TEEN TITANS #21 Review by Garrett Grev

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SYNOPSIS: Next up on the Teen Titans’ target list is none other than longtime antagonist Gizmo, whose neighborhood toy store secretly serves as a front for his arms-dealing business. (You can get a Nerf blaster and a rail gun? Cool!) But this whole escapade is about to blow up in their faces when they find Gizmo strapped to an atomic bomb that’s about to go off—right in the middle of New York City. And it’s rush hour to boot? Nice knowing you, Big Apple!

Teen Titans continues it’s new storyline under new creative leadership featuring a new team in issue #21. That’s right, there is a lot of new here. Writer Adam Glass wants you to know that.

Robin is once again willing to sacrifice a life for the greater good.

Red Arrow is the new ultra-serious and dark character in the book.

Roundhouse is new at being a hero.

Djinn is new to being a teenager freed from eons of imprisonment.

Crush is new to being part of a team.

Kid Flash is…well he’s kind of the same, but he’s playing a new role of seeming to be there to remind the reader that these are modern teens, obsessed with social media and the like.

The story opens with Roundhouse’s narration of the team’s latest mission. They are taking down Gizmo, who is using his Toy Store as a front for illegal arms dealing. The Teen Titans are not clicking on all cylinders but they are getting enough right together to take out the villain…until it becomes apparent that they had not factored in the fact that Gizmo has set a nuclear explosion to take himself and his enterprise out once he’s defeated.

Issue #21 further cements that this run of Teen Titans positions our heroes as angsty teens that can be hot headed and rash. They are figuring out who they are as a team and how to work together. Glass leans a bit heavily on the interpersonal conflicts between Robin and Red Arrow, who spends most of her time pointing out that they are not a fully formed unit and are doing a bit of leaping without looking. This is fine, however it comes at the expense of Robin who readers have come to know as calculating if hot tempered.

Glass does a better job with new characters Roundhouse and Djinn. We get more on Roundhouse’s backstory, essentially that Kid Flash found him on “Viewtube” and that he made his own super-suit. While Roundhouse was at risk of becoming a B-grade Beast Boy, largely existing to be a comedic presence and lighten the mood, Glass seems to have something a bit more involved for him in store. Roundhouse is a minority and overweight, he’s eager to find friends and looking for a place to belong. He also has a heroically sacrificial moment in the scene that is a bit undercut by a bit of humor and a rushed placement at the end of the story.

Djinn also gets a healthy bit of backstory relating to the nature of her magical abilities, previous imprisonment, and ability to trust Robin with total control over her via her magical ring. Djinn’s vulnerability and willingness to hand over the control of her magical self to Robin are juxtaposed with her statements that she would never allow herself to be enslaved by anyone again. The moment is powerful and handled well over a concise number of panels.

Overall the storytelling here is fine. Robin feels a bit out of character and Red Arrow is still just one note. Kid Flash is a little too focused on getting social media views and it feels a bit of a heavy handed reminder of these being kids in the modern world. The focus on the new characters balances these slight weaknesses out however, and the approach is warranted in order to connect them to the readers.

The artwork on the book is solid. Bernard Chang employs a clean approach with sharp lines and plenty of movement. The sharp pencils and ink, along with vibrant and energetic colors by Marcelo Maiolo, help to counterbalance a story that could be considered a bit dark and edgy for some Teen Titans fans. The pages depicting Djinn entering Gizmo’s mind to unlock the secret to defusing the nuclear bomb are particularly effective and give the reader a feel for Djinn’s power and the intensity of the situation.

Overall I recommend this book. Just like the characters themselves, the creative team has not fully hit their stride but there is enough “good” here to keep me intrigued and looking forward to seeing what they deliver next. – Garrett Grev

GRADE: B