Around the time I reviewed this series last graphic novel everybody was bemoaning how sad it was that the Teen Titans comic book couldn’t capture the same sort of magic as the Young Justice TV series. Now Young Justice has been replaced by Teen Titans Go! and this comic series still chugs along month after month and I gotta say… I’m enjoying Teen Titans Go! more than this comic book too. Teen Titans Go! might never show the team actually fighting crime or doing anything beyond hanging out in their apartment, but at least it makes me laugh. This comic, however, I just don’t see the appeal. In fact, it was such a chore to read that I had to quit and THAT is why this is the worst review I’ve ever written. I’m about to review a book that I couldn’t even finish.
Teen Titans, Vol. 2: The Culling collects issues #8-14 of the New 52 Teen Titans plus DC Universe Presents #12. In the previous installment, superhuman teens around the world had been captured by an organization calling itself N.O.W.H.E.R.E. lead by a Pan’s Labyrinth reject known as Harvest. Tim Drake was hot on the trail of N.O.W.H.E.R.E when he began to make a number of friends along the way who were willing to fight by his side–usually after a single conversation. Along with his band of Teen Titans, Tim Drake (I hate calling him “Red Robin” it’s such a terrible crime-fighting identity) tracked Harvest down only to be captured be the villain almost immediately.
Volume 2 is is not something you can just hop right into if you haven’t read volume 1. The story from Volume 1: It’s Our Right to Fight (Yes, that’s really what it was titled) never wrapped and the opening chapter drops readers right into the chaotic Culling action with little more than an introductory paragraph to explain (this is the only DC graphic novel I’ve read so far from the New 52 that actually included an extra recap paragraph before another issue would begin). To test how well the book could be grasped by the uninitiated (and this is no way indicative of how everyone will react, but at least I did a little test and that’s got to count for something) I gave the book to a friend of mine who I’m currently trying to get into comics (he is familiar with the DC universe, just not the New 52) and his comments included:
- I have no idea what’s going on…
- I like the art!
- Is that really Amanda Waller? But she’s hot!
- I don’t really understand…
- Tim Drake has psychic powers?
- No, wait, that’s another guy. Never mind.
- I think I’m done.
He didn’t finish the first chapter. I let him borrow Red Son and Gotham by Gaslight and sent him on his way. As for me, I finished the first chapter… and that was about all I had the energy to complete. I had read volume 1 when it was initially released, but could recall very little from it today (it was released quite a long time ago). I tried flipping back through it too and all it stirred up was bad memories. It took me a few days to even find the strength to attempt reading this graphic novel, honestly. It was a chore and I think the thing that pains me the most about it is seeing Tim Drake trapped in such a bad book.
The opening pages have Tim trapped in a bubble and being turned into a half-bird man, then everyone else gets put into bubbles and tormented before being fitted with Tron suits. Even with the recap page this was all too much to handle and it’s clear that this arc definitely should’ve been bundled with the previous volume. Throughout all of the bubbling we are introduced to creepy looking villains who are all compelled to introduce themselves with their first line like “My name is ____ and I have the power to ____!” But their fiendish abilities are the only thing that’s explained that well. It’s sensory overload with too many characters talking at once in an abstract location and I found nothing to tether myself to. At issue #2’s start Harvest wanted all of his captive super-teens to fight each other in a Battle Royal/Hunger Games/Avengers Arena sort of scenario but I’m not sure why. I also just. Didn’t. Care.
What’s the most confusing to me is how author Scott Lobdell can write a team book like Red Hood and the Outlaws and make it fun and give us characters that are both likeable and interesting and then… there’s this.
The artists did a fine job on this book. A fine job. And even though I quit reading I still flipped through all the pages of blinding neon Tron colors and took in the fine details and beautifully crafted creatures of the weird dinosaur world that the Teen Titans somehow entered, but even when the dinosaur fights looked exciting and I decided to start reading the speech bubbles that accompanied these moments I simply phased out every time. It’s just a lot of sound and fury with absolutely no substance behind it. Or at least that’s how I feel. Maybe if a reader cares more about Superboy or Kidflash or Wonder Girl picked up this book they would have a much better time than me. But if somebody at the comic shop told me that all of the characters in this book except for Tim Drake died I would just shrug! As I said in the review of volume 1, the show Young Justice did a better job developing its characters in 22 minutes than Scott Lobdell’s Teen Titans comic did in 7 full issues. I’m not invested in any of these characters nor do I care about whether or not they succeed in saving the lives of the Legion Lost characters who are also trapped with them– And maybe I would care if I ever read Legion Lost, but I haven’t.
I didn’t like Teen Titans Volume 1 and I really, really needed Volume 2 to show me something more compelling but ultimately I couldn’t even muster the energy to press on after a single chapter and a half to see if things would change for the better.
Do you really still care what I have to say about this book? I’m a terrible resource for all things Teen Titans! Sigh… There are six pages of sketches by Brett Booth that look pretty great. He’s a terrific artist who works perfectly alongside Norm Rapmund, and Andrew Dalhouse (a team I wish had stuck around on Nightwing).
Value: Dirt Cheap
What did you think I was going to say?! There’s no way I would spend $16.99 for this. Ever. So there’s no way I would recommend that you do so either. Amazon is offering it for $13.26 at the moment and I wouldn’t even spend that much. If you found it somewhere for a couple of bucks, then sure. Heck, if I could find Neil Gaiman’s Black Orchid at a comic shop’s bi-annual 25-cent sale then surely this book will end up there someday too.
If you liked the first volume then you’ll like this, I’m sure. But I hated the first volume and I couldn’t even make it to the halfway point of this one. This is an awful review and I probably shouldn’t have even bothered writing it, but look at me. Over 1,000 words of me saying “I couldn’t finish it and wish Tim Drake would show up somewhere else.” Awful. Great artwork– it has stunning pencils and colors (that’s where the 2.5 or 1 out of 4 stars is coming from, by the way), but this has a nonsensical plot and pathetic use of these characters. I might just go watch an episode of Teen Titans Go! Just to make myself feel better.