Review by Karl Verhoven
Testing times reveal a person, and by opening with the Titans marooned on an alien planet without any food suitable for humans, Dan Abnett activates the stresses between team members and the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other. It’s a viablce way of exploring character with the threats internal, and Abnett must know he’s on the home stretch for this Titans run as over two chapters there’s some insight into almost all the subplots introduced with the new team in The Spark.
There’s a gap between that and Into the Bleed, in which the Titans play a part in Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth, but Abnett keeps the references to that few and short as his primary purpose is to address the threat of the Blood Cult. It’s not the thriller it might have been, as unpleasant as intended certainly, and amusing in places as Abnett phases in earlier experience writing World of Warcraft titles to cement a fantasy environment, making the foundations clever. However, it’s also too long and again pits the Titans against standard monsters, with an entire chapter explaining deceit and villainous motivation that could be almost entirely cut without harming the plot. The best aspect is the use of a character seen in the previous volume, then seemingly an amusing conceit extrapolating on the writer as world creator, but here sympathetic and engaging. “Oh dear boy, I know what the problem is now”, he explains “shoddy writing. No wonder the series never found an audience”. Is Abnett being self-referential? Possibly.
Five different artists contribute, but it’s Bruno Redondo who turns in the most pages in drawing the four concluding chapters in his clear style. He has a nice way of drawing people and expressions, and Marcelo Maiolo’s colouring is adroitly constructed to fill in the backgrounds Redondo leaves blank. For the most part, this isn’t him being idle, but a response to where much of the story takes place.
The title story is a disappointing to ending to Abnett’s run, being stretched too far without any real justification. Kyle Rayner is seconded to offer some extra power, Beast Boy Hulks out, Miss Martian recovers all too quickly from what were serious injuries, the sentimentality of the saved locket is trite, and the threat from the Source is too nebulous. Into the Bleed increasingly becomes about Raven’s personality make-up, and if the pep talk from Nightwing near the end doesn’t actually stand up to much scrutiny, it’s a thoughtful piece of writing and her response and flourishing is interesting.
While A Judas Among Us held up as a solid graphic novel throughout, overall Abnett’s Titans are memorable for sequences and moments rather than consistency, and unfortunately, after the engaging ‘Marooned’, Into the Bleed doesn’t deliver enough of them.