***MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!***
After months of hiding in the shadows, the mysterious Other makes his move! Lobo delivers the defeated Teen Titans to the mysterious criminal mastermind as promised...
...and the identity of the fiend is finally revealed:
Elsewhere, Roundhouse runs home to Mama to lick his wounds. After all, he did betray the team (under the false belief that his actions were protecting them). But Mama Wu has some words for him that might turn his mindset around...
...and maybe just in time, too, because Red Arrow, Crush, and Kid Flash are in serious need of saving right about now!
At long last, the identity of the Other stands revealed, and depending on readers’ perspective, it’s either a masterstroke of deep-diving in to DC continuity or confusing as all hell. For the uninitiated, one of the stranger things about Damian Wayne (that also helps set him apart from other Robins past in a major way) is that his mother, Talia Al’Ghul, made a whole, whole lot of clones of him (waaaaaay back in Grant Morrison’s brilliant Batman Incorporated). The purpose behind this was that if one Damian failed in his mission, another could rise to take his place. One of these clones was eventually revealed to be a brain-damaged psychopath who killed “our” Damian (he got better, of course) and was himself beheaded by Talia.
And this fellow is the Other.
Even accounting for extreme comic bookery, it’s hard to come back from being beheaded. Fortunately, there’s a built-in plot device for it, going back to the literary roots of Ra’s Al’Ghul: the Lazarus Pit, which restores life but at the cost of humanity. Now, the Pit didn’t regrow the ersatz Damian a whole new body; his head was stitched onto some other unlucky sucker’s decapitated body. But it definitely warped his mind. Fake Damien, as I’ll call him, is operating under the misguided belief that crime can never be defeated – at best, it can only be controlled and pointed in beneficial directions. Fake Damien is dying (see, getting beheaded is a tough fix even for a Lazarus Pit), though, and wants Actual Damien to take his place.
Where this crosses over from being a ludicrous comic book villain B-plot to thematically relevant is that Damian has, over the last year, been resorting to more and more drastic measures to combat and ultimately defeat crime. First he built his secret prison, then he started brainwashing villains into becoming productive citizens. He was sorely rebuked both times. With that in mind, juxtaposing Damien’s recent path with its furthest extreme as embodied by Fake Damien is a genius move by writer Adam Glass to finally position Damien to learn from his errors and stop trying to find shortcuts to justice. It’s clear, then, that Glass has been playing a long game – something that was perhaps in question at times throughout his run.
However, Glass continues to show that his greatest strengths as a writer lie in his character work. While Damien is busy having his mind blown, Roundhouse shares a genuinely tender moment with his mother when he needs it the most. One of the funnest aspects of this character has been is relationship with his overbearing mother. A different side of that relationship is revealed here, and it gives Roundhouse the motivation he needs to pick himself up, get back in the fight, and make amends for how he inadvertently wronged his friends.
Another excellent moment involves the trio of Kid Flash, Crush, and Red Arrow, trapped and facing imminent death at the hands of the Other. With seemingly no escape, the teammates let their guards down and at long last, with that emotional vulnerability, form the emotional bonds needed for this team to become unified as one at last, something Glass has been steadily but not obviously (until now) building toward from the start. At just about any given point in his run, readers wouldn’t be faulted for asking, “Why on earth are these kids even together?!” They’ve been at near-constant loggerheads but there’s always the slightest hint that they’d eventually get it together and truly earn the name “Teen Titans.” It’s a name that is steeped not only in history, but upon a foundation of family. And at long last, these Titans seem to be turning the corner to become just that.
Bernard Chang kills it this month on art, and even double-dips and gets a coauthor credit as well. I’d like to see him get more opportunities like this to shine in the future. Hats are also off to Adam Glass for being confident enough in his own abilities to comfortably take Chang on as a collaborator. It just goes to show what can happen when a writer-artist duo are so firmly in sync.
This book is rock-solid, and among DC’s best. If you aren’t reading it, you are without a doubt missing out!
Teen Titans #37 brings every thematic element Adam Glass and Bernard Chang have been building toward in the last year and half to a head, and clicks all the pieces together fluidly and powerfully. Kudos to this extraordinary creative team for making it happen, and making a believer out of Teen Titans fandom again!
Teen Titans #37: Brotherhood
Writing - 9.5/10
Storyline - 9/10
Art - 8/10
Color - 7/10
Cover Art - 7/10
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