Review: Teen Titans #9

After a long break thanks to Convergence, we’re finally back to regular coverage of Teen Titans. And unfortunately, that old adage of ‘good things come to those who wait’ bears little to no meaning on this poor comic book. Unlike the rest of DC Comics’ line in June, Teen Titans is not getting a makeover or a new creative team. We’re jumping right back in to where we left off with the stuffy writing of Will Pfeifer and the uncomfortable art of Kenneth Rocafort. You’re all better off reading We Are Robin. I’ve got a feeling that’s going to star far more interesting teenagers.

Teen Titans #9

Teen Titans #9 is just an uncomfortable, unwelcoming comic book. It’s not bad, I suppose, but it’s not somewhere I want to be.

Comic Review: 5/10 – Alright.

Teen Titans was just kicking off a brand new storyline when Convergence came along and slammed on the brakes. Superboy has returned, and he’s wanted for killing a bunch of people in suburbia. But those people were really Durlans, the shapeshifting aliens of DC, and he probably didn’t kill them after all. Red Robin and several Titans have gone into hiding to help Superboy uncover the truth, while Wonder Girl and the new Power Girl have joined STAR Labs in hunting down the Boy of Steel. Manchester Black, Pfeifer’s favorite character, has even given the Girls a new team of Titans to help them out — a team that somehow includes a returned Kid Flash.

There’s just something uninviting about Teen Titans #9. The art is all sharp angles, slender characters and muted colors. It’s Rocafort’s usual style, but I think I’m zeroing in on what I don’t like about him on Teen Titans. The pages feel cramped and glum. The characters are never having any fun. The story itself is alright, I suppose. The characters are all largely on point. But Pfeifer never really makes this story about the characters, it’s always about his plot. Here we’ve got a perfect opportunity to follow the Titans on the run or meet the new STAR Labs Titans, but we don’t really do either. Pfeifer writes a nice scene with Beast Boy and Bunker, but those are the only characters who seem to ever get any personality.

We don’t spend any real time with Superboy, despite the weight of the world being on his shoulders. And we spend even less time with the new Titans, including Kid Flash — who is a returned Bart Allen, for reasons that are never explained! It’s just tossed off that this is Bart, back from both time and space, and randomly back to being Kid Flash for STAR freakin’ Labs!

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

We open in Chicago, where Red Robin and the new friendly Durlan, Chimera, are installing warning sensors on the tallest building. It’s a nice little scene and actually provides a little character development for Chimera — who I think should just be the new Miss Martian — but there’s no energy or spark of life to the conversation.

She’s too new to have a Wikipedia page yet for this stuff

They get to talking about Superboy, who Red Robin says is blowing off some steam flying around, using a nearby airport for cover. Chimera thinks it would be safer if he just stayed in the apartment, but Red Robin insists that Superboy needs to unwind every once and awhile. Not sure I’ve ever heard that before about him, but Pfeifer tells us that’s the case. Red Robin and Chimera return to the apartment — because Robin is big on using apartments as secret bases — and turn on the news to get everybody caught up on Superboy’s problems. It’s that old trope of turning on TV and immediately finding the special news report you wanted.

Meanwhile, Bunker, Raven and Beast Boy don their civvies and head out into town. They try to stay undercover, but they’re recognized immediately.

Parrots aren’t hipster enough for them to blend in

See what I mean about the art? Even Beast Boy’s green coloring is drab. The faces of Bunker and Raven look sickly, especially red noses that would rival Rudolph. Though I suppose some of those problems come down to colorist Dan Brown.

Soon a whole crowd of people are surrounding the Titans, who were turned into minor celebrities earlier in Pfeifer’s book. People want autographs, they want to know if Raven is going to be at the concert later, and Beast Boy turns into a little teddy bear in support of the Chicago Cubs. A good time is being had by all.

Then there’s a brief cutaway to STAR Labs, where Manchester Black and his crew are searching for any sign of the wayward Titans. Black is confident that they’re going to slip up eventually.

Speaking of which, all the crowding in Chicago suddenly knocks a woman onto the train tracks — though you’d be hard-pressed to see how, based on the art.

At least the dialogue tells us it happens

So the woman has fallen, the train is coming, and the Titans leap into action. Except the weirdest things start to happen, but they’re not intentionally weird.

First, Beast Boy apparently now emits a cloud of green smoke when he transforms?

No explanation for why it’s not red smoke

He didn’t do that a moment ago when he transformed from the parrot to the teddy bear. And cheetah? Really? Isn’t he supposed to know all about animals? He’s not in the wide open savanna, how does he plan on using the cheetah’s speed in this cramped Chicago street?

Then, for absolutely no reason, Bunker can’t simply use his powers to save the woman.

This is an actual comic book panel

Um, what? What the heck are you talking about? Clear angle? Your bricks build themselves based on your mental commands, so why are you having so much trouble just reaching down with a big brick hand and grabbing her? You look like you’re just chucking a bunch of random bricks into the air. But you’re already above the crowd, so just fly over there and grab her. But nope, his powers suddenly don’t work due to the ‘angles’, which leaves only one person to save her.

Has he always had bright red energy powers? I don’t remember…

Superboy saves the woman and carries her to safety, and of course the crowd immediately starts being afraid of him. A cop shows up and tells him he’s under arrest — all the good cliches of a mistrusted hero in a big crowd scene. And, of course, it’s the sort of scene that Manchester Black was waiting for. He gathers his team of Titans.

Wonder Girl and Power Girl are sparring elsewhere in the facility, which is always a good way to deliver exposition. And Kid Flash is just there. Since introductions were made off-panel, there’s absolutely zero reaction from Cassie about Bart being back. Though they don’t call him Bart, at least not yet. For a moment, I held out hope that Manchester Black had simply found another speedster and gave him the Kid Flash identity.

Oh, also, Guardian, Klarion and somebody named Trinity are along for the ride.

Trinity? Yawn.

Don’t strain yourself trying to be curious about them. It won’t get you anywhere.

Back in Chicago, the crowd has turned on the Titans, so Superboy grabs them all up and flies them away. The STAR Titans teleport to the scene, and Kid Flash is somehow able to use a device to pinpoint their exact destination, down to the individual apartment.

Calculating it based on what? They’re not there anymore. And if you’re following some kind of residual energy, how does it get you to their exact apartment? Superboy won’t actually arrive there for another page or two!

Superboy smashes through the window of said apartment with his team, angering Red Robin. They’re supposed to be keeping a low profile. But it doesn’t matter, because the other Titans have already found them. And here’s where Cassie just casually drops the fact that Kid Flash is Bart Allen.

And casually drops some early 00s slang, because that’s how teenagers talk

Cassie then smashes down the door and demands that they hand over Superboy.

First, the elephant in the room: Bart Allen is back. I really, really hope Pfeifer has a good explanation or plan for this. Kid Flash and Solstice were abandoned in the far future on the other side of the galaxy, imprisoned for their heinous crimes in the worst story from Lobdell’s run on the comic. Solstice MURDERED A JUDGE because she loved Bart so much that she couldn’t leave him behind. It was ridiculous and I was happy to see them both exit the title.

But now, not only is Kid Flash back without Solstice, but he’s apparently on some rogue Titans team at STAR Labs? Why didn’t he contact his friends? How did STAR get him? WHERE’S SOLSTICE? How much you want to bet that Solstice is going to be completely ignored and glossed over, just like Beast Boy’s formerly red fur.

It’s even worse that Kid Flash’s return is barely an afterthought in this bigger storyline. This could have been a whole new story, maybe turning Kid Flash into an antagonist or something. But nope, he’s just randomly a part of this new rogue Titans team, alongside nobodies like Klarion, Guardian and this ridiculous Trinity person. Just like how Pfeifer has largely ignored the new Power Girl since she was dropped into this book, so too does he ignore these random new characters he’s thrown at us. It probably doesn’t help that Klarion’s solo comic has already been cancelled.

I think this is my major problem with Pfeifer’s tenure on Teen Titans. And it was my major problem with Scott Lobdell, the original writer: why do these guys push plot ahead of character?!

It’s made even worse by the fact that Pfeifer can write good character scenes! His Bunker/Beast boy scenes have always been great, and he’s been doing a good job involving Raven with those guys. The opening dialogue between Red Robin and Chimera has a chance to be interesting and maybe build some kind of rapport between them. There is a history of Robins falling for orange alien women on the Teen Titans, after all. But Robin and Chimera are too busy establishing the Superboy plot, explaining it to the reader instead of using this time to actually show us that Superboy needs to get out and fly around so that he doesn’t feel cooped up. Classic ‘show, don’t tell’ failure.

And the Beast Boy and Bunker scene is fine, until Pfeifer turns it into a plot point, first by once again playing up his ‘the Titans are celebrities’ plot, and then having it lead to Superboy exposing himself. Wonder Girl and Power Girl get a sparring session, but it’s used to get everybody back up to speed on who Power Girl is, even though Pfeifer has yet to do anything with her. She’s still kind of just tagging along in all of this for no discernible reason. And I already mentioned how little panel time the new Titans get.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the only way we’re ever going to care about the plot is if we care about the characters first. Pfeifer has some great characters at his disposal here. They could have great relationships and friendships and more. But for too long, the Teen Titans have only been action figures in their own comic book.

I would have liked it if DC’s new paradigm had fixed Teen Titans, but it seems we’re going back to the garbage from before. At least those two months were a nice vacation.

——————

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 June 25, 2015, in Comics, DC, Robin and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’m a hard-core Titans fan, but even I dropped this book after Convergence. If there is a book that needs to get DC YOU-ed up, it’s this one. Dump Rocafort and Pfeiffer. BRIBE Gillen and McKelvie away from Marvel if you must, but get them on this title or it’s going to die.

    The sales for this book say it all: the pre-Convergence issues were at 20K, while they shot up to 40K during Convergence. People were probably glad to see a different version of the Titans than the ones Pfeiffer was writing about- even if the Convergence issues weren’t good, at least that version of the characters had chemistry and history in their past as opposed to the current blank slates.

    Come on, DC. Stop treating the Titans so badly :/

    I hear Beast Boy is going to be recruited into Justice League Unlimited- here’s hoping that at least then Gar will get some decent writing.

  2. Bart’s return probably has something to do with the unholy mess that is Convergence, which was basically a Get Out of Jail free card for DC to shuffle their characters.
    There was a big editor meeting where they discussed the best characters to bring back, and since everyone LOVED Bart (both old Bart Allen and the e-e-edgy Bart Tor), clearly he’s the best choice!
    No one really cared about Solstice anyway, and now they have another dark-skinned girl to replace her, so what the hell, let’s just roll with this!

    I feel like everyone in DC kinda gave up and just letting this book roll, because clearly no one has any vision for it. Maybe they’ve decided to try cornering the youth market with We Are Robin instead? (And maybe killing this book will free Red Robin for other books.)

    The art is interesting by itself, and definitely unique, but a terrible fit for this book. I would have liked this look for other books that try to be edgy and unusual, like Inhuman, which has looked so bad lately it’s hard to take it seriously.

    • I don’t think it’s Convergence. Teen Titans #9 is clearly just a continuation of the last issue, in which Kid Flash was teased. I don’t think this is a multiverse shake-up. I think Pfeifer really thinks he has a story to tell here. I’m quite hesitant to find out the details.

      • Perhaps we are better off not knowing the darkness that lurks in Pfeifer’s head. Considering he doesn’t do much with the characters, I don’t see why bringing Kid Flash back would matter to him at all. Unless it is a setup to impress us with the ingenuity of the marvelous Manchester Black?

      • Ooooo, I think you just hit the nail on the head! Manchester Black probably invented a machine that can teleport people through time and space, he rescued Kid Flash and then graciously set him up as a Teen Titan again!

      • In that case, I wouldn’t mind for Manchester Black to demonstrate the use of his machine by sending himself 30,000 years into the future-
        And having Gar pull the plug on the machine. And then sitting on it as a T-Rex.

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