Last month Djinn’s ring was stolen, setting off a search for both the thief and the traitor on the team. In a surprising cliffhanger, Roundhouse was revealed to be the culprit. This month he’s finally going to explain why he did it all.
The book starts with Djinn confessing her love for Robin. Things are not what they seem however, since Djinn is not in control of herself, with her ring in someone else’s hands anything she does might have truly been someone else’s command. In fact, Roundhouse is in control, and plays on the complicated relationship between the two of them to trick Damian into letting Djinn get close enough to knock him out. It’s a cruel trick, especially after the fight Damian and Djinn had over the prison. I thought that they were done after that, but this scene shows us there’s more to it, at least on Damian’s side. Even if Roundhouse is controlling Djinn, Damian’s reaction is very honest, and points to there still being feelings on his side. This is sure to further complicate their relationship since last month Djinn made it clear to Crush that she wasn’t interested in romance just yet and she’s still trying to find herself. This love triangle has been one of the most consistent aspects of Glass’s run. It feels true to what teens would naturally do when living close together like the Titans have been, and it’s provided some of the strongest character moments in the whole book, so I can’t help but wonder how this rekindling of Damian’s emotions will impact the story later on.
The book then moves on to what will take up the bulk of the page count: monologuing. Our chained-up Titans have to sit back and listen to Roundhouse detail all his reasons for betraying the team, but luckily all the answers are given in a visually entertaining way. Bernard Chang creates some alluring panels during this explanation, especially in a full page of memories relayed through panels designed to imitate Roundhouse’s distinctive uniform. It’s a great way to showcase the important pieces of Roundhouse’s past while tying it into the character’s unique style. And it’s during his speech that we learn that, a year prior to Teen Titans, Roundhouse and his sister were caught up in a fight between Scarecrow and Robin. The confrontation ended with both kids caught in the middle of an explosion, which wasn’t really anyone’s fault, but accidents happen! What happened to Roundhouse and his sister is sad, and another example of how the constant fight against criminals impacts people’s lives in ways that are often unknown.
The flashbacks that are used for both the explosion and Roundhouse setting up the prison break are illustrated to have a more realistic feel to them than the rest of the comic. Chang does this by giving things a grimmer tone that’s less like the bright, comic book style he usually uses for Teen Titans. He creates more detail and texture in the scenes by adding more lines to his art, so that you can see all the crinkles in Scarecrows clothing, and the knobs of his knuckles, to help further bring these panels into a place of feeling realistic. Maiolo’s desaturated colors further help add to this effect. The change is so drastic I actually stopped reading and went to check artists on the title to see if there were two this month. It’s effective and eye catching, and works perfectly to make these few moments stand apart from the rest of the backstory going on in the issue.
Once we’ve learned Roundhouse’s excuse for hating Robin, Kid Flash voices what I (and I’m sure a number of you) have been wondering: was this all a plan for revenge? Is Roundhouse truly evil? I’ve got to give it to Glass here because he easily could have used this as a villain origin story, and made this all about Roundhouse being out for revenge, but he doesn’t. Roundhouse has more depth than that. He is a good kid at heart who took a terrible situation and used it to become a hero instead of a villain. He accepted Kid Flash’s offer because he saw hope in it, and a chance to do good. Even when he found out that Robin was part of the group, Roundhouse stayed true to the team. It was only after he found out about the secret prison that he decided to show everyone who Damian truly was, setting off both the prison break and the theft of the ring.
It makes a lot of sense, and still allows Roundhouse to be a hero. One who’s hurting, and reacting to something he sees is wrong. He’s made some mistakes in how he’s gone about trying to get the team on his side, but he’s still sympathetic. I appreciate this because I was worried Glass might take him down a more cliche road, and I really didn’t want that for this character. He has a lightness and an air of fun that I’d hate to see all that snuffed under the cloak of darkness. In a nice twist, he gets to be the one to point out that what the team is doing is wrong, and that they are the bad guys here. It’s something I’ve been saying since day one of this book. It’s about time one of the team said it.
In addition to all this, the team even starts to have a discussion regarding what Roundhouse has been saying about the prison and the brainwashing Robin has had Djinn doing. At this point, almost everyone pitches into the conversation. We finally get to see how Crush feels about this whole plan, and hear from Red Arrow in a team setting. The consensus is that no one’s happy with it. This is something I wanted to see happen two issues ago when they revealed that they were brainwashing people. I’m still not sure why everyone went along with the plan, but at least they’re now willing to say how they feel about it. They even start to discuss what to do in order to change how they’re dealing with criminals! I only wish we’d gotten a bit more of it before things took another dive. It’s short lived as Damian manages to say something both totally wrong and button pushing to set Roundhouse off into a tantrum that ruins all the character and team work that’s just been done.
He traps Djinn in her ring to “take someone away from Robin”.
This bothers me for a number of reasons. First of all, it continues to tear the team apart when they seem to be barely holding together as it is. No one seemed terribly upset with him for doing what he did, and in fact people were starting to listen and come together as a group and talk about how they can be better. That momentary camaraderie feels pointless in the face of Roundhouse trapping a team member. It’s a very divisive thing to do, because Djinn isn’t simply close to Damian, she’s also close with Crush, so he’s hurt half the team with this one move. No matter how sorry Roundhouse might be I find it hard to believe he’ll be forgiven as easily for this as he would for kidnapping everyone to get them to listen to him.
It also took all my sympathy for Roundhouse and threw it out the window. Up until this point he’d been working mostly to change things but this was a move to hurt for the sake of hurting someone. This also doesn’t feel like the Roundhouse we’ve seen before, even if he’s reacting because of the loss of his sister. He’s not a child, and Djinn isn’t one of Damian’s toys he could break, and yet that’s exactly what this scene felt like. Maybe I’m being a bit critical of a childish action, but when you give me a book dealing with mature themes like this one has, I’m going to judge an immature action for what it is.
It’s frustrating to have the team finally start talking about how they deal with criminals only for them to start fighting each other again. I mean, why make Roundhouse go through all this trouble to kidnap everyone so they’d listen if things are just going to fall apart once they do? It feels like we’ve taken five steps back for the one forward. If you want me to care about these characters both individually and as a team, I need to see them in moments where things are going well or where they’re working together. You can’t have a team book where the team is constantly being torn apart.
Their fighting ends with Crush stomping out in a fury, with Red Arrow on her heels trying to stop her. Once they’re outside we’re treated to that bright green symbol that’s popping up in every book this month, promising a Year of the Villain tie in. That tie in re-introduces Lobo as he’s finally taking advantage of Lex’s offer. I’m not really excited for this upcoming arc because I feel like it’s interrupting a lot of what’s already going on, and I don’t want to see more chaos when I just want the team to work out their problems. I hope I’m wrong, and that Glass uses Lobo’s interruption to bring the team back together.
- You’re curious about Roundhouse’s full backstory
- Roundhouse’s betrayal of the team has been eating at you
- You’ve wanted someone to say what the team is doing is wrong
Teen Titans did some good things this issue. For all the insanity it took to get them there, the team started to talk about how they’re operating, and some grievances were aired. Roundhouse’s backstory was heartbreaking, and his reasons for trying to out Damian were understandable. Unfortunately, the book still isn’t taking the time it needs to in order to allow these things to breathe or grow, it’s instead jumping straight into a new crisis. Hopefully Glass continues the line of this story through Lobo’s re-entry and doesn’t let the Year of the Villain tie in detract from what he started this issue.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.