On the surface, the Teen Titans are a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, tension continues to bubble just beneath the surface following “The Terminus Agenda.” Their latest encounter with Lobo has only complicated matters as the team embraces new crime-fighting methods. Exposed by a traitor within their ranks, Robin’s not-so-secret prison is now defunct. However, if the prisoners are free, why are there still screams erupting from the basement?
“Your daughter cannot stand against you… if she has no free will of her own.”
One of the best parts of Adam Glass’ work in Teen Titans #33 is his expert use of themes to tie the story together. Whether it is Mammoth and Shimmer’s foray into human trafficking, Lobo’s deal with Apex Lex, or the team’s new crime-fighting methodology: free will serves as the narrative’s connective tissue. This theme is an excellent choice as it continues to explore the team’s dispute regarding how to handle villains.
What I have loved the most about this arc, and the one preceding it, is how it challenges the heroes’ assumptions regarding crime-fighting. In “The Terminus Agenda,” Deathstroke represented the villain that would continue to push our heroes to violate their code regarding killing. You never want to see your heroes succumb to the dark side. However, it was a refreshing twist that Red Arrow faltered and betrayed the team’s convictions by placing an arrow through the mercenary’s eye-patch. In the prior story-line, Lobo represented a villain that they could not dispatch so callously. It was not until Djinn rewired Lobo’s brain that the Teen Titans could stop his assault. This ability directly ties to the notion of free will, as Djinn can change the villain’s personality. Each conflict has challenged the heroes’ approach, and it has been interesting to see the team adapt.
It is during the final moments that the story truly takes off. Glass’ reveal that Robin and Djinn have been rewriting every villain’s personality who will not cooperate into something more docile is particularly intriguing. This is primarily due to the hypocritical nature of this tactic. In one moment, Robin chastises Mammoth and Shimmer for human trafficking while Djinn “fixes” the villains. Both actions strip the victims of their identity and free will. However, Robin views his actions as more heroic because they are changing a violent criminal into a more productive member of society. Although reformation is undoubtedly the goal, it is the extremely invasive nature of Djinn’s abilities that makes this tactic feel like it crosses the line.
Additionally, Lobo’s deal with Apex Lex promises that the heroes will experience some form of poetic justice. Once Lex strips Crush of her free will, and she joins her father’s side, the team experience what they have been doing to their enemies. The drama that will follow has me completely excited for upcoming issues of the series.
“For true evil cannot be contained or killed. But as it turns out, it can be fixed.”
One of the only problems that I have with the book is that a lot is happening. Glass continues to sprinkle plot elements regarding The Other as well as the team’s traitor to advance the overarching narrative. The aspects of The Other story-line do fit well into this book because it helps elevate the moments with Mammoth and Shimmer. However, the moments with Red Arrow feel slightly out of place because they don’t inherently tie into Glass’ use of “free will” as a theme. It’s only a minor gripe because it does help the reader understand the team’s new status quo.
Sean Chen’s artwork is excellent. Particularly, his Robin looks great in action. Chen’s action sequences as the team takes on Mammoth and Shimmer is wonderfully executed. The team moves that the characters pull off during battle are inspired. Additionally, Crush and Roundhouse’s version of the Fastball Special left me smiling from ear to ear.
Ultimately, Teen Titans #33 is a great continuation of the team’s conflict with Lobo. Adam Glass’ use of “free-will” as a theme to connect each of the disparate plot points is excellent. Additionally, Lobo’s acceptance of Lex’s offer promises the team will experience poetic justice for their new method of dealing with villains.
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