“As a deadly new drug hits the streets of New York City, the Titans take on a new team member!” So reads DC’s solicitations for this issue. These are the types of solicits I like. It’s vague enough to not spoil anything (unlike Robin Rises) and it’s specific enough to pique some interest. This issue of Teen Titans features a quick set-up of action and resolution while maintaining a prolonged threat of danger that acts as the backbone holding the series together.

What Works:

This issue is divided between two story lines. One story involves a group of teenagers who get ahold of superpower inducing drugs. They each pop a pill and BAM they have different superpowers. Seeing as these kids aren’t obeying the law by using drugs illegally, they insist on being bad guys instead of heroes. They attack Wonder Girl. A fight ensues bringing the Titans together to fight this impromptu super villain crew. It’s an easy story but effective. For the action lover, you’ll find it here. I think Wonder Girl is being played down a little bit as far as her powers go for the sake of the story, but it’s not too terrible here.

The other story line which is holding this series together, is the one with Manchester Black and S.T.A.R. labs. Last issue, Red Robin and Black discussed joining forces. This issue, the Titans talk about it with each other. They decide to send Beast Boy into S.T.A.R. labs to find out what’s going on in there because, in the words of their leader Red Robin, “It seems like such a good fit for us, such a perfect opportunity at such a perfect time… that something’s got to be wrong.”

I like that Gar is being used in this manner. He morphs into a pediculus humanus capitis 

Spoiler
Head lice! What a great idea!
. Here we get to see what looks like a young Jim Gordon at S.T.A.R. labs. (It’s not)

Not Jim Gordon

Lastly, what I enjoyed about this issue was the reveal. I read the solicits and thought the “new member” had something to do with Manchester Black. It doesn’t.

Spoiler
As the drug-induced super-powered team fights the Titans, one throws a car at Cassie’s mom. One of the girls in the Wonder Girl fan club pushes wonder-mommy away and the car lands on the girl. You think this kind Wonder Girl fan just met her maker, but then we see her lift the car above her head! Apparently, (according to the “Next” line on the last page) she’s the new Power Girl.

What Doesn’t Work:

I counted at least nine instances of someone holding or using their phone in this comic. There is nothing innately wrong with phone usage, but it still seems forced. I see enough people in the real world with their faces glued to their phone, using Twitter and texting that I don’t really wanna read a comic about people using “Chirper” and sending messages. Maybe that makes me sound like an old fart, but let’s just stick to our comm-links or something old fashioned like that.

There is one scene where Gar, in the form of a rat, is talking to Red Robin, who is far across the city. How does he do this? He has no phone and I don’t see any evidence of electronic communications. I’m hoping it was comm-link or something and if so, maybe the rest of the Titans will start using it.

Also, the cursing used here was a bit much, particularly for Teen Titans. Last month’s issue convinced me that this book was intended for a younger audience. It is rated T for teen, but with the simplistic story, the hip-ness of Chirper and social media, I assumed it was written for the younger crowd. But the type of language used here seemed a bit excessive. Maybe I was wrong about the target population, or again, maybe I’m just an old fart, but I felt like the cursing was dolled out the same way my fourteen-year-old self would have tried cussing in front of “the guys” to impress them.

What Sort of Works:

Scott Hepburn’s art, for me, is a step up overall from Rocafort’s. Where Rocafort would draw amazing single panels that could be framed and hung on my wall, Hepburn keeps us rooted in the story –where we’re at, who’s doing what, which direction we’re going. I didn’t struggle to figure out what was happening at all with Hepburn’s layouts. The downside to this issue is in the looseness within these panels. Several faces (Wonder Girl many times) look weird. I wasn’t a fan of his versions of Manchester Black or the pill-popping baddies at the beginning either. But I feel that has more to do with taste rather than an objective viewpoint. The biggest aspect of visual art in the comic book medium is to tell the story. As distracting as I sometimes found those weird faces or difference in characterizations to be, Hepburn nailed it telling the story.

I want to know more about Manchester Black. I don’t think we know enough about the guy to really hate or love to hate him. I’m sort of ambivalent towards him, which stinks because he’s at the root of this series’ main story line. He works because I know he’s sinister, but this lack of info detracts from what could potentially be something more.

Recommended if:

  • You want to know about this new mystery Titan.
  • You or a friend have an itchy head.
  • You’re a fan of Will Pfeifer’s take of the Teen Titans.

Overall:

It’s a fairly simple story that will actually have you scratching your head by the time you finish. The series takes another step forward in the Manchester Black story line as well as introducing some new characters. It’s not an urgent read, but you won’t want to miss this if you plan on following the series in the future.

SCORE: 6.5/10