Friday, April 13, 2012

New 52 in Review - Teen Titans

This is another one I was on the fence about picking up at all.  For some reason almost no one seems to be able to write the Teen Titans well lately.  I don’t know what is so difficult about the concept of the book, but recent writers tended to do certain things with the series such as kill off characters for shock value, cause massive internal strife among the teammates, make everyone angsty, write horrible dialogue, and completely changing the team line up because I guess they don’t feel like writing certain characters.  I am drawn to the book mostly because it is the only place I can read about some of the characters I really like.  With the new 52, this is now the only place I can read about Red Robin, whose solo series was one of my top ten favorite ongoing series before the massive cancellation of the old DCU.  So I picked this one up…  Possible spoilers to follow; you’ve been warned.

First of all I might as well mention that I hate a lot of the new costumes.  Especially Red Robin’s.  I can understand the desire to give him wings and make him able to fly like a lot of the other heroes, but to me it just takes away from the team aspect.  Tim could not fly and that was a personal weakness.  The team had to plan for that and make use of the various strengths that each member had.  Now he’s just Super Tim and flies about.  Wonder Girl’s red costume doesn’t really appeal to me either.  She didn’t have the greatest costume in the old DCU but this really isn’t an improvement to me.  With Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and Superboy there is an awful lot of red in these costumes.  

It pains me to say that Tim Drake is a jerk in this.  They play it off as him not being an insensitive prick but actually just wanting to protect everyone and being all business like in order to accomplish that.  But he’s a jerk.  He simply is not the Tim Drake I knew and loved and that pains me.  One of the best things about old Tim Drake was the great relationships he had with his friends and teammates.  He had very close friendships with Conner, Cassie, and Bart.  I guess they could be trying to develop that again with these new characters, but to me that’s boring as it’s already been done (and done well).  I’d rather read about the characters already being friends and trusting each other and working together on interesting problems than reading about all the strife that goes along with getting there.

But I guess that’s really my biggest problem.  This entire storyline with NOWHERE and capturing and containing metahuman teens has all been done before.  This was all done in Young Justice (the old series not the one based on the cartoon), and done very well.  None of this really feels original in any way.  If I want to read about the young heroes battling a shady organization I’d rather read that series, since I know it was good.  I’m not saying that comic writers can’t tell similar stories from time to time, but for the big debut of the new 52 I was expecting something fresh and unique.  Sure it’s not exactly the same story, but I can’t help but compare it to the Young Justice one and find this one lacking. 

The dialogue is horrible.  I mean, it’s just bad.  The kids don’t talk like teenagers.  And everyone exposits like crazy.  They even lampshade it at one point, pointing out that letting the villain talk is your best bet as he’ll tell you how to beat him.  Many of the jokes fall flat.  It’s just not good writing. 

This is probably nitpicky as well, but I got really really sick of all the editor boxes telling me things that were pretty obvious.  Or telling me that something happened in issue 1.  Seriously we haven’t even been going a year yet.  If I want to know more about something the characters are talking about I think I can handle picking up a handful of previous issues to figure out where it is.  The reader doesn’t need to be told this information constantly, especially since most of the readers at this point have probably read all the issues out at the moment.  Unless it’s something that happened 3 years ago (impossible at this point) or in a different series I really don’t need a note about where to find it.  It was probably more annoying since I read all of them at once, but it was just really unnecessary and made me feel like the editor thinks all the readers are morons who can’t handle characters talking about anything that happened in a previous issue without a guide map of where to find it.  I also did not need what NOWHERE is spelled out for me in every issue.  In issue 4 the comic even tells me what NOWHERE is in context, but then on the next page I get an editor box shoving it in my face, just to be sure.  I like editor boxes when they are used correctly, but here it was just a misuse. 

I appreciate that there is almost an even number of guys and gals on the team.  And that the girls seem pretty strong and able to fend for themselves.  But I really don’t like Solstice’s redesign.  And Wonder Girl is a jerk too.  I wish the team wasn’t half made up of unlikeable characters.  Other than Bunker the team already feels full of potential angst.

Bunker is likable and fun and interesting, but I have to be kinda upset at DC one part.  I knew going in that he was an openly gay character.  But how do they introduce this fact to the reader?  Well he is written as rather flamboyant I guess, but that in and of itself doesn’t mean anything.  I know plenty of guys who are straight who act similar.  But they finally spell it out for us when he is having a conversation with Wonder Girl.  I’m almost certain this is the first conversation they have ever had having just met in the previous issue.  He tells her she is “awesome” and she questions if he uses that line on all the girls (calling someone awesome is a pick up line now?  Really?).  To which Bunker replies “Girls?  Uh…Not exactly.  You do realize I’m gay, right?”  My main question here if why on earth Bunker and perhaps the writer of the comic seem to think that Wonder Girl should have realized he is gay.  It’s not like he was making out with Red Robin or anything.  That would be a legitimate clue.  But short of that I don’t see why Wonder Girl should have just assumed that.  Unless the comic is encouraging making snap judgments about people.  With Bunker’s cheerful character and openness about his sexuality it would have been much better for him to say something like, “Nope, but it’s been known to work on a guy or two.”  Just anything that wasn’t the “Hey person I just met how can you not have noticed that I am gay” that we got.  But I do like the character.

The formula of the issues so far seems to be meet a teen, have a fight, teen joins team.  It isn’t quite as flat as that in the later issues, but it isn’t much better.  The team hasn’t done anything interesting so far.  They haven’t done any investigating.  All they’ve really done is punch things.  They don’t even find the big bad behind NOWHERE themselves, he just kinda shows up and announces himself.  And there hasn’t been much teamwork to speak.  We got a touch of that in the seventh issue with a planned two part attack from Superboy and Kid Flash.  But it just seems like most of the time they all do their own thing and hope for the best.  It’s still a young team and I guess that could still come, but Tim is supposed to be the smart one and the leader here, so why hasn’t he even tried to make use of his assets yet?

The art is okay.  My biggest problem was in issue two when Thrice shows up.  I had no idea he was supposed to be a teenager until Red Robin spelled it out for me.  He was not drawn with the proportions of a young adult.  It also annoyed me that Grymm’s weird mouth never moves but he totally talks.  But other than that I can’t remember having an issue with anything.  It’s not my favorite but it wasn’t bad.

So yeah, long story short I’m torn.  It’s not a horrible comic.  I just don’t think it’s very good.  So at this point I have to decide if I want to keep reading for the characters or drop it due to quality.  It’s a tough call, and one I probably won’t make until I see how many other series we’re dropping.

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