“Run now,” a mysterious voice from the shadows tells Roy Harper, “quick as a flash, step after step.” There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence, and in this issue. But, unfortunately, if Titans Hunt #2 is going quick as a flash, it’s Flash, the placid Bassett Hound that persons of a certain age remember from the Dukes of Hazard TV series. Dan Abnett continues his languid, dream-like pace from the first issue, gradually introducing the reader to symbols and hints from the history of the Teen Titans. But for all the pleasure of recognition that brings aforesaid persons of a certain age, one wonders how well it engages readers not already steeped in the lore of the franchise, and how effectively such a pace can sustain a year-long story. Given the situation of these characters in the post-Flashpoint DCU, and the situation of this book in DC’s editorial structure, one also wonders where this story is leading both in terms of in-universe continuity and corporate strategy.
The scene with Roy Harper illustrates a lot of this nicely. As he is driving (and unfortunately drinking) on a dark road leaving Oklahoma, he encounters a shadowy figure wielding a feathered staff. Taken together with last issue’s tornado, we have a clear nod to Bromwell Stikk, aka Mister Twister, the very first villain ever faced by the Teen Titans in The Brave and the Bold #54 (although Roy did not fight him, as the group consisted only of Dick Grayson, Wally West, and Garth back in 1964, and in fact didn’t call themselves Teen Titans until Donna Troy joined them the next year). Mister Twister is far from Hatton Corners, the Colonial town that was his original stomping ground, and where he controlled the weather with his magical staff. But he was always an evolving character, later joining forces with the energy being called the Antithesis and developing an array of mystical, even pseudo-demonic, abilities.
He certainly manipulates Roy into a disaster, leading him into a confrontation with police while taunting him with apparent telepathic non-sequiturs that call to mind plot points from that storyline of fifty years ago, for instance a reference to sticks and stones and building that only makes sense if you remember that Stikk captured the teenagers of Hatton Corners and forced them to build a tower on his island. Roy’s very confusion and drunkenness seem designed to recall his famous addiction arcs from the early, and truthfully not so early, days of the Titans.
Meanwhile, other characters have shout outs to the past. We discover that Mal calls Karen “Bumblebee,” an adorable endearment given her habit of dressing in yellow but also a reference to her superhero persona in another continuity. Gnarrk, for his part, takes up a hunt as the omniscient narrator muses about terrible fate, bringing to mind the mysterious terrible fate that befell Gnarrk pre-Crisis. And Dick Grayson, taking Lilith’s advice, seeks to speak with Garth, choosing, however, the not-terribly-diplomatic lure of a set of stolen Atlantean lungs to bring his quarry literally to the surface. The battle is interrupted by a rather angry-looking Donna Troy, but then Donna has a lot to look angry about these days if you have been following her story in Wonder Woman.
We are headed for some kind of re-introduction of the original Teen Titans into the present DCU, but the problems are daunting. The DC editors, if the current trend in the Batman books is any indication, seem content to let the five-year timeline quietly slip away, so that is not a big issue. The differences in characterization of, say, Roy Harper and Dick Grayson between this and other books is also the kind of thing one finds routinely in a shared universe. Garth and Donna are bigger problems, being villains of a sort, not to mention Donna was just recently introduced in Wonder Woman and even more recently killed. But, then, she is a magical creature forged of clay, and thus her death is likely even more temporary than it usually is for comic book heroes. The biggest issue is the constant teasing hints to a “flash.”
Those hints, the Titans history, and the cover to Titans Hunt #1 referencing a JLA/JSA storyline in which Wing of the Seven Soldiers of Victory sacrificed himself and his memory, all point to a Kid Flash to be discovered. But who? It does not seem likely that the pre-Flashpoint Wally West will return, given especially that the new Wally has been evolved to have something like old Wally’s personality. Did new Wally once have speed powers that be sacrificed in a mini-Flashpoint event? If so, expect new Wally to regain those powers in the pages of Flash before Titans Hunt concludes, especially tricky to coordinate since Flash belongs to a different editorial group. Teen Titans, on the other hand, does not, and few would weep at the end of Barr Torr. A Kid Flash who was a Bart Allen from another future, while not strictly in keeping with the history of the Titans, would not be the worst of solutions.
Run, now, quick as a Flash, and place your bets as to how this will end. We are in a labyrinth of problems, which could provide a world of entertainment if Abnett negotiates it skillfully. Or, we could end up lost and bewildered. Either way, we need more running, and more flash.