Teen Titans #65

Written by Sean McKeever
Penciled by Eddy Barrows
Inked by Ruy Jose
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

The current volume of Teen Titans is one that certainly started out strongly five years ago. Geoff Johns’s line-up of the new generation of sidekicks teamed up with some of the older Titans was a strong one, and for several years it was a big success with me. After Infinite Crisis, though, I’ve been wondering where the book was headed—and for a brief time it finally seemed to be back on track once new writer Sean McKeever had some time to settle in on the book. Now, though, I’m wondering just what the point of the comic even is.

Wonder Girl’s had better days; attacked by Ares’s son Lycus, and discovering that all her god-given powers are no longer functioning. As Lycus continues to grow in power, can even the Titans (with returning traitor Bombshell) defeat an enemy whose powers dwarf all of theirs? And what about Wonder Dog?

McKeever’s run on Teen Titans has certainly been variable, to put it mildly. After an uneven start (coupled with several different artists being assigned to his first storyline), though, things were starting to look good. He was adding a lot to the characterization of some of the less-developed characters—Ravager, Miss Martian, and Red Devil—and for the first time since Infinite Crisis and the "One Year Later" gap (in which in-between issues #33 and 34, an entire year passed for the characters and an almost entirely-new roster of team members were put in place) it was starting to feel like this was a comic with characters that actually enjoyed being around each other and might actually want to be a team. But then, just as things began to settle in, characters got dropped from the title and promises of more new characters around the bend were waved in the air. And not for the first time, I found myself wondering if there was something going on behind the scenes with Teen Titans that made this comic feel like it’s in such turmoil.

It’s frustrating, because anyone who’s read McKeever’s work on comics like The Waiting Place, Inhumans, Gravity, or Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane knows that he is the perfect choice to write a book starring teen superheroes. Even if they don’t always get along all the time, he’s able to bring a sense of camaraderie about the characters that makes you understand why they stick together. With Teen Titans, though, that’s a bit of a mystery. It certainly hasn’t helped matters that characters are dropping left and right; Supergirl leaving the book after just five issues felt more than a little strange, but in the past five issues he’s dropped two more members of the cast. The end result is that it feels like a comic where you shouldn’t get attached to any of the characters, because chances are good that they’ll abruptly leave a month later. Even worse, replacements are ones like Bombshell, in a clichéd and unbelievable "taking shelter with the team" sort of appearance. It seems strange to bring back a character who was originally created only to be a traitor and who appeared in so few issues that you can count them on one hand, but to then have her as the token grumpy, I-don’t-like-you teammate? Aside from a good visual of Bombshell looking like a female Captain Atom in a tank top and pants, I don’t see what the attraction is here for a reader.

Worst of all, Teen Titans seems to be operating under an assumption that what readers really want to see in this comic is violence, and lots of it. It doesn’t even seem startling now to have Titans Tower caretakers Wendy and Marvin savagely attacked (with one dead and the other in a coma), or a page where Wonder Girl is choked by her own lasso until her eyes start rolling up into the back of her head as her attacker explains that Wonder Girl’s mother is next on the list. Charming! That’s not to say that Teen Titans has been without violence in the past—one of the first Johns and Mike McKone issues had Impulse’s knee shot out by Deathstroke—but it’s now so frequent and getting such prominence that it’s more than a little disturbing.

The sad thing is that there are sparks of good going on here. Eddy Barrows’s pencils are great, even if he’s more often than not given unsettling scenes to draw; he’s a strong penciler who deserves to be getting attention for the beautiful parts of his art, not the graphically disturbing. And McKeever’s certainly having fun writing Red Devil and Blue Beetle’s relationship; it’s the one team-up that seems genuine and fun. He’s got a strong handle on the two of them, and had Blue Beetle somehow survived bad sales and needed a new writer I think McKeever’s shown here that he would be perfect on the title. But every time I feel like this title is starting to regain momentum, everything comes tumbling back down. This latest issue is just another almost all violence, all the time issue; by the time it was over I found myself really wondering why I was still reading the book. I certainly didn’t enjoy Wonder Girl’s fight with Lycus, and I just felt disappointed when I was done.

The next issue box for Teen Titans promises a membership drive, and DC editorial has said that Milestone Media character Static will be joining the team soon. And all I can think now is, "Uh oh." I love the character of Static, and six months ago it seemed like a good addition to the book. Now? I’m actually afraid to pick up the book; after all, any new characters in Teen Titans will be subject to the fate of other characters in its current incarnation. At best, abruptly quitting the team and leaving the roster; at worst, horribly attacked and mutilated. I want to like this book, but I think it’s time to call it quits. It’s a shame, but I think this book is just no longer being written for me. What that new audience is, I have no idea, but I don’t think I want to hang out with them.

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