Ben Oliver’s cover for Titans #30 really rubs it in your face, doesn’t it? At the beginning of Rebirth, Titans was one of the most promising titles, tying in closely to DC Universe: Rebirth and featuring a loveable group of heroes whose history together made them feel like real people. The quality of the series remained high until the original team’s final arc, a hit-and-miss story that failed to tie up all the loose ends.
Next we got the new team; a group of strangers brought together by the DC Universe’s friendliest boy next door, Dick Grayson. Titans Special #1 was a promising (if unnecessary) new start which introduced us to an exciting roster of flawed heroes. Then Tom King shot Nightwing (via KGBeast) and murdered Wally and Roy. I have no idea what Dan Abnett’s original plan for the series was, but it seems to have suffered ever since, going into a wayward, depressing spiral.
From Titans Special #1, his job should have been to win over an audience likely concerned about the new direction. Instead, the disparate new team has gone from one tragedy to another, messing up every opportunity along the way. Every time I pick up a new issue, I expect the team to reach a turning point and become interesting characters with meaningful interactions and successful acts of heroism. Titans #28 seemed to be the issue I was waiting for but it was just a red herring; by Titans #29, the gang were back to being a neurotic mess in need of a plot again. Titans #30 isn’t an entertaining read but I can once more feel Abnett trying to steer the ship back on course (By issue #31, maybe we’ll have the series we’ve been hoping for but will anyone still be reading it by then?).
Titans #30 throws us straight into the action from page one. I appreciate this; we don’t need pages of exposition inserted purely on the off-chance that a new reader has picked up an issue halfway through a storyline. The miserable thought captions that plagued issue #29 are also mercifully absent. The fight itself is suitably dramatic and unorthodox, and, thanks to Jung’s pencils, mutated combatants Miss Martian and Beast Boy look dangerous and horrifying throughout.
The story also has a bit of heart. M’gann and Donna solve their problems with kind words and empathy as much as with their actions, and you can’t help but feel sorry for the ‘monsters,’ Miss Martian and Beast Boy, especially when Jung draws them wearing pained, anguished expressions. We’ve seen M’gann’s secret come out on the page and screen before so there’s nothing original or shocking here, but it’s still a treat that she’s more open and communicative with the team than she has been in the series so far; finally giving in to her emotions lends her lines some much-needed weight.
Although she doesn’t transform into a monster, this is, in some ways, Donna’s issue. Unfortunately, she’s incredibly inconsistent again. As with Titans #28, Donna resolves to be the backbone/leader that the team urgently needs. However, elsewhere this issue she also shouts ‘I have had it with this $%$& team!’ and yet again informs us that the team has ‘fallen apart.’
She also delivers an unnecessary re-cap of the series so far (I did something similar at the top of the page but I like to think there was some purpose behind it. You can call me a hypocrite if you like). This is just one of many pages this issue that feels like padding; Beast Boy and Miss Martian each make an overlong speech, while two and a half pages are spent reminding us that Raven has lost her soul-self.
Raven also suffers an injury to her leg this issue. I don’t know why Abnett makes a point of telling us this; I’m pretty certain there will be no long-term consequences. Abnett doesn’t have a good track record of following through on ideas, as exemplified in this issue. Miss Martian was alarmed when Ben Rubel discovered her secret but he can no longer use this information against her because all of her fellow Titans now know it. Meanwhile, the reason the Titans encountered Commander Drogue and escaped to the planet of half-formed plotlines is that they were gathering crucial reconnaissance data for the Justice League, who have since managed to persevere without their aid; ‘Drowned Earth’ is now over.
In fact, as I predicted in my review for issue #29, the storyline as a whole had no stakes or consequences. It transpires that the Titans aren’t afraid of the White Martian, and that Steel can repair the damage Beast Boy has done to the Boom Room.
Minkyu Jung remains on art duties for this issue. Apart from the vision-distorting use of a digital blurring effect, I find the action scenes to be pretty epic; Garfield’s jaw contorts in response to a punch from M’gann, whose forked tongue flaps wildly as her psionic blasts tear up the earth around them. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m not blown away by Jung’s backdrops but the characters generally look great. Some of the distant heroes are given indistinct features, but otherwise this issue is packed with emotional expressions, appropriately humble body language (there’s a lot of apologising this week) and, thanks to some excellent collaboration with Lucas and Hi-Fi, the final page sting makes for a cool, well-illuminated splash of a fan-favourite character. Plus, even though the Unearth section is pointless, Jung delivers a creepy, detailed camera zoom through the landscape and into the cell Raven’s soul-self is being kept in.
- You want to see Miss Martian and Beast Boy (briefly) unleashed!
- You’ve forgiven Abnett for the never-ending funk the series has been in and can read each issue in a vacuum.
- You’re here for Donna’s rich range of expressions!
Overall: Abnett abruptly blows his subplots in the most skippable Titans story yet. If this is your first issue of Titans in a while, you might enjoy it; the action is cool, the team are finally frank with each other, and it’s a handsomely drawn comic. Though for anyone who has been following the series, the aborted ideas, recycled affirmations and disappointing pay-offs will likely leave you somewhat bitter.
Disclaimer:DC Comics provided Batman news with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.