NEW 52: Teen Titans (Part One)

The one complaint I would make about Teen Titans is the same complaint I would make about many of the titles DC has published in the last ten years: it’s too short. They’re all too short. The problem with writing for trade is that the self-contained single-issue storyline of yesteryear has gone the way of the…oh, I’ve dropped my cane. Get off my lawn, you stupid kids!

What this means for Teen Titans is that each issue moves the story along but also feels like an extended setup for that final-page teaser hinting at what happens in next month’s instalment:

Will Superboy be unleashed? Is Bart going to die? Will Solstice ever find a dependable tailor?

Another difficulty with writing for trade: certain characters and plot points, while substantial in the overall picture, become minor blips up close, while smaller events get way more screentime than they rightfully warrant. There’s no reason for the Superboy brawl to be stretched out over two issues, and it’s easy to not even notice Skitter’s absence in Teen Titans #5. Several months into this series and it still doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten much of a story beyond introducing characters and elements that will hopefully pay off down the road. “The Culling” seems promising, and I’m expecting big things from this Detritus fellow:

He looks like a cross between Doomsday and the scrap-metal-and-mud guy from Hank Henshaw’s fated Excalibur flight:

Then there’s the supporting cast. I’d like to applaud DC for making a book aimed at teens that features, in addition to the four caucasian leads, a black heroine (Skitter), an Indian heroine (Solstice), and a latino hero (Bunker), even if it occasionally feels like boardroom-mandated targeted marketing. I should also point out that Bunker is gay:

Which…great. It’s refreshing to see a gay Titan and everything, but it’d be even more refreshing to see a prominent gay character in the New 52 that isn’t a swishy, self-absorbed, narcissistic, ladies-BFF cliché. Miguel is basically Jack from Will & Grace and the LGBTQ crowd that DC is trying to court is surely more diverse than that.

What about the rest of the team? Bart Allen is still pretty Bart Allen-ish, except he now has amnesia:

Though hopefully being named Kid Flash and Bart Allen will help him piece together this puzzle sooner rather than later.

Wonder Girl is still terrible. Instead of being blandly determined, she’s now a teen klepto with intimacy issues, unexplained rage, and wears, in the grand tradition of awful Wonder Girl costumes, some sort of hooded tube top pantsuit:

Superboy is working for the malevolent organization that created him, N.O.W.H.E.R.E., attempting to capture “meta” teenagers for nefarious purposes:

But I feel like, I dunno, maybe they’ll eventually win him over and he’ll join the Teen Titans in their battle against evil. Otherwise the cover of Teen Titans #1 doesn’t make much sense.

Red Robin finally ditched his Doctor Mid-Nite gear for a truly awesome and name-appropriate costume (with metal wings!), though Tim Drake’s words have raised some significant questions:

Wait, wha…? What did Batman start? If Tim’s referring to the whole sidekick trend, that would be kinda weird, because Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Superboy, et al, didn’t begin their careers as sidekicks in the New 52. The way this panel is positioned, after much xenophobic grumbling from firemen and newscasters alike, it almost makes it sound like Batman’s responsible for superheroes in general, which…what?

“I can’t believe I’m thinking this – but this was so the shortest incarnation of the Teen Titans. Ever.” Aren’t teen heroes just now appearing en masse out of nowhere? Who did he try to recruit before? Or is this a reference to all of the Titans’ pre-New 52 incarnations? Does Tim somehow remember all of the Titans’ pre-New 52 incarnations? Or is it just an ironic wink at the audience?

The ironic wink theory is supported by moments like this:

And this:

But in context, the narrative intent of Tim’s dialogue is a bit muddled.

Don’t get me wrong – Teen Titans is off to a decent start. It’s good to see some racial and sexual diversity amongst the team, the costume redesigns, for the most part, are welcome, and the character revisions, however dumb (Wonder Girl) or repetitive (Superboy versus the rest of the team), are intriguing enough. It’d just be nice to get a complete story in one issue, as the scope of these tales isn’t so broad it demands multiple chapters. Come on, DC; Jonah Hex knew how to do it. Certainly other titles can too.

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13 Responses to NEW 52: Teen Titans (Part One)

  1. Thiago says:

    Great reading, as usual. Keep it up!
    Any impressions on Action Comics so far? 😉

  2. Kevin says:

    Some of your pics are coming up 404. Just an FYI. I agree that TT is taking too long getting started. And I miss Beast Boy.

    • I noticed it last night – I assumed it was some sort of WP-related maintenance or something and that it would magically be fixed in the morning, but I guess not. I re-uploaded everything so it’s working now.

      I’m sad to see Beast Boy gone as well (though I don’t miss Raven at all). Was glad to see Miss Martian’s brief appearance in the first issue too.

  3. Sharon says:

    I tried reading this run thinking it’d harken back to ye olde Young Justice with impulse and the gang. (I hate the name Kid Flash). My biggest gripe is that why make them teens if they’re going to act like adults? Let the comic be somewhat light hearted… honestly, it’s like no one remembers it’s okay to laugh with comics anymore.

    • I think it’s a demographics thing – light-hearted doesn’t really match up to serious comics in a post-Nolan world. Bart has gotten a few good quips in there, but you’re right: this is no Giffen-era Justice League.

  4. I love your review, I totally agree. I think that all the characters are great except Cassandra “don’t call me Wondergirl” attitude leaves me flat. Bunker is cool and yes, he is too cliche; he reminds me of Kurt Hummell from Glee. I don’t know who Skitter is, I hope they develop her more.

    • I think she explains in a subsequent issue that she has no connection to Wonder Woman, hence not wanting to be called Wonder Girl, but the way she does it is still pretty irritating (at least in the first few issues).

  5. Timestampede says:

    I have to agree with everything said here. I am in the process of reading the TPB of the Culling and I hope it turns out good. I will say, however, there has yet to be an incarnation of Teen Titans that rivals Marv Wolfman’s and George Perez’s storylines. But I grew up with them so once again I find myself biased.

  6. Interesting to see your opinions of the current Teen Titans and Tim Drake’s redesign (I actually loved the Dr. Midnite gear).

  7. Rikan says:

    Let me see how racist is this Teen Titans title… so the non-white characters are the ones that cant be looking or any powerhouses. Of course the super pretty and super powerful female… is a blonde white chick… of course and she looks good all the time. Most powerful of all is Superboy and of course he is pretty perfect and yes a white boy. Then the human leader, Red Robin, same thing, perfect white boy. Kid Flash is a funny redheaded guy and only imperfection is he cant remember anything which will play into the story later on.

    Lord forbid we screw with any of the white characters, lets do it with the minorities or the foreigners.
    The one black character is a female and sure enough, she transform into a monster, ugly and pretty gross powers. Then the hindu chick looks like she is a super blue nova! All black like cratered skin that seems to be erupting with light. Of course she is engulfed in black ugly cloud. Last but not least the one latino guy had to be the gay one… really?!

    None of the white characters have any issues of being in public. None of the white but all the non-whites get to be the ones they experiment with… can you be any more racist?

    If you want to have a gay character, why not Red Robin after all he is the one that was obsessed with Batman. Why not have the black girl have the Wonder Girl powers and make the blonde the ugly spider shooting gross spit.. blondes cant be monsters but others can?

    I mean, the producers of this title made sure that the MAIN characters, the white ones, were all protected and gave the short stick to all the other-than-white.

    I am disgusted…

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