Written by Dan Abnett
Illustrated by Brandon Peterson
Published by DC Comics
“It’s cool. Being a monster has to count for something right?”
Sorry to say it, but this book just isn’t gelling for me so far.
Of course, there’s tremendous potential here. This is the Titans. The characters, the legacy, their new prominence in the DC hero hierarchy – all these things pretty much inherently work in its favor.
And writer Dan Abnett has long been a fan favorite. One of mine as well.
One presumes that all that potential will come together at some point. I’ll be waiting to see if that happens. But so far there’s not much here that particularly grabs me. And a lot that I’m just not keen on.
Take Beast Boy for instance.
Readers of last month’s Titans Special will know that Gar Logan’s powers aren’t operating right. We’re told it’s due to errant Source Wall energy he picked up in deep space fighting space gods, which is odd for the simple, glaring fact that none of the other heroes from the Justice League: No Justice event seem to be suffering from anything similar.
Or any of the DC heroes anywhere for that matter.
But Garfield certainly is. It’s all he can do these days to keep himself looking like a normal, albeit rather shaggy (and, of course, green), teenager. Suddenly instead, we are asked to believe that his baseline shape is that of a hulking, rather oafish, post-pubescent orc, complete with jutting lower jaw tusks.
That all fits with the narrative underpinning this new Titans team’s remit: to identify and intervene in the calamitous outbreak of other mutagenic emergences caused by apparently free-floating pockets of Source Wall energy that are wreaking havoc across the planet. Again, apparently. There’s little indication of that crisis elsewhere in the DCU, the rather outrageous developments over in the flagship Justice League book not-withstanding.
Indeed, Gar’s anguish with his condition seems to be instrumental to resolving this issue’s adventure, a rather ho-hum and obligatory first outing of the team to contend with said havoc.
It’s all very neat, all very pat. Frankly, maybe a little too pat.
And what’s the trade-off? One of the most joyful and rambunctious of DC’s characters and power sets, has been shuffled into a morose, angsty lurching sad sack, whose primary value to the team appears to be the very monstrosity he yearns to be free from.
And I just can’t help myself asking the question: Why can he not simply concentrate himself, as he does now to assume his ‘human’ form, into any one of the myriad shapes of the Animal Kingdom that has always been Beast Boy’s stock in trade? We’re not sure. It’s not addressed. It’s not even clear that he can’t. Just that he isn’t.
And that’s very strange.
This is just one of several plot-devices that this new Titans book seems to be relying on to capture our imagination and our hearts. But much like the over-done and more than a little under-thought through tension between Nightwing and Miss Martian, the device comes across as exactly that: a device. And that isn’t terribly satisfying.
I’m not saying it can’t turn around. There’s a lot of raw material here, and as I said earlier, all manner of inherent potential. Abnett is a skilled storyteller and he tends to play the long game. There’s much more to come on all fronts I’m sure. Just look at Donna.
As for Gar, sure, there are ways that this shift in his powers can play out that may end up being satisfying, even powerful, for the evolution of his character. But so far, the idea feels forced and contrived, and I am very much concerned that in an effort to justify the choice, this is a development in Gar’s life that will stick around for far longer than its immediate utility warrants. And that would be a damn shame.
Gar is meant to be joyous. With a power set like his, why wouldn’t he be? That’s always been core to his character, even if he’s been languishing in the limbo of adolescent immaturity for several decades. So yes, by all means let’s mature him some, God knows he needs that. But let’s not do it with a longstanding depressing burden that ends up changing everything about the character for years to come. Please no.
For now, I’d be happier if Abnett and artist Branden Peterson took their concept to the extreme and made Gar’s baseline form the truly hulked out, crazy looking thing that illustrator Raul Manapul helped Gar let loose in No Justice. Now that was a monster. At least in that form Gar might manage to relish in the exceptional strength and ferocity at his disposal.
Instead what we have is Gar the Sad Green Orc.
Maybe that will shift, maybe as things get going they’ll have more fun with Beast Boy’s new condition – and his new potentials. I hope so. Maybe the same thing will happen in the book itself. There’s signs that it could, if we don’t end up endlessly mired in over-contrived angsty character tensions.
At any rate, at this point, my message to Abnett and Peterson is the same on both fronts:
Go big or go home fellas.
Next Issue: So what exactly is M’gnn’s mission then?