Titans #28 (2001)

Titans #28 (June, 2001)
“The All-Nighter”
Writer – Jay Faerber
Penciller – Paul Pelletier
Inker – Bud LaRosa
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Gregory Wright
Separations – Heroic Age
Assistant Editor – Harvey Richards
Editor – Andrew Helfer
Cover Price: $2.50

Continuing our impromptu Titans revisit… and, ya know… I’ve mentioned the “D.E.O. Kids” a time or two… so what say we finally get around to meeting them?

By the by, this cover scares the bejeezus out of me… I’m almost afraid to snap a picture of it!

We open with Nightwing fielding an urgent call from Tempest while he swings through the Bludhaven skies.  Garth insists he get to the tower PDQ… because, ya see… the Titans have guests.  The geeks in the jumpsuits are the oft-mentioned (by me) D.E.O. Kids.

And, they have names!

Donna tries to get to the bottom of the situation… but, the kids ain’t really keen on sharing much… not even how they got on the island.  Jesse Quick decides to take a lap around the island to see if she can find a raft or boat or something.  The kids seem tickled with her speed equation… and attempt to recite it.  Only Nikki the “shy one” is able to recall the entire thing.  Oh, and there’s no sign of how the kids got there.

We shift scenes over to The Slab, where Roy is visiting, who else… Cheshire.  Before he leaves, hes chatted up by D.E.O. Special Agent Dakota Jamison regarding the Titans helping Epsilon escape.  The scene ends with Roy’s Native American “heritage” being called into question… just so he can put this lady in her place.

Back at the Tower… Dick takes in the situation.  The kids seem healthy, happy, and unabused.  Epsilon saunters over to introduce himself… and accidentally knocks Dick’s coffee cup from his hands.  Luckily, D.E.O. tot Grace and her quick reflexes stop him from losing a single drop.  Then Jesse bursts in to tell them about some trouble at S.T.A.R. Labs.

Dick sends Tempest, Jesse, Argent, and… Epsilon to deal with the situation.  It’s here we can see just how terrible a superhero Epsilon really is.  I mean, the dude is pretty hopeless.  The Titans distract the beast long enough for a Dr. Rivera to fire an antidote into its hide.  As the dust settles, Argent sidles up to the newbie… and it’s pretty clear she’s “interested”.  The Epsilon dealie will be cleared up later… and it’ll be kinda icky.

Back at the Tower, Dick and Donna tend to the tots.  Nightwing tries getting some fingerprints… but Nikki ain’t having it.  Grace calms her down… and explains that she doesn’t like getting her fingers dirty.  They’re clearly headed for an Autism explanation… which, being that this is a comic from 2001, it almost feels ahead of its time.

Once he gets ’em, Dick sends the prints over to Oracle… and Donna overhears some of their flirting.  This is a pretty big deal… nobody outside of the Bat-Family really seems to know that Dick and Oracle are an “item”.  Dick tries to excuse his way out of it… but quickly realizes the futility of lying to one of his oldest and closest friends.

The next morning Nightwing holds court, and announces that the Titans will be turning the D.E.O. Kids over to Children’s Services.  Epsilon pipes up to dissent… which causes the actual Titans to kinda raise an eyebrow… but not not much more.

Dick then breaks the news to the Kids… which, doesn’t go over all that well.  The Kids are then loaded onto the T-Jet and flown into the city.  Dick’s feeling guilty, so he makes sure to take the “scenic route”.

At Children’s Services, Donna turns the tots over to… I thought for a second that was Amanda Waller… but it’s just Mrs. Brookstead.  While Donna and Brookstead chat, the D.E.O. Kids huddle up.  When Donna goes to say goodbye… she’s surprised to find that they’re all in scarily high spirits.

On the way back to the Tower, Donna drops Dick off in Bludhaven.  We wrap up with Donna heading into Lian’s room to check on her… only to find…

Well, those were the D.E.O. Kids… adorable, right?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I wanted to share part of an interview conducted with Jay Faerber from TwoMorrows Publishing’s Titans Companion, Volume Two, wherein he talks about the drastic shift in focus this book took when Eddie Berganza was replaced as editor by Andy Helfer.

Check out the rest of this interview at Titans Tower

So, there ya have it.  We can’t blame Faerber for this… poor guy was just trying to “make chicken salad”.

Was he successful?  Well… if we put this issue in a vacuum… kinda?  I mean, this wasn’t a bad issue.  The kids are pretty dull, but… whattaya expect from some mostly-interchangeable kids in jumpsuits?  At first glace, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the brats “grew up” to become the Lab Rats or something.

Keeping with the Faerber interview… he mentions how much he wants to write the “core characters”, and boy does that show!  And, boy… does he deliver!  For me, the highlight of this issue is that single page where Donna realizes that there’s a romance between Dick and Oracle.  In that one page… this actually felt like a “Titans book”.  From Dick’s sheepish denial… to Donna’s pure joy at his happiness… these are the characters I want to read about.

The Arsenal scene at The Slab?  Ehh… feels like the whole thing was wedged in just so he could tell that D.E.O. Agent off.  Didn’t seem worth the panel space.  Though, I suppose it does give us a pretty decent segue to discuss… Epsilon.

Epsilon is pretty lame… and if I’m remembering right, all of this buildup is for a reveal that kinda falls flat.  It also makes Argent’s flirtations with him a bit gross.  Again, that is, if I’m remembering right.  I did appreciate that he was depicted as being almost a liability on the battlefield… that much was really well done.

Quick mention… Nikki’s Autism.  It’s hinted at, but we’re not really beaten over the head with it.  This was also nearly two decades ago when I feel like we were all less educated on what Autism is… and how to identify signs of it.  This is another thing that feels like “real Titans”.  Being ahead of the curve on issues such as this feels right at home among these characters.

Overall… as a curiosity, I’d tell ya to give this a look.  Paul Pelletier delivers some wonderful work… and the concept of the D.E.O. Orphans is still fresh enough here to make me not immediately roll my eyes.  Worth a gander… but, man… that cover.  I’m afraid I’ve cursed you all to having Donna Troy crawl out of your comic in seven days or something!

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