, any faces further than a few feet from the ‘camera’ are indistinct (a bit like being short-sighted), and a shot of Steel flying off to rescue the others could have been epic but just looks like a crude, rudimentary draft. However, there are also well-rendered shots of M’gann crawling from a hole in a wall (complete with debris, scratches on her skin and a nose-bleed), the shiny texture and weird proportions make the blood-monsters suitably scary, the team look badass standing back-to-back while facing the bloody horde, and Hi-Fi’s colours really pop, especially the green of Miss Martian’s skin. A couple of great details you can spot on the image at the top of this review are the clouds of condensation forming as the Titans’ breath meets the cold air, and the chevrons appearing on every member’s uniform. There’s a great bit of storytelling as Miss Martian gets punched into a wall; looking at the frame, it makes sense that she would be caught off guard as the monster that hits her has already been cut in two by her heat vision so she would no longer have deemed it a threat. Anime fans will recognise the striped background as an efficient method of suggesting speed, used effectively  in this issue to show Nightwing leaping into battle. Finally, though I’ve been critical of his work on distant faces, I like the way Peeples conveys emotion in the faces of those near at hand; you don’t need me to tell you that Ben is smug, M’gann is afraid and Natasha is frustrated in the scenes below.

Recommended if:

  • You love to see a fun, intriguing team working well together.
  • You don’t mind when several plotlines vie for space and consequently move forward slowly.
  • You never really liked Wally and Roy anyway, you heartless thing.

Overall: Another fun chapter of Titans, issue #26 isn’t surprising or ground-breaking but thanks to clever plot devices, multiple story threads, exciting action and plenty of heart, it makes for an entertaining ride.

SCORE: 7/10