TEEN TITANS #21 by Adam Glass and Bernard Chang
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
Filled with fantastic art and brilliant characterization, TEEN TITANS #21 perfectly captures the struggles of growing up, especially once you add superpowers into the mix. With a group of unlikable and flawed characters, the potential for growth in this series is tremendous and something I am deeply excited for.
95 %
Fun and Furious
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Mainstream comics have had a tough time reacting to modern trends. Even in its heyday, the TEEN TITANS struggled to feel youthful. The stories were iconic and powerful, but they were somewhat affected by the overly serious tones of adult superheroing. In TEEN TITANS #21, though, Adam Glass and Bernard Chang actively combat that sense of seriousness. Does it give this story a more youthful air? Or does this story take on notes of parents trying to sound “hip?”

Tech Talk

The supervillain Gizmo had supposedly reformed years ago. So why, then, is he developing weapons in the back of his popular toy store? That is exactly what Damian Wayne and his new Teen Titans team are looking to find out. Hiding out in a box of weapons, the team springs into action when Gizmo flies into his weapons warehouse. Despite facing a team of superpowered youths, though, Gizmo goes down easily.

However, you don’t become the king of technology by not having a backup plan. Once Gizmo goes down, a self-destruct sequence activates, and the Teen Titans must rush to save the innocents outside. Yet when they discover that Gizmo is the bomb, they must bring their own morals into question to try and stop the explosion.

Likely (but Unlikable) Heroes

TEEN TITANS #21
TEEN TITANS #21 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

TEEN TITANS #21 is filled with unlikable characters. This might sound like a criticism, but I actually find it an endearing trait. Yes, I got a bit annoyed by Kid Flash and Roundhouse’s constant battle for ViewTube likes. Roundhouse even dabs at one point, so I almost want to write this book off there.

However, for the most part, this is a team of highly flawed characters. Even the most likable personalities, those of Roundhouse and Djinn, come with a lot of baggage or uncertainty. In this way, this unlikability works really well. You have Robin and Red Arrow working hard to separate themselves emotionally from everything. Kid Flash constantly questions the Titans’ role, and Crush barely listens to orders. Roundhouse tries so hard to get everyone to like him, and Djinn has centuries of mistakes following her.

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TEEN TITANS #21 proves that this series has potential. Let me give you an example. Most people struggle with SUPERMAN stories because that hero is just so perfect. He can do literally everything without error. He’s a beacon of hope, but for perfectly normal, fallible readers, it’s hard to grasp on to that. Then, Rebirth gave Superman a son, and he had to struggle to learn how to be a good father.

Flaws lead to good storytelling and the potential for great character growth. Writer Adam Glass does a spectacular job bringing forth these foibles from page one. However, the real beauty of this book comes from the way that these heroes need to confront these flaws. Djinn and Roundhouse take center stage in this book, and the way they confront their own self-doubt and worry feels incredibly satisfying.

Fast-Paced Mayhem

TEEN TITANS #21
TEEN TITANS #21 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

In terms of plot mechanics, TEEN TITANS #21 isn’t a particularly deep story. It starts out as a simple superhero beat-em-up, with funny quips and interesting team combos. This works for the most part. It left me wanting a little bit more, sure, but as an intro to the issue, it worked. It set the pace high and kept the pulse-pounding until issue’s end. This isn’t an easy task, considering that the battle only lasts the first five or six pages.

The rest of the book consists of the team trying to stop the self-destruct sequence. Here’s where everything gets interesting. This sequence shouldn’t work. Besides quick cutaways to Crush, Djinn, and Roundhouse saving civilians (by scaring them to run away, of course), the entire focus falls on Red Arrow, Robin, and Kid Flash standing around and talking.

It does get a bit slow at moments, but for the most part, Glass delivers a poignant and interesting dialogue. These three essentially lead this team together, but only Kid Flash has the typical superhero mentality. While Red Arrow and Robin are unafraid to let Gizmo die to save the day, Kid Flash insists that there has to be another way. This adds a lot of depth to the story and signals to possible future conflicts within the team.

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Bringing Down the House

TEEN TITANS #21
TEEN TITANS #21 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Bernard Chang steps in as lead artist for this issue, and I absolutely loved his take on the team. TEEN TITANS #21 has a lot of action, and Chang manages to make this work with incredibly dynamic character poses. The characters as well are incredibly expressive, infusing a ton of emotion into the scenes. I think, though, that I most enjoyed Chang’s focus on small details. Whether it be the intricacies of Roundhouse’s high-tech armor or the elaborate jewelry that Djinn wears, Chang manages to capture each piece of detail believably in this issue.

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TEEN TITANS #21: Final Thoughts

TEEN TITANS #21 is a fun and fast thrill ride of a comic book, with plenty of decent action to speed the story along. However, its strongest selling point is its great wealth of characters. TEEN TITANS #21 succeeds because writer Adam Glass and artist Bernard Chang hone in on the intricacies of their large cast.

Even with somewhat unlikable personalities, these flawed characters fit my understanding of youth better than almost any interpretation of the team before. Teens want to rebel and think they have all the answers. The truth at the core, though, is that they haven’t yet deciphered their own sense of self. In that way, TEEN TITANS #21 is an incredibly endearing comic book. It perfectly captures that journey of youth.

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