Titans is series that has been on an unfortunate downward spiral after a successful start during DC Rebirth. The spiral down started with the “Lazarus Contract” crossover and has continued with this last story arc involving an evil Donna Troy from the future, as Troia. Hopefully the spiral will stop and things can get back to the quality Titans had in its first two story arcs. Luckily that may just happen as Dan Abnett is bringing the Justice League into the picture to confront their former proteges. With how things got extremely heated in the recent Titans Annual between the Titans and Justice League this may not be the smoothest meeting. Let’s find out how things go with Titans #19.
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the present Arsenal busts a drug ring and proceeds to kick every gang member up. As he does that he remembers a conversation he had with Donna, who is concerned that Roy would go out on his own and be so close to drugs after his former addiction to them.
Three days earlier the Justice League show up at Titans Tower and call the team out on how reckless they were during the “Troia Incident.” The Titans all take offense at how the Justice League are treating them like sidekicks. Batman brings up how it is reckless that Wally West is still active as Flash with his health problems and the unpredictability of the Speed Force. Flash (Barry Allen) agrees, mentioning that the Titans are letting their friendships cloud their judgement.
Superman then says they have to protect the world from all threats. Arsenal takes offense at this but Donna knows that they are talking about her and knows the Justice League want to put her away.
Back in the present Arsenal interrogates the ring leader in order to learn where his gang was getting the Bliss knock-off drug. The guy says he got it from Intergang.
Back to a few days ago Donna reminds Wonder Woman that she stood up to her destiny. Arsenal then questions why the Justice League are suddenly interested in the Titans business so suddenly. Batman brings up that the League wants to conduct their own investigation.
The Justice League and Titans go back and forth for a bit on that until Bumblebee speaks up. Bumblebee says she is done as she just got her life back with her husband and child.
Omen admits she made mistakes as the team’s predictor. Batman says they all made mistakes but the questions are with their leadership. Nightwing understands that the Justice League are actually questioning him and walks out in frustration.
Batman goes after Nightwing to confront him one-on-one. Nightwing reminds Batman that he has been at this for a long time going back to his days as Robin and wonders if his mentor thinks he is tarnishing the Batman legacy. Batman tells Nightwing that he has to own his mistakes. He goes on to say that they both have to do what they can so the world doesn’t fear people like the members of the Justice League and Titans with kings and demigods on the team.
Batman then reminds Nightwing on what he said to him back in his first adventure with the League and how he would eventually lead the Justice League. Nightwing wonders if Batman is disappointed in him. Batman just stays silent.
At the Titans Tower living room Wonder Woman tells Donna that she wants to be a better mentor by helping her rather than keeping at her from a distance.
Nightwing and Batman walk back into the room. Nightwing announces that the Justice League will move forward with their team investigation. While most of the Titans object Wally understands what Nightwing means. Nightwing tells the team to collect their things and apologizes.
In the present Arsenal talks to Donna on the phone about his mission to stop Intergang. He asks Donna if she wants to help him but Donna says she is basically on house arrest at the Watchtower. Donna spots Wonder Woman and tells Arsenal she has to go.
Arsenal continues his mission and sees Intergang arriving near his location. When Arsenal is about to fire his arrows some Intergang members surprise him from behind. Arsenal is forced to jump off the roof he is on as Intergang shoots him, with several shots looking like they connect. End of issue.
The Good: Titans #19 is exactly the issue that this series needed. In one issue Dan Abnett was able to set up several storylines that involve each member of the Titans in some way. In the process Abnett taps into the true potential of this series.
As a fan of all of the characters in the Titans it is tough not to try to scream about how bad it is that the Justice League bring down the hammer on the team. That is at least the initial reaction one has with how Abnett structures the story in Titans #19. But just as quickly as you would like to scream you realize that was the intention of this Justice League vs Titans story. Abnett taps into the readers emotions of wanting to see the Titans treated as equal rather than sidekicks. In tapping into those fanboy emotions Abnett creates several storylines for this series and continues the best parts of certain character arcs.
One of the good things about the Justice League appearance is that the Titans did not just rollover for their mentors appearance immediately. They all stood their ground and called the Justice League out for seeing them as a lesser team still needing to be babysat. Adding in the jab of how the Justice League are always dealing with serious situations that cause massive damage to the world was the right one. It called the League out on their own hypocrisy in how they try to police the Titans but don’t like it when other outside forces police them.
At the same time it was easy to see where the Justice League were coming from. Unlike the Justice League, the Titans are a team that puts an emphasis on their friendship. While that has always been a strength for the team it is also their greatest weakness. The Troia conflict just further drove home how the the Titans friendship does cloud the teams judgement and overall effectiveness.
Placing Batman and Nightwing at the center of this struggle was a strong choice as it highlighted the leadership of both teams. The arguments between the two teams fed into one of the bigger sub-plots Abnett introduced back in his short story in the Justice League before DC Rebirth. In that arc we saw how Batman does picture Nightwing, at that point still Robin, as leading the Justice League. Bringing that back up in Titans #19 shows that Batman, and by extension the Justice League, expects more from a Nightwing-led team. Nightwing defending his leadership and then coming to an understanding does create an interesting angle for Abnett to explore what kind of leader Dick Grayson wants to be.
The scene between Batman and Nightwing was a great compliment for the different type of relationship Wonder Woman and Donna Troy share. Unlike the Dynamic Duo, Wonder Woman and Donna do not share a close bond. Instead we have seen how it has been established that Wonder Woman has kept Donna at arms length this entire time. That is something that may have in fact impeded Donna’s development and Wonder Woman recognizing that was a good step forward for both of them. Though placing Donna on house arrest at the Watchtower does make you wonder if their relationship will improve since it does look like one step forward and two steps back.
The other big mentor/protege relationship that got a good spotlight was that of Barry and Wally. While not as prominent it was good to see how Abnett continued to tackle Wally’s health condition. Batman bringing up the unpredictability of the Speed Force does give a good reason for why Wally would side with Nightwing on the Titans temporary shutdown. Having Barry be the one that understands his former protege’s plight also sets up the upcoming Flash War as a possible way to deal with Wally’s health crisis.
While those three mentor and protege relationships were spotlighted the biggest star of this Titans #19 was Arsenal. Having been the one of the least interesting character in this series Arsenal needed this type of spotlight. It was especially important to see how Arsenal was given a character arc that is not just tied to his love for Donna. Seeing him take his war on drugs alone and against Intergang does make put into question if he is trying to hard to fight against his past alone.
Adding in the conversation with Donna further places how Arsenal’s war on drugs could be a cry for help. Because we do see Arsenal try to get Donna to join him against Donna. That could be seen as a quiet cry for help so he does give into temptation. Given that he does end up in a pretty bad situation at the end of Titans #19 against Intergang Abnett sets up how Arsenal could fall back into his old addictions if he is seriously injured during this arc.
The other Titans, in particular Omen and Bumblebee, are also well served by Abnett in this issue. Omen and Bumblebee in particular are well handled to continue their own personal character arcs. With Omen we see more seeds into questioning how she uses her abilities in a damaging way to the team and why it is actually getting to her. For Bumblebee this conflict with the Justice League shines a light on how much she has gone through. For her to quit the team does make sense as she looks to rebuild her life now that she has her memories again.
Having Paul Pelletier on art duties helped give Titans #19 a strong consistent artwork that elevated Abnett’s story. Pelletier’s consistency kept the issue moving forward for as dialogue heavy as it was. Even though we didn’t get a big action scene involving the Titans and Justice League together, Pelletier did a great job getting over the tension between the two teams. That added to how we see Arsenal in action on his own, which gave Pelletier a chance to draw some solid action in between the dialogue heavy flashback scenes.
The Bad: As enjoyable as Titans #19 one thing that did keep it from being a home run was how it did not seem to use the Troia conflict to its full potential. During the two teams discussion the Justice League should’ve been shown giving the Titans an example at the damage caused by the Troia conflict. Seeing a physical example of the damage would given the Justice League a better leg to stand on than just explaining things. It would’ve also added to the importance of the conflict if we saw how Troia impacted the present.
The other thing that could’ve helped Titans #19 was having Aquaman present in this issue. With how all the other Justice League mentor’s were present it was odd that Aquaman wasn’t there to be present for Garth. It made Garth’s outbursts during this issue feel more like a wild child who did not have his father there to reign him in. This only continues to cast Garth in a bad light as unlike Nightwing, Flash or Donna he doesn’t get a moment to show he is to be taken seriously as a solo hero.
Overall: Titans #19 is a great start to the latest story arc, “Grounded,” for this series. Dan Abnett was able to use his previous story arcs to properly compliment the conflict between the Titans and Justice League. What happens between the members of both teams sets up several interesting character arcs for the series to follow up on moving forward. Having Paul Pelletier draw the issue further helped the story have a consistent look, adding to the tension between the Titans and Justice League.