(This review may contain spoilers for the story content.)
Introduction: Today’s review brings me back to where my heart lies: with young heroes, particularly the Titans from DC Comics. I love the Teen Titans, and I love Young Justice, largely because so many of its members become Titans. On this Friday, many college students are walking the stage at commencement and acquiring the degrees they have worked so hard for. Yes, for many today is Graduation Day. As such, I wanted to select a comic that befits such an occasion. While many options came to mind, Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day is the one that beckoned me the most.
The creative team for the three-issue miniseries includes Judd Winick as writer, Alé Garza as penciler, Trever Scott as inker, Jeromy Cox as colorist, and Comicraft as letterer. The miniseries serves as the finale for both the Titans and the Young Justice titles that had been running up until this conclusion, and the miniseries sets up two new series that spin out from this title: Outsiders Vol 3 and Teen Titans Vol 3.
Plot Summary: Both the Titans and Young Justice teams are called by a wealthy organization who offers to fund them. At the time, the Titans consist of Nightwing, Troia, Arsenal, Tempest, Argent, Jesse Quick, and Omen, with Cyborg serving in an advisory capacity. Meanwhile, Young Justice consists of Robin, Wonder Girl, Superboy, Impulse, and Empress. In the midst of negotiations, a damaged, female android from the future (later given the name “Indigo”) appears and tries to sync with Cyborg. The two groups see this as an attack and charge to give Vic aid. Indigo automatically shifts into defensive mode and incapacitates multiple heroes, placing Argent, Jesse Quick, Cyborg, and Empress out of commission.
The remaining heroes drive her away, and she teleports to a S.T.A.R. Labs that was housing a Superman android (androids that have Superman’s powers but are violent). The Superman android begins making a scene, and the two groups work together to stop the android, even enlisting the help of the newly repaired Indigo. Inn the process, however, both Lilith Clay (Omen) and Troia (Donna Troy) are killed by the robot in front of their friends’ eyes. Funeral services are held for the two fallen Titans, and the two teams dissolve.
Plot Analysis: When I first learned that there was a miniseries that had these two teams of young heroes work together, I was excited to read what I thought would be a fun story. With the deaths of two of my beloved Titans, “fun” is not the best way to describe this miniseries. Regardless, “well-written” still applies. Ultimately, this story may not have been the happy-go-lucky hero slugfest I at one time hoped to see, but it was emotionally moving—and it deserves proper respect and praise for accomplishing that feat.
The series is aptly named. With the deaths of two Titans and the serious injuries of the other heroes, many of the heroes change. Young Justice was a title where these teenaged heroes could goof off while saving the world. In this miniseries, the team’s recklessness was a factor in the devastation, and this event marks the members’ transition into becoming more serious heroes—a graduation of sorts. Winick’s story is one that ultimately has one of the largest impacts of Titans history. Four of these YJ members, Tim, Cassie, Kon-El/Conner, and Bart, become the new Teen Titans team that arises from this book. From then onward, these four heroes became the core members of the Teen Titans from 2003-2016, with at least one of them on an active roster. While Winick is not the one who makes these four Titans (Geoff Johns has this honor), his miniseries is what set up their Titans-status—as he shows Cyborg making the decision to teach the four how to be better heroes as Titans.
Additionally, Winick also sets up the new Outsiders title that essentially replaced the Titans title, as he has multiple heroes who form the team appear, including Nightwing, Arsenal, Indigo, and Shift/Metamorpho. Winick writes Dick to be fed up with losing “family” members to the heroic business. In Outsiders, Roy creates the team to be a combat unit so that Dick does not have to form emotional attachments, which is something that reflects the feelings Winick has Dick exhibit. While the series may have been heartbreaking, Winick successfully sets up two new comic titles with only three issues, and he deserves praise for that accomplishment.
Characterization: As I have already indicated, Winick creates an emotional story that draws out emotions from the characters as well as the readers. While each member of the two teams received some panel-time, a few heroes had a notable amount of attention paid to them in terms of characterization.
- Troia / Donna Troy: Donna Troy is known for being the den-mother of the Titans, one of their most compassionate members. Winick really capitalizes on that aspect of her personality, playing it up by letting her have a heart-to-heart with the demoralized Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark). When Lilith is killed in front of her, Donna is the one who cries out the most, and she is pummeling the Superman android when he fires his laser-vision through her abdomen. Winick emphasizes what makes Donna special so that we readers feel emotionally shaken when she likewise dies before our eyes. Donna was loved as equally as she loved, and this notion was shown in the sheer amount of people that attended her funeral.
Nightwing / Dick Grayson: Dick exhibits multiple facets of his personality within this miniseries. In the beginning, he is resistant to the Titans being sponsored by a large corporation, due to the chip on his shoulder about large businesses and the politics that can come from them. He is even playfully coy when he has Omen/Lilith read the CEO’s mind to measure his sincerity. Dick’s leadership is easily ascertainable as he rallies both his and the Young Justice team members under his command. Lastly, when Donna dies, Dick loses one of his dearest friends. Dick is known for being an emotional man, unlike his hardened mentor. Winick highlights how devastated Dick is after losing two friends and teammates, to the point where he cannot stand for the Titans to continue operating. We see that when Dick experiences loss, he barely stops himself from falling apart completely. I can respect a man who loves his friends that dearly, although I find myself hoping he can find his hope again soon.
- Arsenal / Roy Harper: Fans of Roy love him for his abundance in personality. He is simultaneously a carefree, happy-go-lucky goofball as well as a serious, battle-tested hero. Winick showcases Roy’s charm and wit, but after Donna dies, Roy’s reaction differs from Dick’s. Roy and Donna dated on-and-off for a while, and they always loved each other, even if they were not together romantically. While Dick responded to her death by dissolving the Titans, Roy responded by wanting to keep the team Donna founded going, keep her legacy alive in her wake. I believe both Dick’s and Roy’s indicate how much they loved Donna, and I think both perspectives are right in a sense.
- Robin / Tim Drake: Tim has always been one of the younger heroes who has the strongest sense of responsibility. So when Indigo inadvertently sends a handful of heroes to the hospital, Tim blames himself for not leading Young Justice properly. Tim says, “The Titans got our lumps. They were looking after us. There we were, shoulder to shoulder with the inspiration for Young Justice. The Titans. And we lose half our team and half of theirs.” Donna comments that Tim is being too hard on himself while Dick notes that they (the younger heroes) need more guidance. Whatever the case, this moment is one where Tim begins to grow up even more.
- Wonder Girl / Cassandra Sandsmark: Of the four she is associated with, Cassie is the hero with the least experience, yet she had been evolving throughout her time with Young Justice. She gained confidence and a level head, and she was doing her “Wonder Girl” moniker proud, the name she adopted from Donna Troy, who previously bore the mantle. Still, in many ways, she still acted like a child. With her “sister” torn from her, Cassie is forcibly matured. She understands the gravity of what they do as heroes more than she ever did before.
Art: Garza, Scott, and Cox create art that fits the story well. Despite a large cast of characters, each character is drawn and colored with detail. More importantly, though, when characters are going through rough times, Garza pencils the characters so that their countenances reflect their emotions. One particular moment where Garza gives the characters appropriate facial expressions is when Nightwing is holding Donna’s fresh corpse. I do not know if I have ever seen such a gut-wrenching look on Dick Grayson’s face. When I saw that face, I knew Donna was really gone, and I grieved alongside them.
Final Remarks: Not everyone enjoys a story with a heartbreaking conclusion. However, if you are someone who can appreciate a well-written story that moves you, then Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day is for you. If you are someone who can appreciate how this miniseries served as a segue into two new comic titles, then this story is for you. Lastly, if you are someone who is interested in Titans lore, this title is essential for you. As I said, the events of this series have long-lasting effects on the Titans mythos. Do I get emotional reading this story? A little, yes. Do I believe it is worth reading anyway? Absolutely. Being able to see so many great characters in action in one three-issue story is great, and you can always find solace in the fact that both Donna and Lilith are currently alive in the current DC Universe. As these heroes love to say: “Titans Together, Titans Forever.”
Closing: I know I have said a lot about this story, and I hope you have enjoyed what you have read. If you have any thoughts on the comic or on my review, feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have an amazing day.