Review: Teen Titans #17
Teen Titans #17 was very close to being one of the best issues in the entire series so far. Even with Lobdell’s horrible habit of introducing villains in cutaway scenes that are apropos of nothing, this was still a good comic for the actual Teen Titans themselves. But then he goes and blows it with a pretty lame final page surprise. For the first 2/3rds of this comic, it actually looked like Lobdell and co-writer Fabian Nicieza were going to do a good job in treating the Titans as real people. They even managed to surprise me by injecting some really cool drama into the group. I thought they were actually on to something new and meaningful.
NOPE! What I thought was meaningful, character-based drama turned out to be just the start of another stupid storyline. Dammit, Teen Titans, why must you continually shoot yourself in the foot?
Comic Rating: 3/5: Alright.
Since the very beginning of this series, I have said time and again that the best way to make Teen Titans work is to treat the characters like real people. We need to see the Titans interacting like real friends and teenagers more than we need to see them thrown up against the latest, lamest super-villain. And for the first part of this book, Lobdell and Nicieza actually do that. We’re introduced to their new headquarters, they talk about what the attack by Joker has done to the team and we get a lot of really good scenes between the individual characters. The scenes don’t go as far as I think they should go in terms of establishing these characters, but it’s leaps and bounds above what we’ve seen before.
And if there’s one thing I can say Lobdell has done well, it has been keeping Tim Drake at the center of the comic. He’s the most fleshed out of all the Titans (though that’s not saying much), and Tim goes a long way in keeping the series from being unreadable. And for most of the book, Tim is even better than he’s been before. Lobdell and Nicieza use him really well.
But then they mess it up. And they do it on purpose. The twist ending is almost painful to read in just how badly they screw up a good thing.
We open with yet another villain introduction that has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Teen Titans has an utterly ludicrous way of handling villains and antagonists. I just don’t get how anybody thinks this is a good idea.
We’re introduced to a young boy named Kwon Yi, who apparently developed the super power to have light grow and peel off his skin. Apparently the ‘meta gene’ in DC Comics is the same as the ‘mutant gene’ in Marvle Comics. Kwon Yi doesn’t want to be trained as a superhero, he just wants the power to be gone, and he’s in the dark, dirty laboratory of some scientist who seems to mean well, but in reality just wants to take Yi’s power for himself with his evil, sinister experiments. How did Kwon Yi not see this coming?
We don’t hear from either of them again for the entire rest of the issue.
Instead, we jump to the Teen Titans, who are taking a limo ride back to New York after their encounter with the Joker in Gotham City. They’re riding in awkward silence, with Tim Drake narrating and introducing each of the team members. He’s not sure how to be a leader at this point, considering they were almost dragged to their deaths because of him and his connection to the Bat-family. Also, we find out that Solstice’s body is as hard as real onyx. I did not know that.
Eventually the group get to talking, and none of the Titans blame Red Robin for what happened to them. They’re also easing up on trying to find out his real name. Since they met some members of the Bat-family, Tim is able to explain that his secrets are not just his secrets, and the Titans are mostly OK with that it seems. It’s a nice little scene, but I’ve started to realize another plot point that nobody ever seems to acknowledge: these kids have no lives outside of the Teen Titans. They’re all just banding together and going with the flow, living, sleeping and existing as the team and only the team. That’s the kind of thing I wish this book acknowledged more. Teen Titans is a comic about a group of sort-of friends who’ve basically run away together.
But at least they’re doing it in style.
Tim reveals that they’ll no longer be staying in the penthouse of Lex Tower. Instead, he’s purchased them a giant, spacious, fully-furnished yacht!
Tim gives the team the grand tour, and it’s here I’ll point out that Teen Titans has a new artist in Eddy Barrows, who used to draw Nightwing. Apparently Barrows and Brett Booth switched duties, which is a shame. I don’t think Booth is going to really fit the vibe on Nightwing, whereas he was pretty good on the frantic style of Teen Titans. Barrows can’t really match that extreme style, and he simply doesn’t draw a very good Kid Flash. Also, maybe it’s just me, but Barrows’ Tim Drake looks kind of freaky. Maybe it’s the lack of spiked hair.
The tour of the yacht is a nice scene, and again, it’s just the kids hanging out and acting like real teenagers. Some bits are confusing, like when everyone suddenly has a towel. I had to look back to the previous panel to see a tiny image of Kid Flash about to push someone into the pool. But there was no break in conversation to indicate a scene where they were dunked and then climbed back out of the pool. You’d think some of them woul dbe upset that they were dunked into the pool while fully clothed, but nope. Weird. But whatever. Robin shows them their rooms. Kid Flash will be bunking with Bunker, and Cassie will be bunking with Solstice.
Red Robin has his own room, which is attached to the monitor room they’ll use to look for crimes.
We then jump to later in the evening when Kid Flash and Bunker are trying to get to sleep. Kid Flash can’t settle down in a new room, so Bunker helps him calm down and wrap his head around the fact that they are both exactly where they need to be in life. Bunker also gives a few hints about what he left behind, including someone named Gabe who he called his “beloved”.
Speaking of Gabriel, we get a cutaway back to Mexico, with a woman visiting Gabriel in a coma in a hospital bed. She talks cryptically about how it’s so sad that Gabriel is in the coma, possibly for saving Miguel’s life. It’s also sad that Gabe was betrayed by everyone that loved him.
We then cut back to the yacht, with Tim Drake standing on the outside of the boat and seemingly talking to himself. But he reveals that he’s actually talking to Solstice, who’s floating behind him and thought she had snuck up on him. But Tim notices stuff like that. The two have a nice little conversation about how she trusts him now, and she considers him a real friend, even if their relationship started out rocky.
Then Lobdell actually manages to surprise me. Tim kisses Solstice.
I was floored. This is real drama. This is the kind of stuff I would expect to see in a comic about teenagers. They have emotions, they have feelings, they hook up with each other. And the idea that Tim would kiss Solstice comes out of nowhere! Solstice is pretty much already in a relationship with Kid Flash, and Tim and Cassie have been circling each other. So Tim suddenly kissing Solstice, and Solstice kissing him back, is real drama. I was excited. I thought to myself that now the book was really going to get good.
Boy, was I ever wrong. And we’ll get to that in a moment.
We cut away to some kid in a coffee shop nearby. He uses his brain powers to, I think, kill everybody in the coffee shop.
We then cut back to the yacht, and this time Tim is visiting with Cassie in his room. They chat and flirt for a moment before Tim suddenly puts the moves on Cassie as well!
What the hell is this? Tim Drake smooching both women? That doesn’t seem like Tim at all. Something must be wrong.
Sure enough, after a somewhat pointless scene of Raven down in Hell watching the kissing, we cut back to Tim in his control room looking particularly evil all of a sudden.
So I guess something has turned Tim evil. What a load of garbage.
First, being the huge Tim Drake fan that I am, I’m simply not interested in a story where he has been turned into some kind of evil, semi-rapist dirtbag. No thank you. Second, Tim is the best thing about Teen Titans, and there is no way the other characters could sustain this comic without him. And third, and most importantly, evil Tim Drake completely negates all the good things that happened in this issue! The cool new headquarters, the positive character interaction, and most importantly, the drama that came from Tim kissing Solstice! It’s gone, all gone! Because now it’s no longer drama. Now it’s just Tim being possessed by some evil force that’s making him do these things. Now it’s some stupid new villain or storyline, and in the end, all will be forgiven and everything will go back to being bland and boring.
I want to like Teen Titans, I really do. But Lobdell just so completely misses the mark. Part of me thinks that the problem is just me. There’s a certain kind of storytelling that I want from this comic, and it’s clearly not the same kind of storytelling that Lobdell wants to use. I should just stop reading. It would be the simplest solution. But surely I’m not the only reader who would rather read real character-based drama than whatever new super-villain Lobdell has cooked up. And what does this mean for the growing Tim/Cassie relationship? Lobdell was actually doing a good job slowly and subtly building that relationship. But now he’s just gone and thrown it all out the window by having their first kiss be under the possession of an evil, demonic force.
I’m just so disappointed in how badly the twist at the end ruins what was turning out to be a great comic.