“Damian Knows Best, Part 5: The Rage of Ra’s Al Ghul”
Writer – Benjamin Percy
Artist – Khol Pham
Teen Titans #5 continues the process of a young Titans team slowly coming together. Damian Wayne is in trouble and his newly acquired friends, the Teen Titans, attempt to bust him out of the Black Citadel’s dungeon. This issue is about identity, both for the Titans, but also for Mara and the Dragon’s Fist.
In Teen Titans #5, readers learn a bit more about Mara. She’s the daughter of Dusan—the White Ghost—a former member of the League of Assassins. Compared to a normative, loving environment, Mara’s upbringing is a stark contrast, resulting in a desperate longing for approval, particularly from her grandfather, Ra’s Al Ghul. Thus far, unfortunately, she is continually disappointed. And, the feeling is mutual. Ra’s is stunned Damian is no longer his heir. Therefore, his disapproval plays out in emotionally painful ways for Mara. Teen Titans #5 shows Mara and the Dragon’s Fist as surprisingly sympathetic characters.
Teen Titans is swiftly becoming a tale about identity and self-discovery. Young Damian is softening as the team rallies around him. The Titans seek to understand and truly accept Damian for who he is. Robin tries to sway the Dragon’s Fist by reestablishing their heritage, their pride, and thus, their human dignity. In doing so, Robin attempts to shake them loose from their brainwashing at the hands of Ra’s Al Ghul, so they can make decisions of their own volition and taste freedom.
Ben Percy’s dialogue has texture and depth. Robin answers the question, “What happened anyway?” with a humorous double-entendre, “I got stabbed in the back by my cousin.” The issue is full of those kinds of retorts. Beast Boy continues to provide comic relief as he pesters the young Boy Wonder. While some of his dialogue is witty; other times, he tries too hard. But, this is by design as Percy has another character ask slyly, “Seriously, do you come with a mute button?” Even Raven delivers a surprisingly funny line. Perhaps the most important dialogue for the traditionalist in me is Robin’s exclamatory, call-to-action: “Titans, Go!”
The art in Teen Titans #5 is good. The colors and shading allow the images to appropriately pop or blend into the pages. The issue is well-paced and the action moves easily. Facial expressions of characters enact the story; in these moments, there is no need for dialogue. The expressions are poignant and stick with the reader long after the dialogue fades.
Teen Titans #5 moves the narrative along an unexpected trajectory. The team is drawn closer together through its vulnerability. The Titans’ becoming a unit has tremendous impact on its ability to defend, but also exemplifies what life with powers might be for its adversaries. This is a unique and unexpected angle to the story, and lends itself to ongoing intrigue. The appearance of a major character enhances its depth and the tease of an additional member in upcoming issues is tantalizing.
Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.