In Justice League #10, Aquaman met the Triumvirate of Sea Gods, an invading force which flooded the Earth. The Titans are weakened, still coming to terms with the news that their friend and leader Nightwing has been shot in the head (in Batman #55). How will they cope with the Drowned Earth, and can Dan Abnett successfully knit together these disparate storylines? Read on and find out!
In his book Words For Pictures, Brian Michael Bendis says that the most common mistake he sees in comic writers is that they prioritise the plot over the characters; ‘That’s why you sometimes see writers with a consistent listless tone to their work. Because they strangle the life out of it. Let the characters surprise you.’ This is not a problem for Dan Abnett. He’s writing Aquaman simultaneously and has worked closely with Snyder on ‘Drowned Earth’ so it seems to me that this tie-in has occurred organically. He’s asked himself, ‘What would Garth do if Arthur went missing in the middle of an alien invasion?’ He’d step up, seek out his old friends and take the fight to the invaders, of course!
Though it’s an action-packed issue, Abnett doesn’t lose sight of his cast and keeps their emotions front and centre. Garth doesn’t just need the Titans right now; they need him. For most of them, he’s providing an outlet- a chance to punch something. But for Donna, he’s the perfect confidante; he’s known Donna a long time, he knew Roy, and is aware of his death, and he isn’t part of the current team so he has an objective viewpoint (Plus, both Snyder and Abnett have realised that Amazons and Atlanteans have a lot in common; it feels natural that Arthur, Diana, Garth and Donna would be friends). Therefore, it’s unsurprising that Garth offers some excellent insight in this issue (what does surprise is me is how the rest of the Titans are unaware Donna and Garth are talking about them; they’re standing right next to them throughout!). If you found issue #27 a bit of a downer, have no fear; though issue #28 deals prominently with Donna’s feelings, the team aren’t only grieving now. It’s time to pick up the pieces and it’s clear they’ve recovered a bit as they’re quipping at each other while they kick ass again.
The bants are pretty great this issue but that isn’t the only way Abnett delivers when it comes to the Titans’ speech. Donna calls her friend and mentor Wonder Woman by her real name but calls comparative strangers Batman and Superman by their codenames; this is a lovely touch showing how Abnett has got inside her head. Raven is a cautious, quiet presence, Garfield is back to his impulsive self and I love Garth’s arch tone, which reminds me of Chris Hemsworth’s performances as Thor. Though a little too flippant early on, I also enjoyed the narration from Donna; her mature self-awareness helps spell out the Titans’ mental state (Garfield would definitely struggle in this arena) and her connection to everyone involved helps ground an issue about fish-monsters in space. When she remembers an old photograph of the original Titans in the midst of a battle, I felt a genuine surge of sorrow.
Not so much spoilers as miscellaneous observation, this week!
Maybe I’ve been reading too much Justice League Dark but it feels like gods are always attacking Earth these days. I guess when you have heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman to best, you have to pull out all the stops. This is why I think the Justice League should have a rotating roster dependent on who is available; then the threats don’t always have to be extraordinary.
What about Wally, Donna? He was your friend too!
I bet Garth is always stubbing his toes in that outfit.
This week, Clayton Henry is on art duties. Frequent readers of Titans won’t find this much of a disruption as his clean lines and large panels are very reminiscent of series regulars Peeples and Peterson. Most of the backgrounds are either sparse or totally empty but the characters look great, if a little cartoonish at times. Donna’s face is particularly expressive and I enjoyed the body language; whilst arguing with Miss Martian, Garth protectively folds his arms, while the surprised M’gann leans her head away from him. Its strange that so many alien armies are humanoids brandishing guns and swords. Nonetheless, the crowds of monsters in this issue are impressive thanks to plenty of detail (expressions, poses, shadows, scales, etc.) from Henry. The actual fight with them is shown as a series of snapshots; it’s only when Drogue arrives that the action starts to flow from one panel to the next. And what an arrival it is! Commander Drogue arrives in a cloud of smoke, on a full-page splash (no pun intended). Our viewpoint on this scene is facing him from behind the Titans, the perfect perspective for allying us with the heroes and showing us how diminutive they look compared to the invading sea god.
- You can’t get enough of ‘Drowned Earth.’ Seeing other heroes grappling with the crisis makes you feel as though the sea god invasion is having a universal effect (this issue does this, and everything else, much better than Aquaman #41)
- You don’t mind that the story is non-essential. As advertised, this is a tie-in so you can read Titans or ‘Drowned Earth’ without it and still understand what’s going on.
- You want to get the measure of Commander Drogue. This issue bolsters his legend by showing him kicking every ass in sight.
Overall: Titans #28 does a lot of things, all at once. It’s a sci-fi action romp, it gives Donna room to grow, it offers the team a chance to heal, and there’s a cheesy message in there about not living in the past. After a gruelling amount of misery and uncertainty for the Titans, it seems Abnett’s path for them is now becoming clear. The old team is dead (mostly); we no longer have the comfort of old friends. However, if this fresh, disparate team can come together and persevere, their triumphs might be considered all the greater.