After a lot of setup, we get a tragic origin of an important character in the DC Universe, especially in the ranks of the younger ones. There’s also a first day of school, the introduction of a minor Bat-character, a much-needed attitude adjustment, and a few deep cuts for trivial side characters. There actually aren’t any out and out villains in “Another Freak,” but they tell an interesting story with some good character development.
The story starts off in Detroit (I have no idea why DC keeps putting Victor Stone in Detroit lately, but they do here and in Doom Patrol. He’s always been a New Yorker in the comics as far as I know), with Victor bursting into his father’s lab, livid about him missing a big game and a talent scout from Met U being there. Silas is not really apologetic or even sympathetic, and isn’t going to win Father of the Year. Their argument heats up, and you just know something bad is coming. Sure enough, the foreshadowing from the last episode or two pays off, there’s a nasty explosion (this lab was seriously not up to code) and young Victor is horribly injured.
In Happy Harbor, after some fake ID’s are obtained (hey, isn’t that illegal?), Halo and Forager are going to high school as Violet Harper (one of her names from the comics) and Fred Bugg. The two go off to school after some not-helpful comments from Brion, who keeps glaring at his phone, following the news from back home in Markovia where he’s exiled from. Back at STAR Detroit, Silas takes a desperate gamble to try and save Victor’s life. This is roughly his New 52 origin, the reboot that, among other things, permanently separated Cyborg from his family of New Teen Titans. The writers did a great job digging deep for some of the background characters in this scene in Sarah Charles and Dale Gunn (thank you IMDB). Dr. Charles was a long time love interest of Victor’s in the comics and a damn good scientist on her own. Dale Gunn was the caretaker/heavily armored guardian of the bunker the Justice League used as a base in their brief “Justice League Detroit” phase. See, Dale, at least, is in the right city. Almost everyone says Silas Stone is making a mistake in his attempts to save Victor, but Silas isn’t listening. Which seems to be a recurring theme with the man. This, of course, leads to Victor’s transformation from high school football star to Cyborg, teen powerhouse and tragic figure in the vein of Marvel’s Thing or Cyclops, or Doom Patrol’s Robotman. For those keeping score, that leaves Wonder Girl Donna Troy, Starfire, and Raven as the only original New Teen Titans not to show up yet. Hm. And they’re all female. Although Donna sort of showed up as ambassador from Themyscaria.
They manage to avoid most of the high school clichés in this episode, but we do get the kooky rebel in the form of Harper Row. Harper was a minor Batman character around 2011 who eventually became the hero Bluebird, and then was reset back to just a civilian, in the New 52. She, of course, befriends Halo and Forager after a routine along the lines of “Who’s On First” about their names. How all this gets past the teacher I have no idea, but Harper seems to be one of those “can get away with anything” kids. As Victor’s rebirth turns all dramatic, Superboy takes a bike he fixed out for a spin. Left alone, Brion tries to hack the Justice League teleporters, and gets locked out. His clumsy attempts do get Dick’s attention, and he shows up to see what’s going on. Brion is his usual hot-headed, one track mind self, and tries to pick a fight with Dick. In a great bit of characterization, Dick avoids all Brion’s clumsy attacks, but never really retaliates, just tries to talk him down. Dick makes a few very insightful comments, sort of confirms someone (likely Oracle) hacked Brion’s phone, and walks off.
As Victor emerges from his tech cocoon and falls over, Halo/Violet and Forager Fred get the cold shoulder at lunch. They go outside and, of course, run into Harper again. She does seem genuinely fond of these two oddballs and hangs out for a while, having an interesting discussion about being freaks and that being ok before going back inside. Halo has been feeling a bit odd, and then suddenly manifests a new aura and ability, vanishing into a self-generated Boom Tube (not one of her abilities in the comics, and an interesting new development).
Victor, now Cyborg in all but name, goes on a rampage, tossing security guards aside to get to his father. The potential carnage gets interrupted when, of course, Halo appears. After they fight for a bit, Cyborg’s new scanners seem to register something about her, and Silas pleads with her not to hurt Victor, Halo manages to calm the raging newly powered teen. After some bitter words between Victor and Silas, Victor opts to go with Halo and they Boom Tube away, reappearing about where they disappeared, as Forager is trying to explain to a worried Miss Martian what happened. Man, Happy Harbor is getting all the new strays (and I mean that affectionately). The show ends with Dick talking to a now calmer Brion, who actually did listen to Dick earlier, and seems to have gotten a better handle on his situation.
What I liked: Dick is a great leader, and shows that here. He lets Brion blow off some steam, but doesn’t let him get away with much and manages to get the bull-headed exiled Prince to listen to him. I’m not a big fan of high school drama, but they handled it well and mercifully avoided most of the overdone clichés. I’m glad to see Cyborg added to the ranks. I like this take on Harper Row, and wonder what we’ll see from her. I’m impressed at the inclusion, however briefly, of Sarah Charles and Dale Gunn.
What I didn’t: How many powers are they giving Halo? This is getting ridiculous. She’s Swiss-Army Girl. The appearance of Cyborg makes the absence of Raven and Starfire even more noticeable. And it’s odd that Garth and Donna have only gotten their one brief cameo, since we’ve seen most of the major and even many minor Teen Titans.
This series continues to impress me. I don’t know if we’ll get the previously announced season five, since DC Universe is all but certainly going away, but I really hope we will. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5.