TITANS #26 by Dan Abnett and Brent Peeples
TITANS #26 is a high intensity, action-packed story that does a fantastic job delving into the doubts and fears of its lead team. While writer Dan Abnett doesn't push his explorations quite far enough, the characterization within is still some of the best in comics!
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Since the events of NO JUSTICE, the Titans have faced all manner of strange phenomena. With energy from the broken Source Wall cascading over Earth, average people around the world have started to develop superpowers. Until TITANS #26, though, these events were random. The Emergent Energy had no direction, only driven by narrative need and comic book science. Now, though, that has all changed.

Mother Blood and her acolytes have discovered a way to weaponize that energy. After performing a deadly ritual in a small Norwegian town, the Blood Cult has brought to life hundreds of creatures made from the blood of their dead. As the Blood Beasts overwhelm the team, the Titans’ greatest fears come to life. With Beast Boy, Raven, and Miss Martian all out of commission, can the remaining members possibly defeat this powerful threat?

Into the Frozen North

TITANS #26 Page 1. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

TITANS #26 is an exciting and action-packed issue. Writer Dan Abnett thrusts us right into the middle of the action from page one. However, this fighting isn’t simply satisfying. It fits this growing narrative of doubt and tension. Throughout the series thus far, Abnett has used these characters to explore these themes. Beast Boy cannot control his powers, Miss Martian hides a major secret, and everyone else has dealt with their own versions of fear or uncertainty. Abnett brings that into play really well in this issue.

He uses this new Emergent Event to delve into these characters’ heads. This isn’t only an example of strong characterization, but it also amps up the tension immediately. In many ways, TITANS #26 shouldn’t work. There are no civilians to save (they are all dead on arrival). The monsters are faceless, nameless, and without personality. However, Abnett uses this opportunity to truly focus in on his team of heroes. The tension stems from their loss of control, as well as the world itself. There’s a great deal of mystery in this issue, and Abnett does a fantastic job bringing it to life.

The continued world-building that he brings to the Emergent Events continues to fascinate and amaze. I am wholeheartedly interested in learning more about this growing world. It feels so new, even in the long history of DC Comics. For the first time, the threat isn’t squarely on supervillains. While the Blood Cult does pose a threat in this and the previous issue, the greatest threats are people who have lost control of themselves. It is a brilliant look at superheroes, and I can’t wait to see more.

A Team of Flaws

TITANS #26 Page 2. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

TITANS #26 succeeds because of its wealth of characters and their internal flaws. This is a really interesting story, with plenty of doubt and uncertainty for every character. None of this would work without Abnett’s focus on making us like these characters. He spends a great deal of the early pages getting us to see their personalities. We laugh as Steel and Rubel battle it out over technology.

We cringe as Beast Boy makes bad jokes. And when Nightwing calls the shots, we feel the atmosphere shift to a more serious edge. Without this early work, showcasing each characters’ chosen identity, none of the later thematic work would succeed. That is because these identities are simply masks, and when they get ripped away during the fight, all hell breaks loose. My sole issue with TITANS #26 does stem from this characterization. While it is good, I didn’t feel that Abnett pushed it far enough.

For example, he opens the book with a brief look at Donna Troy’s own issues with alcohol. I’ve wanted Abnett to address this new personality for Troy since the beginning, and I thought this would finally be his opportunity. However, it doesn’t affect her at all after the first page. Similar things can be said with regards to Beast Boy and Miss Martian’s loss of control. These go a lot more in-depth than the Troy example, but even so, I didn’t feel like Abnett pushed the emotions or themes far enough with them either. With Miss Martian, I didn’t care as much because we still learned more about this character than we knew before. With Beast Boy, though, it simply leads to confusion, as I wasn’t sure how his new power set actually works.

In the Cold

TITANS #26 Page 3. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Illustrating TITANS #26 is returning artist Brent Peeples. I loved his work with this issue, and I hope he makes many more appearances in the future. This isn’t to say that I disliked the previous artists. In fact, the realism that has graced this new arc has really set this series apart. However, Peeples gives the series a more back to basics look. His style is very “typical” comic book, with heavy use of linework and inking.

Peeples’s strengths definitely lie in character expression and anatomy. His fight scenes in this issue alone are some of the best in the medium. When Miss Martian is punched through a wall by a blood monster, the weight can easily be felt. Peeples illustrates with a ton of energy, and with the story taking a more action-heavy turn, his work only adds to the experience.

TITANS #26: Final Thoughts

TITANS #26 continues the tradition of excellence that Dan Abnett has set for the series. The focus on the teams’ many flaws, doubts, and worries gives this book a definite edge, despite the lack of an interesting villain. In fact, the somewhat cookie-cutter villain adds a lot to this story, allowing Abnett to instead focus on characterizing his team.

While he doesn’t push the characterization quite far enough, TITANS #26 succeeds due to its interesting characters and high-intensity plot. With Mother Blood’s forces gaining in power, I cannot wait to see where this creative team pushes this story in the future.

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