Commencement has begun! The experimental Teen Titans Academy series concludes in its 15th and final issue. Titans usually focuses on either the teenage heroes in the DC Universe or their mature predecessors separately. Titans Academy focuses on mentorship for legacy characters. It was and remains a concept with huge potential. Titans characters old or new could possibly be revived or inserted into character led stories and events. However, most of the run was concerned with the identity of a single student, often ignoring the huge roster of past and present members even after unmasking him.
The finale picks up where the penultimate storyline left off, with a faction of the student body calling themselves “Young Justice League Dark” heading to Apokolips to rescue Shazam. The meta B-story is the heart of the issue. It features artist “Jorge” saying goodbye to the characters he has created along the way. Mostly his “nephew” Chupacabra.
Nothing indicates Tim Sheridan intended for this story to go beyond the Red X or War For Earth-3 conclusions. The final two issues send the team to the most dangerous lair in the DC Universe and back as an afterthought. The entire adventure only serves as a momentary detour to retcon the sacrifice made by Shazam and Black Adam Jr. While it sets up a future Shazam book, it does not affect the cast of characters in a meaningful way. This has been the case for nearly every character in the book beyond a select few.
Certain characters get more attention and development than others, such as “The Bat Pack,” Dane, Gorilla Gregg, and Stitch. What the finale highlights is how short changed a lot of the other storylines, former Titans, and students we don’t know as well have been until now. Future storylines involving Red X and the unexplained connection Matt Price’s powers have with Darkseid or Superman are left on the table. One other example involves the fates of veteran Titans Cyborg and Beast Boy. As teased in Future State, Sheridan fuses the friends together as an attempt to save both their lives. A writing decision intentionally leaving them in that state for a yet unknown reason.
Cyborg, one of the most visible African American characters in comics, has been erased in every way that matters. Victor Stone has been reduced into a machine accessory for Beast Boy. The misunderstanding of the importance of his humanity and erasure of the blackness of the character creates an uneven divide. I would hate to believe DC Editorial is struggling to write for this character. This book continues the sad trend of underutilized appearances after Justice League Odyssey and his canceled solo series. By bootstrapping Cyborg to Beast Boy, DC has finally avoided using him entirely. Tim Sheridan mitigates weirdness between the two with a writer’s convenience, allowing Cyborg and Beast Boy a faint, if not pointless, sense of individuality.
On the positive side, Titans Academy uses the character of “Jorge” to express a warm message of following your heart and embracing your talents. Above all, I found the commencement speech appropriate and inspiring for both the characters and the next generation of artists and writers. It is a heartfelt goodbye, aptly made more relevant by the passing of Teen Titans alumni George Perez. On the negative side, the art of the issue by Tom Derenick is traditional in layout but unremarkably rendered. At some points the art is even bad. The worst panel depicts Donna Troy with a dead wall eyed expression or the background’s noticeable scarcity to hide the off perspective. The best depicts a Kirby-like full page spread of Shazam in Apokolips. Additionally, another depicts Chupacabra spreading their wings eclipsing a warm hopeful sunset.
- You want to see Shazam in Apokolips.
- Young Justice League Dark sounds awesome.
This series was inspired by the many years of Teen Titans history and hopeful glimpses at what may come in the future. Unfortunately Teen Titans Academy fails to add to that history in ways that will be remembered. Tim Sheridan knowingly or unknowingly uses the X-Men model. If the point of the book was to organize and train the next generation of DC heroes, then Young Justice would have made a better blueprint. Young Justice having managed to utilize a full roster of mentors and students without sacrificing the potential of either. Decades of forgotten Titans characters and canceled runs should have warned DC to actually spend time developing the characters they already have, including the outgoing class of Titans we may never see again. Maybe they will learn from their mistakes in the future. After all, Titans are forever until they are forgotten.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.