Why are they coming out with a Teen Titans Academy 2021 annual, er, “Yearbook” when they’ve only launched four issues so far? No idea, but it’s my job to review it — so here goes!
Note: Teen Titans Academy 2021 Yearbook is broken up into four stories, so I’ll briefly discuss each and give it a rating before concluding with some overall thoughts and an overall rating.
Stitch In Time
Stitch In Time, our first story in this “yearbook” explores Stitch as they struggle with being lonely and decide to run for class president. Problem is, any slight whiff of tension is stolen from the story by the table of contents on the previous page, specifically, “A letter from The Class President”. Spoiler, it’s Stitch… The thing is, Stitch could actually be an interesting character, if Sheridan and co. would move them away from the trope of sad/troubled person who uses humor as a shield — not because it’s fundamentally a bad trope, but because they’ve proven themselves to be deeply, cringe-inducingly, unfunny. Sheridan is really bad at writing humor folks. Eg: the panels below.
Big emphasis on “could” because they resolve any potential growth or conflict established with Stitch’s character in this tiny segment… Some other wet-plop-humor highlights are Dr. Fate trying to make “Just what the doctor ordered” his catchphrase after Stitch legit says “bada bing” to punctuate some really bad referential humor. Another thing that’s eating at me: the fact the only (I think) gender non-conforming character being a sentient ragdoll is… it’s a bit weird. I’m not sure if that’s commentary or tone-deaf character building.
The art, by Bernard Chang and colors by Marcelo Maiolo are pretty polished, if a little lacking in style and perspective (with the exception of a single page of mild action/catharsis, you’ll know which one). I’m a bigger fan of the colors than the art/inks — but Chang does make a couple of good uses of silhouettes.
Five More Minutes
In Five More Minutes, Raven has another spooky vision. To be honest, I didn’t care. It seems more like a setup for future twists and turns than anything else — but the “magic person is having dark premonitions” trope is being played absolutely straight, complete with at least one skeptic (wtf Cyborg) not believing/belittling the vision-haver. The whole thing is pretty dumb. There’s not much to say about this bit other than “Beast Boy comforts Raven for a few pages”. Make of that what you will.
I do not care for Marco Santucci’s art or Michael Atiyeh’s colors. The colors have an airbrushed quality that looks a bit sloppy and the art is pretty generic realism-adjacent. The biggest crime of the art though, is probably not making me feel anything. I think this story is supposed to make you feel for these characters and their (maybe) impending tragedy… the the emotions just aren’t reaching me, and I’m pretty easy to hit in the feels.
Mothers, Brothers, Kittens, and Cake
In our penultimate vignette, Mothers, Brothers, Kittens, and Cake, Matt Price and Tooby save the cat… literally. Is… is Matt Price just a Superboy expy? Knock off? This vignette tries to lampshade the issue with bad humor — and it doesn’t work. I really hope the character ends up being more than another “flying brick, but younger” type. Speaking of knock offs, is Tooby just a young, rubenesque, Plastic Man/Ralph Dibny expy? Because… honestly, the world really isn’t big enough for anyone but Plastic Man. Overall, his story is really hackneyed. Down the line cliched. That said, I… liked it? I guess call me a sucker to saving cats and wholesome familial environments. Sob.
Art: I do not like Darko Lafuente’s art style, at all. But what do I know, their name is Darko Lafuente, making them likely my superior in every way. That said, this Udon Entertainment x Tumblr aesthetic is just not for me. Miquel Muerto’s colors, on the other hand, are vibrant and enjoyable to gander at.
In the final snippet of the yearbook, EXTRACTION, Red X saves some kids from a… scheme that grooms foster kids to be Black Mask’s child soldiers? Alright. His X is red because that’s the color of blood. And don’t think he’s a good guy, because there are no good guys… So, Uh, Red X is all badass and edgy ya’ll. And cool. Please believe he’s edgy. Sheridan and DC desperately need you to think Red X is the coolest mofo since Spawn or any creation of Rob Liefeld — except even cooler ‘cause he’s got a heart of gold and saves the children. But still threatens to cut off people’s manhoods and feed it to their fat daughters.
This vignette is dumb. Red X is dumb. Not even close to a Batman-level intellect, you could say. The attempts at making him a hardened badass here are every bit as cringe as this series’ many failed attempts at humor.
I’ve actually missed Rafa Sandoval’s art the past couple of issues. Sandoval pulls off a few fun action panels in the limited page count he’s been given.
However, I do have to say: Red X isn’t nearly as expressive here. In fact, his general costume design seems to have changed into more of a Deathstroke-ish number. Are there two Red X’s? If not… I’m not a fan of the design change. Alex Sinclair’s colors are okay, if a little muted. Though I supposed it “fits” the gritty tone they’re failing at.
You’re committed to the series (why?)
There’s actually no other reason to pick up this annual
The diegetic table of contents is trying to be cute and meta by listing an original choir production of “The Judas Contract on Ice”… but yet again, this series accidentally lampshades what is so wrong with it. That period of the Titan’s history is probably really traumatic to them. Making it into an “on ice” production would probably be mean and insensitive. Tone deaf. That’s the phrase. If I were to describe the overall writing in the Teen Titans Academy series so far — be it humor, metacommentary, or grimgrit — I would call it tone deaf. Teen Titans Academy 2021 Yearbook is no exception.
Overall Score: 4/10
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.