Review: Teen Titans #28
If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think writer Scott Lobdell did such a bad job creating pathos in Bar Torr’s rebellion against the Functionary. There is real emotion in his fight to free his people from a corrupt and evil government. So it’s a shame this comic is actually about a club of colorful, teenage heroes who wouldn’t know real emotion if it was beat into them with a crowbar. The Teen Titans are caught in the middle of a war that doesn’t belong to them, and they’re stuck flailing around in an embarrassingly desperate attempt to be useful.
But in the end, the Empire wins. The Rebel Alliance loses. And Teen Titans has apparently decided to just cut its loses when it comes to the new and unique characters created for the soon-to-be-cancelled series.
Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.
If I could keep this honest streak going, I was mildly entertained reading this issue, because it’s largely just a bunch of action scenes. The art is actually pretty good, and the pacing is pretty OK, at least when characters aren’t having lengthy thought bubble monologues, and Lobdell engages in his favorite pastime: painfully blunt exposition. The new Evil Superboy has appeared in how many issues now? And in each one, he apparently has to mentally remind himself of his own motivations and personal storyline. It’s maddening!
But at least Evil Superboy gets to actually impact this issue, or stand out as a character. Red Robin, Wonder Girl and Raven are absolutely lost in this story. But they don’t just fade into the background, oh no. Instead, they insist on trying to stick their big noses into this war that has nothing to do with them, and likewise insist that everyone involved should adhere to their limited understanding of 21st century standards. It’s like the Titans are incapable of understanding the context of where they find themselves. It’s a war for independence from a murderous government, but the Titans seem to think they can just get everybody to play nice and negotiate – and this is coming from teenagers who have dedicated their lives to vigilante violence.
But at least those three don’t get character assassinated. If you thought Lobdell was burning Kid Flash’s character to the ground, just wait and see what he has in store for Solstice. I hope you hadn’t grown too attached to her.
Join me after the jump to find out why killing in a war for freedom is wrong, but murder in the name of love is righteous!
We open in space, where Bar Torr’s forces have just blown the roof off the courthouse, sucking most of the people inside into the horrible, unforgiving vacuum. Evil Superboy flies out to save some of them, but nope, he’s evil, so he instead throws them into the sun. At least he’s consistent. He’s also kind of taking my advice in that he doesn’t have to side with the Teen Titans in this fight. But almost immediately, we’re reminded that Superboy loves to spend his time on a good, old-fashioned internal monologuing.
He’d probably find a cure a lot easier if he wasn’t always reminding himself that he needed to find it.
We cut to inside the courthouse, where a war is raging between Bar Torr’s freedom fighters and the soldiers of the Functionary. From everything we’ve seen so far, the freedom fighters should be the good guys here. The Functionary are corrupt and are willing to kill dissidents who oppose them. That’s what Bar Torr is fighting against. Shouldn’t the Teen Titans side with the oppressed people?
Nope! Red Robin’s big plan is just to keep punching everybody until his punches sort this whole thing out.
As I said in my last review, it’s nice that you have a personal code of honor against killing people, Red Robin, but this is a freakin’ war, man! These people are fighting for their freedom! People get killed in war! Maybe these aliens from the far future haven’t heard of Gandhi, but it’s not like Red Robin supports non-violence. He’s already punching people. He’s dedicated his life to taking the law into his own hands and punching people. How is Red Robin’s plan going to solve anything that’s happening here? What a dingus.
Solstice begs Kid Flash to stop this fight, but he tells her that the whole point of him surrendering all those years ago was to arrange this trial, to get all of the Functionary’s higher ups in one place so that his rebels could cut off the head. Sounds like a solid plan, long term plan for this freedom fighter.
Then Wonder Girl gets her own moment of internal exposition.
Thanks for spelling it out for us, Wonder Girl.
Turns out Bar is the one holding the lasso, and he tells Wonder Girl that he doesn’t want to hurt any of them, he just wants to free his people. So apparently, Kid Flash is back to being a nice guy, even though he spent last issue as a vicious jerk who told his people to “kill them all” when the Titans tried to stop him. So once again his attitude is changing as quickly as his speed.
Wonder Girl asks why he never told them the truth, because they could have helped him – because apparently she forgot that he’d had his mind wiped and didn’t remember any of this until he came back to the future. And since then, he’s kind of been in government lock-up, under surveillance at all times. There wasn’t really a chance to invite the peace-loving Teen Titans to join his rebellion.
Rather than let Wonder Girl try to get through to him, Solstice blasts Bar in the back, knocking him to the ground. She stands over him and berates him with, “None of this is helping your cause,” because apparently she doesn’t understand how revolutions work. This fight is absolutely helping his cause, and if the rebels win, it will be a huge blow against the Functionary. Kid Flash tells Solstice to walk away, because this isn’t her fight, but she tells him that he knows they can’t. The Teen Titans absolutely have to get involved in a civil war taking place 1,000 years into their future on the other side of the galaxy. Then she blasts him again with her powers, because even though she won’t kill him, she’s definitely going to stop him.
So there you have it, folks. The Teen Titans are siding with the evil empire. Need more proof? How about this page of genius from Red Robin?
I have no idea what Lobdell is going for here. Do none of the Titans have even a basic knowledge of American history? Sometimes freedom comes at the cost of war, Red Robin. And killing the leaders of the evil empire is a surefire way to help succeed in freeing yourself out from under their boots. The Functionary, from everything both you and we have seen, don’t seem to be the negotiating type. Brain 3 proves this when she takes out the rebel and tells Red Robin that there is a better way: “it is called the law”.
She doesn’t have some greater purpose to bestow upon Red Robin. She just says that the law of the Functionary is the better way, and that rebels like Bar Torr must be stopped. She tells him that the Bart Allen he knew in the past never really existed. Tim Drake gets his own bit of inner narration as he tries to accept that she is right, even if his memories of the goofball Bart are as strong as ever.
So, again, I want to stress: the Teen Titans are siding with the Empire here, seemingly for the sole reason that the rebels are just as willing to kill as the Functionary. And possibly because their friend Bart turned out to not be who they thought he was. It wasn’t like Bart was lying to them, he didn’t know. He’d been sent back in time and had his brain-wiped by the Functionary, because their criminal justice system does things like that. Now that they have most of the facts, and Bar Torr is himself again, the Titans are siding with the Emprie. They saw that video memory a few issues ago where the Functionary’s forces murdered Bar’s parents in cold blood because they worshiped a different god, but still they are siding with Empire.
Screw freedom. The Teen Titans prefer the cold, hard reality of oppression.
But at least one of them isn’t falling for the Functionary’s siren song.
I didn’t mention this earlier, because this scene is a better example, but SPACE DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT!
There is no air in the vacuum! These guys cannot and should not be able to carry on a conversation, let alone breath! But they do! There is absolutely zero logic given to this scene. I think this is where Lobdell just stopped caring. Last issue, they had a last-minute art touch-up to put some weird green aura around Red Robin to explain why he could survive in space. This time? Who cares? They’re just going to have a chat in space.
Evil Superboy tells Bar that Bar is just a boy playing at being a revolutionary, and that he doesn’t have a plan for what to do once they topple the Functionary. How he knows this is anyone’s guess. For all we readers know, Bar and the rebellion have all manner of plans in place. But we’re just going to have to take Evil Superboy at his word here.
Then Evil Superboy remembers that he just doesn’t care. Bar’s fight is delaying him from finding that cure, so he just wants Bar to end it. But Bar is defiant…until the Functionary’s Death Star shows up.
A massive ship, called a ‘Starslayer’, and built only for annihilation, arrives in the sector, captained by Bar’s sister. She tells him that she has orders to kill every living thing in the area, rebel and Functionary alike, as long as it puts an end to this fight. Then she proceeds to simply talk Bar down from his rebellion by telling him that their parents were idiots and the Functionary is right.
Bar Torr surrenders. It’s as simple as that.
There’s your negotiation, Red Robin. The Empire convinces the rebel hero that he’s an idiot, his parents were idiots, and they deserved to die for worshiping their false god.
All power to the Functionary.
The court reconvenes to deliver Bar Torr’s sentence. For leading the rebellion, and the countless lives lost, Bar will spend the rest of his life doing hard labor on some distant planet, with no hope of parole. The Titans try to protest, as we knew they would, because they feel they have some kind of say in this proceeding. They knew Bar Torr for a few months, when he wasn’t even himself, and they think they can tell this criminal court what to do about him. Bar has better sense than all of them and tells the Titans to knock it off. He’s ready to accept his punishment.
The Titans whimper and back off, except for Solstice, who demands that she be sentenced alongside Bar. The judges tell her that she’s being absurd because she has committed no crimes. Bar tells Kiran that he wants her to go back with the other Titans and live a long, full life.
And if I was in any way invested in their relationship, I might feel some sadness here. But there is no way the playful flirtation and occasional smooches between Kid Flash and Solstice has amounted to her being in love with him from the moment they met. Maybe Lobdell thinks that’s what he’s written over the past 28 issues, but I vehemently disagree. I have never thought Lobdell was doing a sufficient job in building anyone’s relationship in this series. But here, it’s made clear that Kid Flash is Solstice’s entire world.
So much so that she promptly murders a judge.
Solstice. Murders. A judge.
The lovely, friendly, cheerful Solstice murders a judge in front of everybody. She kills him because she wants to spend the rest of her life doing hard labor on some distant alien planet, because she loves the imaginary Bart Allen so much. It’s madness! Pure madness! And it murders her character. Unless Lobdell has some trick up his sleeve, Solstice is now a murdering psychopath. So I feel bad for any of you who actually developed an attachment to the character. That appears to be blood. She appears to be a murderer. I suppose Lobdell could pull the wool from over our eyes next issue, but right now, she’s totally a murderer.
She murdered a freakin’ judge!
And for what? Granted, in the world of Scott Lobdell, it’s probably entirely possible that Solstice would share an ankle shackle with Bar Torr. But she murdered a judge. That should be a straight-up death sentence!
This whole issue was full of really weird and awkward ideological choices. Why, oh why, do the Teen Titans support the Functionary? And it’s not like Lobdell supports the Functionary or paints them as the good guys. They’re as evil as any evil empire. And the freedom fighters don’t do anything particularly evil. The Titans are just blind to anyone’s motivations but their own. Lobdell seems to be walking a line between choosing a side, but he doesn’t do it with any flourish or skill. It’s all just one big mess. But he’s very clear that not only are the Functionary evil, but that the Titans side with them. Red Robin readily believes Brain 3’s reasoning. Most of the Titans readily fight against Bar. And the examples just go on and on.
And what the heck was that surprise ending with Solstice? Where did that come from? Personally, I think Lobdell was given the cancellation order several months ago, and DC told him that they had plans for Red Robin, Wonder Girl and Superboy, so he needed to just dispose of everybody else. This is probably his way of ruining Solstice for any future writers. Don’t expect happy endings for Bunker or Skittles if they return before the end.
Don’t expect anything happy to come out of Teen Titans.