DC's current Teen Titans is a series that's always solid, but never quite consistently stellar. From time to time, an issue will find a way to almost break free of just being good enough, but some grand design that would raise the title to the upper echelon of DC Comics' output has yet to come to fruition. But it seems that now, the series is on the trajectory to do so. Ever since writer Adam Glass and artist Bernard Chang took over with issue #20, the series has found a new voice and threatens to escape the shade of mundane storytelling. Teen Titans #24 is a prime example of this title doing just that.
Shortly after falling into the trap of a mysterious villain known as The Other, the titular teenage superhero team find themselves struck between a rock and a hard place... literally. More specifically, they're trapped under a crumbling building, with some of the team members injured or extremely preoccupied (Crush is literally holding up the building for the majority of the issue). Now, as far as broad plotting goes, this is all that really happens in this issue. The Teen Titans are stuck, and now they have to get out -- that's it. But despite not have a sense of sweeping epic narrative, this issue might be the best in Glass and Chang's run on the series thus far.
Teen Titans #24 is, for all intents and purposes, a well-crafted chamber piece that happens to feature kids with superpowers. Seeing these hormonal teenagers being forced to put aside the nagging bad blood they have between one another in order to get out of their situation alive is wonderful. The pacing is frantic, feeling as if the issue is moving in real time, despite the character's surroundings being the underside of a structure for the majority of its twenty-two pages.
Glass' dialogue is razor sharp, defining the bonds between these characters in ways most action sequences can't. Despite some moments of in-fighting (all of which feel natural for the characters), the conversations that unfolds beneath the rubble codifies the new roster and its perceived pecking order. (Also, it's great when anyone calls Robin out on his B.S.) The fact Glass has put these characters in a worst-case scenario just to see how they could possibly get out of it without having to employ some sort of other-worldly deus ex machina show a level of maturity this comic had been missing prior to this creative team's arrival.
The claustrophobia of the issue is presented extremely well through Chang's art in probably his best work on the book so far. Each page crackles -- the panel layout is fractured, giving readers the feeling of being trapped right there along with the Teen Titans. Most of the panels are tight. drawing the eye to the frustration painted on the visage of each character. Chang makes these kids look like they just had a building dropped on them, and it's gorgeous. The pages seems to spiral out of control as the team feels as if they've exhausted any chance of all of them getting out together and quickly snaps back into focus as their plan for escape takes form. It's brilliant visual storytelling.
Marcelo Maiolo's colors are also fantastically rendered. The backgrounds are often washed out, in stark contrast with the team members' bright colors. The palette used is slim, and the issue benefits from it. There isn't a ton of over-saturated digital shading, Photoshop-happy neon highlights, or anything of the like that would just distract readers from the story.
Teen Titans #24 is a delightful standout for a series that seems to be getting a second wind. If you haven't been picking this book up, now might be the time to start. The idea of spending the lion's share of an issue with a team stuck under rubble doesn't sound like a good time on paper, but when it's rendered so stunningly and written to tightly, it's impossible not to be lost in the world with these kids.