Teen Titans 17

If you told me that I’d pick up Teen Titans #17 a month ago I would have been skeptical. Teen Titans was weak from the start, in my opinion, and awkwardly shifting continuity and the chaos of the Culling and The Night of Owls only hurt it further. As I mentioned in my review of Red Hood and the Outlaws #17, I’ve found Scott Lobdell to be a writer capable of soaring highs and truly abysmal lows, and possessed of a myriad of flaws in his execution. Teen Titans never reached the jaw-dropping awfulness that still mars its sister title’s good name, but neither did its characterization manage to match the best moments of Red Hood. In a word, it was dull.

How could a book that shared its name, its premise, with Marv Wolfman’s New Teen Titans be so mediocre? How could the same characters that made up Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans be so boring and lifeless? How could I spend $2.99 on something I’m willing to denigrate so? I can’t answer the first two but I know the last one.

Raven.

Like so many other DC titles, and especially the Bat-titles (which Teen Titans really is, unfortunately), this month is one for relaxation and regrouping. With the threat of the Joker behind us, Lobdell and Fabian Niceza take some time to set up their next plot and reintroduce us to the Teen Titans.

As you may recall, this worked wonders for RHatO and, generally, it works here too. Another similarity between the two books is the clear emphasis on one of Batman’s protégés as the protagonist. Leading the Titans has always been Robin’s job, but Lobdell’s take has really made it clear who the team revolves around. This trend continues here, but we do get to play with it a little bit.

While it would be easy for this issue to focus on Robin’s reaction to the traumatic events he’s just endured (as the unnecessary stamp along the top of the cover reminds us), the Teen Wonder serves as an instigator in this issue. Instead of a story about Red Robin, his reactions, and his Titans, we get a tale about the Titans reacting to Red Robin.

The new status quo seems interesting, and (especially in light of RHatO), it appears the Lobdell has developed a desire to focus on the relationships in his books. That’s fine by me, it’s what he does best.

Though the characters don’t escape from the limited stereotypes that Lobdell has set them up with (especially Cassie), seeing them interact is satisfying and real. It’s been clear from the get go that Lobdell wants us to love Bunker, but can you fault him for it if he writes Bunker as a truly delightful individual? Likewise, there’s a lot of good moments for Solstice. Even Bart gets a page of solid character development. But the highlight of the book is definitely Tim’s speech at the start. It’s the sort of beautiful moment that I associate with Teen Titans.

However, Lobdell and Nicieza don’t settle for a completely quiet issue, the main draw of this issue is that it’s the beginning of the A Tale of Light and Dark storyline, which actually looks quite promising. This iteration of Teen Titans has seemed to focus on the way that the teenaged metahumans emerging around the world are exploited in one way or another. We see two representations of this idea in this story and it appears that they will soon be set against one another.

The pair set up this story well. We find three antagonists on the horizon as this issue comes to a close and it’s not clear how many factions they represent or which one is the most dangerous.

It also seems possible that the threat of Trigon may be a looming presence over the series, even as this next arc plays out. Though it hasn’t always paid off, I’ve been enjoying Lobdell’s penchant for seeding new storylines and the possibility of Trigon becoming a nemesis to the team not for a story but for the series, appeals greatly to me.

I will say that I’m not crazy about the super gothic Raven, but I think she deserves a little more time before we pass judgment.

Eddy Barrows does a decent job this month, but his version of Tim Drake doesn’t sit well with me. Given Tim’s heavy presence in the book, that’s a pretty serious strike against it. In fact, the Titan’s all look a little weird out of costume. Solstice and Raven escape due to their inhuman appearances, but Cassie, Miguel, and Bart are all at least a little off.

The scenes with Raven and our villains fare much better. Let no one say that Barrows and his team can’t draw an impressive deathscape. In these moments of heightened tension and drama, Barrows shows that he is a very talented artist, but that doesn’t make up for his difficulties representing the focus of the story.

I have one last thing to talk about with those who have read the issue, but I was pleasantly surprised by this issue, especially after Fabian Nicieza’s terrible turn on dialogue last month. It’s still not great but it feels a lot more like Teen Titans. Nicieza and Lobdell just might have another arc to win me back.

 

 

 

From here on out we’re in spoiler territory, if you don’t have the stomach for it you should turn back now.

 

 

Alright?

 

 

Alright.

 

 

There was one other reason I picked up this issue. The prospect of Raven got me to flip through the book, but I knew that there was a real chance of me walking out with it when I saw Tim kissing Kieran. I was shocked; surely Alfred raised him better than that (I said as if he knew Alfred for more than a couple of years)! Moreover, as much as the pairing made sense to me, I was very upset to see Kieran willingly betraying Bart’s trust. Their relationship started just as I was leaving the book and was the highlight of those issues. Imagine my surprise when Tim and Cassie start going at it later!

The revelation that something (potentially Raven/Trigon related) is affecting Tim helps a little, but I’m still waiting for confirmation that Kieran and Cassie are somehow under outside influence as well (though that does make it kinda rapey). I think the scene with Cassie and Tim is really interesting. Mentions of Tim’s discomfort with people touching his clothes show that these are consistent characters and that the continuity in this series is important to the writers (unless editorial tells them no). It’s also interesting how, in a vacuum, there’s nothing surprising here, but, knowing that something is going on, both parties are acting strangely (Tim seems calm and manipulative, Cassie feels comfortable showing up at Tim’s door wearing his shirt and no pants).

I hope that we won’t see Bart get hurt and I hope that Kieran won’t turn out to be in her right mind, but the laws of dramatic escalation imply that we might be headed that way.  We’ll just have to see. You got me again DC.

 

P.S. Can anyone figure out what Bunker’s “ew” was in response to? Is he just disgusted by the idea of Cassie showering with him?

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