In January's Titans #19, the team was forced by the Justice League to disband - leaving fan-favorite characters like Wally West and Roy Harper without a team - while Donna Troy was basically put on house arrest for what she's expected to become in the future.
In February 14's Titans #20, writer Dan Abnett and penciller Paul Pelletier will take the team into new, scattered directions while giving the spotlight to a few at a time.
And according to Abnett, "this storyline that we're starting right now is really huge. It's a big, big, big story anyway, but it's also a really important story in the history of the Titans."
Newsarama talked to Abnett to find out more about his approach to Titans, which characters are taking center stage first, and what's coming up next.
Newsarama: Dan, it looks like the Titans are breaking up, at least for the time being, after the end of last month's issue. Does this give you the chance to explore some individual characters a little closer?
Dan Abnett: Sort of, yes. There were many things. One of the things was the idea that characters like Roy had been supportive up to this point and it was about time that we had something that was really focused on him.
There were characters who hadn't had as much screen time, I suppose, as we could have wanted.
Taking over Titans, which has a long-standing legacy as part of the DC Universe, I knew that part of their legacy is the idea that they're the understudies. They are the junior versions of the big heroes. And that's fine, but after awhile, that becomes - from their point of view - becomes a difficult cross to bear.
Given the caliber of these heroes and what they're capable of doing, they should be absolutely front-and-center alongside the Justice League by now.
And yet, because of the nature of a comic universe, these things remain in sort of a stasis. They're always the understudies, no matter how much time passes.
Nrama: Yeah, as you said, that's the nature of a comic book universe. So this "break" ties into that idea?
Abnett: I think so, because it's an opportunity to examine that idea - the idea that they had huge potential and that huge potential was almost threatening to the other big-league heroes - and sometimes things happen that have consequences.
Can you build a team of para-human people who can essentially do anything and not expect them to operate by any kind of rule systems without supervision and this kind of stuff…
It was really a case of taking the core concept of what the Titans - and I suppose even the Teen Titans - is and putting it under a microscope and going, what happens if that breaks?
What happens if we break it? Because it would break eventually.
And then what are the consequences of that?
So that's the story we're reading now. They've saved the world, but they've saved the world in a very individual way that is about their own relationships.
And maybe, from an outsider's point of view - from the point of view of the Justice League -that's not a very safe thing to do. That doesn't seem to be something you can trust, because it will inevitably go wrong.
And that's why the Justice League have come down on them hard. And that's why they find themselves in the situation they are now.
Are the Titans, as a unit, going to survive this? Or has the idea of a group of childhood friends who do this sort of stuff been shown to be ultimately a bad idea?
Nrama: At the center of a lot of it is Donna Troy. And I liked that you had that moment where Wonder Woman said, I think I need to mentor you a little bit more.
Nrama: And this whole storyline has ended with her being, basically, a prisoner, all based upon what she might become.
Abnett: She is, yeah.
Donna is a very interesting character because she is, by rights, another Wonder Woman in almost every respect. Traditionally, her backstories - and that should be plural - backstories have been very, very confused. And one of the things I wanted to do was to say, certainly from the point of view of "Rebirth," this is the cleanest version of her that we can deliver.
There are contradictory versions of exactly who is Donna Troy - to quote that storyline title - and to make part of that dangerous, and something that she's not even aware is dangerous - I thought was a very interesting way to go. And it's something we can understand.
I I also like the idea that that is something that has consequences. Quite often in the past, characters turned to the dark side or became unbelievably powerful and therefore dangerous, but when the storyline ended, it's like, "oh, they're fine again." And you go, really? Would you really think they're fine again?
Do you really think everything would go back to the way it was when you've seen what can happen?
I think if I'd just done that in the context of the Titans themselves, going "can we trust Donna when we know what she might become," it would have been interesting, I suppose, but to do it with the Justice League going, "She's scary!" And Wonder Woman in particular realizing she's shirked her responsibility, knowing what she could possibly be and not keeping a closer eye on her.
So we then get the more severe flip side of that which is, she's a prisoner and we need to look after her - we need to know where she is at all times.
Nrama: You're also playing with the relationship between Donna and Roy. And this situation kind of heightens that, doesn't it? Because she's a prisoner?
Abnett: Yeah, to play that character against Roy, who is probably the most wayward and free-spirited of all the Titans. The idea that the two of them have this close bond and, in fact, they represent either end of the spectrum in that regard, is going to be fun.
There is a sense that, in this story, even the beginnings that we've seen of it, the potential problems associated with Donna are now very carefully contained - so she's no longer going to spin off the rails - but Roy also is the one who's going to spin off.
Are we reversing the dynamic? Is it a matter now of Donna stepping up and going, we need to help Roy now because…
And if that's the case - that's two of them that have essentially gone rogue, or three, actually, if you count Wally and the problems that he's been having in the last few issues, is that really proof that the Titans are not a viable thing? That they're basically not safe because at any point one of the wheels could come off and everything could go crashing down?
But I'm finding it a very, very interesting story, because it is taking the whole idea of the Titans and subjecting it to intense scrutiny and seeing how far you can push it before it simply disintegrates.
Nrama: Yet as you mentioned, the scrutiny they're under is more intense because they're seen as "understudies."
Abnett: Yes! But at the same time, these are first-rank heroes. These are not sidekicks. These are not understudies, even though the world seems to regard them as such.
Could you imagine this story being done with the Justice League and how that would work? Because at the end of it they'd say, "Well, we're the Justice League. Sorted that out, because we're the Justice League!"
The idea that the Titans have always got parents or big brothers to answer to means they have this sense of oversight that they've got to get it right. And that, I think, is the fun thing about this story.
Nrama: Roy is getting close to the drug world again, a place that he really should avoid…
Abnett: Yes. Roy is delving into a world that he - under ideal circumstances - should be avoiding. But he's doing that because he wants to feel like he's doing something useful. He feels that if the Titans are over, he wants to prove that he's got a role to play.
There's also this underlying sense that he's trying to prove that to himself as much as anybody else. So not only does he want to good, he wants to do good in an area where he knows how bad things can get.
But he's getting close to the fire again. He knows how dangerous that fire is, so he feels like he's the ideal person to do it.
Everyone else is going, are you really? Are you really? Because this is like putting you in harm's way, putting too much temptation in front of you.
Any story that draws on the roots of those characters is a stronger story, as far as I'm concerned.
Nrama: Will we find out more about what's going on with Wally?
Abnett: Yes, to a lesser extent. But Titans works best, to me, when I've kept everybody in play to a greater or lesser extent rather than trying to get a little bit of everybody all the time.
So although Roy and Donna really are the focus of this story, we're not leaving the others behind - particularly Wally and Nightwing. They play a very important role in the story as it goes forward, really because they represent the different points of the argument that could be had about whether the Titans are a good idea or a bad idea.
Do we do what the Justice League tells us to do, or not do it?
And there's a great threat that they're going to stumble into in the middle of all this. So there are some surprises coming as well.
Nrama: Can you speak in general terms then, about what's coming up in 2018 for the Titans?
Abnett: It's very difficult to talk about it without giving anything away. But this storyline that we're starting right now is really huge. It's a big, big, big story anyway, but it's also a really important story in the history of the Titans.
So if fans and readers care about these characters at all, this is a story they've really, really got to read and see where it goes to, because everything's going to change - for good or for bad. This is a really major step.
If you're a long-time fan – it's easy to say, "you must not miss this!," but you really mustn't miss this story.
And I always say this in interviews with you, but I always try to keep that balance between keeping the long-term fans satisfied by getting all the continuity stuff I can in there, understanding how it relates in the long-term, but also keeping it open and comprehensible for new readers.
I think that's any comic book writer's responsibility when writing established characters.
So new readers - start with this. It's a great place to start. You'll learn a lot about the Titans, and it won't be a mystery, and you'll understand what's going on, and it's great fun.
But long-term readers - jump on board now, for God's sake, because this is really important.