TITANS #23 by Dan Abnett, Brandon Peterson, and Ivan Plascencia
While its plot has a few confusing elements and some of the characterization falters a bit, TITANS #23 is largely a fantastic reintroduction to the team. With a deeper focus on the more human elements of these superhumans, this is a really interesting new direction for the series.
90 %
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Dan Abnett’s run on the Rebirth TITANS always focused on family. This group of young heroes came together as children, and they have faced innumerable foes together. Now, though, that team is no more. Nightwing has picked and chosen a new team of heroes in TITANS #23, one without that familial bond.

With the Source Wall destroyed after the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL and NO JUSTICE, ambient energy is bombarding the planet. All around the world, seemingly normal people have begun to develop incredible new superpowers. And when a young man in Manhattan suddenly has lightning pouring from his hands, only the new Titans can save the day. However, when the threat is a scared innocent, are these long-time heroes able to defuse the situation?

On the Scene

TITANS #23 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

DARK NIGHTS METAL changed the face of the DC Universe. None of the former rules apply to this new status quo. For the most part, this has become one of DC’s most brilliant decisions. The spin-off series from this multiversal event have given the company a greater depth. The same can very much be said about TITANS #23. I have been a fan of TITANS since its Rebirth launch. Dan Abnett’s focus on the friendship dynamic really set that story apart. Now that he has taken the team in the entirely opposite direction, I’m happy to say that it works just as well.

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TITANS #23 introduces a team that barely trusts each other and has little experience working together. They can barely work as a unit, and that provides some fantastic character moments throughout. It is that sense of character that drives the potency of this plot. While the Titans face a potentially world-ending event with the new metahumans, the true source of their current battle is a teenage boy. They aren’t battling Darkseid or Mr. Twister. They have to face off against someone who is scared and utterly alone. That provides a new and unique tension to the series.

For the first time, these characters can’t just punch their way out of trouble. They have to work around the problems to come up with new solutions. Trust me, there is plenty of over-the-top action in this story. However, the main focus falls on the characters’ abilities to express their humanity. This does lead to some confusing elements, as most of the necessary exposition comes from lengthy dialogue. Nevertheless, Dan Abnett manages to focus very intently on new elements that reinvigorate the TITANS mythos.

Broken Pieces

TITANS #23 pages 2 & 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Dan Abnett knows how to handle characterization. And in TITANS #23, I feel like he nailed it. It isn’t absolutely perfect. He doesn’t entirely focus on the individuals on the team. Rather, he delves into the team dynamics. The individuals of the team aren’t particularly well-characterized. Each has a really strong moment in this story that showcases key parts of their personalities, but only two get any real highlight. The focus on the team, though, really helps with the first issue of this new arc.

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Together, this team is a mess. Each member of this group has some darkness to overcome. Beast Boy, for example, can no longer control his powers, which in turn gives the young man severe anxiety and something of an identity crisis. Each of these team members is broken in some way. What we get, then, is a deeper attention to the current status quo, meaning that we have a strong baseline for the character arcs.

With that said, the main highlight character, Nightwing, has some rather amazing characterization. Of these characters, he is the least broken in terms of personal history. However, he has no idea how to work within this group. During his past excursions as leader, whether it be leading the other former Robins in ROBIN WAR or the Titans, he had close personal bonds with the members. This team consists nearly completely of strangers. His former tricks don’t work anymore, and he can’t truly get a handle on his teammates. What’s more, he feels betrayed by the Justice League, who sent Miss Martian to babysit them. For so many years, Nightwing has seemed like a fairly pristine character, with very few flaws. However, TITANS #23 manages to poke some holes in that façade.

The Real vs. the Weird

TITANS #23 pages 4 & 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The art for TITANS #23 comes from the practiced hand of Brandon Peterson, and I was rather impressed by the showing. There were a few spots where his work felt a bit inconsistent. Some of the close-ups on characters seemed to clash a bit with the more bombastic action scenes around them. However, overall, I deeply enjoy his style. There is a huge amount of energy in his pencils and inks, and that gives the action sequences a huge boost in intrigue. I especially enjoyed his attention to atmosphere. There are a lot of different emotions working in this story. No matter the moment, though, Peterson and colorist Ivan Plascencia manage to get the story across in absolutely beautiful fashion.

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TITANS #23: Final Thoughts

TITANS #23 is a really strong reintroduction to this iconic team. While vastly different from the original iteration, the focus on the team dynamics gives this story a definite intrigue. I really cannot wait to see where Abnett takes these characters in the future. I also really appreciated the balance within the plot. There are some fantastic action sequences, and the energy levels of the story never once drop. However, this issue provided a problem that they couldn’t simply punch away. That new element sets this story apart. It adds a new tension to the game that simply didn’t, and couldn’t, exist before. TITANS #23 has its issues, yes. However, what it brings to the team is rather exciting, to say the least.

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