Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls review

Sunday, June 12, 2005

What a joy it is to see Tom Grummett drawing the Titans again. From his Cyborg in the classic hooded sweatshirt, to new renditions of his old Superboy and Robin, his art is a large part of why Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls feels like such a refreshing blast from the past. I stop short of wishing Grummett could be the new Titans artist--ultimately, I want to see the Titans moving forward, not back--but having him on fill-in issues is a lot of fun.

Geoff Johns certainly understands the ebb and flow of comic book storylines, seen most clearly in JSA, where quieter issues tend to follow each major story. This works only so-so when collected into trades, however, giving editions like JSA: Fair Play and Savage Times not enough oomph, while following Princes of Darkness with Black Reign seems like too much oomph. I think the editors at Vertigo have a better handle on it, as each Fables and Y: The Last Man collection seem like perfect television show seasons, without any down-time. It's, I'm sure, a difficult balance to create.

Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls is arguably one of those "down time trades." I say arguably because, first, it's not as though nothing happens in this trade, as sub-plots are forwarded a plenty, but in truth, as far as the main plot, nothing is seemingly different at the end (unless Johns will build on this later). Second, one gets the feeling that this three-month "slow time" may not be entirely Johns' fault--the timing of this trade coincides with Batman: War Games, and it may be that Beast Boys and Girls had to be horned in just to fit with continuity elsewhere. All that is fine; in the end, the main plot of Beast Boys and Girls doesn't shake the earth, but it's so much fun, it almost doesn't matter. Truly, it's the subplots that make this trade gold.

Wonder Girl takes center stage mid-way through, in a confrontation with Ares that foreshadows Infinite Crisis (and when you consider that both this and a similar scene in Superman: Unconventional Warfare were both originally published even before Identity Crisis, the pre-planning of all this really is quite impressive). Johns, like Marv Wolfman before him, appears to be putting things in place to root Teen Titans in generational conflict; Raven's father issues are legendary, while Kid Flash struggles with gaining Wally West's approval, Robin fears lying to his father, and now Wonder Girl worries that Ares is her father while Superboy struggles with Lex Luthor being his. In ways, I think Wonder Girl is the least fleshed-out of Johns' Titan so far, but I'm still very eager to see the inevitable confrontation when she and Superboy's secrets are revealed.

Superboy and Robin are largely absent from the main action, tying into the aforementioned War Games crossover. Far from being distracting, however, the scenes with the two heroes give the story a nice, heartfelt base, and ultimately tie into the storyline's main themes of deciding to be who you are. Peter David's Young Justice showed the heroes growing from originally mistrusting one another to finally revealing their secrets and lives, and Johns wastes no time picking up on this. Given these characters' long histories, seeing Superboy call Robin his "best friend" is an appropriate and satisfying move.

So don't pick up Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls looking for a complex or suspenseful plot (the one who gives Beast Boy a mean look did it, kids), but instead, try it for a just plain fun Titans story. Jeers to DC for padding this one with the old Beast Boy miniseries (though it is fun to remember the days when Geoff Johns was "that new Stars and STRIPE guy); the big problem with Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls is that it's so short that you'll be wishing for the next one that much sooner.

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