This review contains some spoilers for Teen Titans #34.
Clues indicating the presence of a traitor among the Teen Titans are beginning to stockpile. At first, it was the release of Damien’s prisoners. Although this is no minor betrayal of Damien’s leadership, this could be the result of conflicting ethics. Without the knowledge of Damien’s Terminus Protocol, one of his teammates might have released the prisoners due to feelings of guilt. However, with Djinn’s ring now stolen, all doubt has been erased. Whoever possesses the four-thousand-year-old teenager’s ring also wields her immense power. Now armed with a weapon of mass destruction, it is evident the traitor is about to make their next move.
“…What are they waiting for?”
Picking up from the events of the previous issue, Teen Titans #34 finds Mammoth happily working in an amusement park. Impressed by the effectiveness of their crime-fighting methodology, Robin is pleased with their ability to “rehabilitate” their enemies. However, Kid Flash questions the ethics surrounding the use of Djinn’s powers to change their personalities.
One of the things that I’ve loved the most about this new storyline has been Adam Glass’ use of “free will” as a theme. He allows it to permeate all the narrative beats without leaving you bludgeoning to death by his message. What makes this particularly interesting is that Robin does not see the hypocritical nature of his actions. Although Kid Flash voices that all of it feels wrong, Robin is completely focused on the “positive” results. I get the feeling that it is going to take dealing with the loss of both Crush’ and Djinn’s free will for the Boy Wonder to begin to see the error of his ways.
Considering Lex’s gift to Lobo, and this issue’s cover, one might expect that the team’s conflict with Crush would come to a head in this book. Although Glass does use this issue to explore her loss of control, these clues misdirect readers to prolong the mystery surrounding the traitor’s identity. Instead, these moments fuel intense character drama that will resonate with readers. Crush lashes out at Djinn for not reciprocating her feelings following their kiss. Although this confrontation is ill-timed, I think every reader can understand Crush’s feelings of unrequited love.
Moreover, I think readers can understand Djinn’s side of this conflict as well. Everyone can either remember a time (or is currently experiencing a time) when we were trying to figure out who we are. In this one moment, Glass perfectly captures what it is like to be a teenager.
“I imagine it is exhausting, to be hated so thoroughly by everyone under your leadership.”
Glass also dedicates much of this issue to Robin’s investigation of Djinn’s stolen ring. This cleverly accomplishes two goals. It allows the reader to see more of the fallout from “The Terminus Agenda,” while also tying into previously established themes.
As Robin interrogates each of his friends, the tension is so palpable you could cut it with a knife. Moments like this go a long way in establishing that there are consequences for the choices that each character makes. Additionally, it promises that the team’s relationships won’t reset following their encounter with Lobo. Djinn’s statement about the team’s hatred for Robin has a bite that will undoubtedly resonate with any reader who has served as a leader.
Robin’s investigation into Djinn’s stolen ring does an excellent job of tying into Glass’ use of “free-will.” As Crush eloquently states, “If someone has your ring, they have you.” Ultimately, this new development has a sense of poetic justice. In “rehabilitating” their villains, Djinn has been rewriting their personalities, thereby removing their free-will. Through using Djinn’s ring, the traitor will now have complete control over the genie.
“WAIT! WHAT?! WHY?!”
These three words best capture my reaction following the reveal of the team’s traitor (which I won’t reveal here). I think to say anything more would provide too many clues that could spoil the issue for anyone who hasn’t read it. I must say that I love Glass’s choice here. However, there is a part of me that feels it almost comes out of nowhere. I immediately went back to read previous issues to see if I could find any clues along the way. Hopefully, this will be explored further in the next issue.
Bernard Chang’s artwork and Marcelo Maiolo’s colors are consistently a highlight of the issues. Chang’s panel work is cinematic and does an excellent job conveying the action and interrogation sequences. The interrogation sequences are the real standout in this issue as the art team’s work does an excellent job of expressing the contempt each Titan feels for Robin.
Ultimately, Glass’ exploration of themes involving free-will make Teen Titans #34 a must-read. This theme permeates each of the narrative beats. What’s even more impressive is that you never feel like you’ve been beaten over the head with its message. Although the reveal of the team’s traitor does feel like it comes out of nowhere, Glass’ choice in character has exciting implications.
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