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Review: Teen Titans Annual #1

Hey everybody, Superboy is back! Remember when he died? Or was…replaced by an evil impostor…who I think also died? Does anybody remember what happened to Superboy? All I remember is that it was really really dumb, and really really confusing, and that the Teen Titans were completely out of the loop. I don’t think they ever knew about the impostor. But regardless of whatever insanity happened a year or so ago, Superboy is back in Teen Titans Annual #1, and he brings with him some much needed team drama!

Teen Titans Annual #1

Unfortunately, the Annual issue is hampered by some pretty terrible art. So I finally get what I want, the Teen Titans are the actual star of their own comic, but I still can’t appreciate it because this is one ugly comic.

Comic Rating: 5/10 – Alright.

Despite this being an Annual issue, the Teen Titans story continues from right where it left off, only now with extra pages and a new co-writer in tow. Tom King pays a visit from his successful Grayson comic to lend regular writer Will Pfeifer a hand with Teen Titans Annual #1. The two are paired as co-scripters, according to the credits, with the actual plot courtesy of King. Is this a sign that he might be taking over? I have no idea.

But King brings with him a much-needed focus on the Teen Titans themselves. Pfeifer has been a pretty poor presence on the franchise, and my biggest complaint with him so far is that none of his stories really focus on the Teen Titans themselves. Pfiefer has been too obsessed with either pet characters, like Manchester Black, or whatever new super-villain plot he’s brought to the table. All of that changes, for the most part, with this Annual issue, and I’m very happy with that. But the art by the alternating team of Alisson Borges and Wes St. Claire just can’t keep up.

Superboy is back in the Teen Titans’ lives, and he’s brought a lot of baggage with him. News reports claim that he’s responsible for murdering 21 people in cold blood. Obviously, there’s a lot more to that story than what the news media is reporting, but for now, it’s got the individual Titans at each others’ throats over whether they need to help their old friend or turn him over to the authorities.

That makes for good team drama, so at the very least, Teen Titans Annual #1 is a step in the right direction. I may come to regret this later on, but I think I’m going to get my hopes up, if only just a little bit.

Join me after the jump for a full synopsis and more review!

The Annual kicks off where the last issue ended, with only a few minor continuity flubs. Those are to be expected, sadly. Superboy wakes up in the middle of a street in Fairfax, Virginia, surrounded by 21 dead bodies, and one injured survivor: Ruth Lauer.

Definitely not a job for Superman

Red Robin and Manchester Black are still at the crime scene from the previous story, and Red Robin immediately begins checking in with the various Titans to see if they’ve heard the news. The last time we saw Bunker and Beast Boy, they were on the set of Comedy Tonight. And the last time we saw the new Power Girl, she was hanging out with Wonder Girl. But now the three of them are all in Bunker and Beast Boy’s apartment, following the news on Twitter.

I think Power Girl has changed back into her Wonder Girl Groupie costume…which will become even weirder, when she randomly changes back into her new Power Girl costume later on, but that’s what happens when there are two different artists

Raven is still with her band friends, taking PR photos to put on a new T-shirt line. So far, the band’s shirts are only black and white, which one band member says is a metaphor for good and evil. Raven asks if she can have one to give to a friend.

Wonder Girl, meanwhile, is quietly freaking out by herself over this violent return of Superboy. If I recall correctly, she and Kon maybe hooked up once or twice? I don’t really remember because former writer Scott Lobdell never made it a very big deal. If anything, the real relationship drama was between Cassie and Tim, and I rather liked that pairing. But Pfeifer hasn’t touched that relationship, and instead Wonder Girl is really, really broken up by this Superboy news. She even has a picture of the two of them on her phone…but it’s a picture from a panel when Brett Booth was drawing the book, so there’s no explanation of who took this picture with Cassie’s phone…

Or who super-imposed the two of them over a background image of her face? What?

Red Robin goes to visit with Cassie in person to discuss these developments, and while he is 100% behind their friend, confident that Superboy couldn’t have killed those people, Wonder Girl believes that he’s more than capable. She knew that Superboy was a violent person, and it’s entirely possible that he really killed those poor people.

“Hold on, I’ve downloaded the Photoshop app.”

See? That’s good drama. The two leaders of the Teen Titans are split over whether or not their old friend is now a killer. But still, that is some really wonky art.

While the Titans gather their forces, Superboy has been arrested by the local Fairfax Police Department, who are holding him in lockup with regular, ordinary handcuffs. They’re visited by a mysterious detective, who is clearly the Martian Manhunter in disguise. He uses his powers to get a visit with Superboy, immediately turning on the Teen of Steel because, as it turns out, all of those people who were killed were secretly Durlans, and J’onzz is upset that Superboy slaughtered so many innocent aliens.

“I’m here to listen. I’m a good listener.”

Except that they’re maybe not so innocent.

The lone survivor, Ruth, is also at the police station, and when a detective shows up to interview her, she reveals that she is also a Durlan, and might be kind of evil.

She definitely looks evil

Ruth finds out about Superboy and the Manhunter and rushes into the holding room to confront them. Ruth says that Superboy didn’t kill the Durlans, but J’onzz doesn’t believe her. So Ruth absorbs his powers and becomes, I kid you not, a new version of Miss Martian?! Jus took at this panel!

Look at it!

Tell me that’s not Miss Martian! Granted, she’s a Durlan, but the original Miss Martian was a White Martian in disguise. Maybe the new one can be a Durlan in disguise.

Either way, Ruth grabs Superboy and the two of them flee the holding cell. She absorbs his powers to help fly, but absorbing so many powers at once makes her tired, and she eventually just faints and falls out of the sky, but not before telling him that he needs to find some friends to stay with. Superboy grabs her before she hits the ground, and decides that he has just the friends.

Meanwhile, the Titans have gathered in Bunker and Beast Boy’s apartment, where they are split as to what to do about Superboy. Red Robin, Raven, Bunker and Beast Boy want to help him, while Wonder Girl and Power Girl want to turn him in. This is also going to put a damper on their newfound celebrity status. Red Robin declares that they’re already helping, since Superboy reached out to him directly and is currently resting in the back bedroom.

“If you don’t like it, I’ll just take my team and go home!”

Wonder Girl gets pissed at Red Robin for making such a decision without them, leading to some real heated words between the two. Then she goes off and telephones Manchester Black to tell him what’s happened.

Meanwhile, Martian Manhunter tracks them down and attacks the apartment. The Titans and Superboy do their best to fight back and manage to knock the Martian out. Raven gave Superboy that band T-shirt she got earlier, and he immediately turns it into his new costume, which is clearly a callback to the T-shirt and jeans costume that he wore before the reboot. Is DC catering to the classic fans? I’m OK with that.

Trademark

After the dust settles, Wonder Girl and Power Girl remain firm, causing a split between the Teen Titans! This is seriously some good team drama. This is an actual moral conundrum, born from within the team itself. Here is a former team member and friend who is in a very tight spot. Do the Titans stick together? Or do they turn this suspected murderer over to the authorities? Despite the continually wonky art, this is some legitimately strong drama for the team to deal with. These are some strong character moments.

Albeit this is almost totally out of character for New 52 Tim Drake

In the end, Red Robin and his half of the team take off to go into hiding, to keep Superboy and Ruth safe. Wonder Girl and Power Girl stick around with Manchester Black, who reveals that he has an interesting surprise up his sleeve:

His own team of Teen Titans!

Titans Least

A quick aside: that can’t really be Kid Flash, can it? I mean, come on! That jerk was abandoned on the other side of the universe several thousands of years into the future! How would Manchester Black and S.T.A.R. Labs have any idea where to find him or how to get him back? I really hope that’s not Bart Allen. That storyline was an abomination, and I’d kind of hoped that DC locked that door behind them.

I hope it’s some new speeder who has simply taken the identity of Kid Flash. That would be far more interesting. Likewise, I’m kind of behind this alternate Titans team. It comes out of nowhere that Manchester Black has been training this team in secret, but whatever, I can deal with that. I can also deal with the fact that none of my favorite Titans are on the team. No Wonder Twins? Alas.

Anyway, in many respects, this was a pretty solid issue of Teen Titans. For once in Pfeifer’s run, the drama and action are actually borne from the Teen Titans themselves. That’s a pretty huge deal. For once, the story doesn’t come from some outside force acting against the Titans (granted, there are a bunch of aliens acting against the Titans, but those are secondary). The Titans themselves must decide whether or not to help Superboy, and they base those decisions on their actual characters. Red Robin considers Superboy a friend, and he formed the Teen Titans to help out other teen heroes, so of course he wants to help. But Wonder Girl was always worried about Kon, and Power Girl is brand new to the team and doesn’t know the guy, so it actually makes sense that they would choose the sides they do.

This is all good stuff…but it feels like too much too soon. This kind of character-based drama needs to be carried by well-developed characters, and that’s not the current Teen Titans. While I’m glad we’re getting it now, the Titans are not formed enough as characters to carry it with much efficiency. They do an OK job, and there are some good scenes here, but they just don’t ring as true as they could if the Titans were better characters.

But hey, at least they’re trying. Maybe Tom King is a really good influence on this series. If this is the start of more character-focused Teen Titans stories, then I am definitely on board.

I just wish DC had found some better artists. Borges and St. Claire just aren’t up to the high caliber standards of comics. They’re not bad artists, per se, but they’re not my cup of tea. Their lines are too wonky, their characters look too awkward, whether they’re standing still or shouting at each other or anything else. The characters come in some pretty odd shapes. The two artists jump back and forth with different scenes, and the transition is jarring no matter what. I realize that this is just an Annual issue, so fill-in artists make sense. But this is actually a pretty huge issue for the ongoing Teen Titans series, and it could have used better artists.

Though they absolutely nailed the new Miss Martian.

At least, I really hope she’s going to be a new Miss Martian. A Miss Durlan, perhaps?

—————

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About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on April 2, 2015, in Comics, DC, Reviews, Robin and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. The art is… yyyeah. Is King on board for the series, or just the annual? It sounds like King basically smacked Pfeiffer and put some much-needed blinders on him so there could be a focus on something, ANYTHING that wasn’t “Manchester Black is Awesome.”

    As for the second group of Titans… it could be interested. But unfortunately they’re being led by Manchester Black. They might as well be led by Poochie from the Simpsons.

    • I have no idea about King. I haven’t seen any articles about him taking over or staying on, but it says the plot was his, so maybe this whole Superboy storyline is his idea. But, of course, I’m afraid we won’t know that until after Convergence…

  2. I really wish the art would stay the same. The Rocafort art was really growing on me. So was the Bret Booth art. The art in this issue got a little bit… Squirrely.
    I can’t believe Kid Flash is back! Maybe the one sentenced into outer space or whatever was actually Inertia, Bart’s evil twin (or something)?

    • I liked Bret Booth’s art. It was a nice fight for the series. Rocafort, I still don’t know. He’s good, but I just don’t think he’s a good fit for Teen Titans.

      And I would be perfectly happy if Inertia is the new Kid Flash on the last page. I just really don’t want them bothering with Bart Allen again. That character was driven hard into the ground.

  3. Tom King will be writing Omega Men, and continue to share scripting duties in Grayson. No word on him staying on Teen Titans.

    It’s actually kinda impressive that King gives these characters chemistry despite them never having any before.

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