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When I saw, months ago, that Greg Pak would be writing Teen Titans for a few issues, I allowed myself a measure of cautious optimism. While far from my favorite writer, Pak at least entertains, and at times he has even managed to delight me. So now that Teen Titans #17 has hit the stands, how did he do?

The voice of everything you ever longed for

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I daresay a much better “unleashing” of Power Girl than we saw back in #13. Also, sweet lion, Gar.

This is not a smashing success, and to be fair, I never expected it to be. I have my complaints, and I’ll get to those, but let me start by saying that Pak and Churchill are at least moving in the right direction. The last issue that I read was a hot mess in just about every way, but things are thankfully looking up with this one, and my optimism lives for another month.

Our story opens with the team in hiding, fugitives from the law facing a number of charges. Struggling with her identity, Cassie hears (ok, Greg, feels) a voice that promises clarity, and after trying to limp along with the team for a little while longer, she strikes off on her own to get some answers. The rest of the crew is hot on her trail, but even their combined resolve can’t stop Wonder Girl from trying to find out who she is.

This is what a team does

Pak is at his best when letting the team members be themselves. There’s this great (albeit short) conversation between Tim and Miguel in a hotel room, the former venting to the latter about the headstrong Wonder Girl.

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While the page that follows quickly regresses to information dumping, for a few panels, we get to just watch Tim and Miguel be Tim and Miguel. The dialogue is natural and relaxed, never a slave to the plot. There’s a similarly charming moment between Power Girl and Beast Puppy (née Boy), and these little tidbits go a long way toward making me dig the characters and care more about what they’re up to.

Churchill’s pencils are fairly consistent, and consistently good. His style works well for this book, with most of the team looking a lot more teen than they sometimes do when rendered by other artists. Establishing shots–and scenery in general–are done well, made distinct by just enough detail, while not overdoing it and clashing with the sub-realistic approach to the characters. Tony Aviña’s colors really help in this department, too, giving each scene its own profile and keeping things from running together.

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There are occasional quirks, such as in the panel above, where no foot really seems to be on the ground, and the Titans are walking away from a gas pump even though they parked their car away from it, and Tanya loses some of the fingers on her right hand in Tim’s vest. Overall, though, Churchill turns in some effective, energetic layouts and (what I think is) the right look and feel for the book.

Spoiler

The most notable exception is actually this:

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Her head and neck look WEIRD. And does this take place before or after Darkseid War? Is it in continuity with the DC You Wonder Woman costume change? Breathe, Warshaw. Breathe. Rebirth. Rebirth. 

He was supposed to have answers for me

So for me, the art is a win, and Pak’s ideas work well at a high level. Things start to break down for Pak, though, in much of the dialogue. I feel like a broken record, because I say this in a lot of my reviews, but there’s just too much poorly-disguised exposition plopped in the middle of what should be real conversations or otherwise natural situations.

I’m also having a hard time feeling anything for Cassie. Pak is structuring the arc around her quest for identity, but she isn’t really likable at any point in this issue. Some of the other Titans are a little flat, but she’s downright unpleasant, and if I’m supposed to take an interest in her struggle to find herself, Pak had better start making me dislike her a little less.

Recommended if…

  • You want to give the new creative team a shot.
  • You want to know more about Wonder Girl’s past.
  • You want to see a green lion-boy go for the jugular of a grotesque hyena-man (you know you do).

Overall

In spite of the major shortcomings in dialogue and character, I’m invested enough in the story to want to know what happens next. The issue leaves some interesting questions on the table, and I’m hoping that Pak can answer them and fix Wonder Girl along the way. If he can do that, and tone down the bald exposition, next month could be a good one for the Titans.

SOURCE: 5.5/10