Review – Teen Titans #7
Seven issues into the relaunched Teen Titans, I think I’ve figured out writer Will Pfeifer’s problem: he loves to listen to himself talk. Or in comic book terms, he loves to listen to his characters talk. I’ve mentioned before in my reviews how Pfeifer’s pet character, Manchester Black, goes on and on in seemingly endless monologues — and we get another one or two in Teen Titans #7 — but now we’re also treated to monologues from the new villains about how awesome their evil plans are and how evil they’re going to be.
The Teen Titans are little more than spectators in their own comic at this point. All that matters is how smart and awesome Pfeifer’s pet characters are.
Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.
The Teen Titans are no longer the stars of their own comic. They’re set pieces. They’re action figures to be moved around at the whim of other characters. Teen Titans #7 is literally just about Manchester Black’s opposition to the new, bland bad guys in town. And if you (and I) thought those pill-popping rich brats from the last two issues were bland bad guys, then you ain’t seen nothing yet!
This would maybe be forgivable if Pfeifer had interesting stories to tell, but he doesn’t. Or if the art was spectacular, but it isn’t. Pfeifer and Kenneth Rocafort are producing a fairly standard, if at times sub-standard, comic book. The story is jerky and uninteresting. The villain that opened the relaunch with a splash, Algorithm, is gone. Those rich kids were cliches. And now a new villain has emerged: generic armed bad guys. They don’t have a name, they don’t have costumes, they aren’t memorable characters, and they want to use a villainous device to blow up New York City. Wow. Your’e really stretching the imagination with these guys, Pfeifer.
It doesn’t help that Rocafort returns to the title with the worst art yet. I would have thought taking two issues off would have given him time to shine.
Join me after the jump for the full synopsis and more review!
At the end of last issue, the Bad Guys (as they’re going to be called by me) broke into S.T.A.R. Labs on Governors Island and detonated a nuclear bomb. The Teen Titans and everyone in New York City could do nothing but watch as the mushroom cloud rose into the sky. The Titans quickly regroup, and Raven teleports everyone to the Island to figure out what happened and rescue Beast Boy.
Which brings us to the one moment of the comic that made me laugh out loud: apparently, in the switch between artists, nobody told Rocafort that the new Power Girl wasn’t wearing her superhero costume. It’s OK, though, because Pfeifer takes care of it.
Power Girl spent the whole of last issue with the Teen Titans, and was with Wonder Girl at Wonder Girl’s apartment when the bomb went off. There’s no way she changed clothes into an actual superhero costume at any point in this story, especially not without Wonder Girl noticing before this. It’s cruel to laugh at this sort of thing, but can I at least giggle? Somebody’s wires got crossed and it was too late to fix Rocafort’s art. Mistakes happen. But it’s still kind of funny. Honestly, if Pfeifer hadn’t added that random line from Wonder Girl, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed that Power Girl was wearing her new costume.
BECAUSE POWER GIRL DOESN’T DO ANYTHING IN THIS ISSUE!
Rather than bring awkward attention to the fact that she changed her clothes, why not just ignore it and hope nobody notices? It’s not like Pfeifer gives Power Girl anything to do. He’s too busy giving Manchester Black everything to do.
Though, I will admit, some of the Teen Titans do get a moment or two to actually contribute to the story.
When the Titans arrive on Governors Island, Red Robin scans the air and discovers that there is no radioactivity. They find Beast Boy, who fills them in on the armed thugs he saw last issue, and they all vaguely promise to get the janitor Beast Boy saved onto the first ambulance when it arrives (they never do).
Manchester Black then launches into his first monologue, asking if any of the Titans are familiar with Operation Paperclip.
Basically, after World War II, the Allies snapped up all the leftover Nazi scientists and put them to work on things like rockets. According to Manchester Black, some of those Nazi think tanks eventually ended up becoming S.T.A.R. Labs, and the various Doomsday Weapons they invented were locked up in the super secret S.T.A.R. basement — such as a nuclear bomb that doesn’t give off radiation.
Rather than sit around talking, Wonder Girl declares that she’s going to get to the bottom of this .
Manchester Black just gets creepier and creepier. And I guess that’s the unofficial end of the Red Robin/Wonder Girl relationship from the previous volume? Pfeifer hasn’t done anything with it. Whatever, I’m over it.
Wonder Girl flies over to ground zero and kidnaps one of the Bad Guys rooting around in the basement. The others open fire on her, but she just shrugs it off and leaves with the guy she wanted. The others are unfazed at the kidnapping and go about their business…OF STEALING HIGHLY DANGEROUS WEAPONS! There are four of them, and Wonder Girl immediately proves that their guns don’t hurt her. But rather than stop the four of them right now, putting an immediate halt to their plans, she just flies off with one of them. If her goal is to interrogate the guy and find out what they’re up to, why not knock them all out and interrogate all of them when the city is safe?!
As we’ll see later in the book, this would have been a totally viable option.
To make matters worse, when she brings the single kidnapped Bad Guy back to the Titans, the team stands around while Manchester Black interrogates him. The Titans literally just step aside so that Manchester Black can take the lead on this one.
But the Bad Guy is unfazed, taunting Manchester Black that they’ve already accomplished everything they wanted to accomplish — at which point the villain promptly disappears.
Since Manchester Black is so smart, he knows exactly what the Bad Guy was talking about. And that’s when a giant 3D-projected hologram appears over the top of Manhattan, and the lead Bad Guy declares that he and his companions are going to blow up the city with a weapon called ‘The Eraser’, because of course that’s what it’s called. The Eraser is hidden beneath the city and there’s nothing that anybody can do.
But that has never stopped Manchester Black from a good monologue!
Manchester Black then proceeds to tell the Teen Titans that the second most dangerous device that Operation Paperclip ever produced is something that can slow down time. This involved some magical tampering to accomplish, but basically the Bad Guys can freeze the world in time, while they move about freely. That’s how they managed to take The Eraser from the basement of S.T.A.R. Labs and get it set up underneath Manhattan so quickly.
So not only do the bad guys have a device that can ‘erase’ Manhattan, but they also just happen to have a device that can freeze time so they can get away with it. Because why come up with a legitimately interesting super villain challenge when you can just hand wave ‘magic’ and ‘time-freezing machine’ to get the job done?
Then, seemingly randomly and for no good reason, the Bad Guys once again freeze time. The Titans are frozen in the middle of Manchester Black’s speech, all except Raven, because her magic protects her somehow. And she’s not the only one.
Beast Boy also managed to get through by changing into a fruit fly. They have extremely short life spans, so he figured they experience the world at a faster level than everybody else, so they’re immune to the time freeze.
Because…bug science? I guess?
Speaking of science, the lead Bad Guy tells his underlings to turn time back on so that they can activate the Eraser. Why did they freeze time a moment ago if they needed to turn it right back on to enact their plan? Did they already know that Manchester Black was mid-speech and just wanted to shut him up?
Anyway, Beast Boy and Raven teleport to the Bad Guy’s underground bomb site and immediately wreck up the joint. Though when the lead Bad Guy sees that Raven can do magic, he declares that he can do magic too and blasts her.
So Beast Boy transforms into a giant whale and smashes the time device. Then he has Raven teleport the rest of the Titans to the secret lair, and in only a couple of pages, some of the Titans defeat the bad guys. Bunker prevents one of them from activating The Eraser, and Raven grabs the lead Bad Guy.
Once again, the Teen Titans need only a page or two to defeat the issue’s villains. They didn’t even need the whole team. Red Robin, Power Girl and Wonder Girl just kind of stand around.
There’s no challenge here. There’s nothing to actually test the Titans or push them to their limits. I get that the stakes are supposed to be high, that the whole city could blow up, but those stakes really only matter if there’s a challenge. The only challenge to overcome here was the time device, which only existed to be an arbitrary challenge. And there’s no reason why Raven couldn’t have simply teleported the Bad Guys out of the room instead of bringing the Teen Titans into the room. Just like Wonder Girl could have prevented all of this earlier in the comic by knocking out the four Bad Guys before they even got their hands on the time device.
After the fight, the Titans notice that the big 3D hologram camera is still on, and that everybody in New York saw them defeat the bad guys.
Or at least they watched whatever was immediately in front of the camera. But we’re just going to go ahead and assume it was the entire fight.
In the epilogue, the Teen Titans regroup and Manchester Black telephones Josiah Power to brag about how awesome the Teen Titans are. Red Robin interrupts to ask Manchester Black what he meant by ‘the second most dangerous device’.
We then see the lead Bad Guy break out of his prison shackles, knock over the prison van and escape. Only now his skin looks like it was melted off with lava. He walks away from the carnage mumbling, “All according to plan.” So…lame super-villain coming up? Probably.
This issue is probably the worst issue yet of Will Pfeifer’s short relaunch. The plot alone is ridiculously generic and boring. Random, vague bad guys want to blow up New York City? Please. And then Pfeifer goes and manipulates the story and the characters to make these Bad Guys seem like more of a credible threat. That’s just lazy writing.
First Wonder Girl doesn’t take them out when she gets the chance, then Raven doesn’t take them out when she gets the chance. Considering how quickly the entire team mops the floor with the bad guys in the issue’s climax, there’s no reason why this couldn’t have been wrapped up in 2 pages.
I will admit that the idea that Operation Paperclip eventually turned into S.T.A.R. Labs is pretty cool, but all Pfeifer does with this is give himself a magical toy box of Doomsday Devices. One of them can blow up Governors Island, but isn’t radioactive, so everybody is safe. Another one can ‘erase’ Manhattan. Another one can slow down time with no ill side effects, and that one only exists so that Pfeifer can set up a different. All of the villainy in this issue is just lazy.
And it only exists to show how ‘awesome’ Pfeifer’s pet characters are. Yes, the Titans mop up the Bad Guys in only a few pages, but those pages come after a big, long, 3D-hologram rant by the lead Bad Guy about how awesome and smart he is, and how his plan is just the best. That he ends the issue mumbling, “All according to plan,” is just Pfeifer showing us that his villains are 10 smart steps ahead of the Teen Titans! His villains are so much better than the Teen Titans!
To say nothing of his heroes. Manchester Black once again takes center stage in an issue of Teen Titans. He’s practically a member of the team right now, doing all of the heavy lifting and heavy thinking. Sure, it’s the Teen Titans who do the fighting in the climax, but it’s Manchester Black who sets them up to do that fighting. He’s the one with all the intelligence and know how to inform the Titans of who they need to punch and why.
And yet, I don’t think the new Power Girl gets to punch anybody! The flub of her costume change is forgivable, but what’s not is the fact that she doesn’t actually contribute to the story or the climax in any way! Clearly Pfeifer already had this story planned out when Power Girl was thrust upon him, and he has no idea how to use her in any meaningful way. She’s just there, just standing around, a Teen Titan who exists because someone at DC probably told Pfeifer he had to include her.
But that’s always been my complaint with this series: no one ever bothers to do any character development in this series. The Teen Titans exist solely because someone at DC said there needed to be a Teen Titans comic, and these were the random characters chosen for the roster. Power Girl should fit right in.
The art doesn’t save the story either. Kenneth Rocafort returns after a two-issue absence and immediately proves that he was not missed. This is the sloppiest his art has been in his entire run so far, with characters hastily sketched into scenes. His work looks rushed, which doesn’t make sense considering the time he spent away. Isn’t the point of a fill-in artist to give the main artist more time to work?
But it looks like Rocafort spent more time on his signature floating boxes than on polishing the actual scenes in the comic.
I had high hopes for Will Pfeifer’s Teen Titans relaunch, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be any different than the last volume. Once again, the Titans themselves take a back seat to something else entirely. Only instead of the random super-villains of the Scott Lobdell era, this time we’re stuck putting up with Pfeifer’s pet characters. But at least Lobdell actually had the Titans interact with one another, even if it wasn’t much.
Pfeifer is content with the Titans standing around in awe of Manchester Black. They’re the only ones.