The Teen Titans are still on the hunt for Brother Blood’s killer. Feeling responsible for him and his fate, they’ve set to figuring out the mystery behind his death. As they investigate, what unsavory truths will come to light, and is Robin really bent on killing criminals now?
The issue follows Robin as he tracks down the KGBeast, his next target, and the Teen Titans as they try to sort out who killed Brother Blood. There are a number of things about this issue that feel disparate and rushed. Like how the team is already split again between Robin and the others. You would think Robin would be with the team since he’d specifically told them that yes they needed to see the truth out together, but now he’s run off on another one of his own missions. It rips all the tension away from the way the last issue ended by essentially re-setting the board at the start of this one and treats us once again to an ‘investigatory’ issue with the bits that move the plot forward tucked away at the end.
Another thing that feels a little confused in this issue is how Robin now feels totally convinced of what he’s going to do next. This is in conflict with him being unsure last issue, especially since we’re given no reason why he’s suddenly sure. At the same time, Robbie Thompon continues to make readers empathize further with Robin by introducing Superboy. Jon has come back in time because even in the future Damian’s fate is foggy. He’s worried about his friend and wants to tell him his “future isn’t painted in stone”. I appreciate the fact that we’re getting some scenes where other characters are worried about Damian, but again, this all feels a little rushed. As little as I like this whole “Robin is bad” idea, I’d like to have seen more time given to showing his own personal struggle with deciding what to do. It would help us root for his redemption more, instead of leaving readers unsure how to feel.
As it stands, it’s hard to tell what the book wants us to feel about Robin because it gives us scenes with characters like Superboy, and then turns right back into showing us how dead set Damian is about his new desire to make criminals truly fear him. His mantra is all about fear, and putting fear into the hearts of criminals, kind of in the way Batman does it, except not at all. In order to make them afraid he’s willing to go to extreme lengths such as murder and maiming.
In this issue it’s done by having Robin hunt down the KGBeast. I wanted to be excited for a story focused on Robin going after the man responsible for shooting Nightwing in the head and helping strip him of all his memories. Some really interesting conflict could have arisen from him wanting avenge his previous mentor and older brother. Only, it feels odd to have him go after KGBeast now, over a year in real time after Dick was shot. This is the first time Teen Titans has really referenced Dick’s situation and Damian’s relationship with him. There’s not even a reason given in the text as to why Damian didn’t go after him earlier. It just feels like an easy target to have him go after in order to continue pushing the narrative of extreme violence against criminals.
This all leads me to my biggest problem with Teen Titans which is the fact that we’ve done this story before in this book multiple times, first with the prison, then with the mind wipe, then when Damian faced off against his literal evil clone. Doing it again with Brother Blood and the KGBeast isn’t any more interesting, even if Damian’s a little more vicious now.
The book is stuck in a repetitive cycle that doesn’t seem to want to change. With each of Damian’s big plans the story has also presented him with a chance to change, and for a little bit he does. Then suddenly he’s ready to do something worse, like that change of heart didn’t happen. It’s frustrating, because as a Robin fan I want all this to be over, I want my favorite character to be a hero again. Even if I wasn’t a fan of him, I’d want to see things change. At some point the book needs to move on to something else. This is after all a team book, not a Robin book, and in a title like Teen Titans you’d expect the characters to be on crazy adventures and doing teen things. But it never does. It just recycles the same themes again, and as a reader it’s exhausting to read.
Speaking of the team, I do want to say that I did like what Thompson was doing with them. They are split between taking out factions of Brother Blood’s followers and in continuing the investigation into who killed him. Without Robin there, they work together really well. The relationships between them are good, with banter and lightness that promises if the title ever moves on to telling stories about their adventures things could be really fun.
There are also some interesting ideas presented here that I’d love to see fleshed out and focused on, like the fact that Brother Blood seemed out for revenge specifically against the Titans. It’s good to see some consequences of what the team did, and I think an arc about consequences done with the bad guys out for revenge would make for an interesting way to wrap up everything that’s come before.
I also enjoyed the art. This month Jesus Merino is on the title with Maiolo on colors and I really feel like their style together fits the tone of the issue. Almost the entire book is bathed in night. It’s dark, with deep shadows. Merino’s style of character fits the darker tone, it’s not cartoony at all, instead he makes everything look more realistic, characters have sharper features instead of soft ones, and adds a lot of details to make things look real, like grips on swords and cracks in concrete. This goes well with the darker vibe of the issue, as the team is hunting a murderer and Robin is out for blood.
Merino also does a great job including a lot of details in character’s uniforms. There’s quite a few close shots on Robin in this issue, and his outfit looks great under Merino’s hand. He does an excellent job with the folds of fabric, like on Robin’s cape or how the leather of his boots creases when he crouches. All these little details come together to both add some realism to the characters and make them a lot of fun to examine and explore.
I do want to mention that Batman has shown up twice now, once last issue and again this time. His inclusion feels a little off. Both times he’s been shown he really hasn’t done much beyond just worry over what Damian might be up to and stand in his room. The last time we really heard about Batman in this book, it was when Kid Flash referenced an off the page fight Damian and Batman had, that drove them apart. So why the sudden worry now? What happened? There’s not really an answer given as to what’s tipped him off now, making it feel out of place and included only so we have something that leads him to next month’s annual.
Eventually everyone comes together near the end when the team tries to stop Robin from killing KGBeast. They also confront Robin about the death of Brother Blood, as all signs point to it being Robin who did it.
While Damian does not say the words “I killed Brother Blood” he does admit that the accusations against him are true.
What bothers me about this reveal is that he didn’t actually say he killed him, and I’m left wondering if this is a trick of some kind. Is Robin being dramatic and just assuming Brother Blood’s death so that he can make a point? Or did he really do it? I really wish the book would just decide what they want to do with Damian, instead of constantly waffling back and forth.
Everything plays out in this scene the way you’d imagine it to. The team is rightfully angry with Robin for being so violent and bent on trying to kill off bad guys, and Robin insists he’s in the right. It’s basically the same song and dance we’ve seen over and over in this series. It’s hard to get excited for it or really even feel anything when I’ve read this before, just a few months ago. If I sound tired of it, it’s because I am. All of this simply feels like build up to the annual solicited for August, and frankly I cannot wait until it’s over and we can –maybe; hopefully; please, I’m begging you– move on from all this and into some other stories.
- You want to know who killed Brother Blood
- Robin’s fall is interesting to you
- You like the idea of the Titans going after Robin
For me, this issue never really comes together as anything more that themes we’ve seen play out already. The whole Robin is going down a dark path story has grown overly repetitive, and this issue does little to make it any more interesting than what we’ve seen before. The team has potential, and while I want to enjoy their part of the investigation at this point I’m so tired of the book doing the same thing over and over I just want something new. If you’re looking for a good team book, I’d suggest looking elsewhere for now.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.