[Contains spoilers for Teen Titans: Changing of the Guard]
In Teen Titans: Changing of the Guard, writer Sean McKeever improves on many of the difficulties found in his previous Teen Titan volumes, though unfortunately it all still falls way short of Geoff Johns' stories that began this book.
The structure of Changing of the Guard is rather ingenious, matter of fact. McKeever presents two four-chapter stories, "Pawns and Kings" and "The New Deal"; in each, the first two issues could essentially be read as individual stories. If mildly formulaic, it allows McKeever to break the "Teen Titans fight Team X" pattern that dragged down his previous volumes. Wonder Girl and Red Devil are the respective main players in the two stories, but the slow build gives McKeever time to focus on Robin, Bombshell, and a bevy of new new Titans at the same time. McKeever also improves this time around by keeping the Titans (few as they are) together as a team, instead of splitting them to face individual challenges.
Unfortunately, I couldn't help but think this time that McKeever went for both easy stories, and easy solutions. Since Titans East, Teen Titans has dealt with (1) Wonder Girl's transformation to a whiny basket case in the wake of Superboy's death, and (2) Red Devil's deal with the demon Neron to hand over his soul on his eighteenth birthday. McKeever builds these stories relatively well, but then resolves them with almost ridiculous ease -- a follower of Ares seemingly kills Wonder Girl, only to have her emerges to save the day with a new costume and unexplained powers; Red Devil apparently finds out he never signed his contract with Neron (yeah, like Neron's that careless) and *poof* no more soul-selling.
The stories are "explained away" rather than "resolved," and as such didn't leave me overly satisfied. I liked that Red Devil's storyline tied into the Keith Giffen miniseries Reign in Hell, though resolving Red Devil's issues with Neron ever even making an appearance was something of a letdown.
I also noticed that McKeever traded Ravager for Bombshell in this volume -- that is, one stereotypical tough talking, "so over it" character for another. As in Teen Titans: On the Clock, McKeever undercuts a number of supposedly poignant Titans moments with Bombshell's smart aleck remarks, and he does his writing a disservice -- the moments are corny enough that Bombshell's attitude only reinforces what the reader is already thinking, and Bombshell's comments aren't so clever as to make the reader like her. The Titans come off in these moments as kids, and not kids you'd especially want to hang out with; McKeever essentially takes the air out of his own stories.
After much back and forth (and some equally just-not-that-funny scenes with a potential Titan called The Face), the new Titans team resolves itself as Wonder Girl, Aquagirl, Kid Eternity, Red Devil, Static, Bombshell, Miss Martian, and Blue Beetle. It's a non-traditional lineup at Titans teams go (no clear legacies short of Wonder Girl and Aquagirl), but one with potential: Beetle, Devil, and Static could be a great trio if Static weren't acting uncharacteristically holier than thou; I've also enjoyed the Miss Martian character since Johns introduced her. Aquagirl seems the only weak spot, a character without a lot of personality previously established, and I wonder how McKeever intends her to function in the team.
Teen Titans -- like Nightwing, Robin, Birds of Prey, Justice League, and once upon a time, Supergirl -- is one of those DC Comics titles stuck in an awkward place where it can't quite seem to get a steady creative team or momentum under its storylines. Many times, as with the Bat-titles, this cycle ends with the title's cancellation; Supergirl, after a number of rotating creative teams, seems lucky enough to have found its footing with writer Sterling Gates. In a volume or so, McKeever will be replaced on Teen Titans by Felicia Henderson, who'll hopefully "pull a Sterling" on Teen Titans -- I don't think DC will cancel this book, but I don't think it could take another writer and another course correction.
[Contains full covers, "Origins & Omens" pages.]