Review: Teen Titans #17
Here we go! Buckle up, boys and girls, because the next era of Teen Titans is upon us! New writer Greg Pak takes the reigns, at least for a little while, hoping to right this stagecoach for a few issues, until Rebirth comes along to maybe change everything up again. It’s a little hard to get excited about the new writer when there’s every indication that nothing will stick. But I’ve stuck with Teen Titans this long, and I’m always eager for something new from this series.
So it’s damn exciting that Greg Pak immediately and unequivocally solves one of my biggest complaints about this series. This is close to being the Teen Titans I’ve always wanted.
Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.
The biggest problem with Teen Titans in the New 52, and even in DCYou, is that the characters are treated as little more than action figures. They are costumed superheroes first, people second. All they do is fight bad guys, bouncing from one random opponent to the next. Famously, Red Robin never once removed his costume when Will Pfeifer was writing the series. There was apparently no interest in addressing the Teen Titans as teenagers or youngsters or human beings. They were action figures, trapped in a strange mess of stories, many of which were likely tugged back and forth by demanding editorial.
I may never understand why Teen Titans was so shackled when things like Batgirl, Ms. Marvel, Young Avengers and Teen Titans Go! were allowed to exist.
Teen Titans #17 doesn’t fix everything. Pak and DC don’t go for the nuclear option. This is still the same team, carrying on the same storyline, and existing in the same New 52 world. But Pak treats them as people for the first time in a long time. There is more characterization in this one issue than in Pfeifer’s entire run. There are character moments that legitimately shocked me for how little we’ve seen that level of depth. And for once, the threat doesn’t come from some outside force, but from within. For once, the Teen Titans are driving their own story.
And you better believe that Tim Drake shows up in this comic! Join me after the jump to see for yourself!
We open in the Adirondacks, which, surprisingly, is sort of in my neck of the woods. The Adirondacks are a mountain range in Central and Northern New York. That’s me!
The Titans are laying low in a remote cabin, because they’re still fugitives from before. Tim Drake is working to get their names cleared, but he’s doing it under the table instead of in costume. Cassie Sandsmark is going a little stir crazy, and not just because she hears a voice calling to her. Tim arrives to snap her back to reality, and he looks great. Have I ever mentioned that this issue’s artist, Ian Churchill, is one of my favorites? He’s got a very detailed, character-oriented style.
The gunshot is a couple of deer hunters further out in the woods, and coming from a Central New Yorker, that’s not uncommon. Lots of hunters out here. But Pak makes sure to have the hunters mention that they’re hunting out of season, so that it’s not too weird when the entire Titans team comes out of the woodwork to stop them. It’s kind of overkill. But it does give the book a big team splash page, so fine, whatever.
The next day, the Titans are in Delaware, making a stop at a convenience store to stock up on supplies. They’re all out of costume, acting like normal people, and bantering like friends. It’s pretty great.
While they’re in the store, Cassie shoplifts a pair of sunglasses, and Tim and the others catch her in the act. But Cassie blows it off as just a bit of fun. Tim can tell something is wrong.
As they bunker down in a motel, Cassie has a few flashbacks to her childhood. It was revealed a long time ago that her father is Lennox, a guest star in Brian Azzarello’s amazing Wonder Woman comic from a few years ago. Lennox was a demi-god, like Wonder Woman, so Cassie is part god. Why this origin hasn’t been followed up on until now is anybody’s guess. I loved Lennox in Wonder Woman, and was pretty excited when they revealed he was Cassie’s dad. That would have made for some great crossover material back when the New 52 mattered.
Now, Cassie is growing more and more restless. The Titans aren’t doing anything superheroic, and are instead wanted fugitives. She used to be a thief, which Tim suspects was all a ploy to get attention. But he’s worried that the team’s current status quo is causing her to regress. He explains all of this to Bunker in the stand out scene of the issue.
First of all, I’ve been a big fan of the Tim/Cassie thing since Scott Lobdell introduced it ages ago! It was a new relationship, and it would have added some great drama to the team. But it went nowhere, and Pfeifer ignored it completely. So I’m thrilled that Pak is immediately bringing it back.
Second, I can’t remember the last time Tim and Miguel had a scene together, let alone one this good. They’re both out of costume, both just relaxing and acting like normal people. This is the sort of easy friendship I want to see in a team book like Teen Titans. This is what was missing from Pfeifer’s run, the casual comfortableness of friendship. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen it between Tim and Miguel, but after all these years, surely these guys are friends, right?
It’s a small moment, but honestly, it’s like a breath of fresh air in Teen Titans.
Elsewhere, Cassie expresses some of her frustrations to her other teammates. She thinks they should be out doing awesome stuff instead of hiding. Pak hints at a Beast Boy/Raven pairing (yawn), then moves on to having Raven trying to get Cassie to open up. Instead, Cassie flies away to answer that voice that has been calling to her.
Nine hours later, she arrives in London and lands on the roof of a building. Inside is the voice that has been calling to her. The Teen Titans immediately teleport to her location, in full costume, which raises a lot of weird questions. Like…were they all just sitting around in costume for nine hours waiting for Cassie to land?
But the team doesn’t have a chance to ask Cassie what’s going on, because they’re suddenly and immediately attacked by an army of hyena men. The Titans leap into action to fight, and also save some nearby roof workers.
It’s a fun bit of action, and Pak and Churchill have a nice handle on pretty much everything. It’s not just mindless action. They fight hyenas, they save roof workers, it’s good times.
In the middle of the fight, Cassie breaks through the roof to get down into the apartment inside. But she’s shocked to discover her father’s stone head on the mantle in the apartment! Yeah, Lennox kind of, sort of got turned to stone when he teamed up with Wonder Woman.
At that moment, the villain Cassandra arrives, having been behind the hyena army. She tells Cassie that she’s a god and part of the extended Olympus family. Cassie is confused, but Cassandra is offering answers, which is a lot more than the Teen Titans have to offer. Cassie can feel it deep inside that Cassandra is telling the truth, so she goes with her as they teleport away. The Titans are left befuddled, and that’s when we find out exactly whose apartment they’re in.
Now that is a damn good cliffhanger!
I liked this issue a lot. Greg Pak arrives on the scene, with Ian Churchill in tow, and they immediately show us what a good Teen Titans book can be. The focus is clearly on the characters themselves, and I love that. During Pfeifer’s 16 issues, the focus was always on Manchester Black and S.T.A.R. Labs, and how the Titans reacted to what Black was doing to them. And when it wasn’t Black, it was some strange new threat. Remember when Alpha Centurion came out of nowhere for an issue? Jeez louise.
Here, the drama and the threat come from within the team, specifically Wonder Girl. Tim is worried about her, the team has to deal with her rash behavior. They have to think of each other, for once. And with those thoughts comes some fun characterization.
And look at how easily Pak writes the team together. If you dress them down and let them relax for a moment, the dialogue and banter come easily, and it’s a lot more fun to read that quips on a battlefield.
Pak doesn’t fix everything with his first issue, but he starts to address some of the problems I’ve had with Teen Titans, and the book is a lot more fun because of it. Of course, all of this could be for naught when Rebirth comes around in a few months.