02 October, 2009

Teen Titans #75 Review


Teen Titans #75
Written by Felicia D. Henderson; co-feature written by Sean McKeever; Art by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson; co-feature art by Yildiray Cinar and Júlio Ferreira; Cover by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson; variant cover by Andy Clarke

First off, let me state the obvious: Felicia Henderson did not hit a home run with this issue. More like a double that got stretched out to a triple via a throwing error. The issue got close to home and has a very good shot at getting there, but whether it ends up scoring will depend on what follows. I think she did slightly worse than your average Sean McKeever at-bat, but loads better than Judd Winick striking-out swinging at a bad pitch.

The issue was basically a set-up issue, introducing the team and its concept, its principal characters, and how they relate to one another. Remember, this is the first issue of the new writer’s run, and thus responsible for the task of setting up the new status quo. Under such a situation, its generally good to assume that new era’s will mean an above-average number of new readers entering the book. Thus, this issue was primarily devoted to brief introductions to the principal characters involved, their interactions to establish how they relate to one another, some hints at the conflicts they will be facing, and where everyone will possibly be going from here on out. Now obviously, those of us who have been following this series for a very long time have all gone through this before, more times than we care to recount (especially in recent history), so to many of us this sort of thing is old hat. In that way the introductory aspect of the issue does come off as a mixed blessing - a good intro for new readers unfamiliar with the characters and wanting some idea as to who they are, but a little annoying to those of us who are already familiar with them and would prefer it if they got on with the story already. I’m willing to let it pass for the moment, but acknowledge the frustration.

The writing was mostly acceptable. A tad melodramatic at times (the panel with Gar holding an unconscious Raven’s hand and declaring his love looks and reads like it came out of a 1960s romance comic book!), but the characters generally sounded right and their personalities shined through. The humor didn’t seem forced (unlike, sadly, Pat McCallum’s Titans issue), and in general the dialogue felt natural for the characters. There were some points where the scene shifts were a little jarring (the page where we go from Jamie berating Gar to Megan in Bombshell’s room felt a little strange), something that could have been easily rectified with a few well-placed narrator boxes saying “Meanwhile...” or “Elsewhere...” or “Later...”. Hopefully, as Ms. Henderson becomes more comfortable with writing in the medium, these sort of rough edges will disappear. But for right now, while they can be a little disconcerting to follow, I don’t think they are a major impediment to the story.

As everyone around here knows, I’m a big Gar Logan fan, so I for one was pleased to see him returning to the team and taking it over. I realize that this disappoints a number of Cassie fans, but lets be honest: Cassie hasn’t really been coming off well as a leader for quite some time, long before even Eddie’s death. People around here have been bitching about it for ages. So frankly, taking the time off from the responsibility might just be the best thing for her, time to get her confidence back together and rediscover who she is. Don’t worry, she’ll be back in the saddle some day. But for right now, she’s not really going anywhere, so its not like she’s being dropped into limbo. The only part about the hand-over I mildly disliked was that I thought Gar’s little speech to the group was a little annoying, though I will acknowledge it was mostly in character for him (still, I probably would have handled it differently).

As for Raven, I was glad to see her depicted as something other than the prickly bitch established by Judd Winick. So long as we keep that interpretation strictly confined to Titans, I’ll be happy (especially now that its looking like Titans is going to be sinking into relative obscurity fairly quickly). Interested to know what this empath villain is, and suspect it’s a set-up for something that will be important to the post-Blackest Night world of the Teen Titans.

The one thing I really, really disliked about the issue was the set up of conflict between Blue Beetle and Beast Boy. I really like Jaime, and think he and Gar would get along greatly. But as Bill Walko has pointed out, for dramatic purposes it was necessary that someone question the idea of Gar as leader, and by process of elimination the most obvious one was Blue Beetle. Doesn’t mean I like it, though. What’s more, some of Blue Beetle’s objections rang hollow to me - I did not think anything Gar did was somehow detrimental to leading the team (quite the opposite, in fact). Were the situation reversed and it were Traci 13 lying unconscious in serious condition, wouldn’t Jaime be doing much the same thing? That whole sequence just seemed kind of odd. I’m hoping that this is all just set-up for Gar to prove himself to the others that he’s the right man for the job; however, I can also see that this might be the seed from which Blue Beetle’s departure from the team is being laid. I will be very unhappy if the latter is the case.

In speaking of departures, I also get the sense that M’gann is also being set up to leave, which is another departure I don’t want to see. Nevertheless, I noticed that she’s in the preview for Justice League: Cry for Justice #4, so that might be an indication of what’s going to ultimately happen to her. Personally, Bombshell and Aquagirl are the two Teen Titans I have the least interest in, so I’d rather see them go than any of the others. As for those who are still yearning for the return of Conner or Bart, be patient; I think Didio’s most recent answer session made it plain Conner at least would return once he gets booted off Adventure Comics (a move which I agree is rather bone-headed). Bart seems less likely, especially with his own book coming up, but I do think he’ll probably show up from time to time.

Also liked seeing Dr. Mid-Nite as a guest star. I get the impression that Ms. Hendeson is also a JSA fan, since her name is also attached as one of the writers of the JSA 80-Page Giant coming out later this month.

A word on the art: it seemed rushed in places, but was mostly good. I loved Gar’s “Roach with Attitude” pose; Bennett has a good eye for catching the little nuances of character. Nevertheless, he’s done better work, and hope to see more of that in the future.

Don't have much to say about the Ravager co-feature, except that I liked the scene with Ravanger and Miss Martian.

Overall, I’m giving this issue Four stars out of five, although I think my real score is closer to 3.75. A decent, acceptable start to the run, but a lot still depends on what is made of it from here on out.

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