It’s an all-action opening as wheelchair-using student Alinta is menaced by mystery person Red X.
Flashback to 72 hours earlier and while ‘Mr Cyborg’ is apparently supervising every class at the Roy Harper Academy’s Field Day, ‘Mr Nightwing’ and ‘Ms Starfire’ are chatting after some extracurricular activities.
Joining Cyborg, Nightwing shares his worries about one of the students, Matt, a powerhouse with massive memory gaps.
Leaving his old friend, Nightwing gives chase as he comes across an intruder in the Academy Command Centre… Red X.
Marcia, Marcia, Red X. Everyone at Teen Titans Academy is obsessed with Red X. Last issue’s cover was Red X. This issue’s cover is Red X. It’s excessive.
Who is this character who can make a chump of Nightwing, the best acrobat and third-best detective in the DC Universe? Does he or she have super-speed? Teleportation? The power to fog security cameras? A mind control mojo to explain why only Nightwing seems to be taking a masked intruder’s skulking around even vaguely seriously?
Why isn’t the Academy in lockdown while seven extremely experienced superheroes find out who’s breaking into their new HQ and what threat they may pose to their young, inexperienced charges?
Writer Tim Sheridan really needs to explain why Red X is such a big deal. I suppose the character made an impression on Sheridan when he was a kid watching Teen Titans telly cartoons, but if he’s going to import him into the comics, at least give us relative newbies some history to provide context.
Last time I really liked how Sheridan juggled his large cast; this time, apart from the old guard, it’s basically the Alinta and Matt Show, with cameos from Stitch and Tooby. I supposed there’s some sense in sharing the spotlight around, but I was hoping for movement on likely team traitor Brick, and some time with Jakeem Thunder, who got very short shrift in #1.
Still, the Matt business wasn’t bad – every team needs a character with a mystery past – and I like Oz-gal Alinta, who gets her hero name, Bolt, this time, along with a sinister phone-a-friend. Mind, both characters beg the question: did headmistress Starfire and friends do any background research into these kids?
I still hate the Dick and Kory ‘Titans with benefits’ bit. They’d moved on… happily, it seems that the new Nightwing series is nipping this story strand in the bud.
A big positive is that Cyborg’s traditional angst has gone – it’s about time he decided to go the glass half-full route and find the funny in life. And there’s some nice background business with Beast Boy to visually enliven the two-page chat between Nightwing and Cyborg.
The artistic team of penciller Rafa Sandoval and inker Jordi Tarragona do a good job of selling the scene, and they’re great at capturing the general hustle and bustle of the Academy. I love Dick’s cruise ship cabaret moment with the fire hose, too. The opening attack on Alinta is composed with useful dynamism. But the best visual moments are the two Red X splashes – I’m not invested in Red X as a character, but the design is sharp and used well in-story. The only real tweak needed to the art is to make character hair look natural, there’s a moulded plastic quality to hairdos.
Colourist Alejandro Sandoval keeps the characters distinct, but is likely as bored with the Academy’s uniformly grey backgrounds as I am – why have the Titans set up such a cold, clinical place? Rob Leigh’s lettering complements the art, with distinctive fonts for the likes of Cyborg and the stupendous Stitch.
That X-centric cover by Sandovala and Sanchez is a fun, cheeky composition, even if the only cast member I recognise is Gorilla Greg.
While I enjoyed the debut issue more, Teen Titans Academy #2 is a decent read – I just hope the Red X business is wrapped up soon.