Review: Teen Titans #16
When writer Will Pfeifer joined Teen Titans, DC Comics felt so strongly about it that they restarted the series with a new #1 issue. It was supposed to be a new beginning, but somehow, inexplicably, Pfeifer seemed to drown himself in the exact same problems that buried Scott Lobdell’s tenure on the book. Rather than breath new life into the series, Pfeifer simply continued all of the worse traits of the Teen Titans in the New 52. But it’s over now…maybe. New writer Greg Pak takes over with the next issue. Will he be cursed with the same problems? Or will Pak, who has been writing a very excellent Action Comics recently, somehow find a way to make this series good? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
As for Pfeifer’s final issue, apparently he got the memo that he needed to clean as much house as humanly possible. He cleans out Teen Titans so quickly that you’d think he’d thrown a party while his parents were on vacation, only to find out they were coming home early.
Comics Rating: 3/10 – Bad.
Based on the solicitations for upcoming issues, it looks like Pak is going to keep the team relatively the same, and try to find new stories with them. I’m fine with that. I like the lineup just fine. The characters have potential. It’s the stories and the premise that need to be worked on. It remains a marvel to me that DC has kept Teen Titans the way it is, despite all outside influences in comics these days. When books like the new Batgirl or Ms. Marvel are getting so much attention, when the DC animated shows focus so heavily on vastly different versions of the team, why then is the comic book Teen Titans still a team of random characters fighting random supervillains with little to no continuity or consistency?
Teen Titans Go! has better consistency and character development.
This final issue is no different. Once again, the Titans go up against completely random bad guys for an issue full of gratuitous fighting. Once again, this comic is just a bunch of action figures being smashed together. The writing is pretty wretched as well, with Pfeifer embodying the worst superhero comic traits when it comes to the characters explaining what they’re doing on the page. It’s like Chris Claremont’s worst X-Men habits. And on top of that, someone at DC told Pfeifer to clear the slate a bit for Pak, so he finds several quick and dirty ways to shuffle characters out of the book. And considering how he brought those characters in, this has to be painful for him as a creator.
Teen Titans #16 reads like DC told Pfeifer not to let the door hit him on the way out, but they didn’t really mean it.
We open with all the Teen Titans sitting around the Robin’s Nest in Gotham City, grumbling about their fight last issue with Professor Pyg. Wonder Girl and the others have rejoined the rest of the team, so everybody’s together. Let me tell you right away: nothing in this issue picks up on last issue’s ending with Pyg or Brother Blood.
And in the series’ greatest bit of meta humor, Kid Flash says what we’re all thinking.
Red Robin returns a moment later, having guest-starred in Robin War last month. Everybody’s glad to see him, because everybody kind of wants to know what they’re going to do next, but Red Robin has no real idea. The Titans are still wanted fugitives, after all. But his concerns are interrupted when a random, masked bad guy arrives at the Nest. Just comes out of nowhere, completely random. This is how it works in Teen Titans.
He’s got a big gun and he wants to take Chimera, because she’s important all of a sudden. Here at the start of the book, Pfeifer manages to work in some OK banter.
The Teen Titans then proceed to kick the guy’s butt and unmask him to reveal another Durlan. Chimera says he’s wearing the uniform of the Royal Guard, and it turns out, he’s brought a whole army of Durlans with him to recover Chimera (whom they all refer to as Chimera, despite that being her Earth name).
So here we are, with zero warning or context, the Teen Titans fighting a giant army of aliens on top of a penthouse apartment. All in the name of Chimera, the Titan with the second-to-last amount of development as a character. We’ll get to the Titan with the least amount of development soon.
Also, if I may, I actually really like Chimera. I’m a sucker for characters with mimicky powers, and I liked how she was kind of a New 52 version of Miss Martian. I thought all of that would be pretty cool to explore. But Pfeifer’s Teen Titans run fell to garbage before he ever got a chance to do anything with her, and now she’s gone — oops, spoilers for a few pages from now.
So anyway, they fight. Here’s where the dialogue and storytelling begins to break down. All the characters, good and bad, just sort of start talking about what’s happening in a bland, blunt manner. Like, two Durlans explain how they’re able to stop Kid Flash, and more.
Who says that? “Let’s see how the others are faring?” Do you know you’re in a comic book, pal? Are you seriously drawing attention to the fact that this fight has zero choreography, and even though it’s supposedly taking place in a relatively small space, you’re just gonna shrug and wonder what else is going on?
Sure enough, we turn the page and check in on how the others are faring. Wonder Girl and Bunker are fighting Durlans. Beast Boy turns into a gorilla to fight some Durlans, who heavily narrate how they plan to stop him.
And then Beast Boy heavily narrates how he’s going to get out of it.
Then the guy from the beginning is on his feet again, and he gives a little monologue about how the other Durlans can’t seem to capture the Titans with all their scientific gadgets. He says that the only way that will work is if he uses strength.
And this is him using strength:
Sure enough, it knocks out all the Titans. I have no idea what he just did, but damned if it didn’t work just fine.
Then Raven pops up to fight back with her magick, only for one of the Durlans to literally say, “We’d never send a ship this far without a cleric among our crew,” as if this was a D&D party. The cleric then calls upon her own magicks to fight Raven.
The Durlans appear to win, but just as they begin to take Chimera, Red Robin rises to his feet and delivers another one of his ridiculously blind speeches about the ‘awesomeness’ of the Teen Titans.
Ugh, I think I hate these the worst. Look, any other version of the Teen Titans would probably deserve that speech. But I’ve read every single issue of the New 52 Teen Titans, and at no point have they developed team bonds as strong as Red Robin claims. But whatever. I’ve ranted about this before, and I just don’t have it in me anymore. Besides, Red Robin is now fighting the power of editorial mandate, and he can’t defeat that. Just like with Superboy a few issues ago, Chimera tells Robin that she’s not worth the trouble, and that she’s fine going back with the Durlans if it means the Teen Titans can live on.
Then she gives him a little kiss on the cheek, forever denying us the Red Robin/Chimera love story that I actually kind of wanted.
So there’s Chimera taken care of, never to be seen or heard from again. How about the rest of the clean up?
First up is Kid Flash, who disappeared off-panel and wrote the Titans a big goodbye letter.
The letter says that he’s going to leave and figure out how to get back to Solstice, who was left in the far future on the other side of the universe. So Kid Flash is gone. Chimera got a whole issue dedicated to a fight, but Kid Flash just slips away off-panel. Fine.
Next up is Reiser, the Titan with the least development. Do you remember Reiser? I should hope not. But he’s technically stuckaround, so he’s got to go as well.
They’ll get around to it.
Then the cops show up to arrest the Titans, but Raven teleports them away. No fuss, no muss.
Then we get a really weird epilogue. Set one week later, in Heaton, Pennsylvania, a group of semi-powered street punks have cornered a masked superhero in an alley, intent on killing him. But then the Teen Titans show up to stop them. Because that’s “where we’re needed”, a random alleyway in Heaton, PA.
At the very least, Scott Lobdell was given a chance to wrap up his Teen Titans storylines with a proper ending. Will Pfeifer is getting kicked out the door, told to rearrange the furniture how DC wants it before he’s gone. I can’t say I care all that much. Pfeifer’s run started with some promise, but it quickly sank. I’m not sure anybody is sad to see him go.
It’s probably not even fair to review this issue. This has ‘editorial mandate’ written all over it, with Pfeifer doing whatever he can to make it a smooth transition. Maybe he had plans for Chimera and Reiser. Maybe he had plans for Kid Flash. But none of that matters now. We’re all just going to put our heads down and not look back.
I honestly have no idea why DC Comics is so invested in keeping their Teen Titans comic in such a rut. It boggles the mind. The Teen Titans have had more animated versions, which have been around longer, than their Justice League cartoons. The Titans are so popular that DC started up the continuity-thrubbing Titans Hunt comic on the side to appease old school fans. There was talk of a Titans television show!
It’s not like the New 52 has been maintained anywhere else across the DC line. Every other series has changed hands, bucked expectations, shaken things up. Only Teen Titans continues to drag this one, horrendous status quo like a yolk around it’s neck.
Save us, Greg Pak. You’re our only hope…I guess.