SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Titans #11, on sale now.
Titans may only ship once a month versus many of DC Comics’ twice-a-month series, but it continues to poise itself in readers’ minds thanks to almost every issue featuring big plot developments for not only its cast, but the DC Universe as a whole. That’s true once again in Titans #11, as Dan Abnett, Christopher Priest, Benjamin Percy, Brett Booth and Norman Rapmund kick off a storyline that threatens to rock several characters in multiple titles to their cores.
Like Father, Like Son
Deathstroke is probably the #1 enemy of the Titans in their various incarnations, a character popular enough to receive multiple solo titles throughout the years despite being a villain. What a lot of readers might not remember, though, is that he only first tangled with the Titans because the team had fought one of his sons: Grant Wilson, the original Ravager. When Deathstroke refused a contract with the evil organization H.I.V.E., Grant was transformed into the Ravager, mimicking Deathstroke’s super-strength and lightning reflexes, and set out to destroy the Titans in Deathstroke’s place. Those powers quickly proved to be Grant’s undoing, though, burning through his system and killing him. It was only then that Deathstroke became the foe of the Titans, ready for revenge on the teen team for being tied into Grant’s death.
Grant’s story changed in the early days of the New 52, his death being connected to the Midnighter rather than the Titans, and even coming back from the dead for a little while. But like so many early big changes in the DC Universe’s reboot, that seems to have been quietly erased thanks to the Rebirth initiative. Titans #11 gives us a flashback to Grant’s death being as we’d first seen it back in 1980’s New Teen Titans #2, and it also sets the stage nicely for Deathstroke’s path once more crossing those of the Titans.
Because H.I.V.E. was the organization that gave Grant his powers, the Titans have made a connection between H.I.V.E and the Fearsome Five’s power-manipulating organization in the previous storyline. With Psimon having vanished after wiping a large piece of Bumblebee’s memories (plus still possessing Guardian’s powers), the Titans are trying to find H.I.V.E. to help restore their friends. What the Titans don’t realize until it’s too late, however, is that it’s all part of a larger trap. The H.I.V.E. soldiers the Titans fight are little more than dressed up mercenaries asked to pose as H.I.V.E., while Wally West is kidnapped by Deathstroke, who seems very interested in Wally’s abilities to run fast enough to travel through time, in an attempt to restore Grant to life.
This in and of itself wouldn’t be half as important if it wasn’t for the fact that Deathstroke’s plan is anything but simple. Similar to having created a fake H.I.V.E. to make certain that the Titans were distracted, Deathstroke is leaving nothing to chance, giving us the master strategist that we saw in classic storylines like “The Judas Contract.” You see, Deathstroke has a backup Wally West… in the form of Wally West.
With Wally West having been erased from continuity with the rebooting of the DC Universe in the New 52, it was only a matter of time until a new Wally West appeared. That new Wally (referred to here as New Wally for the sake of clarity) showed up in Flash Annual #3 three years ago. New Wally is African-American, and the son of the Daniel West Reverse-Flash, which makes Wally and New Wally cousins.
Similar to the old Wally, New Wally is eventually struck by lightning and given super-speed. Over time, he shifts from a troubled teenager into, by the time of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, a genuine superhero who takes on the yellow-and-red outfit and codename of Kid Flash. He’s a member of Damian Wayne’s team in the new Teen Titans series, and while the old Wally was seen observing (while trapped in the Speed Force) New Wally’s transformation into a hero, New Wally like most of the DC Universe has no memory of his cousin with the same name. A meeting between the two characters has been inevitable ever since Wally’s restoration in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, but any timeline the old Wally had for such a conversation has been shattered thanks to Deathstroke having snagged New Wally as an additional pawn to try and restore Grant Wilson.
So where does this lead? Leaving behind the obvious fact that saving Grant Wilson from death could theoretically have hideous effects on the already battered DC Universe timestream, the two Wallys finally meeting is the start of something much, much larger. The original Wally West’s presence in the DC Universe has been largely confined to the members of the Titans and Superman, the latter of whom remembers Wally from his own life pre-Flashpoint. New Wally learning about the other Wally’s existence begins to swing the door open for more and more characters learning about the manipulations to the timeline and the lives that they had before Flashpoint.
If that isn’t enough, remember that New Wally is a character that didn’t exist at all prior to the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe. Will New Wally’s learning of old Wally’s presence end up, over time, kicking off a series of events that could actually unravel New Wally from the timeline as well? The grandfather paradox (the idea that someone time-traveling could inadvertently wipe one’s self out of existence) is a popular one within superhero comics, and it wouldn’t be beyond imagination that New Wally’s days could now be numbered. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time (a la Crisis on Infinite Earths) where to save the universe, a Flash had to die.
Whatever happens (and which will be continued next in Teen Titans #8 next week), only one thing is certain: once again, Titans has carefully set up stakes as a lynchpin at the center of the DC Universe. Don’t let the events of “The Button” storyline running through Batman and The Flash distract you; whatever’s going to go down, universe-wide, will almost certainly be rippling out of Titans. Stay tuned.