Friday, 11 December 2009

Titans #20 review

The Titans continues pretending it's not been cancelled due to lack of interest with the latest solo issue. Featured here is Donna Troy, patron saint of frogs killed by dissection, in a simple tale of girl meets boy meets Fearsome Five.

Donna's feeling a bit mopey so jumps - or rather, flies - at the chance to take up her photography career again. Off she goes to Miami for the opening of a flash new resort, where she finds that she's a little out of practice when it comes to fending off wolves, but receives a hand from a charmpot barman (he's blond and named Tom but apparently not sister Diana's old pal Nemesis, though that would be amusing). The rest of the issue is a fight with a new version of old Titans baddies the Fearsome Five - currently Shitt . . . sorry, Shimmer, Mammoth, Jinx, Rumble and Nano (write your own Mork and Mindy gag).

There's nothing complicated here, nothing that need concern us once we finish the comic. Even the fact that someone has hired the FF to kill Donna isn't important - the thread may be picked up later, it may not be; the main thing is, it gave Donna someone to fight. And showed that she's a powerhouse, unperturbed at being piled on by five murderous metas and able to clean their collective clock just fine.

The fight, while cleverly choreographed and more entertaining than most, isn't what I liked most about this issue. That would be that Michael Johnson gives us a story about Donna that doesn't focus on her origins, has no intention of cleaning up her continuity. It simply presents her as a powerful woman who's forgotten how to be young and have fun, but not how to be a hero. DC fans know why Donna may have lost her cheeriness, but Johnson doesn't drag it onto the page. He quickly establishes that she needs a change and has her embrace it. By the end of the issue Donna's got a new take on life and decides to relocate, be her own woman and a Titan, rather than simply the team's go-to den mother. She's getting a life.

This is the first time in years I've seen the Donna I grew up with - a smart, fun, brave young woman free from baggage. I'd be thrilled were Johnson to continue Donna's story in at least a mini series, showing us the girl-next-door Amazon not so much struggling to find her place in the DC Universe as just living in it. She's gonna make it on her own, and all that.

And I'd be thrilled to bits were this issue's illustrators, Sergio Ariño and Wayne Faucher, to get the art assignment. Ariño's work is clean and open, perfect for Donna, especially when Faucher adds his smooth finishes. Their fight scenes have impact. And they draw regular people every bit as purty as the super-folks - like Donna, I'm already hoping to see Tom the barman again. There are also some nice special effects, meaning I should probably namecheck colourist Hi-Fi design. And letterer Travis Lanham gave Donna her very own version of Wonder Woman's star-spangled banter boxes, which work a treat. God bless editors Rex Ogle and Brian Cunningham for showing that stories that are apparent fill-ins don't have to be throwaway.

Donna's costume, which was tweaked into a most unattractive Amazonian version in the latest Wonder Woman, #38 (see separate review for a glimpse), looks brilliant here. The starfield cloth shines brightly, the front isn't slashed to the waist as is often the case and all in all Donna looks every bit the superheroine about town. She's the Miss Congeniality of the Amazons, and really doesn't suit Greeked-up garb, as also demonstrated when she filled in for Diana at the start of the most recent Wonder Woman volume. Donna wears pantsuits, it's her thing and wise creators realise that.

Mind, an exchange between Donna and Tom at story's end hints that Johnson would like to see her classic, Nick Cardy-designed outfit back. Cardy is even namechecked earlier in the issue.

In a cute coincidence, this issue's cover design is similar to this week's Secret Six #16 Black Alice cover. Angel Unzueta's idea of a post-bar fight Donna, beckoning all comers, is a sweet one, but overshading and unfortunate barcode placement work against it. I still like it, though - Donna looks the demi-god come down to Earth that she is.

All in all, this issue was a terrific surprise. I hope it doesn't prove to be a one-off and next time we see Donna - presumably when she joins the new Justice League team - she's back living in New York and all mopey and man-less. It's time for the first female of the Titans to move on.

4 comments:

  1. Wow! Sounds good!

    I might even buy it!

    But then again it is Donna Effing Troy here. Really, by and large she's unusable, no?

    Seriously, Tigra seems a more viable headline heroine.

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  2. Try it, and get back to me :)

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  3. Meh. Donna's mopey. All DC women, it seems, are. They're depressed because they're beautiful and powerful, I suppose.

    And we're also supposed to believe that Donna, the beloved girl-next-door of heroes, the woman who's friends with every last cape in the DCU, who makes friends at the drop of a hat, is lonely?

    Donna PRINCE?

    Wearing glasses as a disguise. I mean, up comes my dinner! (Didn't we go through all this with Cassie's mini?) At least after the required loss in the first round of combat, Donna does manage to bounce back, and it wasn't by making her opponents as depressed as she was. For a while that was how I thought she'd do it. She certainly depressed ME.

    I, too, thought this Tom would be Nemesis. Why else would this character be presented this way unless they wanted to point out that Donna is indeed Wonder Woman Lite and gets all her hand-me-downs: her secret ID, her glasses, her guy?

    Though I liked the action depicted by the art, I thought the intro shot of Donna arriving at the party: full page height panel, Dona in extremely unstylish (if not plain ugly), static-clingy dress, huge feet, severe expression that combined in a pose that was obviously supposed to be glam... Ouch.

    I like Donna setting up shop in Miami. Do I think it'll last? Maybe until I blink.

    All in all, a run of the mill "sad superheroine" story, with rotm art. Kudos that they didn't bring up Donna's origin mess... much. Kudos that someone remembered Donna's presence at all. No kudos for failing to make this something unique and exciting.

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  4. The bit with the secret ID made no sense, what with Donna having been a top snapper under her Donna Troy/Long name. Shimmer could surely have just rung her using that? And the glasses, what was that all about?

    Still, lots more good than bad for me.

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