By: J.T. Krul (writer), Angel Unzueta & Chris Batista (pencils), Wayne Faucher (inker)

The Story: Fractured, Part One: The Titans are mopping up a second string crew of thieves. Donna is pretty upset about what Prometheus has done to Roy in Cry for Justice #5. Flash is going through a crisis of his own due to the return of Barry Allen. Kory has been offered a berth on the Justice League, but doesn’t know what to do. And Cyborg is stuck thinking about what to do with this evaporating team.

What’s Good: As you can tell from the summary, Krul has set up a character-heavy story. I first noticed his work on those 1-issue solo Titans stories that came after that god-awful Deathtrap arc. He shows here that he’s just as able to simultaneously make life painful for five characters as he is for just one. There’s so much good stuff in here that I’ll just stick to some of my favorite moments: Donna Troy, going to town on Vault with a ton of anger; Wally West, running backwards, faster than Carom, and trash-talking; Wally’s take on the return of Barry Allen and what it means to him; and Kory’s visit to Batman, particularly her insight into him. I also loved how she explained away Donna’s criticism of the visit and repositioned what she was doing in terms of her culture and who she is. What was a bonus for this book was seeing Dick Grayson as Batman, and how he is adapting to a role, rather than changing his personality. No one but Kory could have seen that subtle distinction, because no one else has watched him so long with so much interest. Krul is doing some really subtle nuance work with these characters. On the art, we got some dynamic action sequences and some good layout work.

What’s Not So Good: Unzueta and Batista turned in some competent story art, but the draftsmanship left me cold. The figures seemed plastified and untextured, leaving me with very little visual motivation to pause over the pages like I might with Quitely, Cascioli or Manapul. Proportions and angles seemed to sometimes shift (check out the shot of Cyborg “recharging”); Kory’s face (if not the shape of her body) seemed to change from page to page. It seemed that the farther off a straight camera angle they went, the less real the art looked.

Editorially, Dan Didio said that Titans is going to be one of the eight pillars the DCU is going to be focusing on. The New Teen Titans was a giant for DC in the 1980s and could be again. If that’s so, then the editors are going to have to bring out their A-game on the art and they’re going to have to find some A-list characters for a core roster for the Titans. Right now, neither of these things make Titans a ‘must-buy’.

On flaws in the writing, I think that the only place the dialogue and character came off as tinny was with Donna Troy and Black Canary in the hospital. Whatever is going on in Donna Troy’s character is not clear, but this particular flaw was limited to a page and a half.

Conclusion: Despite the art, I recommend picking up this issue if you like fine character stories. For myself as a writer, in the same way that I might study Stephen Baxter or Greg Egan for examples of the hard physics in sci-fi, I think I’m going to start studying Krul and Bryan Q. Miller for their character work.

Grade: C+

-DS Arsenault