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:
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.