Titans #21 (2000)

Titans #21 (November, 2000)
“The Trial of Cheshire, Part One: The Eva Braun Complex”
Writer – Jay Faerber
Penciller – Paul Pelletier
Inker – Bud LaRosa
Colorist – Gregory Wright
Separations – Heroic Age
Letters – Comicraft
Associate Editor – Maureen McTigue
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

A Deadly New Direction for the Titans?  That usually means there’s a traitor in our midst, doesn’t it?

We open to learn that the Trial of Cheshire is ongoing.  Ya see, she had recently stolen some nukes from the former Soviet Union… and actually used one of ’em n Qurac.  At first I thought this was a bit “on the nose” before realizing that this was a pre-9/11 comic.  At Titans Tower, Roy Harper watches the coverage… but refuses to discuss it with his current “squeeze” Donna Troy.  Nightwing pops his head in to see if he can get Roy to open up… which isn’t terribly successful.  We do get a pretty ridiculous line wherein Roy compares himself to Eva Braun though.  Dick implores Roy to talk to Donna.

Speaking of Donna, the next day… she’s standing by the dock of the bay… watching Jesse Quick run away.  Moments later, Jesse arrives at her office (she’s the CEO of a multi-national corporation, donchaknow), where her mother Libby (Liberty Belle) is waiting for her… with the news that she is going to be getting married!

We shift scenes to a darkened room… only lit by a television screen.  On said screen, Titan Tempest is giving his two-cents on the whole Cheshire thing.  Watching said screen is… perhaps the newest soon to be Titans Traitor, Epsilon!

Back on the island, Roy is taking out his frustrations at the shooting range.  Just then, Tempest arrives… and Roy calls him a traitor for speaking out against Cheshire.  Which, I mean… we know you have a kid together, but… she kinda detonated a nuke.  She’s bad news, amigo.

We shift scenes to a little “girls day out” in the park, featuring Argent, Lian Harper, and Lian’s babysitter Chanda.  They share some playful banter before… a gaggle of geeks descends on them with the express interest in snagging the little bugger!  That, is… Lian, of course.

Argent sends Chanda and Lian away and tries to hold off the losers until her Titanic back-up can arrive.  Thankfully, it doesn’t take long.

And they fight!  Argent tells Roy that… get this, Chanda and Lian ran into the woods… and a couple of the goons followed them.  So, lemme ask this… why in all hells is Argent still fighting them in the park?  Shouldn’t she have also ran into the woods to make sure Lian doesn’t get ‘napped?

While the rest of the Titans keep with the battle in the park, Roy heads through the woods and into a parking lot.  He happens upon one of the baddies trying to use his power of suggestion (I think) to get Lian to come with him.

Then, more fighting… which ends with a barrage of fists from Jesse Quick, and the perfect “plick” of a marble against the lead baddie’s dome.

Later at the Tower, the Titans reconnoiter.  We learn that those geeks were hired assassins called “The Hangmen”.  Which, as far as bad-guy team names go, is up there with the most mediocre of ’em.  Lian tells them that the Hangmen wanted her mommy (that is, Cheshire) to keep quiet… as in, not testify.  Roy deduces that since the Hangmen were unsuccessful in snatching Lian… their next stop will likely be trying to kill Cheshire.  And, I mean… she nuked a country, right?  Wouldn’t that just be addition by subtraction?

We then shift scenes to the Hangmen’s HQ where… ohhhhhhh, it’s revealed that Chanda was in on it the whole time!  She’s taken exception to the use of Lian in the scheme… but, really… what did she expect?  I mean, you’re working with assassins… they don’t care about innocent kids so long as the check clears.

The mustachioed Hangman informs her that since they failed in their first outing… they’ve hired a pro.  Any guesses who that might be?  I mean, it’s the Titans… and we’re gearing up for a “last page reveal”… you guessed it, it’s the same guy who’s always the last page reveal for the Titans… Deathstroke the Terminator.

It was the babysitter!  You never expect the babysitter.  I mean, this is an issue of Titans, so there’s always a 50/50 chance someone’s gonna be revealed as a turncoat… so, I suppose it wasn’t too surprising.  Also unsurprising… that last page reveal!  I mean, really now… if “traitors in our midst” is the top Titans trope, the Deathstroke on the last page reveal has gotta be a close second.

Onto the story…

I’ve said this before… but, if you’re a writer and you ever start a sentence with “Wouldn’t it be…” and whether the next word is “cool”, “cute”, or “funny”… you might wanna just pull the plug right there.  It’s almost like Faerber thought up the “Eva Braun” line, found it either hilarious or insightful… and decided to write around it.  You ever see that episode of Friends where Joey wants to buy an encyclopedia so he can keep up with his pals’ “smart humor”, that’s kinda how this rang to me.

So much of this came across forced… while at the same time, so cliche Titans… that it felt as though we were running in place.  Not the most ideal way to kick off a “deadly new direction”.  Also, I’m still not clear as to why Roy is so driven to save Cheshire.  It’s been awhile since I read this, so I can’t say with 100% certainty that she actually was responsible for the nuking.  Though, I’d imagine we’d hear more chatter about “clearing her name” here if that were the case.

Perhaps it’s hindsight talking here… considering that we know that this “new direction” will last all of twenty minutes before DC Editorial derails the whole thing in order to bring in those horrid DEO kids, and make them a focus of the book going forward.

There are some good bits here… and, while I wasn’t as low on the Devin Grayson run as I know some folks were, I guess this might’ve been a breath of fresh air for some of the readership.  Less “teen-agery” angst, and more adult “situational drama”… maybe?  I dunno.

I will say… I love Paul Pelletier’s work.  Always have… and very likely, always will.  He’s one of my favorites, and a fella whose name doesn’t come up nearly often enough as being among the “greats”.  I’m also a sucker for these late-90’s fashions… I mean, Chanda looks like she could be in a Smash Mouth video or something.  There’s a lotta fun in this art.

Overall… ya know, despite my misgivings… this wasn’t a bad time.  It’s still angsty, but it’s a different flavor of angst than the Grayson run.  The traitor and Deathstroke reveal… were pretty weak, granted… but, I can’t really get mad at it.  It’s not perfect… but, it’s certainly good enough for a read.  This issue is available digitally.

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