Another month has gone by, and another Teen Titans comic has been released.
Typically, I would end that sentence with an exclamation point, but I was disappointed with the last episode. I didn’t like the way The Lazarus Contract ended. I wanted more time travel repercussions, damn it!
(For those of you new to my over-achieving Teen Titans recaps, you can get caught up by reading this and this, in that order.)
Are you wondering why I would even bother continuing with the series?
If only it were that easy. You see, I have a problem. Once I start reading something, no matter how much it sucks, I HAVE to finish. No matter what. It’s a compulsion that I don’t have the strength to deny.
At the very best, I’m a completionist. At the very worst, I’m an obsessive little troll, living under a bridge, surrounded by terrible books I am obligated (by my own twisted mind) to complete.
And series are the worst. It’s one thing to commit yourself to a single, terrible book, but half a dozen terrible novels?! It’s awful!
But sometimes, just sometimes, my obsessive tendencies yield positive results. Sometimes, my experience completely changes, and I am left pleasantly surprised.
(You probably know where I’m going with this.)
Teen Titans Blood of the Manta was a pleasant surprise. It was exciting, suspenseful, and compelling.
And bewitching. The interior artwork took my breath away.
I know the episode’s lacklustre cover is a bit of a deterrent, but don’t be fooled! This is now the third Teen Titans comic I’ve read and reviewed, and I can honestly say, the illustrations in this issue put everything else I’ve seen to shame.
I mean, look at this picture! The water is GLOWING. How (the fuck) did the artists do that? It looks like MAGIC!
The story is on point too. In this episode, we start to learn the truth about Jackson Hyde, a Teen Titan in training.
Don’t know who he is? No surprise there. Jackson doesn’t even know who Jackson is. He doesn’t know who his father is and he doesn’t know the power he’s truly capable of. Everything about him is a mystery.
Teen Titans Blood of the Manta begins inside the Hyde household in New Mexico. We discover that Jackson’s mom is worried about him. Jackson disappeared without a trace.
In the background, we see a news broadcast airing. Jackson’s mom sees it too. The broadcast is featuring the Teen Titans and their heroics! Jackson’s mom recognizes her son and buys a non-stop ticket to San Francisco.
(PS – Until this episode, I had no idea the main storyline was set in San Francisco. I used to live in San Francisco. How did I miss that??)
Meanwhile, back in San Francisco…
Jackson is running toward a fire hydrant. He’s ranting, under his breath, about his desire to be accepted as a Teen Titan.
Suddenly, we see him kick the head off a fire hydrant and water sprays everywhere. Villain Ra’s al Ghul then appears, revealing the full intent of the scene. It’s the first time we see Jackson without his companions.
It’s also the first time we see his abilities. Jackson can manipulate water; He’s hydrokinetic.
We watch as he uses his power to hoist Ra’s al Ghul into the air, tendrils of water wrapped around his writhing body. Jackson then begins to drown him, engulfing his head in water.
Robin’s voice interrupts, and the scene instantly dissolves. Jackson was in a training simulation. Everything we just saw wasn’t real. (This is kinda like the “all just a dream” trope but way cooler.)
Jackson has failed the simulation. He was supposed to detain Ra’s al Ghul, not try to kill him. Robin scolds Jackson, insisting he isn’t ready. He then gives Jackson a modern, high-tech water backpack (kinda like a Camelback) and two sword handles. Jackson immediately wields water from the pack and manipulates it to form the blades. It’s sick.
Robin is quick to point out that the sword hilts are great for training, but ultimately Jackson should be able to control his power without them.
Have I mentioned that Jackson is my new favorite? He references Dumbo. You know? The cartoon elephant that can fly?
Well, if you recall (I didn’t), Dumbo is given a pink feather and is told that if he has it, he can fly. In the end, he discovers that he never needed the feather at all. That he could fly the whole time.
Robin, always the charmer, delivers the best line of the whole episode.
That got a genuine, LAUGH OUT LOUD from me.
Ok, so Jackson is my new favorite because he referenced Disney (sorry, DC, I’ll always be a Mickey girl first). And I love that we’re finally learning more about him. His background is intriguing…I want to learn more. (You had me at Dumbo, Jackson.)
At the end of The Lazarus Contract (the last episode), Robin fired Kid Flash because he helped Deathstroke. We now see Kid Flash approach an old tree outside the city. He isn’t there long before Raven appears.
There is definitely some chemistry between these two. It’s been heating up for a couple of episodes now. Kid Flash confides in Raven, telling her he’s considering joining forces with Deathstroke. Somehow, he trusts the guy, and it’s not like he can work for the Teen Titans…he’s been fired.
Then, staring deep into Raven’s eyes, he makes his move. His approach is cheesy and a tad too emo for me, but I can applaud the guy for finally giving it a go. Takes guts.
Raven, being the dramatic damsel that she is, refuses his advances and doesn’t explain why. Kid Flash is soon left alone to pick up the pieces of his broken heart.
We are then transported to “Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean” and
It. Is. Breathtaking.
Seriously. This is where the graphics and the artwork intensified for me. The glow of the stingray’s eyes, the realistic subtly of Black Manta’s scar, sensational. The level of detail applied to the shading and shaping techniques is impeccable. I want to hang this shit on my wall.
The storyline turns as dark and mischievous as the imagery as we learn Black Manta is looking for Jackson…
Cut back to Jackson. He is walking on water. Literally.
He is walking across the San Francisco Bay toward infamous Pier 39 (it’s the one with the sea lions). As he walks, we discover that his mother is in town and her visit is unexpected.
Jackson is nervous. He doesn’t really want to hear what his mother has to say, but he agrees to meet her anyway. She promises to tell him about his past. Staying true to her word, she reveals her own abilities to manipulate water. It looks like she’s hydrokinetic, too. But before she will answer any questions about his father, she needs the seashell necklace strung around his neck.
Jackson demands answers, but before she can give them, he gets a call from Starfire. There’s a robbery in progress, and the Teen Titans need his help.
He darts out of the restaurant, leaving his mother without explanation.
Suddenly, we’re in the Mission District, following a couple of bank robbers in pig masks, when a dinosaur appears out of nowhere. Its tail derails the getaway car, sending it flying. The Tyrannosaurus Rex catches the car between its pygmy forearms and oversized jaw. Taking a bite, its teeth bear down on metal, crunching and demolishing the vehicle.
The bank robbers scramble to escape the wreckage, but Starfire is on them. We then see that the T-rex is no other than Beast Boy. While Starfire knocks the robbers around, Beast Boy reviews a video of his dinosaur attack, boasting a huge social media following. In the face of an on-going battle, it’s absurd.
We also see more signs of the group’s growing distrust of Robin and his ability to lead the Teen Titans. Starfire and Beast Boy agree that Robin’s behavior needs to be addressed.
Jackson arrives a moment too late. The fight is over. The bank robbers are knocked out cold.
The last scene of the comic reveals Lucia, Jackson’s mother, walking along the beach. The Golden Gate Bridge is in the background. She’s thinking, musing about her son and the dangers he faces.
Out of nowhere, Black Manta reappears, shocking Lucia and sending her into a protective mama bear rage. (Let’s be real, this guy is probably Jackson’s father.)
Maybe my expectations were low because The Lazarus Contract wasn’t my favorite…but I thought Blood of the Manta kicked ass! The artwork was dynamite and Jackson’s storyline is good. It’s interesting, right?? I definitely want to know more.
I’m looking forward to the next episode…which is really a shock to write. Just yesterday, I was dreading this, but today I was genuinely entertained. For someone that reads, watches, and listens to as much content as I do, it’s hard to get a real laugh out of me. Teen Titans Blood of the Manta did that.
The only thing (and this doesn’t have anything with Blood of the Manta) is that I really wish there was more focus on the female Teen Titans, Raven and Starfire. I know I’m only three episodes in, and Raven has been featured a little bit as her trysts with Kid Flash have become more frequent, but I want more. And I’m really hoping I don’t have to wait too long.
But don’t get me wrong. This episode was my favorite yet! I really, really enjoyed it.
Blood of the Manta is a wonderful comic. It’s riveting (why does Lucia want that necklace?!) and visually stunning. As I said, I would hang some of these drawings on my walls.
I can’t wait to read the next one…and I’m so happy to be typing that.
Fanfinity Rating: 8/10
Written by: Benjamin Percy
Pencils: Khoi Pam
Inks: John Trevor Scott
Colored by: Jim Charalampidis
Cover by: Jim Charalampidis, Jonboy Meyers, Khoi Pam