The Teen Titans are no more! Distrust and betrayal have spread the team to the winds. (Mostly due to Damian.) But when Brother Blood is found murdered, the team comes together once more to take responsibility for their actions, which put him in the position to be killed...
Fully taking over the writing reins this issue from Adam Glass, incoming author Robbie Thompson brings a welcome sense of focus to Teen Titans that has felt missing the last few issues, even as it’s still sifting through plots left over from the old regime. Damian’s ill-advised “let’s just brainwash the villains into being normal people” plan for dealing with crime as apparently backfired in a major way, as old-school Titans big bad Brother Blood is found murdered, and the team comes together to accept responsibility for their actions and find out why.
The brainwashing of villains isn’t the most original plot, but for what it’s worth, Thompson seems much more interested in mining the morality of the issue rather than its actual mechanics as a plot device. (It also wasn’t his plot to have to deal with, so props to him for taking Glass’s played-out idea and making it work.) Brother Blood, being a villain of some classic vintage, of course won’t stay dead for long (if he’s truly dead at all), but his death is merely the pivot upon which the emotional and psychological plot points tilt. The Titans have all done something wrong at one point or another since coming together (again, though, Damian carries the most amount of sin), and have wrongdoings of their own to atone for. Brother Blood’s murder gives them a focal point for that atonement, or at least a starting point.
Really, though, the interpersonal interactions are what make this issue stand out. As an ensemble book, each character brings something different to the table, and no one character outshines the rest. The result is a comic that can pair any two characters up, and have them play off each other flawlessly. That’s no more apparent than Crush dropping in on Roundhouse to see how he’s doing not as an ex-Titan, but just as a friend. On the surface, these two have absolutely nothing in common, but through their shared history of screwing up spectacularly, they’ve formed a bond and care about one another. Damian in his stubborn refusal to learn from his mistakes remains the wild card; it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the team realizes he’s more a liability than not and gives him the boot.
One thing with Damian that Thompson does do a great job of touching on, though, is showing Damian wrestling with his grief over Alfred Pennyworth’s recent death. Despite his brusque exterior, Damian is still just a boy, and has the temperament to match – something Thompson shows in flashbacks highlighting the boy’s dismissal of Alfred as “butler,” while he secretly loved him for his unconditional support. Frustrated with his inability to express his emotions, Damian now thinks back on how Alfred “always had all the answers,” and is apparently making moves to fulfill the promise Alfred saw in him. Time will tell whether or not Damian will actually grow as a character as a result of this, or remain in the same static place he’s been for years now.
Along with Robbie Thompson taking the authorial wheel, Javier Fernandez has debuted as the new series artist. His series is somewhat in Bernard Chang’s wheelhouse (though less blocky), he has a slight reminiscence to Marcos Martin, though with less of a featherlight touch. In other words, he’s good. He draws Titans that actually look their age, which isn’t always easy – a lot of artists draw teenagers that just look like little adults. Fernandez is a lock for great artist on this book, though, and together with Thompson, is injecting some much-needed focus after a lot of wheel-spinning.
Teen Titans #42 is a fresh start with a hot new creative team that seems eager to give the book some much-needed focus. Grappling with the consequences of past mistakes, the team is poised to forge ahead, but with Damian still unwilling to admit his errors, can they?
Teen Titans #42: Getting the Band Back Together (Again)
Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 7.5/107.5/10
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