TITANS ANNUAL #2 by Dan Abnett, Tom Grummett, and Tom Derenick
Art
Plot
Characterization
Summary
While the story does suffer from a bit of inconsistency on all fronts, TITANS ANNUAL #2 does a fantastic job closing the "Mind Over Matter" story arc. With strong characterization and an action-heavy plot, this story does a fantastic job capturing what we love about the Titans.
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Dan Abnett’s run on TITANS (TITANS ANNUAL #2) has been one of the best ever takes on the team. His constant return to the themes of friendship and unity has helped focus readers into his thrilling, action-packed plots. With that said, though, the current “Mind Over Matter” story arc has seen better days.

When it started, it dug into Roy Harper’s drug-addled past in a really cool and gritty way, but as the story dipped into the goofier sides of TITANS lore, it lost something. Now, with TITANS ANNUAL #2, Abnett has quickly rekindled the original fire. As the team battles through waves of Brain’s substrate robots, Abnett gives us a story filled with thrills and an emotional weight that we haven’t seen for a long while.

The Ties that Bind

TITANS ANNUAL #2
TITANS ANNUAL #2, Page 1. Courtesy of DC Entertainment

There are several reasons why TITANS ANNUAL #2 succeeds where other issues in the arc have not. First and most important, though, is the overall tone. At the start of the arc, the gritty and serious tone made sense. The story dealt with very real human situations and emotions.

However, when Brain and Monsieur Mallah, two rather ridiculous characters, got added to the mix, Abnett and former artist Paul Pelletier kept that same moody atmosphere. Certain characters, typically heroes, can walk the line between the goofy and the serious types of stories. Mallah and the Brain are not these types of characters.

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Abnett places TITANS ANNUAL #2 in a place that is far more “superheroic” than previous issues in the arc. He introduces a threat that comes across far more grandiose in scope and truly leans on the more ridiculous aspects of his story. This makes for a more enjoyable reading experience. I didn’t have to try and remedy two disparate styles of story anymore.

I could just sit back and enjoy the Titans battling the bad guys. The plot itself isn’t particularly deep. However, it doesn’t have to be. The depth comes in the characterization, mostly, and this story is just fun. It felt like a more grown-up version of the cartoons I loved as a kid. As someone who never grew out of that phase, I felt like Abnett spoke directly to me in this story.

Trust in the Titans

TITANS ANNUAL #2
TITANS ANNUAL #2, Page 2. Courtesy of DC Entertainment

As I said, though, TITANS ANNUAL #2 isn’t completely without its deep moments. In fact, I really appreciate the level of characterization Abnett added to the issue. From the beginning, we dive straight into Roy Harper and Donna Troy’s heads. We get to see them, in the midst of battle, wanting to protect each other and feeling guilty about the ways they treated each other.

This leads to a fantastically satisfying look at these burgeoning lovers. Even Nightwing and the Flash, who only show up halfway through the issue, have to look to Arsenal for forgiveness. It feels like a full-circle situation, but Harper is the one in the right for once. For long-time fans of this character, there is no better feeling of vindication.

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On the flip-side, I am surprisingly happy with the development of Brain and Mallah in this issue. While Brain has slipped into apathy due to his new “supergenius” status, he actually manages to give readers a strong motivation for his actions. It isn’t that I sided with him after reading TITANS ANNUAL #2.

However, I did manage to at least see where he comes from. Meanwhile, Mallah is just as loveable as ever, heartbroken over his spurned connection to Brain. The only thing that makes Mallah’s role in this issue better is the inclusion of automatic weaponry. Even in the depths of his pain, Mallah still wants to give everything to protect his partner, and again, I understood exactly where this character comes from.

Split Perspectives

TITANS ANNUAL #2
TITANS ANNUAL #2, Page 3. Courtesy of DC Entertainment

Discussing the art in TITANS ANNUAL #2 is rather strange. The artistic team for the issue is rather large, leading to a somewhat inconsistent visual style. Tom Grummett and Tom Derenick lead the charge with their individual penciling styles, and before I continue, please note that I find both of these artists styles incredibly enticing and strong.

However, I felt that Grummett managed to capture the feel of the story better. As I said, Abnett leans into the more ridiculous elements of his plot in a rather satisfying way. Grummett’s style reminds of old-school superhero cartoons. It is so beautifully stylistic that it lends itself to this tone and atmosphere.

Derenick’s style, though, lends itself to far more serious storylines. It is full of heavier dark areas and a grungier atmosphere. This isn’t bad, and Derenick does a fantastic job on his own. My main issue, I suppose, is that both of these artists were placed side-by-side here. I’d have preferred Derenick got his own short story in TITANS ANNUAL #2 to better fit his style.

Separate, these two artists represent some of the best talents in the field. But together? Their styles don’t necessarily mesh in a truly meaningful way. This may not bother any other readers, but art is a major focal point in my reading of comics. As such, I did notice the difference.

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Final Thoughts: TITANS ANNUAL #2

TITANS ANNUAL #2 is an incredibly strong entry into Dan Abnett’s fantastic Rebirth run. It leans into its more strange angles more presently, giving readers a plot that feels more consistent with its cast. While the art did feel a bit inconsistent, the individual artists did a fantastic job with their sections of the story.

Meanwhile, the characterization may just be some of the best in the series. If nothing else, TITANS ANNUAL #2 has gotten me hyped up for the team’s inclusion in the upcoming NO JUSTICE arc!

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