Monday, 10 August 2015

Teen Titans, Volume 1: Blinded by the Light Review (Will Pfeifer, Kenneth Rocafort)

Teen Titans gets a relaunch with the new creative team of writer Will Pfeifer and artist Kenneth Rocafort. The Titans are: Red Robin (leader/tactician/can fly with mechanical wings), Wonder Girl (super-strong/can fly without mechanical wings), Raven (sorceress), Bunker (can manifest purple cubes!) and Beast Boy (can morph into any animal).

The Titans struggle against a robot baddie called Algorithm, terrorists who want to reveal what’s secretly going on in STAR Labs, and a general lack of interest in their comics! Because even if Pfeifer is a marked step up from the previous Titans writer and Hawaiian shirt connoisseur Scott Lobdell (booo!), Teen Titans still isn’t that great a series.

The storylines are generic and weak, failing to draw the reader in. The only concession to the Titans’ age is to have the threats in the second story arc be teenagers like them. Titans could be a series that addresses contemporary teenage issues and become an important comic for younger readers. It could emulate the energy and excitement of being a teen superhero in the same way Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers did.

Instead it does none of that and churns out the usual dreary superhero rubbish DC produces by the cartload. Bland terrorists hijack a school bus – Titans save the day. Robot villain appears and smashes stuff – Titans save the day. Give me strength! There are a couple of side stories where Wonder Girl inspires a group of admirer vigilantes and Raven discovers she has a tribute band. And neither storyline goes anywhere. 

I think DC are trying to be inclusive for minorities but they do it in such a clumsy way as to be ineffective. The opening scene ends with the Titans stopping the hijacked school bus, saving the kids and crippling(!) the terrorists. Bunker wears a purple outfit and can manifest purple cubes – I have no idea who this character is by the way. Maybe he’s gay? Because a bystander remarks “Only complaint I’ve got is with all the superheroes in New York… it’s just my luck to get rescued by the two who look like a couple of…” before Bunker manifests a huge purple swatter made up of cubes and slams the guy into the wall. The insinuation is that the bystander was about to make some (homophobic?) slur, given the way Bunker’s dressed – I think? Maybe it could’ve been a racist comment though.

Bunker then says (pressing this guy into the wall with his purple cubes) “Some people like us, we wear masks, and how, underneath our masks, we might be good or evil, black or white, man or woman - straight or gay.” And I thought that was a nice sentiment –a positive step towards inclusion for this title, start as you mean to go on, etc. And then Bunker ends with “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.” which completely undercuts that sentiment, making ordinary people fear them for no reason. Could’ve said something about how he saved the guy’s life but decides to threaten him instead, along with the physical rebuff.

It looks like Pfeifer’s generally aiming for fun, young people being superheroes, which is the only way Teen Titans should be written really, and, aside from little moments like that, it’s not super angsty, which I appreciate. Except even when they’re being very obviously pandering, they’re emphasising their “edge” which makes them seem less fun and more desperate.

Besides the unexciting storylines, the characters are poorly written. Unless you already know who they are, you’ll only really know them as their powers rather than their characters. Also, the Titans really need a strong nemesis like Deathstroke was back in the day because Algorithm doesn’t cut it nor do random ‘roided-out teens. Hell, Deathstroke’s solo series is so bad, maybe DC should give up on that (again) and fold him back into the Titans?

Rocafort’s art isn’t my cup of tea but it’s not bad. The revamped Power Girl is unveiled in this book. Previously she had one of the most pervy outfits in comics (the infamous boob window), just one step up from Vampirella. Now it’s a different girl who’s adopted the name Power Girl – Tanya Spears - and she’s completely covered up, though of course it’s still figure-hugging, and she has a non-pornstar-like body. Out goes the boob window and the watermelon-sized rack, in with the kind of outfit a kid could dress as on Halloween. It’s a definite improvement. The design for Manchester Black (who?) is a bit stupid though – he’s got the Union Flag painted/tattooed onto his bare chest for some reason. Because that’s what all Brits do when they’re abroad (if you’re a football hooligan).

Aside from a couple of naff scenes, it’s not a horribly written book, it’s just totally lacking anything engaging or exciting. Pfeifer assumes you already know all about the characters and, if there’s a Teen Titans TV show maybe you do, but if you don’t, you’re going to feel little to nothing about the one-dimensional figures presented here. The stories are too bland and the art is just so-so. Teen Titans, Volume 1: Blinded by the Light is a very dull and forgettable superhero book so it fits into the rest of the New 52 line-up very nicely!

Teen Titans, Volume 1: Blinded by the Light

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