Teen Titans Academy has been on a tear mixing in the mystery of Red X’s identity with a full-functioning superhero school for minors. A two-part story wraps up this week with Teen Titans Academy #5, which features the Bat Pack in an origin story well worth picking up. In part because we’ll likely see them rise up as characters to know, but also because their adventure takes some exciting turns this week.
This issue opens with a very dark look at Gotham with crime running rampant and people looking on in disbelief. And yet, the narrator says via captions that they love it. It’s a clever way to defy the reader’s expectations while adding a bit of color to Chupacabra’s character. In fact, this character takes center stage in this issue as we learn how he became a bat-boy. His obsession with Batman is made very clear in an efficient opening, which leads to a full flashback story on how Chupacabra, Bratgirl, and Megabat ended up in the academy.
From there, we learn how the Bat Pack helped uncover the terrible acts of an orphanage and how Nightwing was directly connected to these exploits. Writer Tim Sheridan does a great job capturing the different personalities of the group while telling a story that likely bonded them or life. Mixing in some bonafide heroic acts, this issue solidifies this team as well worth further exploration.
Steve Lieber draws the issue to perfection. There’s a scene in a lab with an evil scientist lab that gives some heavy Frankeinestin vibes due to the heavy shadows under his eyes and the lab itself. Lieber is always good for a few clever visual ideas too, like a “flashback” banner that kicks off the meat of the story. The opening pages are excellent in drawing your attention to a darker Gotham that’s a foreboding and unkind place. Even Batman, who appears in a cool double-page layout, is as dark as the night which helps establish Chupacabra’s idealistic obsession with the character. There’s also a great double-page splash that highlights the first time the Bat Pack faced off against a real threat.
Dave Stewart colors the issue to perfection with great use of lighting to draw out the city lights and the light sources in each scene. There are a few scenes that take place in dark rooms or outside at night with no light sources that look natural thanks to the color choices.
All this said, the last few pages are an entirely different beast. Sheridan and Lieber do something with Red X you need to see to believe. It’s a clever way to draw your attention to who is Red X and add a new layer to the mystery. This leads to a cliffhanger that smartly reminds us these kids are in school.
Teen Titans Academy #5 is a great end to a two-part story that features a peculiar and intriguing superhero mini team known as the Bat Pack. It’s an origin story with Scooby vibes and a continued tangling mystery of Red X’s identity. Teen Titans Academy does well to blend kid-fantasy and smartly veers into seriousness.
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