Titans Episode Review: S01: E06

Another week, another new episode of Titans. This episode, titled (rather unceremoniously) “Jason Todd”, picks up immediately after the closing moments of the last. Focusing almost entirely on the new and strained relationship between Old-Robin, a.k.a. Dick Grayson, and New-Robin, a.k.a. Jason Todd, the episode follows the duo as they attempt to track down a serial killer who has a penchant for acid-baths, and as luck would have it, his sights are set on Dick. Kory, Rachel, and Gar make minimal appearances, though they do contribute a few good laughs.

First, let me just say that I did, overall, like this episode. It focuses on one major conflict, with that conflict being character driven, and nearly every action serves the purpose of pushing that conflict to its logical conclusion. It’s well-crafted, it’s evenly-paced, and it’s engaging. Curran Walters turns in a performance as Jason Todd that is decidedly his own, albeit a tad cheesy. The character is clear foil to Dick Grayson, and Walters uses a style that is both energetic and laissez-faire to accentuate that idea. While Dick is generally contemplative and solemn about his upbringing as Bruce Wayne’s ward, Jason is outwardly excited and grateful for it. Whether or not Bruce does more harm than good with his adoption and subsequent use of orphans in his fight against crime is not a new line of debate, but it’s still effective and, in this instance, boiled down to the important talking points.

All of this introspection, however, is to the detriment of the episode’s villain. He serves no purpose other than to continue the “Monster-of-the-Week”-formula that is still severely crippling the show, and the climax of the whole thing is such a one-note affair that you could practically sleep through it without missing a beat. This isn’t anything new to the narrative strategy that the writers have taken with the show, but at least with earlier episodes it was still vaguely connected to the overall plot. With both the character development and active threat being almost entirely removed from the show’s main story, what exactly does this episode contribute?

At this point, the show is on its second half, and as such, we should be building towards a central threat and, ultimately, a satisfying conclusion. Yet, I find myself asking this week, “What purpose does this serve?” Why is it that, with no proper antagonist other than the vaguely defined “Them” referenced by Anderson in Episode 5, we’ve devoted a whole episode to saying, once again, “Dick doesn’t like Batman.” That is, perhaps, an oversimplification of the internal struggle that Dick goes through when faced with his replacement and what it means to him; but at the end of the day, it’s a development that doesn’t fit in the spot it’s been given. This would have worked better either earlier in Season 1 or at the beginning of Season 2. Make no mistake, in a vacuum, Episode 6 is one of the better episodes of the series thus far. However, as a piece of a larger story, it never manages to become anything more than filler.

7/10

Titans is released every Friday only on DCUniverse!

Comic Review – Books of Magic #1

As part of the relaunch of DC Vertigo’s Sandman Universe, another one of Neil Gaiman’s memorable creations returns to comics with the long awaited “Books of Magic.” First published by DC Comics in 1990 as a mini-series, fan-favorite Tim Hunter began his long journey to becoming the world’s greatest magician, with the help of several mystical DC Comics alumni such as Phantom Stranger, Doctor Occult and John Constantine. The series was ongoing until it was discontinued after the short-lived “Books of Magick: Life During Wartime” in 2005. With this latest relaunch, the story catches us up (whether the reader be a longtime fan or a newcomer) in a fairy tale-like collage retelling of his origin:

Once upon a time…there lived a boy named Timothy Hunter. He seemed like a very usual sort of boy. Except.”

 Then we find Tim Hunter asleep in class, as a seemingly normal student who tries to impress girls with his amateur magic tricks. Getting bullied and of course getting into fights, he is pulled into one of his teacher’s office and we learn that Tim has “lost” his mother. But his teacher Dr. Rose is apparently has a connection to magic and knows that Tim is destined to become the greatest magician. As she gives him a book that appears blank to him at first she advises him to start reading and when he is ready, the magic will be visible to him. Despite his frustrations, Tim is certain he is ready, but as the book soon reveals its first lesson:

“Magic is neither good nor bad. Only its use determines its character. There are always consequences for its use.”

And upon opening his first book, we are given a glimpse of three mysterious cultist figures that are apparently watching him from afar as they decide that steps must be taken…and that some books must not be read.

Written by newcomer Kat Howard, known for her novel “Roses and Rot” and illustrated by Canadian artist Tom Fowlerm with colors by Jordan Boyd, the new “Books of Magic” has a promising start. While sharing the spotlight with other titles in the revived Sandman Universe, such as “The Dreaming” and “House of Whispers,” the new “Books of Magic” hopes to recapture the “magic” of a series that unfortunately fell into obscurity 13 years ago as it soon became marred by its similarities to the popular Harry Potter franchise in which tabloids claimed that Gaiman had made accusations of plagiarism against J.K. Rowling, which he went on the record denying. But hopefully time will tell if fans will return to this series as we see what the fates have in store for Tim Hunter.