Scott Lobdell returns to Teen Titans. That might be enough to make most of you turn tail and run. If I weren’t reviewing this for you, the fair citizens of the Internet, I would likely never give this annual a look, and certainly not for $4.99. Thankfully (I guess?), I am reviewing it, so I have no choice but to give it a chance and judge it on its merits. If it has any.
It’s better than we all expected.
“That’s not saying much!” – I know. And honestly, I’m not trying to say much. There are moments in Teen Titans Annual #2 that are funny, and other moments that are interesting, but it is still plagued by many of the same problems that marked Scott Lobdell’s earlier run on the title. All told, it’s an entertaining once-through—hence the score—but there’s nothing to commend it to a new reader or someone otherwise on the fence.
Some genuine good humor…
This time around, the Titans enjoy a rare night off, dancing it up in a club. Things take an odd turn when Miguel’s dance partner begins exhibiting Beast Boy’s powers without Beast Boy’s restraint, and the team’s night off quickly becomes a showdown with an old foe.
One of the hardest parts about trudging through the previous volume of Teen Titans was that Lobdell’s idea of humor didn’t always line up with mine. He would frequently script dialogue or scenarios that he clearly found clever, but that I found grating. Here, however, there are some genuinely funny bits, and these moments leave me with a far more favorable impression of the characters than I had in Lobdell’s prior work.
Overall, the team is far less angsty and intense this time around, and that’s a big win. Lobdell’s Wonder Girl was consistently unsympathetic in his old run, but I might even call her likable here. Power Girl, Bunker and Beast Boy are always fun, and Raven managed to go a whole oversized issue without saying “my Soul Self.” That last one is worth at least a half-point.
…but still characteristically Lobdell.
Unfortunately, Red Robin is still a bit of a mess. Instead of plotting weighty situations, Lobdell attempts to declare gravity through Tim’s dialogue; so, you end up with a situation that doesn’t seem like a big deal, while your primary character insists that it is. This sort of disharmony between how we perceive events as readers and how Lobdell perceives them as the author is a serious flaw, but one that is sadly well-represented in his body of work.
Even ignoring this incongruity, much of the dialogue is just bad. Tanya is supposed to be the genius of the team, but she has a really, really overbaked line that makes her come off more as someone mocking intelligent people rather than one belonging to their number. Sister Blood, this issue’s antagonist, makes some remark about her speech being “un-regal” for someone named Sister Blood, but there’s nothing regal-sounding about that name in the first place, so the line doesn’t make any sense. Beast Boy cheesily argues with Tim that Tim is “not a meta”, and so couldn’t understand—a line that seems to exist for the sole purpose of Tim’s “inspirational” response. This is the sort of dialogical nonsense that we’ve come to expect from Lobdell; and unfortunately, it neutralizes any goodwill gained by the humor, lighter tone, and improvements to Cassie’s characterization and Raven’s self-awareness.
The art’s pretty good.
Smith’s pencils and inks are nice to look at, though the quality drops as the issue draws to a close. White doesn’t add much flair with his colors, but he does a solid job and serves Smith’s artwork well. I particularly enjoyed the creature designs for Beast Boy and Sister Blood’s minions, and the layouts make for good action sequences and page flow that doesn’t make you work too hard.
The biggest knock on the art is that Smith’s environments are bland. Much of the issue takes place in a club, which is a perfect setting to fill with interesting background characters, but we don’t get any. The panel above is similarly a missed opportunity. Spend enough time in a modern American city, and you’re bound to spot a bevy of creatively-painted, quirkily-named food trucks. All we get here are three awfully similar-looking, plain-colored delivery vans with service doors on the side. I would have loved to see Smith take advantage of these sorts of softballs in the script and take a good swing at them. Sadly, he did not.
- You don’t mind spending five bucks on something you’ll read once.
- Someone (who doesn’t really “get” you) bought this for you.
- You write reviews for the best Batman site on the Internet, you appreciate your small-but-growing pool of regular readers, and you would spare them the disappointment of blowing five clams on something that, while entertaining, is probably only worth two clams.
If you’re apprehensive about reading this because of Scott Lobdell’s previous work on the property, there’s plenty here to validate your concern. There’s some surprisingly good things, too, but at best, Teen Titans Annual #2 is just okay, and not worth multiple readings. And with the book as we know it ending after September’s issue, there’s no pressing reason to spend your money on a forgettable story.