TITANS #22 by Dan Abnett, Paul Pelletier, Alex Hennessy, and Adriano Lucas
TITANS #22 feels a bit drawn out. While the characterization of the Brain and Monsieur Mallah finally answered some questions from previous issues, I never felt like other characters got their time to shine. Also, I felt as if some of the moments were expanded on a bit too much, and the pace suffered for this. It's still, however, incredibly satisfying though to see Donna Troy defying Batman.
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The Brotherhood of Evil has stood in the Teen Titans’ way since the team’s earliest days. Led by the vile Brain and his French gorilla partner Monsieur Mallah, the organization never really stepped past the bland motivations of world domination. Still, there’s something inherently cool about a gun-toting gorilla and a brain in a mechanical cart. Now, the pair has reappeared in the DC Universe with a world-shattering scheme. With plans to become the world’s greatest “super-genius,” the Brain has quickly gained control of the planet’s weather patterns. In TITANS #22, the villain faces new opposition. With Roy Harper and the Justice League defeated, Donna Troy rages onto the scene to protect her friends and family. Yet can she defeat the Brotherhood of Evil before the Brain’s mind become too dangerous?

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Superstorm of the Brain

TITANS #22, Page 1. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

A lot of really cool things happen in TITANS #22. I always love to see these stories tie into the grander scope of the DC Universe, and this issue definitely delivers. To see the Justice League bested by a literal brain in a jar is somewhat satisfying, especially when you consider that it is their own oversights that drove them to defeat. By not trusting in Roy Harper, and overlooking the possible threats at stake, the big guns are suffering. This means that when the Titans eventually win, the payoff will be incredible. More importantly, there are some really cool moments of action throughout this piece that help buff up this otherwise slow plot.

This issue does, however, suffer from its slow pacing. I understand where writer Dan Abnett is coming from. For the past several issues, we’ve seen only brief glimpses of Brain and Mallah, so to witness the grander scope of their attack pays off well. However, the issue does most of its storytelling in exposition. We’re in the Watchtower, watching with Batman and Donna Troy as the Justice League fails to save the world. Or we sit in Brain and Mallah’s secret headquarters as they go in-depth into super-science. One of the benefits of this visual medium is that we aren’t wholly constrained to one point of view. We can hear characters’ thoughts and dialogue while seeing other events at play. However, this technique isn’t used nearly enough in this issue. This leads to several sequences which, in context, don’t do a whole lot for the plot.

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Troy, Defiant

TITANS #22, Page 2-3. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

What this slower pacing gives to TITANS #22 is a great chance to explore the mind and motivations of the arc’s villains. While their motivations never fully make sense, it’s really nice to get their side of the story. I actually thought Abnett did a great job portraying Mallah’s affection toward the Brain. While the “super-genius” process is underway, Mallah constantly begs the Brain to stop before he kills himself. The gorilla is torn between wanting Brain to achieve his dreams and wanting to save his partner’s life. The affection present in this inherently silly character (a gay, French Gorilla) feels really grounded and realistic. While Brain’s motivations never step past world-domination, Mallah gives their story a lot of weight and interest.

I didn’t feel like our heroes got the chance to stand out on their own in TITANS #22. The Justice League’s lack of characterization makes some sense. They’re just simple cameos to push the plot along. However, Roy and Donna stand at the center of this issue’s plot, but never truly take the stage. Donna’s time in the Watchtower was expertly scripted, and her successful defiance against Batman is incredibly satisfying. However, the fact that Roy essentially cheated on Donna (you might argue that they weren’t technically together yet) is never brought up. Cheshire does attempt to play with Donna’s fears of becoming Troia, her evil future self, but it never gets enough page time. These are two characters with a ton of potential for thematic storytelling. They have gotten their due in the past, but I just didn’t feel like they got the spotlight they deserved here.

Inherent Intensity

TITANS #22, Page 4. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Paul Pelletier again delivers one of the best looking issues in the series to date. His sense for accurate, energetic anatomy only amplifies the intensity of the action sequences. I also have to give this artist a lot of credit for his designs of the Brain’s robot arsenal. They have a very nostalgic, old-school look to them, and it’s very cool to see them stomp across the page. I also want to point out how impressive the visual effects were in this issue. Whether this is a point to penciler, inker, or colorist, I don’t know. However, there are a lot of retro explosions and lighting effects to display intensity. These do come across as somewhat kitschy. However, with the fact that this has so many ties to the Silver Age of comics already, these effects feel right at home.

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Alex Hennessy’s inks are surprisingly subtle in this issue, and that is a nice change of pace. He typically uses a lot of heavy blacks, and that hasn’t changed. However, a lot of scenes take place in dark interior or night settings. This could give way to a lot of dark, silhouette style shading, but the subtle touch to Hennessy’s inks gives the issue some necessary clarity. Adriano Lucas also returns to the colors of this issue, and his work is stronger than it ever has been before. He paints the settings, props, and extra characters (i.e. Cheshire’s henchmen) in very muted, nondescript colors. Meanwhile, the heroes and primary characters all have heavily saturated color schemes. This makes them stand out in the chaos of the action sequences and adds an even heavier dose of clarity to the events.

Final Thoughts: TITANS #22

TITANS #22 isn’t the best in the series thus far, but it does have its positives. The art by Pelletier, Hennessy, and Lucas is some of the best this series has seen. The characterization of villains Monsieur Mallah and the Brain has some definite strengths. More importantly, this issue has some surprisingly cool moments, like Donna Troy defying Batman. However, the plot does have some issues with pacing, and it feels very exposition heavy. This leads to a somewhat unbalanced experience. I still recommend picking this issue up, mostly because of the ways in which it ties together this arc’s plot and leads into the upcoming finale.

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