TITANS #17 by Dan Abnett, Minkyu Jung, Mick Gray, and Blond
While a bit underwhelming in terms of its big reveals, TITANS #17's focus on Donna Troy's character gives it a lot of worth. Also, the brilliant art from Minkyu Jung adds a moody new tone to proceedings!
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Troy Hits the Stage
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The Titans have weathered many storms together. Most recently they’ve helped Karen Duncan handle the loss of her memories, but greater tragedies have occurred of late. After the team was reunited in 2015’s TITANS HUNT, the Titans have fought hard to stick together as a family. Still, time and again things have tested that devotion. Now, as TITANS #17 hits the stands, we see the greatest threat to the Titans yet: Troia, an evil future version of Donna Troy.

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In TITANS ANNUAL #1, Donna Troy discovered the Amazons made her out of clay to be a living weapon. The revelation shook her to the core, forcing her to question her very existence. When Troia arrives at the present, she learns her origins never stop bothering her. As she lives on, an immortal amongst mortal friends, she loses her grip on reality and becomes the weapon the Amazons destined her to become. Troia stands before Donna, carrying decades of anger, and calls for her aid in ending the pain before it begins. Will Donna fall to her own insecurities? Or will she rise up to aid her friends?

A New Perspective

TITANS #17 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Fans of the TITANS series will recognize one major difference in TITANS #17. Brett Booth, the series mainstay artist, doesn’t lend his brush to this issue. Rather, Minkyu Jung provides the pencils, while Mick Gray and Blond handle the inks and colors. The overall shift in styles is somewhat disorienting. Brett Booth’s style is immediately recognizable, with incredibly detailed construction and exaggerated anatomy. I felt Booth’s work on TITANS was some of the best in the medium, so changing artists at all seemed like a mistake.

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With that said, I hope Jung does more work for TITANS. His style is less heavy detailed, but that leads to a far more realistic look to the page. TITANS #17 is one of the more grounded and emotionally hard-hitting issues in the series, and this style seems perfect for the overall aesthetic. While not a painterly realism like Alex Ross, Jung manages to convey more gritty action in this style. Booth’s work always looks somewhat lighthearted, with lots of bright colors and exaggerated expressions. But this story needed a more serious edge. When Troia sneers down at the team, we need to feel that anger. With Blond’s muted colors and Gray’s heavy shading, the tension leaks off the page.

Fourteen Centuries Later

TITANS #17 page 7. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

TITANS #17 comes across best in its characterization of Donna Troy and her future self. This issue is largely a dialogue between Troy and Troia, with the latter trying to convince the former to turn to the dark side. Largely, this leads to a plot that’s engaging in the details but lacking in the grand scheme. There’s little focus on the ongoing battle in the background, as Troia’s forces engage the other Titans.

Still, for a book solely devoted to dialogue, I found myself rather engaged. It’s true: Troia’s motivations are a bit contrived with the intrinsic questions of time travel involved. However, writer Dan Abnett gives her the opportunity to explain herself. At the heart of her emotional spectrum is a desire to avoid pain, to be emotionless like a statue. By giving Troia motivation, Abnett gives her power.

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Simultaneously, Abnett gives Donna Troy a chance to speak out. While Donna doesn’t get nearly as much dialogue as her doppelganger, TITANS #17 marks the first time that she has openly dealt with the revelations of TITANS ANNUAL #1. It has been months since that issue, but the writing has focused almost entirely on other characters. This is our first glance at her interior life and a possible future if she doesn’t deal with the pain. It’s a brilliant move from this superstar writer, and it grants a deeper hook into Donna Troy’s emotional arc. The rest of the large cast doesn’t get the same focus, but they’ve had opportunities in prior issues. This is Donna’s chance to shine, and shine she does.

Troia’s Legacy

TITANS #17 page 9. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

As a long-time fan of TITANS, I can say that, while engaging in stellar characterization, TITANS #17 isn’t my favorite issue. DC has been building up to this installment since TITANS HUNT two years ago. They’ve pitted the team against wave after wave of Troia’s servants and forced them together only to tear them apart. So much has ridden on this final big reveal. Everyone has hoped upon hope that the future threat would tie into the grander REBIRTH events, only to learn that this grand leader is a future Donna Troy.

While a potentially great villain, Troia feels underwhelming. With all of this build up, I wholly expected some universe-shattering force to step forward. Mr. Twister, Psimon, and the Key all banded together to serve this great threat after all. Now, don’t get me wrong. Troia can do some damage. But, in terms of rising expectations, this feels like a letdown. There simply isn’t enough happening in TITANS #17 to really raise stakes. Still, by the end of reading the issue, I was still hoping for something more.

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Final Thoughts: TITANS #17

Dan Abnett and company gave their all to TITANS #17. As a character study of Donna Troy’s fears and insecurities, it couldn’t be any better. The focus on her potential future bolsters the stakes of her own emotional arc. The shift from Brett Booth’s trademark art style seems like an enlightened decision, allowing Jung to lend his own serious touch to the story. Despite some disappointment in the overall buildup for TITANS #17’s villain, this is still a strong comic book. If you’ve been enjoying the TITANS series, this will feel right at home on your shelf.

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