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‘Teen Titans #21’ (review)

Written by Adam Glass
Illustrated by Bernard Chang
Published by DC Comics


“See? It all worked out.”

“Luck is not a strategy we should rely on.”

“Relaaaax. We beat the guy, didn’t we?”

< Dab >


Well, I mentioned last month in my review of Teen Titans #20, that DC’s newest superstar Billy Wu, aka Roundhouse, may be quite a lot more powerful than we’ve yet had a chance to see. I sure hope that’s true.

It certainly seems possible.

Actually, by the end of this issue, it even seems likely.

Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part of course, but one thing I can say with confidence – there’s no question at this point that Adam Glass has a knack for bringing out the luster from diamonds in the rough.

Take Gizmo for example.

Remember Gizmo? Original member of the Fearsome Five? One of the many brilliant character creations that sprung from the fount of Marv Wolfman’s now-classic run of Teen Titans back in the ‘80s. Not a villain who’s seen much of any play lately, or really ever, in the DCU – presumably because other writers find him to be a bit ridiculous. But in Glass’ hands, that’s all done away with.

Well, ok, maybe he’s still a little ridiculous.

But again, Gizmo is an original member of the Fearsome Five. These were no pushovers. And it’s immensely satisfying to see our diminutive ne’er-do-well, reimagined in a fashion that honors that fact. Mikron O’Geneus (Really, Marv?) may be short, but he’s still wicked smart – super-genius level smart, in fact – and he’s dangerous.

You’d think our new team of crusading Titans would take that possibility a bit more seriously, given the set-up Gizmo has got going for himself in this issue. Certainly, before choosing to take him on in his own home. Red Arrow has plenty to say about that herself, but no one’s listening to Emiko. This is Gizmo, for goodness sake, the little green guy who zips around on his hover platform. What’s the worry?

Ah, youth.

That’s all part of the point of course, but it sure is enjoyable to see Adam Glass and artist Bernard Chang set things up to drive that point all the way home.

Once again, that’s done through a slick blend of character development and action sequencing. Glass used to write for television, and it shows in his scripting. Like all good storytelling, the trick is to show, not tell, and the opportunities for that in a comic are understandably all the more compelling. Not everyone does that well, though.

Glass however, once again, seems to have that knack. This book is a nifty example of the action driving the story, and the story driving the action.

Pieces of the whole just keep dropping into place from the demands of the situation. It’s fun to read, and just damn satisfying.

It’s not at all surprising then, that we get to see more of a mix of the strengths and the weakness each player brings to the team.

We also see more of the defining lines of temperament and morality that distinguish our young upstarts.

Significantly, we get a much a clearer perspective on Djinn’s power set, and in particular the reveal of a very striking (and very fitting) limitation to the upper limits of that power. One that is both consistent with what we know of other Genii in the DCU, (Say you? Say me..), while also suggesting some distinctly dangerous possibilities for her as a member of Robin’s team, which I assume we’ll see explored further in future stories.

And also, we learn that Billy Wu knows how to step up.

The whole story is told in the narrative voice of Billy’s POV, and while that’s particularly germane to story being told, I’m glad that it’s a choice Mr. Glass made straight-away.

Billy, it turns out, is an immensely appealing character. A painful mix of unfiltered social awkwardness and a mess of perplexing contradictions. Roundhouse is alternately uber-geeky and endearing, naïve, and yet more on-point than you might expect.

And you know, of course, he’s blue. Still not sure what that’s about. Like I said before, there’s still a lot we don’t really do know about our young Mr. Wu and his powers. But, hey, whatever. We’ll get there eventually I’m sure.

Well, maybe.

What we do learn though, in this issue, is that Billy Wu knows how to be a hero.

Sure, he’s a tubby, geeky, over-excitable, dork. But his heart is in it all the way, in exactly the way that so many of us would be if only we were given the golden ticket, to a spot on the team, as an honest to goodness Teen Titan.

And why did that happen? Because Billy’s smart, he’s savvy, and because at the end of the day Mr. Billy Wu, is brave.

So, OK he may not be growing on Robin quite as much as he might hope. But he’s got everything it takes to quickly grow on all of us.

It’s not easy to put yourself out there when you’re a tubby, geeky, over-excitable dork. But Billy Wu it seems, has hit his groove. Because Billy Wu knows who he is.

And in the end, it may just be that Billy Wu is the most noble of them all.

In a world where your average teenager just wants to know what it really takes to blow up big on YouTube, Billy Wu may just be the hero we’ve all been waiting for.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer kid. Let’s keep that in the present tense though, huh?

I’m rooting for you Billy.

Next Issue: Picking up the… pieces? Ew.


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