TITANS #28 by Dan Abnett and Clayton Henry
Though it features a somewhat simple plot, TITANS #28 makes up for this with fantastic characterization and simple fun. This is a must-read story for any DC fan, whether or not you have subscribed to the "Drowned Earth" event.
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Tie-ins are tricky in the world of mainstream comics. TITANS #28 shows how to do a tie-in story well. Typically with big events, teams of writers want to throw themselves into the mix, showing what their characters are up to. While these can be ultra-satisfying experiences, they can also get bogged down with too many back issues. Or worse, they focus more on the event and less on the individuals participating in it. In TITANS #28, Dan Abnett and artist Clayton Henry have crafted a brilliant tie-in to “Drowned Earth,” and set the team up for interesting stories to come.

When the former Titan Tempest returns, Donna Troy initially feels excited. However, when he reveals that a group of alien ocean gods are trying to flood the Earth, their reunion falters. Batman and the Justice League have ordered the Titans to work evacuation. Garth, though, has other plans. He wants to smash his way into one of the alien ships and find its weaknesses. Thankfully, he has an all-star crew of young superheroes to back his play.

Tying Things Together

TITANS #28 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

As a stand-alone narrative, TITANS #28 is an absolutely incredible reading experience. The plot itself isn’t particularly deep. It mostly features the team playing space-pirates, smashing through alien invaders. However, this allows Abnett to work with character in some really cool ways. Fighting alongside Garth again has Donna contemplating what the Titans used to be, giving this story some interesting thematic elements. At the end of the day, though, this story is just simply enjoyable. It has plenty of the superhero action we’ve grown to expect. When the team first boarded the ship and began the fight, I felt like a little kid again. Abnett strikes a nice balance in this piece, using a somewhat simple backdrop to keep the story focused on the themes and characterization.

As a tie-in, TITANS #28 works so well because it isn’t essential. You don’t need to read it to gain a better understanding of the “Drowned Earth” narrative. Now, that may seem like a criticism, and to some it may be. However, I think it works well. This narrative already has the potential of pulling in characters from all corners of the DCU. All sorts of books could make cameo appearances. That means a big burn on reader wallets. TITANS #28 works because it feels optional. It gives just enough new information (i.e. Atlantean magic affects the space gods) that can easily be worked into other stories. More importantly, it never sacrifices its own narrative for the sake of the greater story. This is a story about the Titans team, about what they stand for. It also happens to tie into the current event.

A Character Centric Event

TITANS #28 pages 2 & 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

TITANS #28 manages to feel like a very personal story. Again, Dan Abnett uses this opportunity to allow Donna Troy to explore her own emotions. So far, Abnett has shied away from digging too deeply into this character’s head. She’s faced alcoholism and a deep loss of self. While he doesn’t necessarily explore these personal tragedies, he does go to their source. By digging into her feelings about the old team, he explores the roots of her pain. Roy Harper is dead. Nightwing may never come back. Seeing Garth again seems to bring back the magic of the old team. Suddenly, this adventure makes them feel like teens again. That type of characterization is priceless. Taking this character who has seen nothing but tragedy of late and making her innocent again works so well.

Thankfully, Abnett brings this same emotional landscape to the other characters. Sure, he doesn’t dig as deeply into the rest of the cast as he could have. I personally feel, though, that he did just enough. In many ways, this is a story about breaking free. Beast Boy, Raven, and the rest of the team have faced nothing but sorrow in the last few issues. When Gar breaks down and starts playing pirate, you feel that return to innocence. You feel the team sloughing off their worst emotions from the last several missions and just laying into the fight. It gives the simple plot a much more profound edge. Suddenly, it isn’t simply about fighting a bunch of aliens. It is about a group of young people doing whatever they can to work through their emotions.

World Under Water

TITANS #28 pages 4 & 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Clayton Henry takes on the artistic duties for TITANS #28. I feel like a broken record, saying over and over again how good the TITANS art has become. However, I have to say that Henry’s work may just be my favorite. His style feels so dynamic, with fantastic character choreography and expressiveness throughout. I think what draws me into his style, though, is the realistic bend. He stylizes character anatomy, of course, but he also allows for different character body types. There are no copy-and-pasted Superman physiques here. Looking at Gar and Garth alone gives a sense of unique anatomy, but the same can be said for the three women, as well. It is a bit subtler with Donna, Raven, and Steel, but Henry still manages to make them look like different people, which isn’t a common feat in this industry

TITANS #28: Final Thoughts

Abnett and Henry did more than craft the perfect tie-in with TITANS #28. They also managed to tell one of the best TITANS narratives in a long time. This story simply works, from the art to the plot to the characterization. Whether it be the return to innocence for a group of grieving heroes or the focus on Donna’s nostalgia, this story deserves your attention. Whether or not you are a fan of “Drowned Earth” so far, this is a must read story for any DC reader.

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