Review: Teen Titans #8
It’s a classic warning to be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. I am afraid that has befallen me with Teen Titans #8. No, Red Robin still doesn’t change out of his costume, but the Teen Titans are actually the stars of the book for once. And they’re engaged in some pretty cool extracurricular activities. Writer Will Pfeifer has set the Teen Titans up to be minor NYC celebrities, and he actually has some fun with this concept. The problem is in the execution. I don’t really know what it is, but there’s just something off about Pfeifer’s attempts to have some fun in this issue. Maybe my bias had completely taken over my sense of good and bad, but it just doesn’t feel like he thought this issue through very well.
Still, I applaud the effort, and I especially like what he does with Red Robin in this issue. So general kudos.
Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.
In Teen Titans #8, Pfeifer splits the Titans up to engage in some wacky high jinks. Beast Boy hosts Saturday Night Live (or Comedy Tonight, as it’s called). Raven hangs out with her new rock band friends. Wonder Girl has a weird encounter with a fan. And Red Robin focuses on crime solving, like he’s supposed to do. Manchester Black is still around, still Pfeifer’s pet characters, but the Teen Titans actually get the spotlight for once. I just don’t think Pfeifer put all that much thought into each of these scenarios. It’s clear what he wants to accomplish, he wants the Titans to go viral on social media, but he kind of forces it.
At least he’s trying something different. I rather love the idea of the Teen Titans becoming mini-celebrities and being embraced by youth culture. These characters are perfect for an exploration of social media and its impact on not only our world, but the world of superheroes. I hope Pfeifer is reading the new Batgirl, because that uses social media in ways I wish I fully understood (but I’m about half a generation removed from a full understanding). I can see what Pfeifer is trying to do, and I kind of like what he’s trying to do, but I just don’t think he sticks the landings very well. There’s some square peg/round hole stuff going on here.
Maybe I’m just nitpicking. This is what I wished for, after all. Join me after the jump to see what I mean.
We open with the media talking to the Titans after they defeated the evil bad guys from last issue. Bunker and Beast Boy handle the press while Red Robin tries to prod Manchester Black for more information on the most dangerous invention S.T.A.R. Labs ever invented, but Black tells him it was probably just an urban legend. If such a weapon existed, the bad guys would have used it, right? Robin isn’t convinced, but Black changes the topic by having Raven teleport everyone to Times Square, where the public has come out in force to praise the Titans.
Then we cut to the next morning, with S.T.A.R. investigating the villain’s escape at the end of last issue. They’ve found a body whose DNA matches the bad guy, and they think his super-powered heart just gave up. Manchester is convinced it’s the right guy, and that the problem has been solved, and he convinces Josiah Power of the same thing. So either Manchester is playing the long con, or Manchester really does believe it’s over. Hard to tell with that guy. But based on what I’ve read so far, I’m pretty sure Pfeifer is playing Manchester as the smartest man on the planet, 10 steps ahead of everybody else.
Then the fun starts.
First, Beast Boy is the host of Comedy Tonight, for some reason.
Look, if you’re going to build your joke around that famous catch phrase, do you really want to shoot yourself in the foot by choosing a catch phrase you can’t actually use in your publication? Pfeifer couldn’t come up with a better show or a better joke for Beast Boy? The altered catch phrase just adds a weird level of awkward to the whole thing.
But moving on. Bunker is backstage to support him, and the two are watching the performances from the wings when something really weird and sudden happens.
Yes, it’s weird and sudden that somebody would just charge out of the crowd and attack one of the performers. Beast Boy immediately leaps to the rescue and subdues the bad guy. The show’s producer then thanks Beast Boy for helping out, and tells him this is going to be huge in the press and on social media. He tells Beast Boy he might just make it in show business.
This scene is weird enough as it is. Since when do people randomly charge on stage during Saturday Night Live? But this isn’t the end of the scene. Later on in the issue, during the waving goodbye scene over the closing credits, we find out that the attacker is actually a member of the cast – something Beast Boy didn’t know.
Beast Boy turns into a lion and attacks the guy, thinking he’s still an assailant. But the hipster guy explains that it was all part of the act, it’s just that nobody told Beast Boy about it. Now they all expect the scenes of the guy being attacked by a snake and a lion to go viral. The hipster guy expects himself to become famous from it.
And all of it is just…uncomfortable. We’re expected to believe the show would go to all this trouble to stage something like this? And we’re expected to believe that the producers didn’t tell Beast Boy? That they wanted to film him improvising? What about the cops that showed up to take the assailant away? What about the audience reaction, either during the attack or during the finale? Either the audience recognizes him as a cast member during the actual skit and laughs, or they recognize him as the assailant during the waving and get as freaked out as Beast Boy. But surely there was some kind of dress rehearsal, right? Or does Comedy Tonight just do things on the fly? And if hipster guy is a known actor on Comedy Tonight, why do they think the clips will go viral?
Maybe if the show had brought Beast Boy in on the plan, then I’d have an easier time swallowing this plot. But this weird improvisational attack just doesn’t sit right with me. It doesn’t feel natural, it feels forced.
In the same way that any company trying to force a viral video feels obviously forced. But instead of in the real world, where obvious crap like this is ignored, here it’s a viral sensation just because Pfeifer says so. It just strikes me as awkward.
Anyway, after the whole thing, the hipster guy’s agent is bragging to Bunker backstage about how his client is already guaranteed to be a huge star thanks to these viral Beast Boy freakouts. Then when the guy realizes he’s talking to Bunker, he immediately starts trying to hire Bunker as a client so he can get the teen hero his own reality show. Bunker is totally on board with the idea and starts Tweeting about it immediately.
And that’s how Bunker goes viral.
Raven, meanwhile, is hanging out with the friends she made in that band, Night Mistress. Because of their association with Raven, they’ve become more popular, and now they’re about to head onstage for their next show. Raven remains backstage, since she’s not actually in the band, and she loses herself to the music. Her empathic powers go out of control and she causes everybody in the audience to start bum-rushing the stage.
So that’s two scenes in a row where an audience member attacks a performer on stage. I thought that Pfeifer was going somewhere with this, but they’re completely isolated incidents. Weird. Raven powers up her suit and calms everybody back down. Her friends in the band are super psyched at how awesome she is.
Then Wonder Girl is the weirdest story of them all.
It starts with a guy wearing some techno gizmos breaking into Cassie’s apartment building, only to be stopped by Wonder Girl’s fan club. Then Wonder Girl shows up and takes over the butt-whooping, which is what the guy wanted to happen. He knocks over the groupies and charges at Wonder Girl, but she stops him easily.
That, right there, is the total extent of their interaction. Wonder Girl immediately flips him over and smashes the glasses. But apparently the guy’s glasses were attached to some kind of live stream.
And that’s how Wonder Girl goes viral. But here’s the thing…how? What happened that she went viral? What is this “creepstastic” footage she’s talking about? I showed you a moment ago what happened: the guy ran at her and she stopped him. What about that constitutes a successful viral video? Is just filming Wonder Girl really that amazing? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he broke into her building, but the guy only really gets excited when Wonder Girl shows up in person. He says, “Finally” and then charges at her, as if his whole plan revolved around confronting her. How is that anything? How is that interesting footage? Nothing happened!
But according to Pfeifer, Wonder Girl is now a reluctant viral sensation. This scene, far more than the others, just doesn’t make any sense.
Also, quick aside, that is the entirety of Power Girl’s role in this issue. She comes out of nowhere, considering Wonder Girl was shown flying to her apartment, and makes that one comment about Wonder Girl going viral. That’s it. That’s Power Girl. The team’s big introduction only a few issues ago, and now, for the second issue in a row, she’s barely an after thought.
Manchester Black, meanwhile, continues to be a speechifying machine. He finds Red Robin investigating the wreckage of the former S.T.A.R. Labs site that got blowed up real good.
That guy can talk.
The way he runs down the list of viral Titans again makes me think that Manchester Black is somehow planning all of this. We shall see.
Red Robin tells him that he’s going to do what he has to do, what they all should be doing, to stop any more dangerous weapons from getting into the hands of bad guys. Red Robin isn’t about to let fame go to his head, he’s got a job to do. Red Robin says all this viral stuff is just a distraction.
Manchester Black then shows him a different viral video: Superboy is back, and he apparently killed a lot of people.
Superboy coming back could be pretty cool.
The most I can say is that I didn’t dislike this issue. Pfeifer tries, which is more than I can usually say about this title. The Titans are off living their lives, doing things that don’t involve random, generic superheroics. That’s a damn good thing to see. Pfeifer is actually exploring them as characters, developing their lives and personalities. Maybe not to the exact extent I would like. They’re still all mostly separate, engaging in some pretty wild high jinks, but it’s a start.
What I really want is for the Titans to take off the costumes and interact with each other like normal, ordinary human beings. But maybe that still remains a pipe dream.
But even with these new individual plots, Pfeifer just doesn’t stick the landings. Almost everything feels as forced as Lindsey Naegle trying to plan the perfect Poochie. He clearly had the idea that all of the Titans would go viral online, but by the very nature of going viral, you can’t just force it to happen. I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to fully buy into these scenarios.
And, of course, I’m still not sold on Manchester Black being anything more than an annoyance. Pfeifer clearly loves him, his open coats and his colorful, hairy chest. Manchester has been the driving force in this comic since Pfeifer took over, moving the Titans where they need to go and introducing almost every single bad guy to some degree. But Pfeifer doesn’t make him compelling. Pfeifer just gives him speech after speech after speech, to the point that Red Robin is almost rolling his eyes in their last scene together.
Teen Titans #8 was an improvement in the general direction of the series, but a few of Will Pfeifer’s plots and subplots just aren’t connecting with me as much as I would like.