Review: Teen Titans #3
I realized something kind of important after reading Teen Titans #3: I don’t really like any of these characters. I don’t mean that in the general sense, not like ‘Beast Boy sucks!’ or anything like that. I mean I don’t like them as people. I don’t really want to spend any time with them or be seen with them. The Teen Titans are kind of uncomfortable to be around. I realized this because new writer Will Pfeifer is kind of doing exactly what I wanted him to do in the relaunch: he’s treating the Teen Titans as people first, superheroes second…kind of. He’s not exactly there yet, but this new issue is filled with scenes of the teens just hanging out and being friends, and subplots that don’t have anything to do with punching super-villains.
The problem is that DC and the previous writer, Scott Lobdell, have made the Teen Titans so unlikable that I just don’t care that Pfeifer is doing exactly what I want.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
The great thing about this new issue of Teen Titans is that it is filled with character-based subplots. The main plot is still all about that dumb robot chick and whatever ax she’s grinding (I have seriously forgotten), but Pfeifer fills the rest of the issue with actual, worthwhile character interaction. That was the #1 thing missing from Lobdell’s Teen Titans. He was only interested in bringing on new super-villains for the team to fight. Pfeifer, at least a little, views these characters as teenagers. They’re still mostly in costume all of the time, but he’s getting there. He’s mixing real teen drama with superhero drama, and I think it has a chance to be interesting. He just needs to work harder at making me (or anyone) care about these characters.
I think part of the problem might be the art. Kenneth Rocafort is a damn fine artist. He’s great for superhero comics, but I just don’t think he fits Teen Titans. His characters look pointy and fragile. He’d be great on one of those excess Batman books, like Detective Comics, where he could draw awesome pictures of Batman in a big, scary cape. But Teen Titans needs to be a softer book than Rocafort’s style.
For my money, I wish Teen Titans had been given the Batgirl treatment. They need an artist like Babs Tarr to really sell them as likable teen characters. As it stands, Pfeifer and Rocafort have a long road ahead of them to rehab these characters, and frankly, I don’t think both of them are up for it.
Join me after the jump for a full synopsis and more review.
Our story begins with Raven rocking out to a band at a late night club – a band that just so happens to be inspired by Raven. I don’t know when the Teen Titans became so famous as to inspire such a thing, and I don’t think Pfeifer is going to bother explaining. Either way, this is actually one of the subplots I like. Of course people in the real world are going to be inspired by superheroes to do things like name bands after them. It’s a great idea to explore, and the Teen Titans are the perfect group to explore how youth culture is effected by superheroes.
Of course, Pfeifer ruins this scene a bit later, but we’ll get to that.
First, we cut away to Beast Boy and Bunker on patrol in Battery Park. Why they’re wandering around the park at 2 a.m. is anyone’s guess, but Bunker is too excited to go to sleep, and Beast Boy is an ostrich. The pals shoot the breeze about everything they’ve been doing lately, and how Bunker’s star is on the rise. Beast Boy wants to go home, but Bunker feels like a new man!
Then for some strange reason, they get mugged.
I realize it’s probably a little dark in Battery Park, but is it so dark that this mugger can’t see the freakin’ green ostrich walking along?!
Anyway, Bunker hauls off and slugs the guy with a giant purple fist, knocking him out. Beast Boy thinks it was overkill, but Bunker isn’t fazed. He just phones 911 and tells them about the incapacitated mugger.
Back at the club, Raven meets two STAR Labs interns who were at the lab the other day when the Titans saved them from an exploding bus. They are super grateful and love meeting Raven – but then Algorithm shows up and blasts one of them to pieces.
See what I mean about ruining the scene? Pfeifer had this great thing going where Raven was hanging out with normal people, dealing with the idea that she might actually influence people for the better, and Pfeifer has to go and have his stupid super-villain spoil everything! I was only disinterested with Algorithm before, but now I actively dislike her. I no longer remember what her beef is with STAR Labs or why it matters, let alone why it matters to the Teen Titans. She’s an annoyance, a forced super-villain spoiling any other sort of fun Pfeifer might have. Or maybe I just long for the day when not every single superhero comic needs to have a fight in it.
Raven magically dons her costume and then calls her friends to help, telling them one-by-one, mystically, that she needs back-up.
We get a brief scene of Cassie being awoken from sleep (on the couch in her own apartment), and she flies to join the fun. It’s a scene that really shows how unfortunate Rocafort’s art can be.
I’m reminded of a scene from Annie Wu’s Hawkeye, where Kate Bishop is similarly shown sleeping. At the time, I was impressed with just how normal and human Kate looked. It was a real grounded moment. But Rocafort draws Cassie like a super model perched delicately on satin cushions. It’s just not the same, and that’s unfortunate.
Anyway, all of the Titans show up at the nightclub, and between Raven and Wonder Girl they make short, immediate work of Algorithm. She’s literally taken down in a punch or two. That raises the question of why Raven needed the whole team to assemble from all across the city before she could put a stop to Algorithm, but it’s a question that will never have an answer. Raven and Algorithm get a page or two of fighting before the rest of the Titans show up together…which means that they may have waited outside the building until all of them showed up before bursting onto the scene.
Still, they make short work of Algorithm, and Bunker continues to quote every Spanish exclamation that all comic book writers know.
Why Beast Boy had to be a buffalo in that scene is anyone’s guess. He doesn’t do anything as a buffalo.
Afterwards, Raven uses her powers to heal the girl that Algorithm blasted earlier and the Titans make their escape. The cops show up to take care of the scene, as does Josiah Power. I don’t remember if he is part of Team Algorithm or not, but he tells the cops he’s there to check up on his interns. Algorithm, meanwhile, has rebuilt herself and rejoined Manchester Black.
Elsewhere, in another scene I love, Wonder Girl, Bunker and Beast Boy have gone out for an early breakfast. I love the idea of this trio. Have either of those two guys ever had a scene with Cassie before? It’s kind of perfect…except for the fact that the scene is actually about Cassie getting a phone call from her mother.
Cassie’s mom has seen that gang of Wonder Girl groupies on the news, and she’s worried. But at that moment, that same groupie gang shows up and tells her to get off the phone. How’d they know where to find Cassie’s apartment? Is Cassie’s secret identity publicly known?
Anyway, Red Robin breaks into STAR Labs to get more information, but he’s ambushed and attacked by Algorithm.
This issue of Teen Titans had so much going for it, but I’ll be damned if I cared one little bit. I still think I want this book to be good. I think I want it to be filled with fun, enjoyable characters who go on worthwhile adventures. But there’s still such a bad taste in my mouth from the previous volume, and there are still so many hang-ups with this new volume, that Teen Titans is just not gelling.
Pfeifer is on the right track. There are scenes and sub-plots in this comic that come from the characters themselves. They hang out together, they crack jokes together, and they deal with problems befitting teen superheroes. But a random, pointless super-villain is still the main focus of this series. Not the Titans, not their lives, not their interpersonal interaction; this comic is about Algorithm and STAR Labs, and the Teen Titans just happen to have gotten in her way. It’s frustrating, but what can I do? At least Pfeifer is trying a few different things. Maybe once Algorithm is defeated we’ll get an issue of two built around the actual Teen Titans.
Also, all of you Tim Drake fans should be reading the current Robin Rises storyline in Batman and Robin. Tim isn’t back to his former self, but he’s given a command performance. He’s like the defacto leader of the Bat-Family. It’s great!