After taking up a permanent residence in Robin’s mind, Deathstroke has begun to plant seeds of doubt within the impressionable Boy Wonder. Now that Damien finds himself questioning the effectiveness of his already controversial crime fighting methodology, will he eventually agree to Deathstroke’s terms for eviction? With a villain so cunning that he can systematically dismantle the entire team from his confines beneath Mercy Hall, the boy wonder’s prison is beginning to feel like a half measure. If bypassing the revolving door of traditional prison with your very own meta-prison isn’t enough, then…
“…Is killing another human being ever justified?”
Picking up the plot threads established in Teen Titans #28 and Deathstroke #42, “The Terminus Agenda Part 3” finds our team on the verge of collapse. Kid Flash’s discovery of Robin and Red Arrow’s secret prison under Mercy Hall leads to complex questions regarding their crime fighting techniques. If you’re coming to witness that fate of Robin’s soul settled over a battle of fisticuffs with the team’s greatest enemy, then this may not be the issue for you. Teen Titans #29’s conflict is more cerebral; choosing to focus on team drama as well as discuss the ethical treatment of criminals and supervillains. It is in these moments that the story truly shines.
Questions surrounding whether a hero should kill the villain have probably been around since before the creation of comics. However, with the controversies surrounding Man of Steel’s infamous neck-snap heard round-the-world, and Batman’s penchant for murder (indirectly or directly) in Batman v. Superman, these questions have risen from the depths of our memories like a zombie horde that just won’t die.
These questions are not new to the medium, but that does not necessarily make them unimportant. Adam Glass’ interesting responses to these ethical questions make Teen Titan’s #29 an entertaining read. Given that many of these characters are still children, I was pleasantly surprised that many of the viewpoints surrounding this issue were represented through each of the characters. My particular favorite involves Djinn’s response to Robin’s question, “Is killing another human being ever justified?” This is a dense question with no clear-cut answer.
Djinn’s response, “…In particular and dire circumstances, sometimes it is the only way…”is particularly interesting. I know Djinn is an 8000 year old teenager, but responses like this stand out against Kid Flash’s stance that takes the moral high ground: asserting that heroes always have a choice and never kill. Adam Glass manages to expertly present each of these viewpoints without becoming overly preachy and allowing us to formulate our own opinion. Additionally, the discussion that Kid Flash is the team’s moral compass regardless of whether or not they follow his lead illustrates that he has an impact on his teammates.
Although I find Djinn’s response interesting, I find her qualifying statement, “…I know of fates far worse than death,” even more intriguing. With this quote, I think Adam Glass is alluding to the fact that she has been locked up for most of her life in her version of a bottle. Essentially, she is asserting that being locked up for thousands of years, isolated from the entire world, is a fate that is much worse than death. With this viewpoint, Glass is setting the stage for major fallout once Djinn discovers what Robin has been up to beneath Mercy Hall. The Boy Wonder has essentially been imprisoning their enemies much in the same way that Djinn was locked away in her bottle. I do not believe that she will find the circumstances amusing.
“I brought the devil to my door. And it’s only a matter of time before he corrupts everything and everyone around him.”
One of the things that I’ve found the most interesting with this crossover is just how little Deathstroke has been on the page. Instead of serving as physical threat to the Teen Titans, “The Terminus Agenda” utilizes him as a hazard to their mental and emotional well-being. As a result, Slade spends a majority of the issue locked within his cell. It is only when each character visits him that he begins to mentally manipulate them. It is Red Arrow’s turn this issue. We all know that feeling of wanting to get out from under our parents’ shadows. Deathstroke draws comparisons between the archer and her mother, Shado as a means of getting under the character’s skins.
The only thing that I find out of place with this issue is the discussion of Crush’s sexuality. Glass handles it wonderfully, however, it initially didn’t feel like it fit thematically with the other themes. Bouncing Boy’s dialogue is so awkward leading up to that moment that it is hard not to remember a time when I stuck my foot in my own mouth. It wasn’t until reading the issue for a second time that the inclusion of this made more sense. Glass is using Teen Titans #29 to set the stage for the Teen Titans to tear themselves apart. A majority of the conflict here is the result of gossip surrounding Robin and Djinn, as well as Crush’s secret *ahem* crush on the genie. All of the drama going on between each of these is creating a powder keg strong enough to wipe the Teen Titans from existence.
As always, Bernard Chang’s artwork does an excellent job conveying each of the character’s emotions through facial expressions. There are a few panels where his line work feels dirtier than the others, and, as a result, these panels stand out. However, other than a few small issues with these panels, Chang’s artwork is great.
Teen Titans #29 presents an interesting conflict focused on team drama and the ethical treatment of super-villains. It is interesting to see Deathstroke become more of a mental threat to the team through preying on their insecurities. As a result, their main antagonist is absent for so much of the issue. I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t entirely intentional as Priest and Glass explore the notion that perhaps each of these characters are their own worst enemies.