Titans Tower is under siege as DC’s biggest event of 2022 continues. The good news is that Titans Academy student Chupacabra hasn’t been blown to smithereens along with the bomb strapped to him last issue.
The bad news is that said explosive did indeed go off, wrecking the superhero school for the second time this year.
Other good news is that a bullet to the face didn’t kill Beast Boy.
The bad news…
The off-panel voice belongs to Deathstroke the Terminator, who looks to have had a tragic makeover in a recent crossover I didn’t fancy at all. He’s hated all things Titans since his son Grant, the Ravager, died in battle (well, except for a brief, stupid period when the New Titans were treating the murderous monster as an anti-hero ally). He’s now extended his Titans-centred malice to a hatred of the very concept of legacy heroes, and to make his point he aims to beat the first, and best, of them all, Nightwing.
Also, kill the heroes who have volunteered to make up a new Justice League, after they died saving their world – Earth 0 – from a group of massively powered villains assembled by Pariah.
For the sobbing survivor of the Crisis on Infinite Earths has been convinced that if he organises the destruction of Earth 0, the effects of the first big Crisis will be rolled back, restoring his own world.
Elsewhere, a hero who wasn’t around when the Crisis occurred is escaping space prison.
While back on Earth, Black Adam is floating around Titans Tower, being a prick.
Overall, this is a very decent comic book. The art by Daniel Sampere is excellent once more, with dozens of background characters recognisable to the longtime fan, and showcase scenes such as the battle between Nightwing and Deathstroke the Terminally Boring rendered with pizzazz. Sampere’s compositional choices add to the drama – watch for the bone crunching duel between Nightwing and Deathstroke – right up to a cracking final page spotlighting one of the most powerful fighting forces in the DC Universe.
My favourite page, though, is a sequence setting up the return of one of DC’s greatest villains, for which the credit almost certainly belongs equally to Sampere and writer Josh Williamson.
And look at how Sampere cleverly uses wayward locks to add expression to Nightwing’s blank-eyed mask.
The pages are thoughtfully coloured by Alejandro Sánchez, his choices popping throughout – the lighting is especially impressive, on Phobia’s costume in that panel with the injured Beast Boy, for instance. Sánchez also colours the cover, which is illustrated by Sampere; it’s well done, but the loss of Deathstroke’s classic silhouette means a lot of people won’t realise who Dick is tussling with. Cover copy would have helped.
Tom Napolitano more than earns his pay cheque with marvellously emphatic work.
Williamson moves the story along with skill, but there are a couple of instances where he’s either not been paying attention, or is deliberately ignoring recent stories. For example, in this issue we have longtime Titans pals Beast Boy and Cyborg, but a couple of months ago, in Titans Academy, they were soldered together in order to save both their lives. Which is undeniably a silly decision on the part of that series’ writer – there’s a reason Titans Academy is cancelled – but it needed to be addressed, not ignored. Said writer, Tim Sheridan, did mention that Star Labs boffins were working on a solution to the ‘Cybeast’ problem, all Williamson needed to do was add a line of dialogue waving the nonsense away.
A bigger issue is that ‘Black Pariah’ wants the Crisis on Infinite Earths undone. Er, it already has been, at the end of the Convergence event half a decade or more ago. When a series is specifically built on the back of previous Crisis events, it shouldn’t ignore one that so firmly declared Crisis on Infinite Earths null and void.
That’s the problem with going back to the Crisis well again and again – eventually the clear water is gone and what’s left is muddied.
Among the things I really enjoyed is the use of Green Lantern Hal Jordan, still rightly incredulous that any hero pays even a moment’s attention to the word of known despot and murderer Black Adam. Then there’s a cameo by a minor League villain as that hero who screams ‘legacy’ joins the series cast. And Cyborg gets the line of the issue.
Who’s the odd one out here?
All the headshots are of heroes who agrees to join the latest Justice League – all except Firestorm, who was decidedly iffy about the whole idea last month, and the new Batman, who was a bit snotty. I hope this is a sign that the Nuclear Man has a role to play in Dark Crisis. The new Batman I can do without.
All in all, I enjoyed this issue a lot, it could stand to be a weekly! How about you?