Review: Terror Titans trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

While not terribly moved by Sean McKeever's work on Teen Titans, I found his collected Terror Titans actually quite enjoyable. In Teen Titans: On the Clock, McKeever portrayed the villains as more "hip" and interesting than the stuffy good guys; here, McKeever has nothing but villains, and his blood-soaked story (well aided by artist Joe Bennett) has a life missing from his Teen Titans and Birds of Prey work. The finer details of the story languish in a bit too much confusion, but it worked enough that I'm eager to read McKeever's further take on these characters in his new Teen Titans Ravager co-feature.

Terror Titans is a villains' tale similar to Salvation Run, in that it's pages upon pages of backstabbings and bloody murders (if you like that kind of thing). The titular Titans emerge here as little more than collateral damage in the struggle between former Teen Titan Ravager and the villain Clock King; McKeever builds the carnage as two different characters see their own fathers murdered, and a third discovers he likely never had a conscience to begin with. McKeever's story gets darker the farther it goes, until the character Dreadbolt admits he's even becoming numb to the death around him. Like a good horror movie, there's an increasing sensation in Terror Titans that no one might get out alive, and it makes for a suspenseful story to the end.

Granted, Ravager doesn't do much more in McKeever's story than trade insults and occasional fisticuffs with the other Terror Titans -- it remains rather unclear why the Clock King lets her hang around in the first place. However, McKeever picks up in the best parts of the Ravager character, that she fights like her father Deathstroke but can also see into the future, making her something of a psychic detective with a chip on her shoulder. The Rose Wilson Ravager has been around since the early 1990s (first introduced in "Titans Hunt," if you can believe it), and while her current characterization is a far cry from then, I'm pleased to see DC finally doing something with the character.

McKeever's most interesting -- and mysterious -- character in Terror Titans is the lead villain, Clock King. Terror Titans takes place in a vague time during or after Final Crisis, and much of my interest came from a suspicion that Clock King was secretly Darkseid himself. We know nearly nothing about the character, whose near limitless powers include prescience four seconds into the future, access to a realm where time stands still, and wealth limitless enough to run a previously Darkseid-driven teen superhero fight club.

Throughout the book, Clock King refers to a secret plot for which he needs to mind-control the teen heroes; this plot turns out to be simply sheer mayhem, only for the purpose of the Clock King's own amusement. The revelation is a mild disappointment, but at the same time reinforces Clock King's mystery -- what we thought would be an answer turns out to be a red herring. Whether the story ends up a success depends largely on whether McKeever picks up the Clock King again in the Ravager co-feature. If he can make it all make sense, Terror Titans will be a successful prologue; if not, it becomes something of a head-scratcher.

In a way similar to Peter Milligan's two Infinity Inc. volumes, much of Terror Titans' appeal comes from waiting to see just what disturbing thing might possibly happen next. Because Terror Titans is in the end really just a minor spin-off miniseries, I can't necessarily recommend it as a "must read," but the uptick in quality does portend good things for McKeever's forthcoming DC Comics work.

[Contains full covers.]
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2 comments:

  1. I confess:
    I bought the All Star Batman & Robin TPB.

    It´s a guilty pleasure.
    Eye candy, beautiful colors, great edition.

    Miller´s writing, though has seen better days.

    I mean, this is the guy that did amazing things with Batman and Daredevil.

    Is he slowly falling into madness?

    Really, I think this proyect got out of hand for him.

    Still, I enjoy his insane writing. It´s like he´s writing as he snorts coke.

    Funny stuff. And strange.

    A guilty pleasure indeed.

    All Star Superman is Queen.

    All Star Batman & Robin the Rolling Stones.

    And I love the Stones!

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  2. I think Miller said "f*** it" at some point and just lathered on the parody. It really does feel like he's having a good time at the fanboy's expense. See how quickly the "goddamned" word became overused after there was a huge outcry.

    Really, I make no excuses for myself in regards to ASB&R. It is what it is. I'd never want it to be the canon depiction of Bruce Wayne/Batman, but as an alternative universe take, whatever. Bring on the outlandishness!

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