By Jarrod Jones. There are many fundamentals that need to be in place for there to be a semblance of order within the DC Universe. Bruce Wayne will always be Batman. Lois Lane will always work at The Daily Planet.
The Teen Titans will always need Kid Flash.
Wally West, as far as Damian Wayne is concerned, is persona non grata over in DC’s super-teen title. If “The Lazarus Contract” fractured the Teen Titans’ confidence in Wally, The “Defiance” arc over in Deathstroke had the potential to shatter it completely. Things like this tend to be temporary in the superhero paradigm, but let’s face it — in order for “Defiance” to mean a darn thing in the DCU, there should be consequences, not just for Kid Flash, but for the Teen Titans, as well.
That’s where we find “The Return of Kid Flash”, the latest character-centric arc of Teen Titans. And what better way to re-establish the dichotomy of DC’s second most popular super-team than to examine what it takes to be a part of it?
If nothing else, it seems an ample time for new readers to jump onto the book, especially those who’ve enjoyed all the recent melodrama over in Deathstroke. And yet there is a dilemma: If all of the consequences of Wally joining Defiance took place over in Slade Wilson’s series, what, if anything, does that leave for Kid Flash in Teen Titans? Is there room for an individual to grow in a team book? Or will Wally West continue to pinball from DC book to DC book, lost in his own nebulous void until things simply gel back into place?
Let’s dive into Teen Titans #13. Needless to say, spoilers ahead.
Written by Benjamin Percy.
Art by Khoi Pham.
Inks by Trevor Scott.
Colors by Jim Charalampidis.
Letters by Corey Breen.
Where’s Wally? Wally West has had a rough time of it lately. His powers were stolen temporarily by Deathstroke, he’s had a falling out with The Flash, and now — in what is perhaps the greatest indignity of them all — Damian Wayne has claimed the moral high ground over him. He’s been booted off the Teen Titans by Robin and it sucks.
Thing is, Wally was kicked off the team for doing precisely what a hero should always do — he saved a life. But that life belonged to Deathstroke, the Teen Titans’ sworn enemy, and to a “black and white” kind of kid like Damian Wayne, that means Wally can’t be trusted. Now that Wally’s ditched the Defiance duds and stepped into his famous reds and yellows, the rest of the Teen Titans are keen on bringing him back to the fold. Enter: conflict.
The ramifications of Wally’s recent life choices have largely unfolded in Deathstroke over the last few months, and new Teen Titans readers who might need a primer on what Wally did to get kicked off the team won’t find much of an explanation here — though on a thematic level, it’s enough to know that Wally betrayed his teammates and bringing him back won’t be as cut-and-dry as one might expect. (Especially when one of the conditions of his return is to get Damian to apologize to his face. Good luck with that, pal.)
Even though Wally is the focus of the story, there isn’t a whole lot of him in the issue. We see him back in Central City, going to school and ensuring his teacher (and the reader) that he’s back on the straight and narrow. Later, when confronted by his former teammates, Wally briefly articulates his regrets. While that might be enough character work to keep the story moving, it’s largely surface-level stuff. Wally’s dealing with things, we’re told, but aside from some melancholy facial expressions from Khoi Pham’s pencils and Jim Charalampidis’ inks, we’re left wondering if the next chapter of “The Return of Kid Flash” will do substantially more emotional heavy lifting. Wally deserves no less.
Try to keep up. Benjamin Percy — a teacher, a novelist, and the writer for Green Arrow — is keenly aware that a solid superhero yarn demands a certain amount of propulsion. With Teen Titans #13, Percy gains momentum by taking a “divide and explore” approach: he separates Robin from his team, giving the issue some space to breathe while taking time for a quick (and exciting) action sequence. (It’s an angle that was often used to great effect by Young Justice, an animated series that Percy cites as an inspiration for this book.)
While Starfire leads the rest of the team (Beast Boy, Raven, Aqualad) to Central City to speak with Wally about returning to the Titans, Robin attempts to recruit Red Arrow, Emiko Queen, over in Star City. It’s clear that Percy, who’s done wonderful things over in Green Arrow, is having fun integrating Emiko into Teen Titans, especially when her disposition isn’t too far removed from Damian. (As Emiko leaps from a jetski onto a moving ferry, she informs Team Arrow, “I don’t need any help.”) Emiko would seem like a great foil for Damian, and in Percy’s hands, she totally is.
Percy keeps the issue moving by always looking ahead. In doing so the writer gently reminds readers, even new readers, that they’ll get the most of the issue by trying to keep up, even if the sticky particulars aren’t always clear. “There’s an Azarathian saying that goes, ‘If you travel back in time, you become as dead as history,’” Raven tells Kid Flash. “In other words, if you think too much about the past, you lose your grip on the present.” It’s an obvious way to keep us engaged, sure, but it certainly gets the job done.
Team ‘Titans’. While Benjamin Percy has a handle on where this story will go next, the artists on Teen Titans make sure that the issue is a visually interesting one.
The guest villain in this issue is Onomatopoeia, a Green Arrow baddie created by Kevin Smith and Phil Hester. (It’s not such an odd choice, when you consider Benjamin Percy’s other DC job.) Onomatopoeia is the rare type of character that can provide a challenge for almost every member of a creative team: while his costume isn’t very interesting (it’s just a black leotard, mask, and slate trenchcoat, which can’t be that fun to color), his gimmick of speaking in sound effects gives Percy, Pham, Scott, and Breen an opportunity to create in unison. Breen stands out especially in this instance, with a page featuring Onomatopoeia pinned to a wall by a three-quarrel volley from Red Arrow. A simple Thak Thak Thak provides motion and energy to a panel that might otherwise feel static.
There are other moments in this issue where Khoi Pham, Trevor Scott, Jim Charalampidis and Corey Breen seem to work as one. The Robin/Red Arrow sequence begins with brilliant sapphire skies, which Charalampidis then shifts to a deeper cerulean as clouds begin to build, and then later to the aegean veil of a rainstorm. This subtle shift in hue mirrors Percy’s shift in narrative, as Damian and Emiko reach a dire climax that will likely require a little backup in the next issue. All this while Pham, Scott and Breen keep us engaged with a wild sequence that has Red Arrow driving a moving truck off a ferry and into the waters beyond it. It’s comforting to know that, even though the roster is ever embroiled in turmoil, Teen Titans still remembers to have a little bit of fun.
7 out of 10