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Teen Titans #19 Review: Teen Titans NO!


It's just... it's-- look, okay. Teen Titans has not been that good since the beginning of the New 52, and this is coming from a fan who owns several volumes of the Wolfman and Perez run. This book has been, so far, nothing but barely-there characters trading melodrama, punctuated by the occasional fight scene. Story conventions are burned and their ashes desecrated. Issue #17 literally starts with the Titans in a limo talking about how they feel and what they think. It's not just on the nose, it's a punch through the nose into the frontal lobes.

Phew! I almost had to find out what their character relationships were through their actions! That would have been the worst.

Regardless, the artwork for Teen Titans has been great since the relaunch. That goes double for this issue. The penciling by Brett Booth is fantastic with the inking and coloring just as good. Starting out stylized, the artwork has been leaning more and more realistic, but has managaed to remain detail-oriented and well done throughout. No panel is half effort. There's always a few interesting things to look at in every issue. The only big knock against it is that every supposed "teen" girl is drawn like some kind of supermodel genetically engineered from a teenage boy's fantasy and every supposed "teen" guy is the kind of ripped you only get from being Russian in Rocky 4, but if you're going to take up a banner against that, you're going to find yourself fighting the whole industry.

Listen. I have nothing against the writer, Scott Lobdell, or any of the co-writers he has on issue-to-issue. His work on X-Men in the 90s is, as far as I know, well respected. Hell, I even own a few issues of the X-Cutioner's Song crossover. I don't know what's going on in his life, I don't know the politics of this. Maybe he's distracted, maybe he just did this for the money, maybe a million things. However, I have to be objective. The writing here is bad. Real bad.

The first arc dealt with Red Robin getting teen heroes together to fight an organization called N.O.W.H.E.R.E (yeah) who were kidnapping teenage metahumans. After that, the Titans became completely reactive. There has yet to be a real goal. It's just the Titans living somewhere for a bit THEN, OH NO, AN EVIL PLOT. Fight, melodrama, fight, melodrama, BAM! Back to living somewhere else until a bad thing happens. 

This issue, for instance, begins with the Titans on a boat remarking on how Red Robin has just been a dick lately. Out of the blue, Cassie screams and flies off, saying "Trigon's here!", leaving Superboy with dialogue along the lines of 'yeah she told me she could do that one time. Also Trigon is a bad guy.' That's it. That's how Trigon fight starts. "Why Mike, you old dog, you must exaggerating! That's ridiculous!" Is it?

While we're on the subject of dialogue, this dialogue is not... it's not great. No one talks like how these characters talk 90% of the time. When it's not people saying exactly what they're thinking, it's all quasi one liners and half-baked quips. I don't think it's a problem that stems from ineptitude. I think it comes from weak characters (more on that later).

The weirdest part is how the comic will show you something and then a character will unnaturally retell what we all saw aloud. Like when Trigon shows Kid Flash an image of himself in shackles somewhere in the future, we get this:

The writers know this is a visual medium, right? No one has tricked them into thinking they're writing for radio? Is it them? When they stub their toe, do they say, "my toe! I've stubbed my toe! But how? On what? Pain? Is my toe... in pain?"

Hey, remember in Gold and Silver Age comics when people would say stuff, and then in a thought bubble explain what they're really thinking? We, as a nation, outgrew that practice decades ago. Virtually no one does that anymore. It has been replaced by inner monologue boxes that are used more deftly to convey character. Teen Titans elects to keep the inner monologue boxes, but they really want to bring back those thought bubbles too.

For example:

Ignoring for a minute the cringe shivers of 'here comes the boom' and the fact that NO ONE talks like 'this is like hitting a mountain with a teaspoon!', would Superboy, the character of Superboy, really say that? That's a semi serious question, actually, as Superboy's character swings from guarded loner to a friend-seeking naive kid every time he appears in this book. Maybe he thinks like a 1920s boxer this month. 

It's this problem with characters that might be its biggest fault. Pretty much all of the characters, save for Bunker, who was an invention of this run, and to a lesser extent Solstice, who existed a few years before the New 52, have stood the test of time. They're solid characters in other books, but they're under developed here. Red Robin is probably the best written character in the series and he's just a boring old guarded-by-the-books hero. Although nowadays he's being controlled by... someone? Who knows, it was never set up. I'm sure we'll get several pages later on where a character will explain it.

Cassie, or Wonder Girl, or Madame Bitchface as my brain insists on calling her, has the character trait of 'stubborn', but since she's a jerk-mouth to everyone she meets, she comes off as unpleasant. That means the audience doesn't care about her at all.

Kid Flash has teases of some deeper character, but he's relegated to the background where he can come in, make jokes, and get out.

Bunker's character is basically being both Latino and gay, as that's his only defining traits as far as I can tell. He had a few good moments talking with Solstice about accepting who she is, but after that it was all Spanish and innuendo for as far as the eye can see.

Solstice is the shy reserved girl, that is, until she's suddenly cool with making out with Robin for no reason even though she's been "dating" Kid Flash. Oh, maybe that's Trigon again?

And that's just the main roster, we're not even talking about side characters. They introduce Psimon and kind of hint at his road to evil, but it ultimately comes down to Trigon saying "HEY YOU'VE GOT A LOT OF POWER!" and Psimon going, "hey yeah I do." Raven is one of my favorite characters from Teen Titans and if I had to describe her character from this book to you, I'd have to send you a .gif of me shrugging.

Teen Titans #19
does not come with a recommend. It's saved mostly by its art and the simple pleasure of seeing how goofy it can be. In fairness to Mr. Lobdell, it's not All Star Batman levels of bad, but for my money it's worse than Red Hood and the Outlaws. And look how well that's been recieved.

P.S: This issue's title is 'Trigon-ometry'. "So they deal with some subtle math themes?" No. No they don't. They just named it that for the pun. Wha-- I just... it's...




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