It is odd thing to say but ever since the Titans were forced to break-up the team the series has improved immensely. While the story arc involving Troia, a version of Donna Troy from the future, left a lot to be desired it kick started a strong new direction for the series. Even more surprising is the fact that Roy Harper is at the center of this new intriguing direction. Before the break-up happened Roy was the least interesting character on the Titans series, and that was saying something. Dan Abnett has so far shown why Roy, when given the spotlight, can be a strong lead for a story. And with Roy recent run in with Cheshire possibly leading to him involuntarily being drugged things don’t look like it will be easy for the former Green Arrow sidekick. Let’s see how things go now with Titans #21.
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Colorist: Andrew Hennessy
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: Somewhere in New York while Monsieur Mallah works on a device to help with with his partner’s pain the Brain comments how the Brotherhood of Evil are overlooked as threats by the Justice League and other heroes, partially thanks to Lex Luthor.
When Mallah mentions their plans are 15% complete the Brain, dealing with the pain, says that soon everyone will recognize their genius. They then comment on always needing each other.
Elsewhere Roy Harper calls Donna Troy to tell her how he messed up recently and now it has caused a major threat to appear. Roy tells Donna that someone is trying to control people’s minds and he needs her to contact the Justice League for him. Donna tells Roy that if he relapsed then he needs his friends help. Roy yells that he has not relapse. Donna tells Roy she is listening to him but Roy gets frustrated and hangs up on her.
Batman calls Donna over and tells her and Wonder Woman that there are no indicators of the threat that Roy told her about in the New York area. Wonder Woman tells Donna that she should look into getting Roy some help if he has relapsed.
Donna gets defensive as she doesn’t believe Roy has relapsed. Batman continues to say that Roy’s story just does not check out.
Back at their hideout Brain tells Mallah that he has made it so no one, including the Justice League, will detect what they are doing. Mallah express concern over the Brain’s expanding power but the Brain says there is nothing to worry and that soon the entire world will be part of his Brotherhood.
When Mallah notices the process of expansion is at 23% the Brain says he now has control of the climate.
Elsewhere in New York it starts raining as Nightwing talks to Donna about Roy’s situation and says he’ll handle things with Wally. Flash (Wally West) shows up and Nightwing says they are there to help Roy out, not reform the team.
Nightwing and Flash break into Roy’s apartment and see that it is completely trashed. Arsenal appears and ask Nightwing and Flash if they are there to help him with the threat he is fighting. Nightwing says they are there to help Arsenal to get him the help he needs. Arsenal brushes them off and starts walking away. Flash tries to get Roy to talk to them but he just punches him.
Roy tells Nightwing and Flash that unlike Flash people are always trying to decide what is “best” for him rather than just helping with what he is dealing with. Arsenal then fires several arrows, allow of which Flash easily catches. The arrows suddenly paralyze Flash in place within a stasis field.
Nightwing tells Arsenal that he has lost it and they start fighting. While they fight Arsenal asks Nightwing if he always saw him as a knockoff Robin like others see Green Arrow as a knockoff Batman. Nightwing says that isn’t true and has always been sad that Arsenal didn’t get the support from his mentor like he did.
The two end up knocking each other around the entire apartment until Nightwing is able to counter one of Arsenal’s attacks and holds him on the ground. Nightwing hesitates to hit Arsenal. Arsenal does not and knocks Nightwing out with a strike to his chin.
Before walking out Arsenal tells Flash that only real friends stick around till the end and that he is going out to save the world on his own.
As Arsenal runs across rooftops the Brain’s control over the weather continues to improve. Arsenal ends up running into Cheshire and her ninja army. Not backing down Arsenal charges at Cheshire while saying this time he knows exactly who she is. End of issue.
The Good: It is an odd thing to write but it is amazing to see how much Titans #21 has improved since the team was officially broken up by Nightwing and the Justice League. It’s a very rare thing because as a fan you want to see how a team interacts and saves the world together. But with the Titans split apart Dan Abnett has taken full advantage of the opportunity to given greater depth to the series. And, most surprisingly, at the center of this improvement is Roy Harper, aka Arsenal.
Abnett continues to show that he has a clear understanding of who Arsenal is. Out of all the Titans characters Arsenal is most defined by being such a flawed character. There is nothing that puts him at the top of the class in any of his key skills. He also is someone that, while working on teams like the Titans and Justice League, has never fully gotten behind working with others. A lot of that has to do with how his mentor, Green Arrow, was not the best person to guide a young, impressionable kid like Roy Harper.
Abnett shows that Arsenal’s history and flaws are what makes him such a compelling character. And going back to Arsenal’s most iconic storyline by revisiting his past drug and alcohol addiction is a great basis for a story that puts him in the spotlight. While Arsenal is clearly doing what he thinks is right he is quick to lash out at his friends that show concern for him. Even though he won’t admit it Abnett does a good job showing that Arsenal is constantly struggling with his past addiction.
While they could’ve easily come off as annoying, Abnett was able to show that Nightwing, Flash and Donna Troy’s concerns for Arsenal were coming from being his friends. Even though Arsenal felt like he was put in an intervention by Nightwing and Flash’s visit that is not the case. Instead, Abnett made sure that Nightwing and Flash voiced their respective concerns in a way that they didn’t just corner him.
Arsenal actually being the one that found Nightwing and Flash snooping around his apartment made his story of feeling like everyone is against him even more compelling. After Donna’s talk and how the Titans break-up went Arsenal has put himself in a position were he feels like the world is against him. Adding in the fact that Arsenal is so obsessed with his current investigation makes his turbulent emotions even greater.
Abnett added even more depth to Arsenal’s current status quo by showing that there is a part of him that resents being seen as Robin-lite just like Green Arrow has always been seen as Batman-lite. Right when Arsenal said that you could tell that he has always felt inadequate compared to Dick Grayson. It made the fight between Arsenal and Nightwing even more personal as it was rooted in something that goes beyond how the Titans break-up went down. While his win was cheap it was good to see that Arsenal went into the fight knowing that Nightwing and Flash would have a moment of hesitation and used that knowledge to defeat them both. It furthered the fact that Arsenal continues to have to scrape and claw to even survive a fight.
Adding the cherry on top that even the Justice League don’t believe and confirmed on their end that the threat Arsenal is talking about is “fake” made this what Roy is going through have a bigger spotlight placed on it. This confirmation just adds fuel to Arsenal’s fire as now on top of wanting to save the world he also is looking to prove everyone wrong about him. This all just further highlights the strengths and weakness of the character being so tightly that Arsenal can’t escape either one.
The Justice League finding no threat to the world also made what the Brain and Monsieur Mallah’s plan come off as even more sinister. Even though he didn’t have to do it, Abnett was able to give the Brain and Mallah the perfect motivation for acting on their latest plot to take over the world. The Brain talking about how the Justice League and all the heroes of the world have stopped seeing the Brotherhood Of Evil as a threat has sent him off the deep end. Even more so than being defeated and captured, the Brain sees being forgotten as the greatest blow to that ego. That blow to his ego makes willingly destroying all he is to take over the world something the Brain feels he must do to prove the world wrong about him.
In a way Arsenal and the Brain’s arc are the same as they both are coming from an angle were they are being disregarded by the world. Abnett made the Brain’s part of this issue better by how concerned Mallah was for his lover’s extreme measures for taking over the world. The hints that the procedure the Brain is going through is making him forget their partnership made Mallah a sympathetic character in all of this. All he wants is for the Brain to be happy and now Mallah is starting to see that was possibly the wrong thing to do. What Abnett does with Mallah by the end of this arc will be just as interesting as to what Arsenal is going through right now.
Once again Paul Pelletier delivers a great looking comic book with his work in Titans #21. Pelletier shows that no matter the character he knows how exactly how to get their classic looks down. Whether it is Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash or Arsenal, every character has their specific looks captured extremely well. Even more impressive is how Pelletier is able to enhance Abnett’s dialogue by matching character facial expressions with what is being written. This is best shown when we see the concern Mallah shows whenever the Brain is losing part of himself in the process they are having the Brain go through.
The Bad: As good as Titans #21 is the one thing that this issue was missing was further developing Cheshire’s character arc. While Arsenal is the main protagonist of this story Abnett set Cheshire up to have her own arc in the previous issue. And given the fact that she manipulated Arsenal and made him take the drug that they took from the dealers it was disappointing that we didn’t see any follow up on what she was doing. Given all that happens in Titans #21 from Arsenal’s side it is easy to forget that the previous issue ended with Cheshire showing regret for her actions. And now all we are left with is thinking Cheshire as just another grunt in Arsenal’s way in stopping the Brain’s plan rather than a character that has a bigger arc of her own.
Overall: Titans #21 is another strong chapter in this latest story arc centered around Roy Harper. Dan Abnett continues to do an excellent job putting a spotlight on all the strengths and weakness Arsenal has that makes him a compelling character. Arsenal’s clash with Nightwing and Flash made his current mission even more personal as he puts the world’s fate on his shoulders. Arsenal’s actions made the motives behind the Brain and Monsieur Mallah’s plans something that gave greater weight to all parties involved in this story. That all comes together for a story that will leave Titans fans looking forward to what comes next in this series.