George Pérez tribute and Justice League replacement question highlight Teen Titans Academy finale

On May 24, DC released Teen Titans Academy #15 (opens in new tab), the final issue of the innovative series in which the original members of the Teen Titans open a school for the next generation of heroes. And though the final chapters have brought closure to a lot of the arcs begun in issue #1, the future of the Titans and their young recruits is still very much an open question. 

Of course, that’s true for the entire DCU, since the Justice League is, at least for now, dead and gone. 

We at Newsarama have postulated that, if anyone is going to take over for the JL, it should be the team of ‘next generation heroes.’  Dark Crisis writer Joshua Williamson seemed to say the same when he told the Beat (opens in new tab) that Dark Crisis is “a story about the sidekicks, like the new generation […] the Tim Drakes, the Kyle Rayners, and then again, going back to Nightwing and the Titans.” But does that mean that the Titans will replace the Justice League? 

The answer that Teen Titans Academy gives is not a simple one. 

Spoilers ahead for Teen Titans Academy #15

a page from Teen Titans Academy #15

a page from Teen Titans Academy #15 (Image credit: DC)

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Teen Titans Academy #15 is drawn by Tom Derenik, written by Tim Sheridan, colored by Peter Pantazis and Matt Herms, and lettered by Rob Leigh. Part of the plot revolves around Titans Academy students traveling to Apokolips to free Shazam from the forces of Darkseid. Some of those students are Megabat and Bratgirl, Gotham City orphans that make up two-thirds of TTA’s “Bat Pack,” who were brought to the school by Nightwing. The Bat Pack yearn to be just like Batman himself and, while on Apokolips, prove that they someday might be.

As other students Stitch, Matt Price, and Nevermore work to free Shazam from his chains, Megabat and Bratgirl respectively brawl with Parademons and hack Apokoliptian technology. This should remind longtime readers of when Batman himself did something very similar, engaging the army of Darkseid physically and turning his own technology against him in the Superman/Batman storyline “The Supergirl from Krypton” by Jeph Loeb, Michael Turner, and Peter Steigerwald. 

So on the one hand, TTA seemingly confirms that, yes, there are new generation ‘replacements’ to the old generation Justice League heroes. In fact, while the Bat Pack is doing their best Caped Crusader impression, the mysterious Matt Price is acting very much like Superman, exhibiting flight, super strength, and laser eye beams. While there’s a twist to those powers we won’t spoil here, Matt’s battle on Apokolips looks very much like ones the Man of Steel has waged in the past.

But that’s not the end of the story. While the Shazam rescue mission happens worlds away, the third member of the Bat Pack struggles with a different kind of crisis, one of identity. Since the beginning of the series, El Chupacabra has seen himself the embodiment of the ‘non-powered detective’ element of the Bat Pack, even though he’s a lot closer to Man-Bat than Batman, having been injected (against his will) with Kirk Langstrom’s DNA. 

Teen Titans Academy #15

a page from Teen Titans Academy #15 (Image credit: DC)

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Chupacabra, real name Diego, takes his questions about identity to a relative he’s just learned he has, a glasses and Hawaiian-shirt sporting uncle named Jorge. It doesn’t take the world’s greatest detective to know that Uncle Jorge is George Pérez, the legendary real-life Titans artist who passed away at the beginning of May. Diego reveals to Uncle Jorge that he has sprouted wings, making him feel like a “freak of nature” and, readers can assume, less like the human hero he strives to emulate.

“Diego, my boy,” says Uncle Jorge, “You are as much a freak of nature as I am. As ALL of us are! Our lives are freakish and wild and wonderful, when you really think about it.” 

Then, indicating the wings, Uncle Jorge tells Diego that “something tells me you’ve already taken those things out for a spin… maybe under cover of night […] I know the sun’s coming up, but I don’t want to miss a chance to see you soar!” Diego takes to the skies, embracing the sun, his powers, and more importantly, himself. Uncle Jorge takes a seat, pulls up a sketch pad, and draws. 

In this emotional scene, it seems that TTA is telling the readers that the new generation will not replace the Justice League, but carry on without them. That they will be their own group of heroes, fighting for what is right in the way that the world they inhabit has taught them. In the closing pages of the book, Titans Academy headmaster Starfire greets a new class of students to the new Titans Tower, rebuilt to be even taller than the one destroyed earlier in the series. Her speech exemplifies what the series, what the Titans, and what the new generation of DC heroes are all about.

a page from Teen Titans Academy #15

a page from Teen Titans Academy #15 (Image credit: DC)

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“We live our lives every day in service,” she says, “Secure in the knowledge that we made a positive difference in the lives of our neighbors, our friends […] When we are gone, the ones we leave behind will carry on that service… and create for themselves and their own neighbors an even better world than the one we left.”

Whatever the future of the next generation of DC heroes is, it will not look the same as the ones in the past. The Titans will always strive to honor what has come before, but won’t forget to stay true to themselves, to be the different heroes that they are. Hopefully in the real world, which is full of its own evils old and new, we the readers can do the same.

It’s what Uncle Jorge would have wanted.

The Teen Titans top the list of the best teen superhero teams of all time.

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