Last month we found out that The Other is really Damian’s clone, The Heretic. Now that he’s offered Damian the chance to become The Other and fulfill his desire to fix crime, will Damian choose to join him, or stick with his friends? As for the rest of the team, how will they react to Roundhouse’s sudden reappearance?
I’m going to be critical about this issue, but don’t let that make you think I hated it. It wraps up plot points, has strong character moments, and when I finished reading, I was excited and hopeful. My problem is that this issue is the culmination of a year’s worth of story and plots and, despite the good it does, it’s ultimately underwhelming.
The story is split again between the separated team members, but changes things up a bit by introducing Djinn back in. It’s nice to see her again since she’s been totally missing for a couple issues, and I like how Glass reintroduced her. Her re-introduction also helps add to the fact that by the end of this issue, the team really does feel like an actual team instead of a group of people who argue and fight. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about this arc featuring The Heretic is how the Teen Titans are starting to act and look like the team they should be.
Because the group is split for most of the issue, I’ll talk about them in parts again. Damian’s portion takes up the majority of the text, so I’ll start there. There’s a lot I could say about Damian and The Heretic. I mentioned last month that there’s real potential in bringing back Damian’s clone, and I feel like it was missed a little this issue. Instead of having Damian spend the bulk of his time facing off against Heretic, he’s whisked away to the interior of Djinn’s ring as proof his clone can really do what he claims he can. There, we get to see what Djinn’s been doing this whole time, and what her prison truly is. Damian wants to rescue her, but Djinn won’t let him, because doing so would take him down a path far darker than he realizes. To prove to him why he can’t accept Heretic’s offer, she shows him how he would turn out if he said yes. Unfortunately, we as readers don’t get to see this vision of the future. Because of this, everything must be interpreted based on what the characters say, and what we see happen.
Here lies the contradiction with this series—one that’s plagued it from the start. Robin is a hero and yet, in this book, he has spearheaded a number of actions that are villainous. I wouldn’t have nearly as much of a problem with it as I do if I’d ever been truly convinced of Damian’s reasons for his actions. Instead of showing compelling evidence at the beginning of the run, we’ve had issue after issue of Glass telling readers Damian believes a certain way. The same problem happens in this issue, we’re not shown exactly what makes him change his mind about things, we’re only told. This issue should have been the emotional high point of him realizing just where this path will take him, by either showing us the actual vision or by making Damian face the most literal interpretation of his worst self: Heretic. Yet, it did not deliver on either point. How much more impactful would his change of heart have been to watch Damian look at Heretic and realize that the person in front of him was where he was headed? Or for us to have actually seen the future Damian pictured? It’s nice that he has finally realized what he’s been doing is wrong, but it’s underwhelming when we are again told instead of really shown.
But that’s enough about Damian.What about the rest of the team? As weak as Glass’s character work has been with Damian, I’ve felt he’s inversely as strong writing the rest of the team—particularly the new characters. This issue is no exception. Roundhouse’s return to the team is a rocky one. Crush is still furious with him, and Emiko and Kid Flash are equally disappointed. Eventually, Roundhouse has his chance to tell his part. It’s not a long scene, but it works really well because these characters are being true to themselves. All is not immediately forgiven either, but they do come to an understanding, and I think that is something that can be built off of while still feeling natural.
Djinn’s situation is one of particular interest. It sets up the next arc and gives readers further insight into her character, namely, how she views herself, and another nugget of her backstory. Previously, we were told about the terrible things her brother forced her to do, and how horrible it is to be trapped in the ring, but in this issue we get to really see it. She’s in purgatory, and literally surrounded by all the people she’s killed. I like this setting, and I like that it sets up some ideas for what might come in the upcoming arc where the Titans will face off against her brother, but it also feels a little heavy handed in the area of showing another character’s terrible choices and their need to be saved/redeemed from them.
It’s growing increasingly obvious that Glass’s plan for this series was to deal with each of these character’s darker choices and histories to bring them into a kind of redemption. While this issue seems to wrap up Damian’s bad decisions, it reintroduces Djinn’s guilt over the terrible things she’s done in the past. While I applaud the attempt at redemption stories, I feel like Glass is running in circles. The series literally started with the idea of bringing together a group with checkered pasts, and we should be beyond all this at this point. Still, progress is made in this issue, which gives me hope, and feeds into my actual enjoyment of the series. By the end of things, the team seems inspired to move forward and things feel renewed after a long series of terrible choices.
The wrapping up of this arc, and moving Damian back into the role of a hero gives the end of the issue a refreshing feeling of lightness. There are new things on the horizon, and even though the Teen Titans still have one more member of their team to rescue, there is a sense of hope and a brightness to the story that I love. Something I feel like really contributes to this sense are Hi-Fi’s colors. They take over from Maiolo this month, and while it’s not super obvious at first, when compared to other issues, the tone Hi-Fi’s colors brings is a much brighter one. This isn’t me knocking Maiolo, as he’s done an incredible job. What I love about the difference here is that the brightness Hi-Fi brings plays so well into feeding that feeling of a new start for these characters. They add an intensity to the climax of this arc, with Damian’s decision and the battle between the Titans and The Other. They also make the last few pages feel even more open and bright than just the text might display.
While I enjoyed the change in coloring, there were a few moments in the art that had me a bit confused. Normally I really like Chang’s action. It’s typically easy to follow, so I’m not quite sure what happened this issue. The ultimate fight between Heretic and the team feels messy and lacks a strong visual narrative. The panels are too tight, and there’s too much going on that has little explanation behind it. There’s a sequence of thin, consecutive panels where Heretic seems to slam his staff into the ground for no reason. At a closer look, it’s because Damian’s leapt out of the way, but that’s not obvious looking at it for the first time. Then there’s the fact that Heretic suddenly has the power to cast magic and duplicate himself, none of this is explained in the text or really made clear in the art. I had to read the fight a few times before I caught onto the fact that there was more than one Heretic running around. There’s also confusing moments where things don’t make sense, like when he’s sent flying then suddenly being very close to everyone the next second or how Roundhouse ends up with Djinn’s ring, even though it was securely placed on one of Heretic’s fingers. The confusing nature of things and panels that are often too short or choppy feeling, make the whole fight scene feels rushed. I wish that Chang had had a few more pages to really detail out all the action needed to show the fight properly.
I know I’ve been pretty critical of things, but I hope I’ve also made it clear that the issue did a lot of good. I really enjoyed seeing the plot move forward, and I can’t tell you how relieved I am to have Damian finally seeing sense in all this. Unfortunately, because so much of the weight of this issue was predicated on things that came before, it’s hard to judge it simply for what it does alone, though not all of that was perfect either. I do think that from here forward, things will continue on this upward track, and I’m excited to see the team tackle what’s coming next.
- You’ve been waiting to see Damian realize he’s been wrong
- You’ve also been waiting for plots started at the beginning to resolve
- A fresh start for the team, and a new adventure excite you
Teen Titans wraps up its arc about The Other in a way that makes me wish the series as a whole had been stronger so that the conclusion of this arc would hit harder. It’s not bad, and it sets the story up for a new, fresh adventure for the team. It’s also at the point where Teen Titans feels like it has a functional team at last. Now, they’re not individuals, but kids who can work together despite their differences. I’m excited to see where the story goes now that the threat of The Other has been done away with and they can move into unknown territory.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.