Original Teen Titan Roy Harper, Arsenal, is dead. Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing, is fighting for his life after being shot through the skull. And the Titans are crippled. Crippled by grief, confusion, self-doubt. Can they rise above the recent tragedies and continue with Nightwing’s quest to help people transformed by the cosmic crumbling of the Source Wall?
It’s crossover mop-up time as writer Dan Abnett deals with the events of Heroes in Crisis #1 and Batman #50. He’s had the heart of his Titans series, Dick Grayson, ripped away, leaving Donna Troy, who can usually be depended upon to step up in his absence, in a rotten place. She’s necking tequila and is in very understandable denial.
She’s right. Even if this version of Donna never died in the Graduation Day mini-series and came back from the dead – she may have, the current DC continuity is a mess, so we can’t assume – she knows of plenty of heroes who have been returned to life.
Raven tries to help Donna out of her funk, not using her empathic powers – they’re currently gone – but with simple emotional intelligence.
Gar Logan, Beast Boy, meanwhile, is falling apart, devastated that a young man they promised to help when Source energy changed him, Tyler, is dying.
A conversation with Natasha Irons, Steel, brings hope – perhaps a big infusion of Source energy can stabilise Tyler, set him on the road to wellness. It’s not a kill or cure situation, the guy is dying anyway… but acting team leader Miss Martian says No.
I admire Dan Abnett. His books are constantly derailed by the wider DC line but he always makes superheroic lemonade. Here he uses the Roy and Dick business to go characterisation heavy and have the remaining Titans re-commit to Dick’s mission… their mission.
I liked the Donna/Raven scene a lot, especially the latter’s referring to the original Teen Titans gang as ‘the first of the few’; it’s a phrase with real resonance, and here lends gravitas rather than seeming flippant. I hope the business with Donna’s drinking is dealt with soon, preferably via her just packing it in rather than going down the now-familiar ‘super-alcoholic’ route
There is an elephant in the room – no mention of another original Teen Titan, Flash Wally West, killed in the same incident as Roy, which makes no sense given what a key figure he’s been in this series. I’m guessing DC higher-ups were so paranoid about his death, the biggest in HiC #1, leaking before the issue hit that they never let Abnett know. Which would be stupid and rude (though better than Marvel’s habit of leaking things to the mainstream press days before a big ‘surprise’). I must be wrong, though the summary that comes with the ComiXology digital version of this issue implies that this really isn’t the instalment Abnett planned
Penciller Brent Peeples does a good job with a talky issue, producing some decent expressions and body language; there’s one panel with Beast Boy sitting quietly in the background as conversation continues at the front, his emotions easily apparent, that’s particularly good. That moment, above, that sees Beast Boy’s frustration come to the fore in the face of cold logic from Miss Martian is another standout. Inker Matt Santorelli and colourist Ivan Plascencia complete the artistic package, doing their thing with style. And the credits being placed on the final page gives talented letterer Dave Sharpe a chance to get clever, underlining the story’s conclusion in a manner I shan’t spoil.
The variant cover by illustrator Jose Luís, inker Richard Friend and colourist Pete Pantazis is fantastic, a rollickingly fun visual of the latest Titans team taking on what I suppose is a version of Raven’s soul daddy, Trigon. The regular cover by illustrator Clayton Henry isn’t as appealing to me, with various Titans – including Dick, cheekily – upset at the plight of Tyler… at this point, it’s Roy and/or Wally who should occupy this emotional spot. Plus, the cool tones chosen by Plascencia make it tough to recognise Beast Boy, never mind the guy he’s crying over.
All in all, not a bad issue, though I’d prefer DC left Dan Abnett alone to follow his own interests. There is one ray of hope – the final panel hints that a classic Titan will be stepping up to fill in for Dick. Hint, it’s neither Roy nor Wally.