“Damian Knows Best, Part 4: Trial by Combat”
Writer – Ben Percy
Artist – Khoi Pham
Ben Percy pens the latest installment of the “Damian Knows Best” storyline in Teen Titans #4. The story picks up where its predecessor left off. Damian has ventured back to the Black Citadel and placed himself at the mercy of Ra’s Al Ghul.
Ra’s coldly welcomes Damian, albeit with suspicion. Ra’s plays with Damian’s mind, claiming a deeper devotion to him than Bruce, as proven by his investment in the heir’s training. Fearing another challenge to her leadership, Mara has been preparing for her revenge for a very long time. Damian offers a trial by combat to settle their differences. If he wins, the hunt for the Teen Titans is off. Should he lose? Death.
Beast Boy overhears Damian’s offer to Ra’s to spare the lives of the Teen Titans. As a result of Damian’s act of heroism, the group unites for the first time, officially, as Teen Titans. They begin the rally to Damian’s aid.
During their trial by combat, Damian easily dispatches Mara. However, as he claims victory, Damian refuses to submit to Ra’s Al Ghul’s demands and deliver the final blow. Seizing the opportunity, Mara hurls a knife into Damian’s back. The Dragon’s Fist gathers Damian’s ailing body for ceremonial sacrifice.
Damian’s actions unite not one team, but two. Upon seeing his willingness to give himself on behalf of his friends, members of Dragon’s Fist begin to question Mara’s leadership. This development will be interesting to follow in upcoming issues of Percy’s Teen Titans.
The art of Teen Titans #4 is solid. The contrast of colors help characters leap off the panels. The action panels are well rendered. As a result, the reader’s eye moves easily through their sequencing. The artist’s detailed settings give the issue tone and texture. It is a very different style than the first issues, but continues to impress.
The dialogue is fine. Most telling was Beast Boy’s monologue. It linked feelings of guilt over the loss of Tim Drake to the current situation with Damian. Overall, the narrative adds much-needed depth to Damian’s character and sets up future interplay between the Titans.
The story in Teen Titans #4 is straightforward and predictable. Still, seeing the new Teen Titans come together was entertaining. The short-lived match between Damian and Mara over a lava pit was equally fun. Teen Titans continues to explore the intricacies and development of a young Damian Wayne. I am interested to see how his character grows as a result of this narrative arch.
Images courtesy of DC Entertainment.