The best decision that has been made in this new volume of Titans is to break-up the team. It has been no secret that I have not been a fan of the direction of the series since the events of “The Lazarus Contract.” Things have just gotten more convoluted and devolved as the series forgot its own direction. But now that the Justice League and Titans, at least most of them, came to the conclusion for the Titans to dissolve for the moment the series has regained a sense of interest it did not previously have. In particular, Dan Abnett has given Roy Harper and Donna Troy some intriguing arcs now that they don’t have their friends to lean on. Will the series continue to be on an upswing? Let’s find out with Titans #20.
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Arsenal barely dodges all of Intergang’s bullets and finds cover inside a building. When Intergang enters the building Arsenal is able to fight some of Intergang off but a grenade knocks him back.
When Intergang is about to kill Arsenal for messing up their operation Cheshire appears to save Arsenal and help him fight off Intergang.
After taking care of Intergang, Cheshire invites Roy Harper to grab a bite to eat. Cheshire questions Roy’s latest war on drugs without the Titans help. Roy says he can take care of himself. He then questions Cheshire’s real motives. Cheshire reveals that she has been hired to obtain justice the law can’t provide.
Happy to hear Cheshire’s answer Roy mentions that the Bliss drug has been a big problem as the manufacturer is mass producing it and Intergang made a knockoff drug to compete. Cheshire and Roy agree that they are following the same lead and they agree to work together.
When Roy goes to pay the bill for the meal the waiter says that Cheshire gets free meals for all she has done for them.
At the Watchtower Donna Troy gives Roy a call. Roy tells Donna that he is fine and that the Justice League is just watching out for her. Donna voices her frustration over feeling useless. Roy tells Donna that he is going to go dark for a while to follow a lead. Donna express her concern for him but Roy says he will be fine.
Roy then meets up with Cheshire to go on their mission.
Back at the Watchtower Wonder Woman checks on Donna to see if she is hungry. Donna says she is worried about Roy. Wonder Woman says Roy will be fine but Donna is still concerned since he doesn’t have a mentor like Dick or Wally.
That is when Donna mentions that Wonder Woman doesn’t care anyways. Wonder Woman says she does care for Donna and that she is only contained in the Watchtower to run some tests in order to protect her. Donna then asks to call Dick and Wally, which Wonder Woman says she is more than free to do.
Over in Keystone City Dick helps Wally move into his new apartment. Wally mentions how he feels like this is the first time since leaving the timestream that he is building a life for himself, though he is concerned since his friends aren’t around. Dick and Wally then talk about how all the other Titans are taking time alone, some in pairs, to figure out their respective futures. When they start talking about Roy’s current status Dick says he knows Roy blames him for the Titans dissolving but that it is only temporary. Wally isn’t so sure because as time passes they will each realize they are living separate lives and they may not ever be a team again.
In New York, Roy and Cheshire work together to take out Intergang. They are able to defeat the entire group inside the facility. They then find the remaining knockoff Bliss drug supply and take it with them.
While eating some pizza at Roy’s place Cheshire questions Roy’s home and choice for victory meal. Roy says he is living his life clean. He then says that now that they took care of the knockoff Bliss drug they can go after the supplier of the real drug.
Cheshire is amazed how Roy comes alive while fighting. Roy says while his life is messy he can handle simple missions that are clearly right and wrong. Cheshire mentions that she likes seeing Roy regain his mojo which originally drew her to him.
They get closer to each other and start making out. They quickly take their make out session to the bedroom where they start having sex.
Sometime later Roy wakes up alone in his bed. When he goes to find her he ends up discovering that Cheshire took the sample Bliss drug with her.
At the Brain’s secret hideout Cheshire gives Monsieur Mallah the sample Bliss drug to complete her drug for him and the Brain. The Brain asks if there were any complications. Cheshire says she just had to deal with some past baggage but it won’t trouble her again. The Brain says “Make sure of it.” End of issue.
The Good: Who would’ve thought that the best thing that could have ever happened to the Titans series is to have the team break-up? As Titans #20 showed Dan Abnett’s decision to break-up the team has been the best decision made for the series future. Even with the team fractured Abnett has found a way to tell character focus stories that carry the essence of what makes the characters in the Titans such fascinating characters.
By far the character that has benefited the most from the Titans break-up has been Arsenal. Up until now Arsenal was one of the most bland characters on the Titans roster, only beaten by Tempest in that category. But now that he is out on his own for the first time since the New 52 started way back when. By placing him on his own Abnett now gets the opportunity to spotlight why Arsenal is a favorite among Titans fans. His personal struggle of constantly battling against his addiction and figuring out what kind of hero to be makes him someone you want to root for.
Throughout Titans #20 we get to see how much Arsenal struggles as he tries to do what he believes is the right thing. Through all of his scenes Abnett is also able to highlight how while Arsenal isn’t the most skilled fighter he is extremely resourceful. That resourcefulness creates some worry for if he can make it out of his fight with Intergang alive, making the fact he survives with only a few scratches surprising.
Making Arsenal’s character arc stronger was the fact Cheshire was brought back into his life. Abnett does an excellent job playing with both Arsenal and the readers emotions on how to feel about Cheshire suddenly showing up. Not only showing up surprisingly but seeing her in a heroic role did make you wonder what exactly she was working towards. While we wondered what Cheshire actual goals were Abnett was able to put those concerns in the back burner by focusing in on her relationship with Arsenal. In focusing on their relationship we got to see how Arsenal and Cheshire just can’t resist falling back into each other’s arms, in more ways than one. That fact makes what we learn about Cheshire’s actual mission for the Brain at the end of Titans #20 create a bigger question as to how Arsenal and Cheshire will be left after this arc.
Bringing in the Brain and Monsieur Mallah into the equation is a great move given their role as long-term Teen Titans and Doom Patrol villains. This is the first classic villains that we have seen and they bring an instant presence on screen that previous villains in other Titans arcs did not have. Given that they are shown to have hired Cheshire to take the Bliss drug sample we immediately get the idea that they have big plans that no one knows about. And with the Titans out of commission and the Justice League preoccupied with other business this is a great time to bring Brain and Monsieur Mallah back into the spotlight.
Speaking of the Justice League, it was great to see that Abnett is not pulling any punches when it comes to the tension between Donna Troy and Wonder Woman. From the beginning these two have not had a friendly relationship you expect from how they were in the previous DC Universe continuity. That contentious relationship made the lack of trust Donna has in Wonder Woman actually looking out for her best interest come off more believable.
While it is easy to see Donna as someone who is letting her frustrations rule her it is not without reason. While Wonder Woman doesn’t want to admit it Donna is being treated like a prisoner by being isolated from her friends at the Watchtower. Wonder Woman not admitting that fact made the current standing of their relationship something you want to see improve since both are clearly trying to communicate in a better way.
Donna and Wonder Woman’s mentor/protege relationship helps make how Dick Grayson and Wally West are still interacting as friends stand out more. Out of all the Titans these are the two that you expect to have some stability in their lives. Putting them in a setting where Dick helps Wally establish his personal life outside Titans Tower was a great move. This allowed us to see them interact as the best friends we know they are. At the same time, Abnett is able to use Dick and Wally as vehicles to reflect on where all the Titans are and put doubt into the team ever coming back together.
Paul Pelletier once again delivers excellent artwork that brings everything that happens in Titans #20 to life. Pelletier has a great sense of how to give an extra dose of energy to every scene. His design of the characters and the various setting have a classic, iconic feel while still keeping it to the modern standards. Whether it is the talking head scenes involving Dick Grayson, Wally West, Donna Troy and Wonder Woman or the action scenes with Arsenal and Cheshire the artwork in Titans #20 consistently looks great.
The Bad: As good as the individual character arcs for Roy, Donna, Dick and Wally are it is still odd that only Roy is maintaining communication with Donna. After spending half the series building up Donna and Wally’s budding relationship it does feel like Abnett is throwing all of that development out the window. While Donna and Wally’s relationship did not have the best execution there should be at least some communication shown with the two since the former is isolated from everyone else. It makes Wally look selfish for forgetting about Donna while he establishes his personal life and the same for Donna as she only is concerned and reaching out to Roy during this period.
While not something that hurt the story told in Titans #20 the fact that Lilith, Tempest and Bumblebee aren’t involved in this arc just remind readers how expendable they are. Other than Dick mentioning where these three Titans are their lack of presence in the story is not felt at all. This fact makes the reader not really care about where they actually are since we are obviously reading about the most interesting characters in the series. And if the Titans do in fact reform it wouldn’t hurt the series at all if only Dick, Wally, Donna and Roy form a team with other classic Titans characters. So while the core four may still be going strong this story is definitely not benefiting the interest in Lilith, Tempest and Bumblebee’s futures.
Overall: Titans #20 continues the trend upwards for the series as Dan Abnett and Paul Pelletier deliver another strong character study. Keeping the focus on Roy Harper, Donna Troy, Dick Grayson and Wally West has given the series a focus that it previously did not have. And by bringing back classic Titans foes in Cheshire, the Brain and Monsieur Mallah back in the spotlight the Titans series future is looking stronger than ever.