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Outsiders #24 [Review]

Matter of Trust

Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Fernando Pasarin
Inkers: Scott Hanna, Prentis Rollins & Fernando Pasarin
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover: Tom Mandrake
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Publisher: DC Comics

We begin this issue much like the other Blackest Night tie-in issues: a flashback showing us the memories a black ring is downloading to use with an animated/rebuilt corpse, concluding the scene with the command to the body to RISE. In this case, it’s Tara Markov again, and fresh off menacing the Titans, now she goes to her brother and the others of the Outsiders. As the Outsiders seek to find the truth about what’s going on, the readers know it’s not quite what they think–or want to think. Meanwhile: Tatsu, Violet, and Creeper are transporting Killer Croc, and bump into Black Lanterns of their own to deal with…Tatsu’s dead family.

This is one of those issues that is far easier to read than it is to describe. Visually, I recognize everyone; the names I’m a little less confident with and have to search through the issue to find references (I’m pretty sure Tatsu and Violet are “civilian” names and not the characters’ codenames).

With the Blackest Night: Titans mini and its flashbacks, and other series lately dealing with the Titans’ history and characters related to them, I have that thin understanding that works fine while reading, but isn’t strong enough for me to really “get” fully. In a way, that’s something on the writing; but at the same time, the fact that I can read the story even not knowing much about the characters nor their status quo prior to this point is more positive than negative.

The art’s quite good; no real complaints from me. Everyone looks as I’d expect–if there’s any expectation–and at the very least, I recognize pretty much everyone. Even the Black Lantern has expressiveness…there’s a panel where one would almost feel bad for her, if one doesn’t keep in mind what’s been learned so far about these Black Lanterns.

Probably the largest factor that makes this work so well for me is that it is written by Tomasi, who has been doing plenty of other writing within the Blackest Night event, and presumably he is incorporating enough that even without non-Blackest Night knowledge, there’s some building continuity just within the event’s story.

All in all, a very solid tie-in, and certainly worth getting if you’re following either Blackest Night or the title itself. Then, of course, there’s also that little ring that ought to come with the issue, as well.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

Blackest Night: Titans #3 [Review]

“When Doves Cry”

Written by: J. J. Krul
Art: Ed Benes
Inks: Scott Williams & Ed Benes
Colors: Hi-Fi Design
Letters: Rob Clark Jr.
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Asst. Editor: Rex Ogle
Editors: Eddie Berganza & Brian Cunningham
Cover: Benes, Rob Hunter, & Rod Reis (variant by George Perez)
Publisher: DC Comics

In a way, when you get right down to it, there isn’t a whole lot to describe for this issue. The various Titans continue to deal with their respective Black Lanterns, who are dredging up some very specific and painful emotional reactions from the living heroes. However, as we see the Black Lantern Hawks accosting Dove, we witness an interesting reaction that is likely to play a key role in upcoming chapters of the Blackest Night event.

As a mini-series–as with the Batman and Superman ones that also ended this month–this doesn’t have a very satisfying conclusion, as we’re basically left with a lead-in to these characters joining the bigger party of the event now that their “foundation” and “connection” to the overall story has been established. While the incursion of the Black Lanterns was saved for the actual kickoff of the event with Blackest Night #1, this first wave of minis seem like they would have been better-served as either prologues, or triple-sized one-shots, to launch the respective characters into the event as a whole.

Despite that, as a reader not steeped in Titans knowledge nor invested in the ongoing series, it’s great to have a series that is reasonably accessible to chronicle the characters’ involvement in the event without having to have ongoing plots in the main book competing with the story elements of the event I’m following.

Donna Troy is forced to face her dead husband and child, and must overcome what her eyes tell her to act based on actual knowledge. Beast Boy faces the same challenge with his lost love, and has some self-realization in handling things. Dove (who seems to be the same character I recall being killed in Armageddon 2001 almost 20 years ago) is in a similar predicament as then, but doubled.

The visuals are very well-done, and really accentuate the story itself. The “big moment” of the issue with Dove is something that would not come off the same way with bad visual work. There’s also a bit at the end of the issue that really illustrates the way story and visuals work together in a comic in a way that isn’t possible with the same subtlety in a prose work.

As the final issue of a 3-issue arc, I don’t recommend this issue unless you can snag the first two; but taken with those first two and as its own story tied to Blackest Night, this is well worth your while. I suspect the older Titans fans more familiar with the characters and their history will appreciate things more; but for me, this has exposed me to characters I haven’t had much exposure to in awhile–if at all, and has put down groundwork for me to care about their involvement if they continue to play much of a role in Blackest Night.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 8/10

Blackest Night: Titans #2 [Review]

Bite the Hand That Feeds

Written by: J. J. Krul
Pencils: Ed Benes
Inks: Scott Williams & Ed Benes
Colors: Hi-Fi Design
Letters: Rob Clark Jr.
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Asst. Editor: Rex Ogle
Editors: Eddie Berganza & Brian Cunningham
Cover: Benes, Hunter, & Pete Pantazis (variant by Brian Haberlin)
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s a fair amount going on in this issue. Donna deals with the Black Lantern versions of her late husband and child, battling the emotions brought to the surface seeing them back. Dove deals with Black Lantern Hawk who has just killed her sister, a newer Hawk…and of course the implications of a recently-deceased individual in proximity to black rings. Beast Boy deals with the deception presented him, and the whole team winds up facing the imminent attack from old enemies newly risen as Black Lanterns.

This was a pretty good issue, though I didn’t “get” everything that was going on, not being overly familiar with many of the characters…even less familiar with their specific current status quo. However, that doesn’t detract much from the story, I don’t think–just that I’d get more out of it being more familiar with recent stuff. There’s plenty of forward movement story-wise (really, for the middle chapter of a 3-parter, that’s part of what’ll make or break the series). Everything introduced in the first issue that I can recall is followed up on, and we’re left with enough that it’s hard to believe there can be a complete story here with only 3 issues TO the mini.

The art by Benes is top-notch; really no complaint there. The characters are all recognizeable, and even in the yuckiness of the Black Lanterns, this is some of the best I’ve seen these characters…a state of affairs I’ve gotten rather used to in the case of Benes-pencilled works. I wonder just a bit at Williams not inking the entire issue…curious if it’s a timing issue or some such. Despite wondering, I didn’t even notice that UNTIL I specifically looked at the credits for this review, which is saying something (positive) about it in MY book.

This is a bit of a niche book; probably best suited for those familiar with the Titans side of the DCU and seeing how they’re affected by Blackest Night. But if you’re simply following Blackest Night itself, this issue (and the series it’s a part of) seems to serve as a good instroduction to key characters in the Titans family of books.

This is another high-quality issue, well worth getting in context of the above-referenced conditions.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 8/10

Blackest Night: Titans #1 [Review]

When Death Comes Knocking

Written by: J. J. Krul
Pencils: Ed Benes
Inks: Rob Hunter, Jon Sibal & JP Mayer
Colors: Hi-Fi Design
Letters: Rob Clark Jr.
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editors: Eddie Berganza & Brian Cunningham
Cover: Benes, Hunter, & Rod Reis (variant by Brian Haberlin)
Publisher: DC Comics

I’ve been out of the Titans/Teen Titans loop for some time now. The issue opens with the various Titans observing Heroes Day–setting this on the same day as the opening of Blackest Night #1, as everyone is paying their respects to fallen heroes around the world. The Titans discuss lost allies, and even whether or not someone who once served as an ally should be memorialized alongside everyone else who had not betrayed the team. The argument leads Beast Boy to seek some alone time which makes him a perfect target for a particular Black Lantern to work with. The other focus to the issue is on the current Hawk and Dove, as they face an appropriate Black Lantern, who pushes a number of buttons for the duo.

The art for this issue is top-notch…I really enjoyed it, and never found myself wanting for clearer depictions of what’s going on. Benes is an artist wose work I’ve tended to enjoy since I “discovered” his art years ago on Superman. The entire creative team provides for a well-done visual that gets the story across very well.

I’m not familiar offhand with the writer, but found the story here to be perfectly solid. This is the tie-in mini I was least anticipating for Blackest Night, and had originally considered passing on entirely…but something to it actually pulled me in, and I’m glad I did not pass on it. My limited Titans knowledge was stretched a bit here, but with the current arc in Booster Gold, actually caught references and context that would otherwise have been lost on me. Some of the expositional dialogue in the early pages of the issue seems a bit strained, and yet is believable given the characters’ context.

I was surprised at the presence of Hawk and Dove, and am curious about the way dialogue danced around exactly what happened to the original Hawk (I’m unsure, for example, if post-Infinite Crisis the events of Armageddon 2001 still happened). Still, the timing of this issue’s release is fortuitous as I just a few days ago watched an episode of Justice League Unlimited starring the original Hawk and Dove, which added to my contextual knowledge and appreciation of the characters.

Overall, an enjoyable issue in itself, and I expect it’ll be even more enjoyable (or at least able to be further appreciated) by longer-time Titans fans or those more knowledgeable with the property than I.

Recommended for Titans (or really, classic Teen Titans, given the characters involved) fans, and/or those simply following the whole of the Blackest Night story.

Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8.5/10

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