Review: Titans Vol. 2: Made in Manhattan (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Dan Abnett's Rebirth Titans Vol. 2: Made in Manhattan contains four issues and then an annual, of which the book's biggest revelations come in the final pages of the annual. The book hardly needs the issues that precede it to tell the main story, though charitably at least Abnett only uses three issues and an introduction and not six for this arc. But at the end of the second trade, Abnett has moved this book forward only by inches, and that's a frustratingly slow pace for what should be one of the linchpins of the Rebirth era. Artist Brett Booth is doing that "jagged panels" thing again when it's not needed; altogether at the end of the second Titans volume, this book still isn't coming together for me the way I want it to.

[Review contains spoilers]

At the time, the first meeting of the post-Crisis Superman and the time-lost New 52 Wally West must have been a much-anticipated event. That introductory issue doesn't come to much though (besides fine art by Lee Weeks); yes, Superman and Wally have a chat, but it's really surface level (no acknowledgement, even, of Wally's time in the JLA), and certainly Superman and Wally gain no greater understanding of the Rebirth puzzle overall. There's a new Titans Tower here, which is nice set against the new New York skyline, and some entertaining procedural material about the Titans setting up the new tower, but in the main I was stuck on how little comes from Superman's appearance, and also that it still makes nuts that Abnett's having Donna Troy talk about her parents when that's completely contradictory to this new Donna's recent appearances in Wonder Woman.

Abnett answers that criticism late in the aforementioned annual, when he reveals that Wonder Woman Diana and the Amazons gave Donna false memories to supplant the fact that she was created as a weapon against Wonder Woman. This was a gutsy move by Abnett to withhold this for almost twelve issues and play like he got it wrong, a move (if that's what this was) that generated more ill for me as a reader than good. Also it still doesn't make sense, in the same way that a number of DC's efforts these days in an attempt to better Wonder Woman also don't make sense -- if Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman has never been back to Themyscira, then she was never targeted by Hecate, and so this weaponized Donna Troy could never have been created, unless Abnett's got some other Donna Troy origin up his sleeve involving Veronica Cale or something. (Did Diana never consider what would happen if Donna, who believes she has a mother, decided to go and see said mother like Arsenal Roy Harper suggests early on?) Either way, though I give Abnett points for using the annual for a big reveal, something you don't see done all that often any more, it seems to me the Donna Troy storyline might've been better used bolstering the main book than held off to the side.

That main story sees former-continuity Titan Bumblebee Karen Duncan having her powers investigated by Meta Solutions, which turns out to be an operation by the Fearsome Five under HIVE. The Titans take the Five at their word that they've reformed (even though everyone understands leader Psimon could be tricking Titan telepath Omen), break in to Meta later, and sure enough find that the Five have nefarious intentions. Similar to Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman, the most interesting part of this story for me was when it seemed like this would be more than just evil bad guys versus good heroes -- perhaps some of the Five really were reforming or thought they were reforming, but no, everything's exactly as it appears. There is, I admit, some thrill in seeing the Titans pitted against the Fearsome Five again, and Abnett does clever work especially in resurrecting Mal Duncan's old Guardian persona, but by and large there's nothing surprising here, not until the Donna Troy revelation in the annual.

I respect that Brett Booth has a lot of dynamism in his artwork. Even the tilted splash-page at the climax of the second issue with the Titans bursting on to the scene isn't my cup of tea, but I respect that the exuberance conveys a certain effect. But flip back to the beginning of this chapter and Booth is using his "shattered frames" effect even when Mal and Karen or Wally and Dick Grayson are simply talking, or when Donna is looking through her photographs, and on and on with a lot of sameness. Compare to Weeks in the previous chapter; angled or square panels aside, Weeks uses considerable more variance in his page compositions than Booth does, and for me it looks repetitive and overwrought after a while (see also nearly the same image of Mammoth used multiple times in the book).


The next volume of Titans appears to build on this HIVE storyline, which at least gives us a sense of where this book is going; basically Titans Vol. 2: Made in Manhattan re-establishing Herald and Bumblebee after Titans Hunt seemed like standing in place, but if an overarching threat can be extracted from it, that's better. And of course we know where we're really headed is the Lazarus Contract crossover and what'll come out of that; hopefully too Dan Abnett has the revelations about Donna Troy in the forefront. I have liked Titans titles before and I'd like to again, but I need more than what this book offers to hang my hat on.

[Includes original and variant covers, Brett Booth sketchbook]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Titans Vol. 2: Made in Manhattan
Author Rating
3 (out of 5)
Collected Editions 2017 Comic Book Gift Guide
Get the Collected Editions scoop before anyone else -- on Facebook!

1 comment:

  1. Booth's art has gotten very frustrating to follow for me. His layouts are just to chaotic and scattered, and it seems like Abnett's dialogue is smashed together whenever Booth is on art.

    ReplyDelete