Teen Titans #1 – Written by: Will Pfeifer; Artwork by: Kenneth Rocafort
Times Square bustles with the daily rush of humanity treading the pavement. Among the pedestrians walks demigoddess Cassie Sandsmark, A.K.A. Wonder Girl, chatting on her cell like everyone else. Suddenly, all video, cell and audio signals are interrupted by a masked person who, along with several henchmen, has hijacked a school bus full of children. Filled with hostages, the bus is on a collision course with S.T.A.R. Labs. Coordinating his team from atop a skyscraper, Red Robin calls in The Teen Titans. Can this amalgamation of awesome adolescent avengers save the day?
As far as introductory issues go, Teen Titans #1 does the bare minimum. It gives out the names for each team member, but seems to assume you know the basic background information already. For me, it isn’t that big a deal, but for new readers, it might feel a bit lacking. As far as establishing characteristics, again, it’s the bare minimum. Red Robin’s the leader, Cassie’s the muscle/”hot girl,” Beast Boy’s the jokester, Raven’s the “weird girl,” Bunker’s the token nonentity etc.
The majority of this issue, despite being very hastily paced, establishes setup for future issues. Who is this mysterious person who hijacked the bus? What do they have against S.T.A.R. Labs? What is S.T.A.R. Labs secret agenda – because, you know, it wouldn’t be a big, powerful organization if it didn’t have a secret agenda? (Seriously, it’s like writers these days think every fictional corporation has to be a subsidiary of EvilCo.)
The artwork has a lot of activity going on, which works for the fast-paced situation. While I’m still at a loss as for how Beast Boy went from red in previous issues to his traditional green skin tone (not complaining, just observing), the color schemes seem to be somewhat varied, if not necessarily bright and colorful. The action scenes flow pretty nicely despite a few continuity hiccups. One of the most glaring gaffs was Wonder Girl inexplicably switching arms to throw a hijacker off the bus after a spread because we of course needed to see her breasts in both shots. (Please note the sarcasm, of course.)
Also of note with the artwork: some of the kids on the bus don’t look all that terrified. There doesn’t seem to be that wide a range of emotions shown by the artist on the characters. Even a child being thrown off a speeding bus doesn’t show any emotion. The only way we’d know she is upset is the tears drawn on her face. Without them, the kid might as well be thinking, “Hmm. Speeding pavement. Might hurt. Oh well.”
There are a couple of parts to this book that I particularly take issue with. The writing in the issue seems very light on actual plot, seeing as how the issue is focused around the bus rescue. S.T.A.R. Labs’s reintroduction of Manchester Black notwithstanding, very little actually happens that isn’t exposition.
Also, the differences in how Red Robin and S.T.A.R. Labs classify the lead hijacker as both she and he respectively, appears to indicate two things: 1) The villain was using a voice disguiser, which was never indicated by the dialogue; 2) The writer wants to keep their identity so secret as to not even give away their gender, although they do appear small in stature that doesn’t definitively rule out one or the other; or 3) The writer simply messed up. While the hijacker has obvious ties to S.T.A.R. Labs, it isn’t helped or illuminated upon by the rambling one page diatribe about the company being a “singularity” in terms of accessible technology. Perhaps the next issue will explain further, but so far, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before from any numerous other “Evil Corporation Is Evil” storylines in recent media.
The second part had to do with the aftermath, where one of the rescued hostages was apparently going to say a derogatory remark before Bunker used his power of telekinetic brick making (I’m not even joking) to slam the man into a wall and threaten his life in front of news crews and witnesses with itchy camera-phone fingers.
I imagine, due to the children being from “St. Sebastian Preparatory School,” (as obvious a religious school name as any) that the ignorant jerk is someone who isn’t exactly an LGBT ally. I also get that Bunker, being an openly gay man himself, wouldn’t take too kindly to (possibly) homophobic remarks, especially from a guy whose life he saved. But take a read of what Bunker says:
“I’m explaining the facts of life to this guy. Like how, in this world, some people, people like us, wear masks. And how, underneath our masks, we might be good or evil, black or white, man or woman– straight or gay. But the one thing you can count on, the one thing you can always be sure of, is underneath our masks– we are very, very dangerous. ”
Make no mistake, the intentions of this speech were nobly written, even if clumsily delivered. Everything up until that very last sentence would’ve been fine. Bunker would be shown as the bigger person and the Titans would’ve looked like even bigger heroes than they already were. Instead, he chose to show aggression in the face of bigotry, which, adding the DC’s new “public must now distrust all superheroes” policy, doesn’t do the team or himself any favors.
Now, does that mean that Bunker had no right to be upset and want to smash the guy into a lump of meat pudding? Of course not! He had ever right to be upset. The guy was an a-hole who I have absolutely no sympathy for. But it did no one any good for a hero to be violently assaulting someone they just rescued. I get that the writer probably wrote it that way because “teenagers with attitudes” and believe me, I understand the urge to paste an ignorant fartwaffle, but it doesn’t make anyone look good if you’re trying to portray a benevolent image.
Overall, I would only recommend continued reading of this book for people who already follow The Teen Titans from the previous run by Scott Lobdell. There wasn’t enough of a hook for me due to the minimalistic setup provided. Even in the age of “writing for trade,” you should be able to hook your readers from the beginning and it just wasn’t there for me.