Teen Titans #17 is the start of a new arc entitled It Ain’t Easy Being Green. Considering that this issue picks up where the crossover Super Sons of Tomorrow left off, with the wreckage of a Titans Tower, new readers jumping on board might be somewhat confused, but it should still be an okay jumping-on point because at least the situation is briefly recapped at the start. This month’s issue puts the spotlight on Beast Boy and temporarily separates him from the team to allow for character development. However, several hiccups in the script department as well as average artwork makes for a rather unsatisfying read in the end.
The issue opens with a wrecked Titans Tower, smoke still rising into the sky as the Teen Titans are picking through the remains. As Beast Boy finds old family pictures, he begins to narrate that ever since losing his family he has been searching for another. His narration recaps some of the events of the Super Sons of Tomorrow crossover, and through the narration a theme of change is introduced. First he says that he “used to go by Changeling,” and then adds how that would be “a more appropriate code name because nothing is [his] life lasts.” Ironically, these lines could be interpreted as warnings about the inconsistency that runs through this comic.
The other Teen Titans are trying to cheer Beast Boy up, but he decides that he needs some time for himself and takes off. While this opening narration succeeds at allowing us a glance into Beast Boy’s mind, it does set a tone that is not maintained throughout the rest of the issue. The expectation that is raised is that we will continue to follow Beast Boy’s doubts and insecurities as he gradually begins to overcome these emotions. He appears very sad in the beginning, and I would have started feeling sorry for him had this theme been developed further. However, as I flip the page an entirely different scene starts, which is much more light-hearted in tone and even has a few jokes here and there. The switch from the bleak opening to explosive action is too sudden for me, to a point where it almost feels like I’m reading the work of two different writers in the same issue.
What is good about the next scene is that we see the Teen Titans (except Beast Boy, of course) working together seamlessly in order save a school bus full of children. The action is fast paced and energetic, and each team member involved in the action gets a moment to shine. For instance, Aqualad creates a water ramp so Kid Flash can run up toward the bus as it falls from the bridge. And so too do the others contribute in their own unique ways. Yet there are a number of things that do not work very well in my opinion.
Firstly, apparently Robin’s sensors indicate that the school bus is falling from the bridge, but this begs the question, how are his sensors able to pick up on this? There is no explanation whatsoever; we are just supposed to take it for what it is. This seems much too convenient to me, almost as if the sole point is just to have Robin say a few lines, since he doesn’t have much to do during the rescue operation itself.
Secondly, the bus driver is thrown out of the vehicle on a busy highway. However, we never get the sense that the traffic is disrupted because of this, even though there should be utter chaos on the road by now. We also never find out if the bus driver is okay or ended up in a horrific accident; instead, he is instantly forgotten.
Thirdly, the doors of the bus are closed again after the bus driver is thrown out. Then, as the bus is being driven off the bridge, the doors are suddenly open again. A panel later we see the guy behind the wheel hitting his head against the wheel itself. Then he falls out of the bus. This seems like a strange sequence of events to me, and it certainly doesn’t help that the panels are placed in such a way that it upsets continuity somewhat. The panel where he hits his head against the wheel is on the right hand side of the page. The panel where he’s falling out of the bus is on the left hand side, albeit toward the bottom of the page. Personally, I end up looking at the latter panel before the former; i.e. I see him falling out of the bus before I see him hitting his head against the wheel. In addition, though I suppose this action sequence is supposed to go by fast, the guy is falling for exactly 4 pages, and it seems like it’s taking much longer than necessary.
Lastly, this entire action sequence feels very mandatory. Of course it ties into Beast Boy’s personal arc later on in the issue, so there is a sense of connectivity, but seeing as the action cuts right into Beast Boy’s personal struggles it feels like this is only here because editorial demands action in a Teen Titans comic. Granted, especially for younger readers action is fun, but for all the aforementioned reasons I just don’t think it fits the narrative very well. Not in the way it’s currently written and drawn, at least.
When we find Beast Boy again, he is in a baseball stadium. Here, once more, we have a shift in tone. Where it is told to us in the opening scene that Beast Boy is very angry, I actually get the sense that he is just incredibly sad because of his facial expressions, his body language, and his need to separate himself from his teammates for a while. But here in the stadium, we are actually shown that he is angry as he turns into an elephant and needlessly launches a baseball from his snout into the catcher’s stomach. Firstly, this outburst of anger feels out of place precisely because I didn’t get the sense that he was angry at first, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear build-up to this. The one moment Beast Boy is standing in the stadium, acting all popular to his fans, and the next he blasts the catcher in the gut. It’s a strange mood-swing, and because all of this seems so sudden I am unable to connect with the character and sympathize for him. Secondly, the catcher complains about having a broken hand and simply walks away angrily. But seeing how hard he got blasted in the gut, this guy really should not be able to walk anymore and I don’t think he should only have a broken hand. It’s another strange string of events that just doesn’t work out very well in my opinion. Like the bus driver and the catcher, people are seriously getting hurt and then instantly forgotten. If you don’t want people to get seriously hurt in a comic, then either don’t put it in the comic, or make sure that it is more appropriate to the tone. It could be put in a funny context, playing out like a joke. Or the whole point could even be that victims are being ignored. But here, it just reads like sloppy writing to me, breaking tone and consistency.
Without giving too many plot details away, Beast Boy is approached by someone who claims to be a fan of his. This person basically drags Beast Boy away, introducing him to other fans. Beast Boy blindly goes along with everything these complete and utter strangers are telling him, and even goes so far as to take a strange, new substance that he is being offered. At least we have Beast Boy’s narration at the start of the comic, where we hear him wishing that he had a family, so there seems to be some motivation for the character to do all these things. However, I don’t see any reason for him to walk away from the Teen Titans, his true friends, only to end up with a bunch of strangers, taking unknown substances. He seems incredibly naive here, and while I get that this happy-go-lucky attitude is a part of the character, there is almost no logic whatsoever behind his actions. I suppose a case could be made for him being blinded by emotion, and therefore not being able to judge the situation very well. Additionally, these people present themselves as his fans and he clearly enjoys having fans around, giving him attention. But even then all of this seems to happen too quickly, too easily and too conveniently, especially for someone who has gone up against multiple supervillains, one of which is Deathstroke. You’d think at least he knows not to trust literally everyone just like that. I mean, an evil version of Tim Drake just wrecked the entire Titans Tower! Doesn’t that have him pause at least for a minute? My point is, he seems much too trusting under these circumstances, even though trusting others is in his nature. As a result, the story flashes by very quickly and on reaching the end of the issue I’m just left with a feeling of, “So…that’s all?” It’s very unsatisfying, and that’s coming from someone who’s a big fan of Percy’s other series, Green Arrow.
This month we have Scot Eaton on pencils, and while he certainly gets the job done, I spot too many inconsistencies that pull me out of the story. Characters’ faces change in shape from panel to panel. The backgrounds lack character because they are not very detailed at all, and sometimes left completely empty. There are also continuity errors. Besides the one with the bus that I mentioned before (with the doors first being open, then closed, then open again), there is another example I can provide. After blasting the catcher in the gut, Beast Boy reverts back to his normal form. He finds a quiet spot for himself in between two walls, and sits with his back against the wall on the right. A moment later a fan comes up to him, and suddenly he is sitting with his back against the wall on the left. Now, it could very well be that he moved, but since that wouldn’t add anything at all to the scene it’s a very weak counterargument to make. In my opinion, this is clearly a mistake. The artist should have chosen either the wall on the right or the one on the left, not both of them. There are more such inconsistencies, and it doesn’t make the issue look good.
On inking duties we have Wayne Faucher. His inks are somewhat thick, but do manage to add more definition to the pencils. Characters are more defined and stand out among objects around them. But at the same time the inking doesn’t exactly blow me away. It’s solid enough in that it manages some coherence, but that is really all that there is to it. While I have no strictly negative things to say, unfortunately I have no real positives either. It’s just rather average and I end up feeling very neutral toward it.
Jim Charalampidis provides colors, and out of all contributors he is the most consistent in the entire issue. He works with a very colorful palette, and it’s nice to see all the Teen Titans together in one panel wearing their different outfits. However, while his colorwork certainly remains consistent throughout and never slips up in that regard, I do think the colors look rather flat sometimes and therefore lack a sense of depth as well as movement. The images look very stiff to me, and I don’t get the sense that each panel actually flows into the next. The coloring could contribute to this factor greatly, but I’m afraid that’s not the case here. All things considered, I’m sad to say that I’m generally very unimpressed with the art team here.
You’re a fan of Beast Boy
You just want to relax with a quick read and some fast action, even if there’s lots of inconsistency and a lack of logic
Overall: I’m going to be very honest now. This issue feels very rushed to me. I don’t know if that is truly the case, but what I do know is that the quality suffers. The writing as well as the artwork is rather inconsistent, Beast Boy’s actions are not at all convincing to me and therefore I have trouble connecting to him, and the action feels very forced, almost like it’s shoehorned in. I recommend that you skip this issue, or at least wait for the next couple of reviews to see if this arc gets any better. As it stands, it’s not a strong issue at all.