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The Titans #14 "Chain of Command"
Writers: Brian K. Vaughn, Devin Grayson.
Pencils: Cully Hammer
Inks: Wade von Grawbadger
Review by Ian Tavener

With the changing of the guard announced well in advance, I picked up this latest issue of the Titans with some anticipation of how the book would be changing. Expecting to see Jay Faerber's work in this issue, I was a little let down in seeing Brian K. Vaughn credited as the co-writer. Nonetheless, I was intrigued by the opening panels with Omen/Lilith, and decided to forge ahead.

The concept of showcasing Tempest/Garth as a team leader was well-thought out. I think there's a misconception that Garth is ineffectual, and outside of Aquaman, there's not much of a chance to see anything of him. His initial running all over the base (must be smaller than I thought) is a nice little insight to the characters' rooms, with the exception of Arsenal's.

Don't get me wrong here. It's not what his room looks like as much as who's in it. Out of all the sub-plots that Grayson has running, this is the one that annoys me the most. Not that the characters are together (Roy/Arsenal, Donna/Troia) but the apparent lack of rationale for them being together. Early on, Devin established that Roy was attracted to Donna because she, in her own words, could be a 'bad' girl. Despite the fact that Roy still clearly carries a torch for Cheshire (as demonstrated in #12) they are sleeping together this issue. Am I the only one scratching their heads on this one? There seems to be so much of an attempt to set up Arsenal as this boyishly irresistible hero that he comes off as simply arrogant and egotistical. Roy himself highlights this with his teasing of and challenging the choice of Garth to lead the rescue mission for Omen.

The side note of Garth not being with Dolphin is an interesting one, but not explored. Is Garth unhappy or uncomfortable with his marriage? These are the sorts of issues we as readers want to see (after all, this is supposed to an exploration of Garth's leadership, and any outside pressures would impact on that) but we don't hear anything more of it. There is a quick two-page piece with Dick/Nightwing talking (or talking to) Batman about his personal life. It's a nicely humorous recap of all the highlights(?) of Dick's life in his own book, and it's well handled. Batman makes a nice straight man to Dick's worrying, and his question over Dick's social life is just wonderful.

Meanwhile, the rescue takes place. Garth's scene with Kory/Starfire takes that moment to show Garth's compassion, something that didn't have to be shown, but is. Nice touch. Tartarus is featured yet again, and they simply show that as an idea for a team, it simply doesn't work to throw together previous Titan villains and make them formidable, especially combining them with the likes of Lady Vic (Nightwing) and Vandal Savage (The Flash). The first fight with Mallah and Lady Vic apparently is meant to show us how much Donna cares for Roy, but leaves you wondering why the Titans are standing there and allowing them to attack in the first place. This happens again when the Titans encounter Red Panzer (and I agree with the 'Red Pansy' remark) and Siren. Roy, who is injured, acts while the rest of team does nothing. Why?

Finally, Omen is found and it falls to Garth to rescue her. She is surrounded by volatile potions. No-one thinks to move said bottles out of the road before Garth uses his eye-beams to free her. Through circumstances, Garth is left behind to face Tartarus, but through Red Pansy's lack of experience, it all falls apart for them, and they turn on each other. I hope that Grayson has learned from this and leaves Tartarus to fall completely, as they've continually been found and beaten every time the Titans have gone up against them. A villain team worthy of fighting the Titans should surely be handled with more mystery and power than this motley crew.

With Garth returned to the team, there's a simple one-page epilogue with Garth and Lilith. She reveals that she helped Vandal Savage form Tartarus, but no reason is given. Why did Savage approach her? Why did she agree to help him? This is all glossed over as Lilith thanks Garth for rescuing her. Hopefully this will be explored in further issues, but the sudden admission is jarring in the read, while the rest of the scene is relaxed and a pleasure.

With the revelation in the final panel that leads into the four-part story arc involving the last of the Tamaranean people (and Grayson's departure from the book), I was left with a sense of 'what could have been' with this story, and whether Devin herself wonders what has happened with a project she and Phil Jiminez fought so hard for. Perhaps Jay Faerber will provide the answers.

My vote: 6 out of 10

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