This month the Teen Titans get a new start. Lobo has been taken care of (at least temporarily) and the secret prison isn’t so secret anymore, so what happens next?
The Teen Titans have been busy since they came together as a team. In addition to searching for The Other and trying to get a handle on crime in their city, Robin and Red Arrow set up a secret prison to keep captured villains in as they attempt to stop the revolving door that is the typical prison system. Recently they tangled with Deathstroke, an affair that ended in the prison being revealed to the rest of the team, and in Red Arrow shooting Slade through the eye apparently killing him. The fallout from this was interrupted by Lobo, crashing in after taking a hit on the team.
We pick up after this confrontation ends with Lobo being trapped on the moon. After Luthor makes an offer to Lobo, the story jumps forward one month. At first it doesn’t seem like things have changed a lot. The team, sans Red Arrow, is still out taking down baddies and stopping crime. It all feels very normal. Which is a bit unsettling after everything that happened previously!
It’s jarring to see the team working together so well, even with Damian’s aside about no one talking to him outside of missions. I expected at least one more issue where they were trying to sort out everything that happened, and going into this, I was ready to figure out what they were going to do with the people in the prison.
Too bad the time jump just glosses over those details. It feels like the issue is missing critical conversations about the prison, what to do with the villains inside, and how to deal with both Robin and Red Arrow now that their secret is out. Not to mention the fact that Emiko killed Deathstroke. These are huge developments , and there’s no time given to a real discussion about it. The events taking place just seem like another normal day for the Teen Titans.
It’s not until the second half of the issue that we learn what happened to Emiko and the prisoners. Even then, it’s presented as an afterthought. Why skip these conversations? It doesn’t feel fair, especially seeing how willing the book is to let the teens argue.
Discussing Emiko’s actions, as well as how to proceed with the prisoners, would have given our heroes a chance to come together and act like a team in a way that’s not just about fighting or taking down villains. Damian might be their leader, but it is a team, and input from each of them is important. Especially considering their history.
The big arc of Glass’s Teen Titans run has been an exploration of what to do with villains when both turning them over to the authorities and killing are not options. He’s exploring how someone can be good but make tough calls to create lasting change in the world, and if you can still be considered good leading this type of change . It’s an interesting thing to explore, and something that could provide both tension and conflict in the book, especially with the cast of characters in Teen Titans. In order to best make this happen, the book has to let us into the characters’ heads more often.
At the end of this issue we find out just what decisions the team has made…
When we see Emiko and Damian talking, we learn she’s pulled herself off the team and left them. This really surprised me. She was so firm in her assertions that she’d done the right thing earlier… I don’t know much about her character outside of this book, but I can appreciate that she’s doing something to make up for what she did. I don’t see it being a permanent leave, especially with Damian still acting like she’s a part of the team. But I do appreciate that it happened.
As for the question of what to do with the prisoners, the answer is is to have Djinn alter their minds so they don’t remember who they were and are now contributing members of society.
I’m not totally sold on anyone being okay with this decision, and specifically not Djinn. I can see her doing this once, like with changing Lobo in the last issue. At that point, Djinn had to choose between the people she cared about and dealing with Lobo. Now? I’m not so sure those same ideas apply. And what about the consequences she mentioned? What is the cost of all this?
And while it’s an interesting step, I still believe that it should have been given more time in the text to be explored further, especially since the decision revolves around Djinn.
She has made it very clear, in this issue and previous ones, how she feels about freedom and free will and those who take that away. The solution they’ve picked seems to take that very crucial character trait and toss it out the window. It continues the idea of stripping freedom away from the villains that she’s spoken outwardly against before. It’s the whole reason she’s angry with Damian.
I’ve also got a problem with Damian’s role in this. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve been against the secret prison story from the start. Damian’s not a character I’d see participating in this type of scheme. If I were to accept him trying something like this, I would have needed a lot more groundwork story wise before we jumped into the prison.
The fact is, Damian chose to change. He’s said this many times. He’s even said it in Teen Titans. Damian picked the path he is on now, and turned away from what his mother taught him. You could even argue that he’s choosing his own path away from Batman’s teachings in this comic. The point is, he made a decision to be better. It’s because of that, I have more problems with Damian directing the actions of this issue than I do with Djinn carrying them out.
Finally, there is the question of what Kid Flash, Crush, and Roundhouse think about all this. How are they okay with this plan? Where was the discussion regarding them? I doubt Damian and Djinn are hiding what they’re doing. The team knows about the prison and what Damian was doing with the villains they caught, there’s no way they’d turn a blind eye to what’s going on. Unfortunately, because this reveal was left for the end of the issue, we’re given a surprise instead of satisfactory answers.
Despite some shortcomings, there’s a lot going on in Teen Titans beyond the prison. We’re reminded of The Other. A chunk of text is also dedicated to Damian and Emiko discussing what has happened, mainly Emiko’s place (or lack thereof) on the team, as well as hints of a potential traitor within the team.
My gripes about wanting things different aside, I think Glass did a good job balancing the issue. It’s broken neatly into fourths: Lobo, the team, Red Arrow/the traitor, and the prison answers/The Other. Each piece itself seemed okay, though I’d say the team moment in the beginning didn’t feel like it added much to the story, as much as it felt tagged in to make sure everyone showed up.
Sean Chen is the guest artist on this issue. I think his pencils flow nicely and are fairly close to what Bernard Chang has been doing so it’s not a bad shift. Chen has a softer touch on characters, and makes the kids really look like teens. His action is easy to follow in the fight scene, and things never get muddled even with explosions and figures flying through the air. He gives Lobo some great facial expressions in lieu of physical motion that really shows readers how he’s dealing with his situation.
Damian and Emiko’s walk in the park could have felt boring for the amount of discussion going on, but Chen gives us a number of nice scenes. It has energy to it, and movement as they actually walk through the park. He creates some nice images of each of the team members as they come into conversation that really show them off in his style.
I particularly loved how he made Robin look imposing when facing down Mammoth and Shimmer. I think one of the most unsettling scenes of the book for me is Robin taking the elevator back upstairs. It’s enough to say, this new plan is still bad and something worse is probably going to come from it.
Overall, I really enjoyed Chen’s work on the book this week, his strong grasp of the characters and ability to keep the action going even in quiet scenes was wonderful to experience.
- You want to know what happened to Lobo
- Kids dealing with moral conundrums is your cup of tea
- You don’t mind waiting on all the answers to some big questions
Glass has a lot of story threads he’s trying to juggle, and I’m afraid it’s just a few too many. The traitor, the Other, the prison, the team as a whole, and Lobo are a lot to keep up with, and I really wish he’d settle on one or two things at a time to work through and actually tell that story instead of dragging things out as long as he has. This issue wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t nearly what it could have been. The story is moving forward, and does seem to be heading towards some interesting arcs and plot points, but I’m losing faith that it’s going to do it well or treat the characters right to get to that point. Hopefully I’m wrong and the further we get into this series, the clearer things become.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.