With Elias storming the gates of Heaven, the Teen Titans are desperate to save Djinn and stop him. In order to do that they have to sneak into Purgatory, sending them off on one of the wildest adventures they’ve had so far!
I’ve been enjoying this particular arc of Teen Titans quite a bit. The characters and story feel like they’ve settled into something that balances fun, outrageous stories, and takes itself seriously when it needs to. The characters are continuing to work well together, and the story itself is quite a bit of fun. This issue continues that idea and finds a better balance between action and exposition than it had in the last issue.
It opens up with some light exposition about just how the team is supposed to get to Hell. Damian explains they’ll have to die and conveniently has a substance that will get them close enough to death they can make the trip without actually dying. There’s a wonderful beat where the group realizes that Robin has a plan to take everyone out if need be. It’s an old joke regarding Batman and his allies, but one that never fails to make me chuckle. From there the team heads into Hell, and their adventure through it takes up the rest of the issue as they try to find the back door into Purgatory.
Something that bothered me with earlier arcs in this run was how out of balance the lighter elements felt with the more serious, and it feels like those have really started to even out here. Most of the issue takes place as the team is travelling through Hell, and it would be very easy to make the majority of this issue quite serious and even scary. While the landscape is dark and the characters do not have an easy time navigating their trip, there’s enough humor and hope balanced through it all to keep the story from falling too far into the darkness or from feeling inappropriate for a book featuring teenaged protagonists.
Even with the balance, there are moments the story lingers on more serious elements. While in Hell, the team must go through The Labyrinth of Regret which shows them the things in their lives they’re trying hardest not to see, their fears, and –as the name suggests– their biggest regrets. Each team member struggles with their own personal doubts and fears, and overcomes it with the help of Robin and the rest of the team. This is a great moment to catch up with each one and see where they stand, and how their actions through the series might have impacted who they are. I’d be interested to see if them facing those fears here makes any impact on how they choose to move forward in the rest of this arc or later issues of the series. It would be nice to see this used as a jumping off point for them to start to deal with some of those insecurities.
One thing I’m still wondering about is what this story is trying to do stakes wise. The team, and I’d argue readers, are here to see the rescue of Djinn, but the story feels like it’s trying to build up into something that will have the team saving the world. My hesitation with this is that I feel like there’s not quite enough groundwork for that kind of story. Elias as the big bad hasn’t really had any kind of presence in Teen Titans up till now. The last time he was really featured was in issue #27 which is a long way off to build something as big as this story wants to go around. I would have liked to have seen a little more build up prior to all this, or maybe a few more issues of the team just attempting to get to Elias to help buff up him as a villain or convince us of just what the team would be going into. Still, if the story focuses more on the rescue of Djinn my worries could be unfounded. I like seeing this new focus turned onto the team themselves, and I’d love to see that be more important to the characters going forward. Action and adventure is fun, but in the end I’m here to see the characters and learn about them.
There’s a lot of emotions packed into this issue with each character face to face with their greatest regrets, and Pansica does a great job of showing the distress each character is going through from Kid Flash horrified at seeing himself monstrous next to his dad, to Roundhouse’s terror at having failed his sister. The paneling, and movement in each page as characters either try to run from their fears or are surprised by how quiet they seem to sneak up on them add to the emotional aspect of each scene. Roundhouse’s page is open on the top, calm and unsuspecting, then the panels dip and curve, following the idea of him being buried. Compared to that, Crush’s panels are jagged and broken, reflecting her own internal struggle facing herself. It’s creative and a really cool way to continue to help readers feel what each character is going through.
The colors done by Maiolo are also wonderful. He provides distinct color’s from each of the three main areas visited in this issue: Hell, Heaven, and Earth. Most of the time is spent in Hell, and the color pallet more than anything draws you into the reality of where the characters are, it’s dark and filled with shades of reds, oranges, and yellows. A stark contrast is the scene in Heaven, where the world is bright and even Elias and his djinn are basked in light. Earth falls between those two, with the colors more balanced instead of feeling on one extreme or the other. It can feel subtle if you’re not looking for it, but I really appreciated the work of making each area feel it’s own.
Things wrap up with the team making it to the doors to Purgatory and their time in the afterlife quickly running out. It’s made clear at the start that the characters have a time limit for how long they can be close to death without actually stepping over the line, but that idea is almost forgotten until the end of the issue. There are a few moments of Damian pushing them on, but the urgency of making it back in time is lost a little as they fall into the maze’s distractions. Still, there’s enough suspense by the end of the issue to leave me eager to see what happens next, and how the team might get out of the mess they’re in.
- Stories where characters dive into Hell interest you
- You’ve been waiting for Teen Titans to find its stride
- You want to see each Titan face their fears
So far, I’m really enjoying this arc. The idea of making the team travel through Hell to get to Purgatory and eventually into Heaven is a fun one that provides a lot of interesting opportunities for character work. Some of that was already done in this issue with the team facing off against their worst fears, and I’m eager to see how they deal with the effects of Purgatory and Heaven. The tone of the book has also found a nice balance between it’s lighter and more serious elements, making this both a funny read and one that isn’t afraid to dive into what the characters are going through. The pace is moving rapidly, and I for one can’t wait to see what happens next.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.