The Teen Titans are in a pickle. They’ve been betrayed by Roundhouse, Djinn is trapped in her ring, and Crush just wiped the floor with them thanks to Lobo being given control over her by Lex Luthor. Worst of all, they’re now faced with The Other, the figure they’ve been chasing since this team first came together. Just how are they going to get out of this one?
I’m going to say it. I liked this issue of Teen Titans. It surprised me, it answered a lot of questions, and it finally feels like this book is finding some much needed cohesion and traction. It does a lot to further plot elements that have been lingering since the story started, specifically by revealing who The Other is and what plots they’ve had a hand in. As for the reveal itself, it was someone I’d never have expected. That said, let’s hop right in and actually talk about what happened.
The start of this issue addressed many of my nitpicks from the last. The Other and Lobo talk about why there’s only a portion of the team there. During this conversation Lobo hands over Djinn’s ring, and Roundhouse is discounted as not important. His job done, Lobo goes to leave and take Crush with him. There’s a single panel with Crush, backlit in red, where you can see just how terrified she is of the thought of leaving with him. Chang creates a really great moment where you can feel her stomach drop just through her facial expression and the lighting. Crush is crucial to The Other’s plan, so Lobo leaves her behind after commanding her to not fight back.
From here the team, and story, ends up split as The Other separates Damian from the group to talk to him. This technique works well because it allows for a lot of serious conversations to happen varied ways and diverse locations. There’s not a lot of action in this issue, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a nice break from the nonstop action Teen Titans has had for a while and gives the group time to process everything that’s been going on. While having a whole book full of conversations might seem wordy or boring Glass and Chang write it well, and still include enough surprises to keep things interesting.
Roundhouse is the focus of the first conversation. After being left alone for hours he escapes from the prison and goes home, deciding he’s quit the team forever, and quit being a hero. He’s become quite the complicated character in my eyes. Where he had been used mostly as a source of comic relief early on in this run, he’s since grown into someone layered and interesting. He honestly cares about people, and has a good heart, and valued his friendship with Kid Flash. He’s also still young and impulsive which led to him betraying the team just to get them to talk, and his rash decision to trap Djinn in her ring. All of that, and more, comes out in a conversation with his mother. It’s a heartfelt exchange that gives us a clear look at his insecurities and priorities. No matter his actions in the past few issues, Roundhouse’s intentions are good.
The next set of characters I want to talk about are Kid Flash, Red Arrow, and Crush. After being captured, they’re locked in a room that is steadily filling with water. The setting lends a sense of drama and real danger to their scenes as the water continues to rise. Even with the three of them there, the focus is placed mostly on Crush. She feels a lot of guilt for what she’s done, thinking that if she’d just tried harder to break free from Lobo she could have avoided killing someone and hurting her friends. Both Red Arrow and Kid Flash are great characters to speak to her situation, and they do a good job comforting her by reminding her of their own pasts and the fact that they’re all trying to be heroes. They also work to try and break her free from Lobo’s hold. He might not still be around, but his last order keeps Crush from doing much of anything to try to help them. I really appreciated that Glass came back to this, because it gives a solid attempt at helping her. Still, I’m a bit frustrated that we don’t know exactly how Lobo controlled her. In this issue The Other calls it a post-hypnotic suggestion, but the editor’s note also says it’s telepathic it’s confusing and I would have liked a better explanation of it by now.
The last big section to talk about is the scenes focused on Damian, The Other and the identity of The Other. This is the event Glass has been working towards since the start of his run, so it takes up a large portion of the issue, woven between scenes with the rest of the team. Because it takes up so much of the book, it’s very hard to talk around the character’s identity, meaning it’s pretty much impossible to avoid spoilers. So get ready for a dive into spoilers territory.
The Other is revealed to be Heretic. I don’t think I’m alone when I say this came as a surprise. I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out who The Other would turn out to be, and come up empty each time. And never, ever, did I imagine this turn of events. It’s shocking, and done well enough this issue I’m intrigued to see where it goes from here.
The scene where this reveal happens is timed and executed really well. Change creates a four panel sequence where he cuts off his mask as he’s talking. His movements are deliberate and paired with short, specific, sentences that together build dread in your stomach. I read it with a slow dawning horror that really hit when I got to the next page and was faced with the full reveal that it was indeed the character I thought it might be. It’s a scene that works best if you’re familiar with the characters at play, but enough context, and an editor’s note, are given over the next couple pages to fill anyone who’s not caught up.
While I was shocked at him being alive, I’m a little torn over how to feel about how Heretic was brought back. A Lazarus Pit was used, and while it has been many things over the years, it’s very hard for me to accept the fact that it could bring back someone who’d been beheaded. That said, Glass and Chang do a lot to make me accept his resurrection, especially when you consider the fact that it’s his revival wasn’t perfect. The most obvious aspect of this is his terrifying appearance. His face is washed out, he’s missing an eye, his lips are off colored, and creepiest of all: it’s obvious his head has been sewn back onto his neck, set with a little speaker for his voice to come out of. He very much looks like a zombie brought back to life. It’s totally unsettling and the art team did an incredible job making it so, from the colors to the way he’s drawn, and even his speech bubbles. Secondly, he’s dying. His body is breaking down and he doesn’t have much longer to live, which is why he’s trying to pass his work along to Damian.
Heretic spends a large portion of his time explaining his reasons for becoming The Other, and trying to convince Damian to join his cause. Over the course of this run a number of characters have tried to get Damian to join their cause and have cited the fact that he’s just like them as a reason, but this is the most literal sense of it anyone could have attempted. Heretic’s main argument is one that appeals to Damian’s desire to fix crime, which is the entire reason Damian started this particular team. He also reminds Damian of his own morally questionable actions like his secret prison and brainwashing villains to change them.
I think it’s an interesting idea to pit Damian against a literal evil version of himself, but once you get past the initial shock of Heretic being alive again, this whole thing feels a little heavy handed and repetitive. We’ve seen Alfred and Deathstroke have a similar type of conversation with Damian before, and his own team has told him he’s wrong. I think this particular story would have worked a lot better if it had happened earlier in the run, or if Damian’s own opinions had changed– either for the good or bad–, if we hadn’t heard this argument before, or if he had been growing more and more obsessed with fixing crime. Any of those would have helped this offer from Heretic land more effectively. You’re mileage may vary on how good a twist this is or not, but I think Glass has created an interesting juxtaposition, and I’m eager to see how it develops in the next issue.
After that shocker, things start to wrap up as Damian must decide between joining The Other or letting his team drown. There is a conclusion that both manages to resolve things and leave readers on a cliffhanger for next month, but I’ve done enough spoiling in this review. I’ll leave that for you guys to read and parse out.
- Heartfelt conversations and teamwork is something you want to see
- You’re interested in seeing Damian face off against himself
- Issues that focus on character work over action are your jam
This is the first time in a while I’ve honestly stepped away from Teen Titans and been excited for next month’s issue. There were a lot of great things happening this issue. Roundhouse continues to develop as a character, the team is working together and supporting each other, and it’s reveal is both shocking and interesting. Glass and Chang have really begun pushing the plot forward, and a lot of points that stood out as feeling unfinished are starting to line up nicely. There’s a good feeling of momentum going forward in this story and I can’t wait to see how it continues to develop.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.