Teen Titans #19 review

Teen Titans #19 not only concludes the arc It Ain’t Easy Being Green, but it’s also the final issue of Ben Percy’s run. Last month we saw that Beast Boy got “bio-hacked,” meaning his mind got taken over and he couldn’t control his beast forms. He changed into a giant bat and flew away with Joran, leader of Nevrland, on his back. This issue picks up where last month left off, with Beast Boy and Joran trying to flee and Robin and Goliath in hot pursuit.

On the whole, this is an entertaining, fast-paced comic book that should certainly appeal to a younger audience (teenagers and people in their early twenties), as it deals with issues of confidence that teenagers could be struggling with. It is a light read and it has some fun team dynamics that keep the story flowing. The story is very plot-driven, and explosive action sequences and creative solutions to dealing with mind-controlled innocents make up for a lack of character moments. However, the character moments that are here might still be the ones that can make the story for you, or break it.

First of all, there is Joran. She is trying to make Beast Boy believe that his former team mates are out to get him, and that Beast Boy is one of Damian’s victims. She’s trying to make Damian look like a dictator and a bully, and is saying straight-up that the only reason Beast Boy is working with him is due to Stockholm syndrome. What’s interesting to note here is that Joran is basically accusing Damian of all the things she herself is guilty of. I’ll admit that at first I found this to be somewhat annoying, but quickly I realized that this is in fact the theme running throughout the issue. It is a theme that comes full circle in the end, and so it’s by no means a pointless distraction from the plot. However, I do feel like this theme isn’t fully developed—or at least I think more could be done with it.

To me it seems that Joran accusing Damian of things she herself is guilty of speaks to her own personal insecurities. It goes along nicely with other elements throughout the arc (such as altering her own appearance in previous issues to make herself look more attractive) that, combined, inform us about the character’s inner struggles. But at the same time I think it would’ve been nice if some sort of resolution was offered. A moment where the character herself realizes that she’s wrong and that she needs to work on herself. As it stands, even if she does realize it, this realization comes via external means. While that is not a bad thing in and of itself, I think it would have been great if we got to see her realize this through her eyes, as opposed to glossing over the character’s ultimate fate at the end. It seems like a bit of a missed opportunity to me, and therefore I think the character doesn’t become as relatable as she could have been. Then there’s another aspect of the character that I question, but I’ll wrap this up in a spoiler tag.

[Spoiler]Toward the end of the story she tells Beast Boy about her past. Apparently, as an 11-year-old, she had a lab in a barn outside of her childhood home. While I suspended my disbelief, for the sake of the story, when she and her lost boys were running Nevrland and had access to cool gadgets, I find it too much of a stretch that she has access to this lab at the age of 11. No context is provided as to who her parents were. We don’t know if they were rich folks who bought this for her. We also don’t know what made Joran want to kill her own parents by building some kind of robot and sending it over to her house, armed with a knife. I found this to be a very distracting and confusing moment, and I’m just not really sure what to make of it because I feel like information is missing.[/spoiler]

Beast Boy’s own character arc within this story has been rather sketchy as well. In my review for issue #17 I stated that I didn’t buy Beast Boy’s characterization. He was written as incredibly naive, for some reason leaving his team mates (some of whom he has been working with for a long time now) in favor of going with a complete stranger. Toward the end of this issue, however, Beast Boy finally comes to see that Joran has been a rather villainous type and he returns to the Teen Titans. I think his overall arc could work okay (even though I dislike his strange naive behavior in #17), but in my opinion there just wasn’t enough room over the course of these issues to develop it fully. I feel like Beast Boy’s character arc is rushed. He’s clearly supposed to be the main character here, but I think there aren’t nearly enough point of view scenes in this last issue to completely resolve the arc. In fact, most of what Beast Boy does in this issue is just fly around in the form of a giant bat and smash things, because he’s being mind-controlled. Sure, he has a good speech for Joran at the end, but I just wish more time was spent developing Beast Boy. Instead, most panel time goes to other characters, and while these are important characters (as they are also Teen Titans), I just find myself questioning several scenes—all space that could’ve been devoted to Beast Boy.

For example, in my opinion the most annoying, forced and pointless moment in the book is right before Kid Flash has to save innocent people. The character, who is usually kind of boasting around and not always the most serious member on the team, is now not very confident at all. This is understandable, though, because the lives of innocents are at stake and if he makes but the slightest mistake, people will die immediately. While these high stakes could have made for an exciting moment, I think the creative team made a decision here that, for me at least, boiled down to a waste of panels. I’ll elaborate on this in the spoiler tag below.

It is Raven who gives Kid Flash the confidence he needs to save those innocent people. And she does so by simply kissing Wally on the mouth. Then she tells him that she took a risk there, but that it turned out all right, and that now it’s his turn to take a risk. But honestly, while kissing someone you really like can be risky, especially if you’re not entirely sure how the other person will respond to that (and even more so when you’re a teenager), there’s a major difference between a kiss and having to vibrate your hands through people’s brains in order to pull out mind control devices. Moreover, I think the entire romance between Raven and Kid Flash is downright silly. We barely saw it develop between the characters, it just kind of happened, and now we get this pointless scene that serves as the big motivation for Kid Flash to do what he has to do. To be honest, I think that a good speech would’ve been just enough. Or, if not that, I think that it wouldn’t have taken much for Kid Flash to see that he’s the only one who can help these people right now. In any case, too much time is spent on a silly moment that doesn’t really go anywhere—time that could’ve been spent exploring Beast Boy’s psyche more.

Having said that, there are things that the comic does pretty well, too. As I said, the team dynamics are a lot of fun to see. It really feels like the Teen Titans are not only a team, but also a family. They have each other’s backs, and clearly they care about each other. The very fact that they all go out of their way to save Beast Boy illustrates this perfectly. They also work together liked an oiled machine. When one has an idea and pitches it in the middle of an action scene, the others quickly act on it and they’re really successful at what they do. I also like how Damian is rather mean to Goliath at first, calling him a “stupid bat,” but when Goliath drops from the air and smacks onto concrete, he literally runs at the creature, wrapping his arms around him, crying, “Please tell me you’re okay!” It’s a touching moment where we see the caring and warm side of Damian that he usually hides beneath a cold and mean demeanor. Another fun moment is all the way at the end of the book, where we actually see the Teen Titans picnicking on the beach. It makes me think I’d love to see more of these kinds of scenes, because these can be used for great little character moments that show the Titans as friends (and not just as superhero colleagues), as well as giving readers more opportunities to relate to the characters.

The pencil work in this issue is brought to us by Scot Eaton, and I think he’s a good fit for the book. His style really lends itself well for fast action scenes and smaller, light-hearted character moments (such as the beach picnic). Eaton is also consistent enough in that his characters are instantly recognizable, although sometimes I do feel like facial proportions shift a little bit from panel to panel, which can be distracting. Sometimes his panel sequences are also a bit odd. For instance, on page 7 we see Goliath and Beast Boy (in his giant bat form) colliding. In the next panel, Damian is no longer sitting on Goliath’s back, but he’s now hanging in the air, clinging to Goliath’s fur. The third panel, immediately following the previous one, Damian is suddenly back on Goliath and throwing some kind of smoke pellet into Beast Boy’s face. The continuity here doesn’t work for me, as it feels like a panel is missing where Damian manages to climb back on Goliath. While that doesn’t work for me, Eaton does draw a cool panel where Kid Flash is removing the mind control devices from the innocents’ brains. It’s a dynamic scene that depicts effectively just how fast Kid Flash is—it appears as if he’s everywhere at once.

The inks are by Wayne Faucher. I think his inks work well in adding more definition and detail to Eaton’s pencils. But there are times where I think the inks are too thick, which can make some of the visuals look a bit muddled up. It didn’t quite distract me while reading, as this is something I only noticed when paying attention to the inking, but I still think that subtler inks could’ve provided more contrast between heavy shadows and lines around, say, a character. Now it seems to blend too much for my liking. Then again, this might just be a matter of taste.

Jim Charalampidis returns on colors. I think his palette is nicely varied for a colorful book such as Teen Titans, so in that regard he’s a good fit. His colors seem to match well with the pencils and the inks in that they make it come to life more. However, I do sometimes feel that visuals look a bit too flat. Good color work can create a nice sense of depth that can enhance the visuals, but sometimes it looks to me like things are happening on the same layer. Having said that, his varied, colorful palette really fits well with a more light-hearted book such as Teen Titans.

Recommended if…

  • You want to complete Ben Percy’s run

  • You are a fan of Beast Boy

  • You’re into light-hearted action, and don’t mind fewer character moments

Overall: Teen Titans #19 is a fun, fast read. It wraps up It Ain’t Easy Being Green as well as Percy’s run on the title, and doesn’t waste a second with dropping us into the action. However, I think that some moments in the book are rather forced and take away panel time from Beast Boy. I also think that the final confrontation between Beast Boy and Joran is missing important information to truly make it come full circle. But despite this, the book is still entertaining for sure. The Teen Titans work together really well, and this story proves once more that they’re buddies and will do anything to save each other. So, long story short, get this book if you’re a big fan of Teen Titans and don’t want to miss a thing, or if you just want to complete Percy’s run. If you’re still on the fence, though, I’d say wait a month, because a new creative team is coming.

Score: 6/10