Unable to face what they did as a team and the darkness of Mercy hall, the Teen Titans have broken up. Each has gone their separate ways and intended on keeping it that way. Will the murder of one of their former enemies be enough to bring them back together?
With the way the Djinn arc ended and solicits for future issues I’m going to admit I wasn’t looking forward to what was next for the Titans. It seemed like a lot of the same ideas I’ve had problems with, so color me surprised to have found this issue enjoyable, and intriguing.
Starting with this book, Robbie Thompson takes full control over writing –aside from the upcoming annual, still solicited as being co-written with Adam Glass– and while it’ll take a few issues to really get a feeling for his style, I found the issue as a whole to read well. The characters sound right, the pacing works, and most importantly we get a good look at how everyone is feeling post-team break up. While the book has yet to give us definitive answers about Robin or who actually killed Brother Blood, it does a good job setting all the pieces up.
The story starts a new arc where the Titans are reluctantly brought back together to investigate the death of Brother Blood. Brother Blood was the first villain they faced off against at the start of this run and I think it’s a nice touch using the place they started as the tool that brings them together again. The way they come together feels very natural in how Thompson has set up the story, besides Robin the team seems to have at least stayed in touch with one another in various ways. So when Red Arrow and Kid Flash learn of Blood’s death, they’re quick to get the group back together in order to investigate.
Something I think is smartly done is how the story takes time to show readers where each individual member of the team is now aside from Djinn –who made it clear she wasn’t returning at the end of the last issue. This is all done as a set up to the actual investigation which comes later in the story. It works well to lay a solid foundation of what everyone’s been doing and the general mood. Overall everyone still feels guilty about the events at Mercy hall, and their own roles in what went on. Each member was complicit at the very least, while other members feel the guilt even deeper– like Red Arrow who not only killed Deathstroke, but was behind the prison from the start and Thompson lays these facts bare in various conversations the characters have between one another.
These opening scenes also show how the teens still value their relationships they made while on the team. Thompson picks two specific scenes to do this with. The first shows Emiko and Crush visiting Roundhouse at his home, more worried about Roundhouse than the fact that the team is broken up. It’s nice to see them comforting each other, specifically Roundhouse who still feels very much guilt over his role in breaking the team up. It also proves that while they broke up, the only real bad blood seems to be with Robin, and not between the others. The second scene is one where Kid Flash and Red Arrow have a talk. This scene focuses more on the mistakes the two –and team– made, and reintroduces the question of if it’s okay to kill or not. It also introduces a possible one sided crush from Kid Flash that Thompson teases through the rest of the issue, I’m not yet sure how to feel about Thompson almost immediately introducing another romantic entanglement, but it does at least work to show multiple elements to these characters relationships.
The focus on the other team members getting along also highlights how alone Damian is in all of this, but not in a way that feels mean spirited. Instead it works to show again how he’s really never gelled with the group as a whole. While everyone else is comforting one another, Damian is shown patrolling alone in New York, rife with uncertainty about his next steps. Almost as many pages as are given to the group interacting are dedicated to showing Damian struggling with how he should move forward. He still believes that what they did wasn’t enough, but nothing in this issue specifically said he would turn back to killing. Instead, the majority of his internal monologue is spent questioning his mission and seeking guidance. Thompson includes a few great scenes between Damian and Alfred that help show all of this. These scenes point out Damian’s struggle with Bruce trusting him, and generally illustrate the bond between Alfred and Damian and show how Damian now no longer has someone to turn to for advice.
The team ultimately comes together because they’ve learned that Brother Blood has been killed. Since he was both in their prison and brainwashed by them the group as a whole feels a sense of responsibility towards his fate and sets out to investigate. The investigation itself almost plays out in the background to further exploration of the team dynamics, which I don’t mind. I think that a focus on the team themselves is good here, especially with how torn they are. As they investigate you can feel how comfortable they are together, even as they’re all weighed down by their mistakes. Robin is mostly quiet, and withdrawn, allowing others to take charge, and not arguing when Crush takes a jab at him not being the leader anymore. It’s very obvious they are all still mad at him, and Damian seems willing to accept that as fact. It’s an interesting dynamic, and I can’t help but wonder just what prompted this radical change, is he really so impacted by the break up, or is it something else?
Javier Fernandez is on art this issue and I think he does a really good job making the team look young. There are a few moments that Crush or Roundhouse look a little too young, but in general they all feel like teens. His close up shots on characters are some of his strongest work, and he uses these to highlight not only emotions but along with Maiolo’s colors really build up an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty. A good example of this is while the team is talking about Brother Blood’s death and are surprised to find Damian in the house. The scene changes from the brightly lit living room to Robin cast in shadow, attempting nonchalance by eating a cookie, but it’s clear from how his eyes are cast aside and how he’s holding himself that even he is unsure about his place there –despite Red Arrow having invited him. There’s a number of moments like this in the book that really add to the narrative going on.
In the end, it’s still not revealed who killed Brother Blood, but the team does all eventually agree that they need to know who and more importantly why he was killed. The big question I, and a lot of readers have is, was it Robin? His own reaction at the end leaves me wondering, and I’ll be interested to see if we get an answer to this next issue or not.
- Stories that pull a broken team back together interest you
- You’re wondering what’s next for the Teen Titans
- You find Robin’s conflict over what to do with criminals interesting
This issue works well to re-set the team under Robbie Thompson’s hand and after they broke up in the last issue. It introduces the new dynamics between members, as well as show exactly how the events at Mercy Hall have impacted each of them. To push the team into possible closure, Thompson has introduced a mystery directly connected with their past failures, forcing everyone to come together again and really face what they’ve done.