Review: Teen Titans #11
Okay, I’m calm now. As you may recall, I thought the last issue of Teen Titans was an utter abomination. It was full of random, pointless character moments, crummy art and a general sense of terrible pacing and storytelling. It was a monster. But time heals all wounds, and I’m back to see if Teen Titans #11 is any better. Good news, it is! But only because all that prior insanity is behind us. I’m OK with the fact that Wonder Girl’s team is randomly called ‘The Elite’. I’m OK that Trinity exists in the face of all logic. I’m OK that Chimera is now a full member of the Teen Titans with little to no fanfare. I’m OK with the fact that Kid Flash is back for no particular reason.
I think I’ve fallen too far down the rabbit hole of suckitude to ever ‘enjoy’ an issue of Teen Titans again, but the new issue is serviceable. The story is straight forward, so that helps. And writer Will Pfeifer keeps most of his worst characters in check.
Comic Rating: 4/10 – Pretty Bad.
If any comic was in need of ‘Batgirling’ in the wake of Convergence, it was Teen Titans. The book has been terrible since the launch of the New 52. There is zero focus on the main characters, some of whom have never even been seen out of costume. Teen Titans is all about what random villain the characters can be thrown at next, it’s never about the characters themselves, which has become a cornerstone of good comics this year. Batgirl is popular because it focuses on Barbara Gordon, among many other good reasons. Same with Hawkeye or Harley Quinn or Ms. Marvel. But Teen Titans remains the silly action figure comic it has been since the start of the New 52.
And it boggles the mind even further to remember that Teen Titans got a relaunch and a new #1 issue last year! Why the heck did that happen?! Pfeifer hasn’t done anything differently than previous writer Scott Lobdell.
But I’m rambling. Teen Titans #11 sees one half of the team try to break into a supermax prison, and that focus helps to keep the book from flailing painfully out of control. There’s another new artist, who’s both good and bad. Basically, Teen Titans continues to be a pretty terrible comic overall, but this issue softens the blow.
The end of the last issue saw Red Robin and Raven confronting Manchester Black for sending his Elite after them, but when Raven peered into Black’s mind, he zapped her with some kind of debilitating psychic vision. It’s best not to try and understand how he did that. Pfeifer loves Manchester Black. The guy can do no wrong, cannot be beaten and is always 20 steps ahead of everybody else in the room. Just go with it, he’s not in this issue very much.
Raven has been knocked out cold by the vision, so Red Robin picks her up and jumps with her out the window, easy peasy. Somehow, Black forgot that Red Robin could fly. And even though he just told Red Robin that there was no escape, he doesn’t bother to send any of his own fliers after them. Black is too cool to worry about that now, he’s got to light up a badass cigarette and crow about how he knows exactly where the Titans are going.
Two days later, Red Robin has reunited with Beast Boy, Bunker and Chimera, and they’re hiding out in an abandoned storefront so that Raven can recuperate and the rest of them can come up with a plan for infiltrating the M.A.W. maximum security prison. Superboy is still on the loose, but they’re going to go ahead with their plan to break into the prison, find out who is really behind those murders and get a confession that clears Kon’s name.
I’d like to take a moment here to nitpick at how easily Chimera has become a member of the Teen Titans. It was the same with Power Girl. Pfeifer just doesn’t include any pomp or circumstance with this sort of thing. For all their talk about how close-knit they are (and Red Robin has a whole spiel about ‘family’ in this scene) you’d think they would actually care about who comes and goes from the team. But nope, after two or three issues, Chimera is as much a member of the team as anybody else. Heck, she started out as Superboy’s partner, but she’s pretty much ditched him completely to instead be a Teen Titan, with no acknowledgement from anybody of this fact.
I’d complain some more, but I actually kind of like Chimera. She’s got a cool look, I love the color orange and she’s got mimicry powers, which are one of my favorites. So I’ll allow it.
Also, here’s a good place to point out the skill — or lack thereof — of guest artist Ricken…who apparently only has one name? I think he’s from Japan, and new to the industry. In the pic I posted above, you can see that his Bunker and Chimera are a little ill-defined, but then his Beast Boy is a cut above the rest in terms of detail and cuteness. So I kinda like Ricken’s art, but he could definitely use a bit more experience.
Anyway, moving on, we jump to the Metropolis Armory Ward (M.A.W.), a supermax prison that holds a bunch of super-villains. A quick Google search reveals that the M.A.W. was introduced in Superman Unchained, so at least this isn’t a brand new supermax. Considering how many super-prisons there tend to be in comics, I thought for sure this was brand new. Wouldn’t surprise me.
Anyway again, Beast Boy sneaks in as a mouse and finds a computer terminal (any terminal will do), where he uploads a command sequence from Red Robin to help them break in. And then he throws his sneakiness right out the window.
Why the hell didn’t he take out the guard before he opened his mouth and gave away his position? Of course, the guard finds him out immediately, so Beast Boy transforms into a giant bear to scare him. Then he shrinks back down into a cockroach, and all of the other guards left confused as to why their comrade is shouting about a giant bear. They brush it off as a psychic attack from one of the prisons and go about their day.
Red Robin and the others are hiding out in a supply closet inside the prison, waiting for Beast Boy to give the signal. He brought Raven with him, who is still knocked out from Black’s psychic assault. But Red Robin doesn’t need her to fight, he just needs her to wake up a little bit to tell him who they need to find in the prison. The obvious question then becomes: why didn’t he get this information from her at any point in the past three days while they were hanging low in the safe house?!
Seriously, instead of just getting the name from her back home, Red Robin brought an incapacitated Raven to the maximum security prison, somehow transporting her prone body from the safe house to Metropolis and then sneaking her into a supply closet in a heavily guarded prison. Then he orders Bunker to just stand around and guard Raven in the supply closet while she and Chimera go after the prisoner. So he’s automatically down two people, both of whom will be in great danger. Not his best plan.
Anyway, Raven reveals that they need to find Despero, and Ricken does a pretty stellar job of reminding us about Despero.
With the plan in place, Red Robin heads to the nearest door and inputs a 3-digit command that should grant him access. That was the whole point of Beast Boy’s earlier infiltration. But when he taps the 3 buttons, the whole prison opens up and all of the prisoners go free. That was not part of his plan (and a quick cutaway to Manchester Black reveals that it was probably his plan, because Manchester Black is so awesome that he can sabotage either a maximum security super-prison or Red Robin’s hack).
Red Robin and Chimera head out into the prison and are immediately captured by Blockbuster, who recognizes Robin. Chimera quick absorbs Bunker’s powers to take out Blockbuster. They don’t get two steps before they’re then interrupted by Livewire, and Chimera takes her out as well. Villains are just lining up for them now.
When the electricity dies down, Red Robin starts to panic about how many people are probably being killed because of the escaped prisoners. But Chimera tells him to focus on the task at hand. So they do! Rather than fix this mistake that they are at least partially responsible for, Red Robin and Chimera focus on going after Despero in the lower cells. I guess all those prison guards should have known better than to get jobs at the M.A.W.
As they head downstairs, we check in briefly with Bunker and Raven. She’s still mostly out of it, and he’s put up a big, purple brick wall. But they’re also surrounded by an army of angry super-villains. So, again, not Red Robin’s best plan.
Next, something big and red streaks into the prison, crashing down through all the floors to find Red Robin and Chimera. Manchester Black, despite being in his New York penthouse, knows exactly what it is, and he finally tells his Elite to go lend a hand with the prison riot. I’d also like to point out that he once again tells Kid Flash to run there first while the others teleport, because he’s still convinced that it’s in any way beneficial for Kid Flash to arrive separately from the rest of his team.
Anyway, the big red streak is Superboy. He’s arrived at the M.A.W. and wants his life back from Despero. Not sure why this is played as a big, issue-ending surprise, but it is. It’s not like we haven’t seen him for awhile.
The prison break-in gives Teen Titans #11 a solid focus, and Pfeifer uses that to at least not be as terrible or all over the place as he was in the last issue. There are still plenty of lazy plotholes and character development, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from Teen Titans. This comic has no depth, not of character or plot. Pfeifer comes up with some conflict and then works his action figures through that conflict, unconcerned about making any sense.
Like, why is it a big surprise that Superboy shows up in the end? We saw him last issue and he flew off, and no reason was given why he didn’t just meet up with Red Robin and the others in the safe house.
Teen Titans is full of that kind of meandering plotting. Things happen, Pfeifer seems to think they’re important, but as someone who has been reading right along, these ‘twists’ don’t land how they’re supposed to. Why are the Titans risking so much and endangering so many people? To prove Superboy’s innocence? There aren’t better or easier ways to do that?
Teen Titans is not a good comic. It hasn’t been in a very long time, and I don’t know if it can or will ever be saved. To an extent, it’s marginally readable. But these are not interesting, relatable heroes, and these are not airtight, interesting stories.
Teen Titans is bad comics.