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‘Titans #36’ (review)

Written by Dan Abnett
Illustrated by Bruno Redondo
Published by DC Comics

“Be a Titan.”

It seemed like a good idea at the time, I’m sure.

And I think it even played out pretty much the way it was meant to.

Not the end of the series, that part probably wasn’t intended. Not quite like this anyway. I’m talking about the ‘rebirth’ of Raven.

Dan Abnett clearly had plans in mind for each of his characters when this latest Titans book was launched. Plans that were pretty well tied into the whole backstory of the Source Wall break and, one would assume, its eventual collapse.

Plans that all funneled down to the stand-off here, on the Source-created magical dimension of Unearth, against psycho-mama Mother Blood.

I admit, when we first left Unearth, all the way back in issue # 24 – the final page in which we discover that Raven had been left behind, replaced back at home by Prince Travesty wearing her appearance? That was a good hook. The whole idea seemed bursting with potential.

And then… things got weird. First it wasn’t clear whether Raven was still Travesty. Then, increasingly it seemed she wasn’t. But regardless, whatever version of Raven we still had with us was significantly debilitated, her empathic powers all but gone, her magics severely limited., and her temperament increasingly… listless.

Now we understand what was amiss – the girl had no soul. Or no soul-self anyway. Trapped on Unearth, at the mercy of Travesty and Mother Blood, that soul-self – the source of all Raven’s power – was then fractured even further. In decidedly odd fashion.

Now the three selves of Raven have been reunited. And she’s back at full strength, with a renewed resolve that has perhaps been absent from the character for far too long. Lending weight to the idea that this is exactly what Abnett intended from the start.

Too bad it’s only happened in the final two issues. After a series-long lack of character development and confusion.

I’m not saying it was a bad idea. But it certainly feels a bit anti-climactic now. Just one more thing to wrap up here at the end.

Probably not how it was meant to go down exactly.

To be completely fair, had this arc not been meant to end the series, and if the team had been given perhaps an extra issue or two to roll out the whole culminating drama, I can see it paying off rather nicely.

The mega-multiversal threat of Mother Blood, dovetailing with the mysteries of Unearth, in a satisfying one-two punch of betrayal and backstabbing, our hapless band caught in the middle as pawns and playthings, until… they’re not. A rising from the ashes Hail Mary victory worthy of characters most have us have known and loved for ages.

Certainly, that victory for both Gar and Rachel are both equally gratifying even now, in an action-packed climax of selfless heroism, that neutralizes the threat of Mother Blood forever (suuuure), with certain fringe benefits that should give a new lease on life for both characters. (Phew.)

And sure, it’s all a bit nice and tidy, but still it’s a good ending, for all that it was such a complex winding path to get there, with a few too many surprise adjustments along the way, and too many necessary abbreviations in the final acts.

As with so much of the series throughout however, that complexity pulled from anything like the satisfying character treatment, much less final farewells, that the whole team truly deserved.

We even have a new artist for the finale, Bruno Redondo. And he’s not half bad. Makes a good look for the team and the book. Too bad that’s over.

One nice thing that comes out of it, are a few bookend flashback scenes with Raven and Nightwing. Nightwing who seems lost to us now, who’s absence felt like a near mortal blow to the book, and may pretty much have been.

It’s good to have him back in form for this swan song, he and Rachel standing as the heart and soul of an effort meant to bridge the old and the new, a lead up to this new chapter in the DCU, the point when we begin our final preparations for a crisis to end all crises. (And again, suuuuure.)

The scenes weren’t what he had in mind at the start I’m sure. But Abnett’s touch with dialogue confirms, even as this particular passion project of a long-time wonderstruck Titans fan winds to its close, that the man’s still got the stuff to be writing these books for a long time to come.

Just – keep it simple maybe Dan. Simpler, anyway.

Don’t worry though, if you’ve started to miss him already, he hasn’t gone far. (Check out this month’s excellent Justice League Odyssey to see what I mean)

The Titans will be back too. Someday. Maybe even someday soon. Of course they will. You can’t keep these kids down. They’re the hope of a new day.

Always have been. Always will be.

Titans Forever.

(Hey, that’s a pretty good title for a new book.)

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