Teen Titans Academy #6 review

This issue Red X…

… doesn’t appear, isn’t mentioned, may as well not exist. This issue features a handful of The Roy Harper Academy students having a summer holiday adventure after taking a day trip outside New York. This issue is just great, because as well as the absence of Red X, it’s also without the teachers, the New Titans crew.

It’s Gorilla Gregg, Tress, Summer, Chupacabra and my favourite, Stitch, investigating strange doings in a small town, like a DC Universe Mystery Inc.

No kidding. Despite being attacked by a literal pitchfork-brandishing mob, Stitch is having a whale of a time – I suppose when you’re Dr Fate’s apprentice such things seem a little mundane.

The kids, with other students, have gone to hang out at a pool by a village named East Nyack, knowing it’s popular with super-types. And yet there’s no one else there, leading our curious quintet to head into town to see what happened. At first, the community seems deserted. But not for long.

Cue fight, a Titan vanishing and… a traitor within the team?

Possibly, but given who it is, and who they’re connected to, mind control is almost certainly behind the betrayal

This is huge fun. As with the Bat Pack spotlight issues, focusing on the new kids with the elder Titans absent – they should have their own book – gives writer Tim Sheridan’s new characters room to breathe and, better, charm. Summer, Gregg and co really are a lovely bunch of kids with whom to spend time – funny, focused, ready to step up as heroes. The Red X business hasn’t been so much bad as too dominant – the mystery of their identity gave us that excellent Bat Pack tale – but I still want it over, so the stories can roam from genre to genre.

Like this Scooby Doo spin, which is a bright, breezy read, pure summer silliness – I could imagine this and next issue making a great annual. Sheridan’s pacing and characterisations are excellent, with Stitch’s ‘winks to camera’ especially intriguing.

Are they doing a bit or actually aware of the readers, a la Psycho Pirate and, for ten minutes, Animal Man? And ice-powered Summer demonstrates that she’s a team leader in waiting.

Given how aware of genre tropes these kids are, I found this hilarious.

Just go to the sinister old mill, already!

Penciller Rafa Sandoval, inker Jordi Tarragona and colourist Ulises Arreola are a superb team, the storytelling clear as day, the world of the comic inviting. The opening spread is particularly excellent, both showing the beauty of the initial forest setting, and highlighting the personalities of the students via body language and dress. Plus, the action scenes are well choreographed and intense, while the Saturday morning animation effect for Stitch’s enchantments is perfect.

And I’m forever singing the praises of Rob Leigh, but letterers are undervalued. He adds to the artistry and success of the story with such things as the fantastic title lettering and the word bubble boundaries for Stitch and Gorilla Gregg.

Alejandro Sanchez does a similarly great job of colouring Sandoval’s spooky cover illustration, conjuring up that Universal Studios mood… well, a colourised version, maybe.

Titans Academy has surprised me by becoming one of my favourite DC comics. I hope it’s doing OK in the sales charts (if you know, and it isn’t, don’t tell me!), because this is the closest DC has ever got to capturing the feel of Marvel’s early New Mutant strips, and I want it to be around awhile.

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