In this month’s chapter of Teen Titans, Damian and team go head to head with Lady Vic! And trust me when I tell you that this doesn’t end the way you expect it to!
Teen Titans is turning out to be a bit of a conundrum for me. On one hand, there are things happening in this book that I really like, and then, on the other hand, there are some major issues with the characters and overall structure of the title. For the past three issues or so, I’ve found myself scratching my head trying to understand the intrigue of the book, and then by the end of the issue, something will happen that completely grabs my interest. It’s this trend that has me questioning whether I actually enjoy the title or not. If you spend half to three-fourths of a book thinking, “This really isn’t great,” only to finish the book thinking, “Well that was unexpectedly good,” how would you rate the overall product?
While I loved the Teen Titans Special that set-up Adam Glass’s run, I do think the original plan has been abandoned. Glass debuted his arc with a dark representation of these characters, and after some loathing from readers, it appears as though DC has decided to walk back that approach. The problem here is that the story they’re trying to tell relies on that edge. Damian – who has a dark past, and even a dark side to him – has created this team because he feels that his father and the Justice League simply aren’t effective. And, if we’re being honest, he has a valid argument. Criminals keep getting locked up only to break free and cause more terror.
Now, in no way does this mean that Damian has resorted to becoming a murderer again. At the moment, he’s just capturing criminals and locking them away in a secret, underground jail. He’s straddling this thin line as he tries to determine the best way to move forward, and it’s clear that he’s been influenced in a positive way by the people around him since he hasn’t resorted back to murder. But he also has Red Hood in his ear, potentially toying with that lingering morality. This cusp of darkness – the will he or won’t he aspect – make this an interesting read.
But Damian isn’t the only character struggling with some form of darkness. Red Arrow has a past that is very similar to Damian, and while not as blatant, it’s clear that she struggles with which decision to make at times. Then you have Djinn who fears the darkness within her – something even she doesn’t fully know or understand – and then there’s Crush who is essentially a blunt object who possibly hasn’t been pushed to the limits of her anger. If Glass were exploring these themes a little more, there would be a sense of anticipation to help drive the narrative.
To spare the book from being overtly dark though – these are teenagers after all – we have Kid Flash and Roundhouse. While Wally has been a little angsty, he’s still a symbol of light who mirrors Damian’s mindset that our heroes aren’t necessarily effective, but falls more on the hopeful side of the scenario. And then you have Roundhouse who is meant to be the comedic, meta relief… In theory, this should work, but it appears as though the decision to pull away from these darker themes has hindered the overall tone making the narrative feel juvenile at times.
The best way I can describe the characters and the overall tone of Teen Titans is “inconsistent.” Whenever I read this book, I feel as if the title itself is struggling with an identity crisis. For example, in this issue, the team continues to seek out criminals, and that brings them into the path of Lady Vic. The action and chase of this issue is a lot of fun, but it’s accented out with youthful clichés that hinder the overall story. While I welcome Roundhouse’s return in this chapter, all of his scenes feel forced – both in his return and the humor that Glass attempts to interject. Then there are attempts at romantic gestures or themes such as teamwork that result in the team bickering about their roles, who is at fault, why they don’t work, etc… It begs the question: “Does this team work?” And with Young Justice looming over the horizon, one has to wonder if DC has already asked this question and decided the fate of Teen Titans…
But as I stated, when the team is actually focused on the mission and executing it, the title is a fun book to read. I loved every panel that Lady Vic was in, and found myself invested in whether or not that team would actually stop her. And, once again, Adam Glass manages to wrap this issue up in a way that is both unexpected and satisfying.
Just when you think you have the tone and direction figured out, you get this:
Whoa… We’ve been teased by The Other for a few months now, but I didn’t expect to see Lady Vic in this situation, nor did I expect to discover that The Other was behind it. It makes me wonder what The Other’s play is, and I’m curious to see what happens next. And then, we get another shocker…
Clearly, our heroes are going to be fine. I’d bet money on the fact that Djinn formed a forcefield at the last second. Does it take away from the moment? Yeah, to a degree it does. At the same time, it establishes the lengths in which The Other is willing to take to destroy the Teen Titans, or at the very least, one of their members. If Glass expects readers to stick around though, he needs to start shifting away from the villain of the week approach, and put more of a focus on the arcs he’s established – particularly The Other and Red Hood’s involvement.
The Art: While Bernard Chang’s work on Teen Titans isn’t my favorite of his catalog, I do think he does an incredibly good job of balancing tones. In fact, I really wish Glass would resort back to a slightly darker script in terms of plot, but remain true to the characters and let Chang’s art carry the work for creating a lighter tone. When the book needs to feel fun, it feels fun, but at the drop of a hat, it can quickly change to become dark or intense.
Marcelo Maiolo also deserves a huge amount of credit for this as well considering he adds to these influences based on the shades of the colors he uses. For instance, look at the panels of Kid Flash at Roundhouse’s home. Now, look at the final panels where the team has their “final confrontation” with Lady Vic… Your emotions and perceptions will change simply based on the tone of the art. It’s a great technique and artists often don’t get the credit they deserve when doing this.
- You’re interested in The Other.
- Lady Vic.
- You were happy to see Roundhouse return last month.
Overall: Teen Titans isn’t a terrible book, but it does need to decide which story it wants to tell, as well as the audience it’s intended to target. I can’t help but feel that Adam Glass and Bernard Chang had a grasp on this, but potentially faced interference after complaints from fans concerning darker tones in the beginning. It feels very similar to what’s taking place with Nightwing this week. Here’s my opinion on this… Stick to your plan. Even when I don’t like an idea, I’d rather see that idea fulfilled than abandoned part of the way through the story. Why? Because more often than not, no matter how much I may dislike an idea, abandoning said idea before completing it tends to result in a product that is even worse… Teen Titans has potential, but DC/ Glass and Chang need to let it be what it could be if they want to reach that potential.