Hoping it gets better tomorrow – Super Sons of Tomorrow, Part 3 (Teen Titans #15)

Tim Drake, Batman of Tomorrow, reveals himself to the Teen Titans to persuade them to join him.  But is killing Superboy justified just because it might save millions?  Two of the Teen Titans abandon the team to help this future Dark Knight finish his murderous mission!

Teen Titans # 15
Writers:  Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Pencillers:  Ed Benes & Jorge Jimenez
Inkers:  Ed Benes, Richard Friend & Jorge Jimenez
Colorists:  Dinei Ribeiro & Alejandro Sanchez
Cover Artist:  Francis Manapul
Publisher:  DC Comics

What You Need to Know:

This is a crossover involving the books Superman, Super Sons and Teen Titans.  An alternate future version of Tim Drake adopted the identity of Batman and went back in time to kill Superboy because he accidentally destroys Metropolis in that timeline.  During a battle with this Batman of Tomorrow, Superboy loses control of his powers and unleashes a solar flare at Teen Titans Tower in San Francisco.

What You’ll Find Out:

Teen Titans Tower is smoldering as the flames die out.  Robin, Superboy, and the Teen Titans are unconscious from the blast of Superboy’s newly unleashed solar flare power.  The Batman of Tomorrow, Tim Drake, is in the Tower scrounging through prototype costumes to make a new one that his friends in the future can’t track and then stop him.  As he pieces together his new costume, Damian Wayne AKA Robin wakes up and checks the Teen Titans’ life signs.  All of them are alive so he pulls Jonathan Kent AKA Superboy from the bay and they leave in a sub.

We get a splash page of future Tim Drake with his new costume and codename, Savior.  Jon wants to go back and make sure he didn’t hurt or kill the Teen Titans.  Damian says he checked and they’re all alive so he didn’t hurt anyone; they’re just unconscious.  (FYI—setting off an explosion that engulfs 7 people in flames and knocks them unconscious is hurting someone.)  Damian tries to reassure Jon…

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Damian can’t reach Batman or Superman on the comm.  We get 3 panels of exposition on the Kryptonian solar flare superpower that could’ve been more simply explained with a couple lines and an editorial caption.  Also, I’m incredulous that Damian Wayne is somehow knowledgeable enough to know how Kryptonian and human DNA are supposed to mix or not mix well.

Jon is scared his newfound power will kill innocent people, but Damian says he won’t let that happen.  Again, I find it absurd that out of the blue Batman’s 13-year-old son has the genetic expertise to know how to control Kryptonian superpowers.  The scene closes with a stereotypical joke about how Robin and Superboy are but aren’t friends.  Still not funny, but nice try.

We cut to the Titans of Tomorrow in the distant future:  Cassie Sandsmark/Wonder Woman, Conner Kent/Superman, and Bart Allen/Flash.  They can’t track down their teammate Tim because he’s cloaked.  They can’t see what he saw on monitors looking into the past because the timeline is in flux due to Tim’s interference.  We don’t get much insight into any of the characters in these 2 pages and the dialogue here is 90% exposition.

Kid Flash finds a note from Robin asking the team give him time.  Raven scoffs “I could’ve told you that” adding that Tim Drake is standing right behind them.  Drake says he’s willing to talk while pointing both guns at them.  Raven insists he holster his weapons and he complies.  Beast Boy asks why he raided their closets and he answers he had to replace the costume Superboy’s solar flare destroyed: “Call me Savior.”

He tells them now they know how dangerous Superboy can be when pushed too far.  Aqualad points out it was Savior’s fault that happened.  But Savior counters he barely knows Superboy; it would’ve been worse if someone he was close to pushed his buttons.  He insists they have to kill Superboy and also Damian if he gets in the way.  Starfire asks what he’ll do if they all get in the way.  He replies, “I’ll do what I have to do.

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Suddenly, a glowing vortex swirls around Savior’s hand.  It takes 7 panels of exposition for Tomasi and Gleason to explain what’s happening despite their art team already depicting it.  We’re told the Titans of Tomorrow got Savior’s hand as “a pure chronal artifact” without any plausible explanation how they can sever Savior’s hand from his body without causing him any injury requiring medical care.  I guess time travel prevents you from bleeding to death when it amputates a limb which is awfully convenient.

Savior pleads with Raven to do what she feels is right and Beast Boy agrees.  How helping a man who 5 minutes ago vowed to kill them, their leader and his best friend if they get in his way somehow qualifies as doing the right thing isn’t clarified.

Starfire tells Raven don’t do it; Raven says she has to without any reason given.  Then we get 5 panels where Raven teleports with Savior and Beast Boy to parts unknown while the Tower is shown undamaged and then damaged again.  Once more Raven displays previously never-before-seen powers and acts as deus ex machina.  Based on what we’ve seen in DC Rebirth over the past 18 months, writers inventing all-new powers for Raven in one issue and completely forgetting them in the next is apparently the new status quo.

Luckily for Starfire and Kid Flash, Aqualad can use water to locate Superboy. (Yeah, that makes no sense to me either.)

What Just Happened?

As other fans and critics have noted elsewhere online, we’ve seen this plot before.  It’s the plot of the recent A Lonely Place of Living arc from Detective Comics.  Future Tim Drake shows up in the present warning of horrible disaster and his only possible solution is to kill someone all the heroes love to keep this disaster from happening.

Too bad Tim couldn’t stop the same disaster cliché-riddled plot from happening twice—and not nearly as nicely executed as before.  I’ll grant that Super Sons of Tomorrow isn’t the worst recycled superhero crossover.  Other books and other writers have done it much worse.  But so far, this crossover is mostly meh.

Ben Percy’s smartly-crafted take on the Teen Titans is greatly missed here.  I’ll confess I am not a Peter Tomasi fan.  This is a writer with a professed love of all things Batman whose favorites include the likes of Guy Gardner and, yes, Damian Wayne.  Let’s be blunt.  Guy and Damian are assholes and Tomasi loves them.  Tomasi is also the man who wrote one of the worst versions of Wonder Woman in the past decade when he took over Superman/Wonder Woman after Charles Soule went exclusive with Marvel.

We all have our biases and our personal likes and dislikes.  I’m not going to pretend I don’t have them, too.  Tomasi is a writer whose work I can enjoy, but only in small doses and on very few books.  I’ll give him credit for nailing the family dynamic of Lois, Clark, and Jonathan in Superman.  However, Patrick Gleason is the co-writer so I think it fair he gets credit for half of that success, too.

But if this is how Tomasi perceives the Teen Titans in terms of dialogue and character, I can’t wait for Ben Percy to get back to his regular scripting here.

I concur with others who note that DC’s editorial vision of Tim Drake as a dystopian fascist in the future and an autocratic neo-fascist in the present isn’t legitimate change or a natural evolution.  It’s the exact opposite.  For over 20 years, Tim Drake has been the nice guy Robin; the one who had the most empathy and compassion.  He was the Robin who wanted to save Bruce Wayne from falling into total despair and losing all hope.

What DC’s editors have Tomasi doing here and James Tynion IV doing in Detective borders on character assassination—and that’s coming from a Superman fan who isn’t madly in love with the Batman Family.  There’s no precedent in any previous book featuring Tim Drake that justifies his sudden quasi Kylo Ren turn to dark, brooding and quick to kill because the ends justify the means.  I’m not a huge Robin fan, but even I have read enough DC Comics to know that isn’t Tim Drake; that’s Jason Todd.

As I stated in my Detective Comics review this week, there’s a larger plan at work here in terms of where several DC heroes (and villains) are headed in 2018.  A long foreshadow is casting itself over the DCU portending some dark and twisted turns in the next year.  If written in a logical progression that uses established continuity and years of characterization to make the case for big changes in character, well, I have no quarrel with that.

But more than a few A-list characters in the DCU are pulling 180 degree turns in recent months with little to no rhyme or reason other than someone in charge at DC wants it to happen.  That may be how most creative directions are usually executed in the entertainment industry.

However, that will never successfully disguise those business decisions as thoughtful and carefully-crafted long-form storytelling.

Rating:  6.8 / 10

Final Thought: 

This issue of Teen Titans is your typical action-fueled comic book crossover.  The characterization is shallow and untenable.  The expository dialogue drones on for too many panels and drags the pace of the narrative to a crawl at times.  But the artwork is pretty and the stakes are serious, albeit melodramatic.  Not much going on here but your average, dopey, uninspired superhero slugfest.  Harmless and brainless escapism.

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