Review: Titans Vol. 6: Into the Bleed trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Titans Vol. 6: Into the Bleed is fine for what it is, the self-referential and inconsequential finale of a series that, though positioned to be a cornerstone of DC Comic's Rebirth, never found its footing. To writer Dan Abnett's credit, the story is still enjoyable, with some unexpected twists. Perhaps the larger question this title, and its cancellation, raises is what is a Titans team when it doesn't contain the Titans, and what place does Titans have in a DC Universe that's got the Teen Titans, three Justice League teams, and the Outsiders already.

[Review contains spoilers]

Into the Bleed collects two main stories — a two-parter that sees the Titans marooned on a far-off planet, and a six-parter in which they chase villain Mother Blood into and out of a dimension based on a Tolkien-esque series of books, "Unearth," which the Titans previously encountered in Titans Vol. 5: The Spark. Which is to say — though both of these stories are rather better than they might have been — the plot is very inward-looking.

There are stakes for the Titans, but rarely a sense that the world is in danger. Despite that Titans is at this point a pseudo-Justice League title itself (having relaunched with "New Justice") and that a lot of conversation is had about the Justice League breaching the Source Wall and the Titans' subsequent charter thereof, there's little here that makes a difference in those ongoing plots. It's the very definition of a spin-off title riding the coattails of the events in another, more important title, and Titans never rises above it (as opposed to Teen Titans, which has branched out to involve Deathstroke, Red Hood, and a far greater sense of drama).

That said, even as the title struggles to find its purpose, Abnett keeps the stories entertaining. The two-part marooning story gives everyone a role, and their individual problems (Beast Boy unable to stop hulking out, Miss Martian's true identity, Raven's loss of her soul self) collide in interesting ways. (This is in contrast, coincidentally, to the duller book I just read, Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 1: Lesser Gods, where all the characters have and talk about the very same problems.) Natasha Irons gets special focus, and while I can't say this Nat necessarily coincides with every portrayal before, Abnett's take is likable enough. Abnett also manages to make this wholly unrecognizable, fists-first Donna Troy palatable as she grows into the role of leader of the team.

The "Unearth" concept felt too self-indulgent when it was introduced in the last Titans book, and here Abnett doubles down with the team trapped on Unearth, Titans by way of Dungeons and Dragons. Your results may vary but that's not my particular favorite aesthetic, and as such the fact that it worked for me is significant. I think one factor is that Abnett seasons the fantasy heavily with sci-fi; even as it comes to nothing, there's heavy discussion of the DC Multiverses here and Natasha Irons and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner as "science bros." Another factor is a late story surprise wherein it seems a boilerplate "trickster" character has acted true to form against the heroes, only for there to be a reversal; that Abnett makes the characters more than one-dimensional goes a long way.

Having lost Nightwing to the events in his own title and with Heroes in Crisis decimating a swath of other Titans, Abnett (and/or DC editorial) adds Kyle Rayner to this book. This is not insignificant for two reasons, both because Kyle himself is a former alt-continuity Titan after a fashion, and because (in the same post-Zero Hour era) he had a well-known relationship with Donna Troy. Abnett doesn't delve too deeply into this — there is no "don't I know you from somewhere"-type connection as with Rebirth's Green Arrow and Black Canary — but there's still some thrill in seeing Donna and Kyle in a scene together, and one wonders what Abnett would have done with the two given longer on the title.

But the presence of Donna and Kyle on this team does indeed put one in mind of those post-Zero Hour Titans, a notable era in that it was the first time New Titans posited a team without Nightwing in charge (rather than just a storyline-based departure; clock this as also the time that Nightwing went from being a Titans character to a Bat-office character). It was twenty-somethings Arsenal (at his best), Donna, and Kyle, leading younger heroes like Damage, Impulse, and Terra, among others; that's kind of what you can see here, with Donna and Kyle in charge of Beast Boy, the Rebirth youthful Raven, and so on, though it falls apart when considering Miss Martian, old enough to be a Justice League liaison, and Natasha Irons.

What, then, is the place for a B-team of Titans, too old or staid to fit with the Teen Titans or whose connections to the team are alt-continuity at best? Titans, in a couple incarnations, has been DC's twenty-something team, done best by Judd Winick when it was Outsiders, but that vibe went out with "New Justice"; one can maybe better find that in Justice League Odyssey, though that title is often similarly aimless (combining the casts of Titans and Odyssey would be an auspicious choice). There's precedent for a "students and teachers" version of Titans, but this is an ill fit; equally Batman and the Outsiders seems to be trying to do it and not making it, either. As I opined before, if anything this team perhaps most resembles a Justice League Task Force (in its earlier "strike team" incarnation and not in its, too, later "students and teachers" incarnation), but overall the book tends to be too familial (or "Titans-y") for that.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Titans Vol. 6: Into the Bleed

To these ends, it's really no surprise that with Titans Vol. 6: Into the Bleed, this title is ending, and that does seem a mercy. I like what Adam Glass is doing over in Teen Titans, but admittedly that's a rough approximation of Teen Titans, too, and everything's even more complicated by there also being a Young Justice title on the stands. Given my druthers, I'd as soon see DC cancel Justice League Odyssey as well (which seems inevitable) and, with some regret, Teen Titans, and fold it all into a "Teen Titans Universe"-type title — no set cast, but adventures that pull from the Titans community, Beast Boy and Raven one day and Beast Boy and Cyborg the next, Nightwing and Donna or Nightwing and Starfire, see what Red Star's up to or Argent or Miss Martian, so on and so forth. Certainly, DC doesn't do itself any favors not having a Titans title that at least slightly resembles the DC Universe TV show.

[Includes original and variant covers, character sketches, cover sketches and unused covers, page pencils]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Titans Vol. 6: Into the Bleed
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Yeah, in hindsight, Abnett probably should've exited Titans right before the post-Dark Nights Metal relaunch. I wish his run had ended stronger, too.


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