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Subj: Titans Annual #1 - Mistaken Identities.
Posted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 at 11:39:16 am EDT (Viewed 1007 times)
Reading this first Annual of the new Titans era wrought by Dan Abnett was to experience a mixture of pleasure and concern, both being felt in equal measure. The pleasure comes of seeing the Titans meet the Justice League in a mystery story that puts their strengths to the test, and the concern comes as the tale progresses with a succession of some very uncharacteristic, and frequently forced, behaviour from the characters within - this being particular to the Justice League membership.
Initially there is nothing about 'Titans:Legacy' that strikes as a matter concern, just the opposite in fact, as Dan Abnett opens the book by knowingly, or unknowingly, following the literary advice of the great writer William Goldman in opening his story with the productions drama and plot already well underway and ensuring that we, the viewers, are arriving in the aftermath of the initial act to find the first players are wandering in a closed labyrinth and slowly gathering to the other in confusion at the the circumstances of their arrival here.
From the initial three pages then we glean that the Justice League and Titans have been abruptly whisked from their daily concerns and found themselves in this closed environment that consists of endless loops and dead ends. A prison? Or a testing ground? The two flashes are the first to meet the other, with Garth and Nightwing quickly arriving after hearing their presence. And into this then walks Aquaman... and here on reflection begins the first flaw in Abnett's approach to his plot, as uncommonly for him Arthur wastes no time in discussing matters with the three Titans and fellow Leaguer Barry Allen but high-handedly immediately takes complete ownership of the situation and barks commands to his captive subjects in such a forced fashion as to immediately raise reader suspicion. That Nightwing quickly wrests back authority from the King of the Seas sets the tone for the story that follows as in an arena of raised tensions and a complete lack of situation awareness both Leaguers and Titans are challenged to decide where their trust can lie and who amongst them might not be what they seem.
As a plot the situation has obvious power to it. That Barry Allen knows and trusts Wally West is an automatic agreement between the two, that Batman and Nightwing share a perpetual sense of mutual respect matched by sharp rivalry and an autocratic air from Batman is also a familiar sight. Garth understandably defers respectfully to his King, but then we follow the reconnatairing Flashes and are greeted with the discovery of a sword wielding Wonder Woman remonstrating against an unarmed and pleading Donna Troy, in itself this is not a matter for great concern at this point in the story as Dan Abnett is clearly setting the props and players to express his particular chosen genre tribute, that of the suspenseful whodunit.
Much like her fellow Titans Donna's open manner is entirely typical of her well established personality and therefore reassuringly put across by Abnett here. Open, patient, honest, reaching out to others in friendship and trust, that this is Donna Troy the readership is left in no doubt. But by this point the nature of Abnett's plot is becoming entirely obvious and as with its roots in pulp fiction the challenge being laid out is that someone, or someones, may not be who or what they say they are, and by now it is the Justice League membership who are proving to be the likely suspects. And, of all people, Wonder Woman in particular.
The plot itself isn't at fault. As a self-contained potboiler this Annual, ideally, has to have a beginning middle and end to it, and on that count Abnett largely succeeds. But in the process of his setting up an acute air of paranoia and mistrust between these two groups Abnett dips wholesale into the depths of crass cliche' by knowingly mis-characterising. And it has to be said that in Superman's absence Wonder Woman is the worst choice of Justice Leaguer to do such a thing with. Persistently divisive despite Dick Grayson's best efforts to unite the two groups, evasive and unnecessarily cruel with Donna Troy, and considering the developments in her own book have cast doubt on her own past she may not even be telling the truth when she finally reveals the origins of Troy. Why then subject the poor woman to such willing cruelty and absolute rejection? The logic is amiss in this case.
More positively however there is much to be said about the bond between Barry Allen and his one-time understudy, and ultimate successor, Wally West. In the face of hysterical overreaction and the worst of the Batman's cynicism the loyalty between the two Flashes is unshakeable in the other. Proving for all of its problems with carving forth convincing characterwork and inner motivation Titans Annual #1 does contain an equal amount of on-the-nose aspects Set aside the conundrums of modernday DC continuity. Case in point being the easily spotted touches to character that assure us this is a Wally West who is every bit the man who was the Flash for two decades, and this is the Barry Allen he unflaggingly devoted his career towards honouring. The strength of their bond was such that even though deleted from reality Barry Allen could still break with the prison of his new reality to recognise his closest thing to a Son he had once had. And despite the needs of the plot at hand this is a partnership that proves immune to even the coarseness situation at hand as we are presented with a Justice League regressing to the worst elements of their 2011 makeover...
In the final analysis this is an Annual that is in no way a disaster; yet due to one key element within (Wonder Woman willingly shattering of Donna Troy) it leaves a sour aftertaste even hours after the reading of it. In it most basic form this feels like a treatment of the Justice League that belongs to the early years of the now discarded New 52 initiative, which by nature makes for a too sharp contrast to the spirit and ethos of the Post-Rebirth relaunching.
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