Titans was a series that started out of the DC Rebirth gate with a good foundation built. Unfortunately since “The Lazarus Contract” crossover with Teen Titans and Deathstroke ongoing series Titans has been on downward trend. That downward trend has been because of rushed character development across the board with the Titans team and disappointing execution in the long-term arc involving HIVE. Things haven’t become better with the HIVE arc now becoming front and center for the series. Now what may or may not turn things around for this current arc is the reveal that Troia, the future version of Donna Troy, is possibly behind recent events in the Titans lives. How will this all affect the Titans lives? What will we learn about Donna Troy’s latest version of her “true” origin story? Let’s find out with Titans #17.
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Minkyu Jung
Inker: Mick Gray
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: While Nightwing tells the rest of the Titans to defend themselves Donna Troy stands in shock at seeing her future self, Troia, standing with the villains they have been fighting.
When Troia approaches the team Arsenal and Nightwing asks her who she is. Troia calls Nightwing “Batman” before realizing that he won’t become that for a while though it turns out to be bad. Troia tells Arsenal that things are even worse for Roy, who will end up an alcoholic and substance abuser in the future.
Troia then notices Omen and remembers how she was always afraid of using her powers for fear of abusing them. That fear led to Omen failing to warn Garth and Roy from their paths of destruction and the world about Imperiex. She goes on to say that her failure leads Omen to commit suicide.
Donna tells Troia to stop her rambling. Troia tells Donna to calm down as the battle is already over since her Avatars have fought the Titans to a standstill.
Donna asks Troia what she wants. Troia says she wants to spare them both the heartache of the future.
Troia notices Kid Flash is sitting next to Flash (Wally West) and wonders what he is doing there. Kid Flash says that the Speed Force called to him.
Troia mentions that she remembers Flash’s (Wally) death happening because he pushed himself to hard to protect his friends when the Titans faced faced Savitar or Brother Blood.Troia tells everyone that what the Titans needed was for Flash to be alive.
Troia asks Kid Flash for his real name. Kid Flash says his name is Wally West. Troia gets pissed for him being a “pretender.”
Having heard enough, Donna punches Troia, much to her Avatars surprise. Troia reminds Donna that she didn’t come to fight but she will to let Donna get it out of her system.
As Donna and Troia fight the rest of the Titans fight Troia’s Avatars all the while Kid Flash watches.
Kid Flash wonders how he can help. When he touches Flash he suddenly senses something.
During their fight Troia reminds Donna that the Key showed them that they weren’t human, something Wonder Woman confirmed. Troia mocks Donna by saying they were made out of clay. When Donna denies that Troia wraps her up in the Lash of Truth.
The Lash of Truth shows Donna various periods of her life, including her birth, the first formation of the Teen Titans and all the versions of the team up to the current Titans that Donna has been a part of. The Lash of Truth goes on to show Donna the future where Wally died first, Dick died at the hands of the Joker after becoming Batman, Roy died because of substance abuse and Karen, the last of friend Donna had, died of natural causes. After that Troia led a life of alone, fighting the likes of Brainiac and Mongul alone.
Donna is paralyzed by what she has seen. While the other Titans go back and forth with her Avatars, Troia tells Donna that now she can be live free and not have to try to live a “human” life filled with emotions.
Meanwhile, Kid Flash tells Flash that while he doesn’t understand why they share the same name they are family. He goes on to say he knows Flash isn’t dead since the Speed Force is still inside him. Kid Flash uses his connection to the Speed Force to try to jumpstart Flash’s heart.
Troia approaches Donna and asks her if she now understands all the pain and sorrow due to being loved and loving others so much she believed love mattered. Donna asks Troia what she wants from her if she goes with the “Don’t be human” mentality. Troia says that Donna can start by destroying all the empires and people across the universe in order to reshape everything to be what she wants.
Donna tries to reject Troia’s offer but Troia persists in her rhetoric. Troia then invites Donna to join her in killing all of the Titans. End of issue.
The Good: Titans #17 is an improvement from where this current story has been going up until now. Having a major tangible threat in the form of Troia elevated everything the Titans are going up against. Unfortunately, for now, that does not take away from the overall weakness of the overarching story arc that is currently going on in the series.
Right out of the gate Dan Abnett made the correct move to present the Troia version of Donna Troy’s character as something completely different from what we have seen before. Rather than just being the identity Donna takes on after graduating from being Wonder Girl, Abnett shows this version of Troia that signifies much more. From her villainous rambling we were able to see how much Troia has been hardened by all her life adventures and those she has lost.
Making Troia’s history believable was the fact that everything she said was based on previous character history in prior versions of the DC Universe. Troia speaking on Roy’s fate in particular effectively cut deep since we know that the current version of Arsenal is already dealing with recovering from substance abuse. Having someone that looks like one of his closest friend saying these things about him felt like it hurt Arsenal personally. And with this being emphasized again Abnett has opened the opportunity to delve deeper into Arsenal’s present and past for the future.
On an even greater level, Troia talking about Omen’s fate did built on how Abnett has been characterizing Omen until now. Omen has been a big hit-or-miss character with where Abnett has been going with her overall direction. Now with Troia directly telling the entire team what Omen’s fate is both she and her team will need to confront all the secrets she keeps from everyone. And like Arsenal, it’s something that potentially forces Omen to go through a character that completely deviates from where she was heading.
All of this combines nicely into all the teases we get for the future of the DC Universe as Troia reveals threats such as Imperiex, Savitar and Brother Blood are coming. These three are big names and if they are to be seen as part of what the Titans have to deal with then we may finally get a much bigger scope for the series. It’s an element that has been missing from this series direction and these three villains would help elevate the title.
Minkyu Jung does a good job at making Donna Troy and Troia to have a different look to them through their facial expressions. Given that they have the same design to show that they are the same person it was important to nail the facial expressions and Jung nailed that. Jung is also able to get across how chaotic things are now with Troia’s presences through how he framed all the action going on. Even when there were long strings of dialogue we saw characters in the background fighting it out.
The Bad: As successful as Abnett is with getting across Troia as a villainous force it does not make up for how much this arc has been botched. Even though Troia has become the main villain there was zero explanation made to how we suddenly went from a future Donna Troy being the villain after all the build up for HIVE. For Abnett to just throw that out without even referencing HIVE whatsoever showed how weak the story around the organization is.
By making the HIVE plot be an afterthought Abnett effectively also threw out the Nightwing being a spy, but not really, sub-plot. By throwing out that entire sub-plot out the window it made everything that the team was going through with finding the spy feel unnecessary. That is a big blow to Omen’s story arc in particular since she has been on the hunt for the spy for the majority of this new Titans series. There wasn’t even a mention of a spy, giving the entire sub-plot an even bigger blow.
All of this is made worse by the fact that all the antagonist that the Titans fight are turned into nothing more than mindless grunts. All the character development for Mal Duncan, Gnarrk, Psimon and Twister did not matter since they had minimal dialogue. Not having any dialogue kept what they have individually put the Titans through an afterthought. And if you replaced them with any other Z-list characters you would’ve had the same result in Troia’s plot.
This is particularly bad for Mal’s arc that is supposed to be based on getting Bumblebee’s memories back. Abnett has done absolutely nothing to make us feel bad for Mal since he originally caused his family situation. Now his actions have caused him to turn into a mindless grunt who is fighting against the Titans, who are actually trying to help him and Bumblebee out. In turn, this makes it so there is zero interest in his character presence continuing after this current story arc.
Speaking of character arc, while initially an interesting character flaw Abnett has effectively driven the Wally West has a weakened heart through the ground. With this latest scare of his heart giving out on him Abnett has made it harder to believe each future action Wally takes to give him a heart attack not be as special. That is unfortunate because Kid Flash making the big sacrifice for his cousin should be a big deal. But it just did not pack the punch since Abnett gave very little room for Wally’s current story with his weakened heart time to develop and make us care for when it caught up to him.
Overall: Titans #17 shows signs that Dan Abnett is looking to turn this series around from the chaotic state it has been. Unfortunate all of the damage done by the rushed story developments and character arcs continue to plague the series from making the necessary steps to be better. That long-term will be something that will take time to get past and there are signs in Titans #17 is inching its way towards a position it will be a solid title again.