Before I get started, I just want to say that I liked how the unused cover from issue #15 was employed for the TPB. I wish more of the Death of the Family volumes had done that, especially Nightwing, which had a great image of Grayson being enveloped by Joker cards like they were quicksand.
On with the show, here is Teen Titans, Volume 3: Death of the Family. It’s a collection that doesn’t really feel like it has a story of its own to tell. The first chapter is a Zero Month event that details the New 52 origin of Tim Drake, then we have the Death of the Family tie-in issues, then there’s the finale from Batman #17, and lastly we have one single issue that’s pure Titans and it does a good job of establishing a brand-new arc, but then it ends. You’ll have to wait about 5 months or so to read what happens next if you’re a trade-waiter. Since I had already consumed the Death of the Family stuff (#17 is in almost every volume 3 and the actual tie-ins were used in Red Hood Vol. 3) it made for a really quick read, but I enjoyed picking apart the new Drake origin again. Here are some my thoughts on it all.
Teen Titans, Vol. 3: Death of the Family includes issues #0, 15-17 of the New 52 series as well as issue #16 of Red Hood and the Outlaws and Batman #17.
Issue #0 is what I’ll talk about the most here. As I said in the intro, the book never really stands on its own as a great Teen Titans book. There’s very little team action in here to speak of! The #0 issue is a Tim Drake story through-and-through, the Death of the Family tie-ins make the rest of the Titans feel like dead weight, Batman #17 is, well, Batman #17, and the final chapter features some nice interactions between the team and puts the pieces in motion for a whole new game but it’s too little too late. In the end we’re left with a book comprised of mostly filler episodes.
I have reviewed Teen Titans #0 before, but after reading it again and taking in the following chapters I gotta say that my opinion of it has lessened and I find that writer Scott Lobdell’s Tim Drake is kind of a jerk. Rather than being motivated by helping people and wanting to find out who Batman is so that he can team-up and make a difference in the city, he does it instead out of arrogance. He’s totally blind to the thoughts and feelings of those around him and appears to only be out to prove that he’s the best, which is all the more aggravating when you see how nice his parents are! Seriously, the portrayal of his parents as total saints is laughable. His dickishness returned again in issue #17, but it could be debated that he was under the influence of outside forces– we’ll get to that later.
Here we see a young Tim Drake, a super genius and Olympic-ready high school athlete who up until now has found that he can do absolutely anything he wants so, why not become Robin? He does everything he can to figure out Batman’s identity, but fails and in the process of failing he brings about the wrath of one of Gotham’s worst criminals.
I hate to pull the ol’ “Things were better before the New 52!” card out of the deck, but for Tim Drake they really were. Not only did he actually feel like a part of the team, but his entire origin story was far better. We’ve lost the connection of having Tim in the crowd the night Dick’s parents died, we’ve lost his selflessness, we’ve lost the moment of him actually figuring out that Bruce is Batman (that’s been attributed to Dick now), and we’ve lost all those great stories in which there was a Robin who wasn’t an orphan. If there’s one really exciting change to come out of Lobdell’s retelling it’s that he closely tied Drake’s beginning to a major player in the Batman Rogues gallery, but get this: it’s never been addressed since! I’ll discuss this in spoiler tags.
As for the actual Death of the Family content, it makes up the bulk of the book but I’ve reviewed that section in single issues and again in the Red Hood & the Outlaws, Vol. 3 Review so I’m going to point you in that direction. But if you don’t feel like clicking and opening more tabs, I’ll just say that it’s a bit of a letdown. It’s the much awaited team-up of Tim and Jason and it’s the highly anticipated confrontation between Jason and Joker, yet it still fails to meet expectations. Sure, expectations for two such grand occasions are exceedingly high, but these tie-ins offered nothing particularly memorable and followed the same formula as every other Death of the Family tie-in. Someone gets tied up, Joker monologues for a while, and finally we cut to the serving plate and Batman #17. Only this time we have 6 other characters (The Teen Titans, remember them?) doing nothing particularly interesting other than steal screen time from the folks we want to see. Oddly enough, these issues also cut away to brief scenes featuring Deathstroke, Trigon, Hugo Strange, and Basilisk in an attempt to set up 4 possible storylines– I only know of one that became something more.
The final issue in this collection really, truly shouldn’t even be here but it had to be because otherwise this wouldn’t be a big enough book to warrant a $14.99 price tag. It’s the first part of a whole new arc and it’s drawn by an all-new artist. Most of the comic has the Titans hanging out and just acting like friends, it’s a refreshing change of pace and a necessary one because it’s been a long time since we’ve seen these characters sit down and have a conversation. You’ll see who has chemistry and who doesn’t, where their friendships stand, etc. But throughout all of this we are treated to some truly awful inner monologue by Tim Drake who snidely comments about his “pals” while pretending to be receptive. He introduces a new base of operations and the potential new villain is established as well, and it might have been interesting but since we conclude matters a page or so later it really left me feeling empty.
I’m not sure when exactly Raven or whoever took control of Tim’s mind. His inner monologue in the beginning commented on events as far back as Death of the Family so I assume it’s really him being a jerk but…well, it’s hard to say since I only get the first chapter of this story!
The artwork is handled by multiple artists and they all have vastly different styles. Tyler Kirkham does the origin story, Eddy Barrows takes things over for the final issue and the following arc (not included), and Brett Booth and his team of Rapmund and Dalhouse illustrate the majority of the pages. Capullo, of course, drew Batman (which looks amazing) and Timothy Green II draws the Red Hood tie-in (which is mediocre). Overall it’s a good looking book. Booth’s faces can look similar, but the layouts and sense of action are incredible and Dalhouse’s colors really make the book come alive. Barrows’ take on the team looks a lot more stiff and when they smile… it’s creepy. I don’t know why, but Barrows is an amazing artist just as long as none of the characters smile. There’s something so unwholesome about it… like a child flying a kite a night.
9 pages of pencils and early sketches and layouts by Brett Booth, Tyler Kirkham, and Eddy Barrows.
Value: Sale Price
If you don’t already own Red Hood, Vol. 3 then, sure, go pick this one up for cheap at Amazon or at clearance at your local comic shop. I don’t think it’s worth the full $14.99 but there’s some entertaining stuff to be found here and the origin of new origin of Tim Drake is something I imagine many will revisit in the future as a reference.
It’s brief, but better than usual. I think this has a lot to do with the focus on Tim Drake and the fact that Fabian Nicieza co-wrote the bulk of the book. If you’re looking for a good team comic, I wouldn’t recommend this one. The Teen Titans do very little here and when they do they are an unwanted distraction from the excitement of seeing Jason and Tim take on the Joker.