There’s one big problem with this latest attempt to recapture the Titans magic, and that’s the Titans themselves. The senior ones, I mean.
The new kids who’ve been around just a couple of months are starting to shine as individuals and gel as a group, here taking on the Suicide Squad without a second thought to defend a classmate.
The most recent gang of official Titans – Red Arrow, Kid Flash, Crush and Roundhouse – are immediately recognisable as the smart, tight-knit group of the last few years.
But the former New Titans – Nightwing, Cyborg, Donna Troy, Starfire, Raven and Cyborg…. who are these people?
Here’s the vision Raven has told her friends about.
Nah, why pay any mind to a horrifying series of vignettes from one of the most powerful mystics on the planet, someone with a near-perfect Cassandra rating? Just leave the new kids under the watch of Crush and co, they did somehow survive the experience of being teenage superheroes led by Damian Wayne.
They’re perfect to watch over the Old Teen Titans’s pet project. If it seems pretty half-arsed, perhaps I’m misunderstanding things.
So, they’ve filled their headquarters… sorry, ‘school’, with super-powered children whose backgrounds they don’t know.
The kids will be safe because ‘no one can get inside that tower’ – this is straight after a masked figure going by the name ‘Red X’ started popping up around the HQ, stealing information.
Raven feels something terrible is on the horizon but is dismissed.
The ‘upperclassmen’ are left to protect the youngest kids while their elders jet to Europe to bring in more living weapons – even though they could get to Markovia instantly via Raven’s teleportation, the very means by which they return at issue’s end.
I’m labouring the point, but it’s really annoying to see Tim Sheridan’s script have heroes as experienced as the New Titans act so irresponsibly. Donna, at least, wonders about the whole school idea, but doesn’t give a hoot for the Red X mystery. Dick is worried about Red X but is fine with a school with no adults present. And so on.
And what’s with the diminutives? Dick is ‘Dick’, not ‘Richard’. Since when has Raven been ‘Rae’? Cyborg is ever ‘Vic’, never ‘Cy’. These people have been pals – heck, family – for years, their names are settled.
So what’s this issue about? It’s crossover time, as the Suicide Squad, let into the tower by Red X, try to kidnap Australian student speedster Alinta – Bolt – to join Amanda Waller’s Task Force X. Along the way we learn that Bolt gets her powers by reciting a formula longtime DC readers will recognise as Johnny Quick’s magic mantra. And we find out how she lost her legs.
Brutal. I think I prefer people breathing in hard water, or having an injection of mongoose blood.
We further find that Alinta was given the toughened blades on which she runs by Waller, who visited her as she recovered in hospital. The deal was that Alinta would be enrolled at Teen Titans Academy, and ‘come running’ when Waller called. Now, Waller, as currently presented in DC Comics, is an utter scumbag, but if Alinta isn’t going to honour her agreement, why not tell the senior Titans, get some protection. Instead, as she admits, she’s putting all the school students and staff in danger.
Happily, when the Suicide Squad comes for her, Alinta is defended by, first, the Teen Titans, and then, her classmates. Even Red X looks to be choosing the side of the angels after Waller demands that Talon, the Suicide Squad’s biggest psycho (well, maybe), cuts their losses and kills everyone.
There’s another interesting moment before the big battle as Superboy – tortured into becoming a Suicide Squad member by Waller – is distracted by an old picture of him with his Teen Titans. That’s apparently going to pay off in an upcoming annual – this is rather the seeder issue, with not just plugs for Suicide Squad and said Teen Titans Academy Annual, but set-ups for the soon-to-be-released Crush & Lobo mini series and the I’m-not-buying-THAT-after-Future-State Shazam! Annual. It’s not too distracting, but this early into a series I’d prefer things were a tad more self-contained.
The actual fight with the Suicide Squad is OK, more of a melee than a choreographed affair, but useful in spotlighting the spunk of the new kids. And the bits of characterisation not involving the Old Teen Titans is great.
But the idea that Teen Titans Academy is a serious teaching institution is laughable. The best thing that could happen, on current evidence, is for the whole idea to be tossed aside, with a select few of the new kids joining the Teen Titans (‘Upperclassmen’ – ugh). Let Donna, Gar and co go somewhere else in the DCU where better characterisation awaits. Roundhouse and chums already seem a tad fed up with the new set-up, with them referring to the Old Teen Titans as ‘The Overlords’.
The art is easy on the eye, with good, clear storytelling from regular penciller Rafa Sandoval, guest illustrator Max Raynor and inker Jordi Tarragona. While the quiet scenes are nicely laid out, the big moments with Task Force X are really impressive, with dramatic angles and perspectives a-go-go. Colourists Alejandro Sanchez and Alex Sinclair add extra interest with their choices, with that first page of Raven’s visions particularly good. My favourite image in the whole book, though, is the splashy final page. Which, of course, I can’t show you, because it’s too much fun to discover.
Rob Leigh’s lettering, as usual, is stylish and smart, the man has a great eye for design.
There is one ongoing art problem I have – can someone please explain Red X’s mask? As times it seems like the skull design moves from his face to the top of his head – can he turn his head back really far, or are the markings a Rorschach deal, moving across the whole hood?
Remember I was praising perspectives? The cover by Sandoval and Sanchez has an interesting one as Fed-Ex – sorry, Red-X – drops down on the Suicide Squad. It’s great, generally, but Superboy’s face looks a tad off – which means it likely is spot-on as I’m not an artist (I got lost on the way to the Joe Kubert School).
Teen Titans Academy #3 is my favourite issue to date. There were problems, as outlined, but they could be sorted – take out the senior guys or reveal that they’re Durlans/Kilg%re has possessed Cyborg/Donna is Dark Angel. Anything.
Or simply write them better.