Here’s a different kind of summer annual, A batch of short stories giving us a closer look at some of the new students being trained by the classic Titans, framed as a high school yearbook.
The cover is presumably emulating a yearbook – I dunno, I’ve never seen one here in the UK – with a collage of individual images too small and indistinct to make an impact. It’s not likely to be voted Most Popular any time soon. Inside, things are better, with a faux credits page followed by a spotlight on Stitch, one of the new kids to have already made an impression. If you’ve not come across Stitch, here’s their deal.
Obviously, they’re connected to veteran DC hero Ragman, right? Not quite, and here we see their mentor drop into Titans Academy. We also see what Stitch wants to be when they grow up in a brilliant spread from writer Tim Sheridan, artist Bernard Chang, colourist Marcelo Maiolo and letterer Rob Leigh. A fight in the gym gives Stitch a chance to impress the student body while demonstrating, yet again, that ‘light touch’ doesn’t begin to cover the adult Titans’ approach to teaching. They’re never around!
All in all, ‘Stitch, in time’ is a cracking little tale, with humour, action and even poignancy.
Next up, a couple of pages on the ‘Titans Overlords’, which is pretty dull bar a sweet tribute to the man for whom the Roy Harper Academy is named.
Raven and Beast Boy a couple? That’s how it is on TV, but when has it been a thing in the comics? Well, it is now, as underlined by our next story, ‘Five More Minutes’, in which Garfield and (ugh) ‘Rae’ are having some private time… in a roomful of people.
It’s a decent character piece, again by Sheridan, with Leigh letters, while Marco Santucci provides the smooth visuals and Michael Atiyeh the colours. If you’re wondering why Raven is sad, it’s because Raven has been having visions of DOOM. Which basically means it’s Tuesday.
A couple of pages of repurposed panels from issues of the regular series make up the single page features Candid Campus (clever title!) and Class Superlatives, but rather than being told Brick Pettirosso has the ‘best hair’, how about a mini-story featuring the mysterious student? I mean, Pettirosso? Is he the son of Lana Lang and Pete Ross from Earth Italy?
Sheridan and Leigh are joined by illustrator Darko (usually David) Lafuente and colourist Miquel Muerto for ‘Mothers, Brothers, Kittens and Cake’, my favourite story after the Stitch starrer. It’s a nice, straightforward tale of new kids Tooby and Matt becoming friends, full of warmth. While we already knew Toobey’s super power is to turn his body into, well, a tube, the story shows us more of what Matt can do, as well as introducing Toobey’s parents and revealing his given forename.
There’s more to learn about both kids, but it’s nice to get something new, and Tooby’s folks seem lovely. The script is smart, the art is sharp… it’s a great wee tale.
A fun page of yearbook sponsorship ads…
… and a generic page of ‘photos’ defaced by a big red X are followed by the annual’s most serious offering, ‘Extrication‘, which gives us some background on the Red X character who’s been popping up around Titans Academy. Set nine years ago, it has a previous Red X stamping down on a fostering scam.
Yeesh, I know the Comics Code Authority is long dead, but how the heck did that line about feeding the guy’s ‘manhood’ to his daughter make it into print? Sheridan and Leigh are teamed with regular series artists Rafa Sandoval and Jordi Tarragona and colourist Alex Sinclair for a gritty urban drama. The abused, neglected kids, as drawn by Sandoval and Tarragona, are especially heartbreaking.
It’s good stuff, but with Red X having dominated every issue of Titans Academy since it stated four months ago, I’d have happily seen him set aside so some of the other kids could step forward.
Odd quibbles aside, I enjoyed this double-sized issue, for the variety of stories, the novel approach and the insight into the Academy kids.