Titans (vol.4) #1 (July, 2023)
“Out of the Shadows”
Writer – Tom Taylor
Art – Nicola Scott
Colors – Annette Kwok
Letters – Wes Abbott
Edits – Rosa, Holzherr, Kaminski
Cover Price: $3.99
On-Sale: May 17, 2023
I’d say something like “hey, we finally made it!”, but such a statement would only be for my own benefit. Ya see, I’ve been working toward this discussion/review piece for well over a month at this point… it took me forever to simply crack this issue open, much less read the thing! That’s kind of the problem with putting a whole lotta eggs in one pseudo-creative basket… you (or I, rather) kind of inflate the importance of certain elements of the “creative process” to the point where, rather than them appearing ahead of me like a simple hurdle on a runner’s track… they become like brick walls on the interstate, unavoidable… unscalable… and, wildly, painfully, unpleasant upon impact.
This Titans #1 was actually a book I “double-dipped” on. On release day, I had… I guess what the “kids these days” refer to as “FOMO”. Even though I already had the issue preordered from DCBS, I felt like I was missing out not owning a copy right away. I also assumed that, once I had said copy… I’d sit down, read, and write about it that very same day! I even bought the friggin’ $5.99 “trading card variant”!
But, I never got around to reading it. In fact, I never even opened the “trading card variant” copy. I think I only took it out of the bag once to snap a pic to send to a pal of mine. It wasn’t until my mail-order copy showed up a few weeks later where I’d actually give it its first flip-thru!
Now, let’s not get it twisted any… I didn’t not read it because I was scared it would be a bad comic. I think it was more that I was still questioning whether or not I wanted to get back on the content-creating-conveyor belt. Like, if I really wanted to do it… or, if I had fallen back into that bottomless trap of attempting to fill some sort of void in my life with some (poorly) written words.
It’s pretty sad (and embarrassing) that such a thing required so much (or, any) “soul searching”. I guess that’s just who I be.
Anyhoo… howsabout I finally stop vamping and jus’ do da t’ing?
***Spoilers to follow, natch***
We open with a gunshot. Wally West has been shot through the heart… but who’s to blame? The Flash thinks to himself how bullets ain’t usually a “thing” to him… he’s kind of mastered how to deal with them, via speed and vibration. Not this time though. He realizes that he only has one option at this point… a jog on the Cosmic Treadmill. He rushes through his kitchen to tell his family he loves them before hopping on the ‘Mill.
From here, we shift scenes to a bedroom… where Beast Boy and (a shockingly pink-haired) Raven are sharing a bed. I… wasn’t aware they were romantically linked, but I don’t see any problems with it either. I also wasn’t aware Raven had pink hair! Thought for a second this was a deep-cut callback to Logan’s pink haired girlfriend Jillian from wayyyy back in the long ago! Now, Gar’s been having bad dreams, and is shape-shifting in his sleep… taking the form of a teeny, tiny mouse. Worth noting, Gar’s eye has healed/grown back… which an editorial footnote reveals will be explained in (the upcoming) Tales of the Titans #4. I think we’re still several months/a half-year away from that as of this writing. Oh well. Anyway, it’s here we learn that today is the day the Titans are making their new mission statement “official”.
Next stop, somewhere by the water. Dick and Donna are attempting to recruit Tempest, one of the originals, into their new Titans crew. Garth is… kind of a dick. He isn’t sure the Titans can fill the shoes of the Justice League… and, he kinda gets all Namor-y complaining about how little the surface-dwellers truly care about the underwater world. He reveals that not only will he will NOT rejoin the Titans, but that he’s already working with someone else… someone who, in his words, “can make a real difference” and “do what the Titans can’t.” Not sure who he’s talking about… but, I sure hope it isn’t Deathstroke. Feels like any time a Titan has this sort of internal conflict, Deathstroke is involved.
Finally, we’re back in Blüdhaven for the Titan-ic P.R. event. Before kicking things off, Dick… for some reason, tells Gar and Raven that he’s not sure of their sleeping arrangement… and so, has made sure they each have their own private quarters in the new Titans Tower. Seems like a… I dunno… sort of inappropriate time and place to be having this conversation? Like, they really couldn’t have discussed this before (or after) having the “eyes of the world” upon them? Feels just a bit forced. Anyway… Gar thinks it’s a good idea to sleep separately, Raven disagrees… and the two engage in a bit of a make out session right then and there. Again, feels
just a tad forced.
Before our heroes can “officially” enter Titans Tower for the first time, Oracle calls in with a Titans-Trouble-Ticket. We’ve got a Category 3 Emergency that needs addressed right the eff now. Cyborg BOOM TUBEs the crew to a nuclear power plant where Titano the Ape is wrecking more than a little bit of havoc. Like, this could get ugly…er very quickly. Which. Hmm.
Okay, here’s something I didn’t wanna bring up. This threat has the potential of being a “big” one, yes? Like, cataclysmically big. Now, just because the Justice League is no longer an “official unit” or whatever… that doesn’t mean that the individual members of the League are in retirement. Like, we’ve got a nuclear power plant being threatened/attacked… are we supposed to believe that Superman is just ignoring it? Is Wonder Woman just watching it play out on Themyscira TV with a bowl of popcorn in her lap? I know the “mission statement” of this book… but, it being part of a shared universe kind of makes it difficult to completely “buy in”. Not a fault of the book/writing, more that it’s just one of those things that kinda digs its way into my lizard brain.
Unless, of course, this is going to be a “story beat” somewhere down the line where the Titans learn that they’ve been working “with a net” the entire time. Like, they’ve been tasked with protecting the planet… all the while, Superman and the League have been watching over them (or even secretly stepping in) “just in case”? Who knows?
Gar takes this opportunity to transform into a Tamaranean Kaiju, so we can have a take on a Godzilla vs. King Kong sort of scene… which is a great reminder of what a ridiculously talented and versatile artist we have on this book. Like, damn… the art here’s so good, I’m almost getting mad at it. Anyway, while Gar preoccupies Titano, the rest of our heroes perform their roles. While most of the crew is focused on scooping up as many civilians as possible, Cyborg heads to the core to contain, what he calls, “one of the most destructive nuclear events in history”… which, hrmm… again, where’s Superman?
Cyborg’s so good at what he does, he does it off-panel. So, the world is safe! What’s not safe, however… is this book, because everybody’s favorite — Peacemaker, has just shown up! Now, I haven’t read any current-year Peacemaker… and, if you’ve followed my “work” over the years, you’ll know that I am a “cinematic universe” denier. I have less than zero use for any of that shi– crap. I know Peacemaker is now something of a “funny, ha-ha”… so, hopefully he won’t overstay his welcome.
So, Peacemaker arrives alongside a whole bunch of choppers. Upon landing, he orders that Titano be killed. The Titans step in to stop this from going down, and instead just beat the baddie until it drops… far enough away from the power plant as to not cause any potential “booms”. Now, it ought to go without saying that Peacemaker is a dick. He comes across like mid-80s Guy Gardner… on steroids. Like, the “might makes right” strawman caricature of a Reagan voter. To the point where Donna even suggests that Peacemaker (and not the giant monkey who just nearly caused “one of the most destructive nuclear events in history”) was the worst monster they’d have to face today. Oy.
Anyway, from here Peacemaker approaches Nightwing and says that the President of the United States would like to talk to the Titans about working for the government. Nightwing, unsurprisingly, turns down the call. The Titans are not interested in doing the bidding of a single country… they will be working for the betterment of the world. Peacemaker warns that they’re only going to get this offer one time… and that, the fact that the Titans even exist ain’t entirely kosher to some’a the political power players. After a polite “go eff yourself”, the Titans BOOM TUBE on outta there. Once they’re gone, we find out that Peacemaker is working for Amanda Waller (duh).
Back at Titans Tower, our heroes (finally) head inside. They’re greeted by a trail of bloody (and familiar) footprints. Following them downstairs, our heroes discover the dead (?) body of the Flash. All of the monitors turn on… revealing the message “SOLVE IT”.
This wasn’t a perfect first issue… but, I really dug it. I think I can file this, along with the Nightwing arc that proceeded it, under “pleasantly surprised”.
Let’s tackle the cliffhanger before getting too deep into the weeds. Wally West is dead… again… maybe… possibly. It’s definitely a “statement” cliffhanger, which is the sort of thing we usually get at the end of a first ish. Now, do I see this death “sticking”? I’m… not sure!
I haven’t yet read (or even have a copy of) Flash #800 as of this writing… but I am aware that that its cover copy reads “A Celebration of Wally West”. That sorta statement doesn’t exactly bode well for our man, does it? Of course, all things are relative… and “death” in comics… even perma-death, is still very much a revolving door. So, it’s probably best not to worry about the wheels-within-wheels of the comics creation process… and just sit back and let it all play out.
Either way though… this was one heckuva cliffhanger… and, laid the first brick in what will hopefully be a fun comic book mystery story.
Now, on the other hand, let’s head into the weeds!
I ever tell y’all why I stopped reading Marvel Comics back in 2015-2016 or so? I’m sure I have… though, this blog is in such a state of disrepair that I wouldn’t even know how/where to begin citing myself. One of the reasons I just couldn’t take Marvel anymore was the way they were shoehorning S.H.I.E.L.D. into every friggin’ book in the line (in some cases, pushing titular characters into supporting roles). It was bad enough when every issue of a Marvel comic would end by getting a reaction from the Avengers… but, when we reached the point where even Earth’s Most Exploited superteam had to check in with
Nick Fury Maria friggin’ Hill every third page in order to get a snarky approval before acting on a global threat, I had to throw in the towel.
I didn’t start reading superhero comics to see the good guys constantly fight bureaucratic red-tape… and deal with endless cutaways to darkened monitor-filled rooms. Unfortunately, that’s kind of where we’re at right now. I wasn’t a fan of it at Marvel with S.H.I.E.L.D…. and, I’m not a fan of it here at DC with Amanda Waller and Company. Like, to the point where I literally started to glaze over. Not a fault of the writing… as I’m sure this Waller edict is coming from on-high. The Dawn of DC Primer was chock full of the Peacemaker/Wall tandem… you’d almost think that Bendis was still here.
I could go on, but I’ll curb it for now. Suffice it to say, I’m not looking forward to seeing the Titans vs. the United States Government… or, whoever the hell Waller is actually working for/with.
Another bit that caused my antenna to sorta-kinda “ping” was the soapbox near-miss to Nightwing’s refusal to join up with Peacemaker. I feel like most contemporary comics writers feel they have a lot to say about what’s going on in the world… it’s just that, precious few of them are able to put elements of that into their writing without coming across like… well, a ranty Twitter user or an echo-chamber resident (as if those aren’t the same thing). I think, so far, we’re safe here… but, I feel like we started to brush up against a lecture with this scene. Like I’ve been saying, I don’t know Tom Taylor. I’m detached from social media, I don’t read any comics “newz” sites, and Wizard Magazine hasn’t been a thing in well over a decade (more like two decades if we discount the absolute horror show that Wizard became toward the end)… I just hope he doesn’t wind up going all Winicky on us. This would normally be where I’d link to all my Judd Winick posts… but, damned if I can figure out these WordPress digs… every link I try and add comes up a 404! What a pain in the ass.
I’ve already chatted up my qualms with the big guns of the DC Universe sitting back and letting the Titans try and solve a nuclear threat during their first “official” outing… so, I’ll just let that be. Putting the story in a vacuum… like, if we were to pretend that all the power-players were “off-planet” or whatever, I’d say this was a very well-done scene. It featured a massive threat and played up to the strengths of each of our heroes… expertly displaying that even their “support roles” (civilian detail, etc.) are vitally important to the overall unit. Plus, the art was… ya know, phenomenal.
Overall, minor quibbles aside (mostly/completely informed by my own comics cynicism), this was a very good initial outing for our new-old team. I’m definitely looking forward to more… though, I am worried that I’m going to wind up “double-dipping” as to not have to wait for my monthly DCBS order to arrive.