Review: Teen Titans: Deathtrap trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

What might've been the start of a new era for Teen Titans and its associated titles has unfortunately ended in tragedy. Whereas the Titans: Lockdown that leads in to this book had some high points, Teen Titans: Deathtrap, by writers Sean McKeever and Marv Wolfman, is overly-violent, irreverent, and as a comic book crossover, at times just plain sloppy. Once upon a time, Teen Titans was on the top of my to-read list; I know there's a new team coming up, but I feel about ready to drop this title.

[Contains spoilers for Teen Titans: Deathtrap]

At least one difficulty with Deathtrap is that the idea of bringing together the Titans family of titles -- Teen Titans, Titans, and Vigilante -- is stronger than the crossover itself. Deathtrap roots around a long time for a plot; the climax of the story is passable, but beforehand the Titans simply travel from one location to another fighting antagonists Jericho and Vigilante, having the two escape, moving to a second location, and repeating. Beast Boy, recovering from his breakup with Raven, is the only one with any passably interesting emotion; otherwise it's a mostly low-rate superhero slugfest.

A big selling point for this book ought be the contribution of New Teen Titans creator Marv Wolfman, but I hate to say even Wolfman didn't seem on his game in this book. The crossover starts right in the middle of Wolfman's Vigilante title's ongoing story and Wolfman makes no effort to clue the reader in on who's who; I might otherwise have found Vigilante interesting, but instead I was just confused. And then there's instances like Wolfman writing Jericho lecturing Wonder Girl, of all characters, about the mythological gods -- facts the reader knows Wonder Girl's already aware of, but it seems Wolfman or his editor was not.

And the continuity errors don't occur just in the writing. The character Red Devil's costume appears and disappears from chapter to chapter (and changing artist to changing artist); one cliffhanger ends with Cyborg's head nearly shot off, only to have him fairly whole the next time he appears. The story turns on following Jericho as he travels though different bodies, but the depictions of these characters are so different that sometimes I didn't realize it was the same person, or that it was Jericho in the scene.

When I reviewed Titans: Lockdown, I was of mixed opinion how being a villain suited Jericho; now, I'm firmly against it. The presence of Marv Wolfman reminds me that once, Joe "Jericho" Wilson was unique in comics as a pacifist superhero, and a deaf and mute one at that; unmistakable in his mutton-chop sideburns, Jericho was a symbol of something. I didn't much mind when Jericho acted as the villain of "Titans Hunt," corrupted by Raven's soul self, because that at least had some resonance to Titans history; this new Jericho, neither deaf nor mute, but rather spouting hackneyed dialogue like Ming the Merciless, is a travesty. I wasn't offended when Max Lord shot Blue Beetle Ted Kord, sullying years of Justice League International, because I understood the necessity; that Jericho has come to this, and written by Marv Wolfman, for me puts a bit of shame on old classics like The Judas Contract where Joey first appeared.

Teen Titans: The Future is Now was another story that featured the old and new Titans, and I think at least one difference is that story came off as an adventure, while Deathtrap is something darker. More than a few innocent bystanders beg for their lives before being brutally shot here (including one on a gratuitous, entirely unrealistic news report), and that's not to mention the gruesome way Vigilante finishes Jericho. I don't mind my comics serious, but usually when things are bad for our heroes, something's at stake; I had trouble finding that here.

One bright spot amidst the trouble I had with this book is a late-story appearance by Ravager, Jericho's half-sister. Ravager's put-downs of the Teens Titans have long seemed to me to reflect McKeever's own feelings, and it was amazing how much more I enjoyed his Ravager-centric Terror Titans miniseries than his Teen Titans work. Ravager returns here (along with Terror Titans artist Joe Bennett) and it immediately wakes up the story, including a harrowing scene between Ravager and a Jericho-possessed Raven. This book crosses over with McKeever's Ravager co-feature story, and even as I was displeased with this book, I'm very likely to give that collection a shot.

I can't help but wax a little nostalgic these days. Not that long ago, in DC Comics' "One Year Later" endeavor after Infinite Crisis, we had Checkmate, we had Outsiders, we had a Legion title that I liked and the original iteration of Birds of Prey, too. REBELS is a new series I enjoyed, and I'm interested to try some of the Red Circle books -- but thinking about how much I used to like Teen Titans, a book like Deathtrap makes me kind of sad.

[Contains full covers]

Speaking of nostalgia, actually ... reviews of Stars and STRIPE, Manhunter, and Blue Beetle coming up. Don't miss it!
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7 comments:

  1. What's even stupider is that they did all this only to go "oh hey, I have new eyes and I'm not crazy imma stay with my father in case I lose it" not five months later.

    Gag. Me.

    Did I mention I don't care for Jericho? It went to active dislike a while ago. Personally I think they should have just left him dead.

    Like I just said on my own blog, all this stuff has me to the point where I don't care about the Titans right now. At all. I just don't. I check in on the Titans to see what's happening with Beast Boy and Raven, but otherwise I'm waiting for the inevitable point where the book is good again.

    Frankly, DC seems to have no idea what to do with them anymore; personally, I just desperately want Geoff Johns back.

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  2. Speaking of Geoff Johns, now that he's CCO of DC, and writing the Flash movie, and maybe writing more Smallville episodes, and I think involved in the Green Lantern movie, and writing Green Lantern, and writing the new Flash series, and writing (or co-writing) the new BI-WEEKLY Brightest Day series, and I think they said flying back and forth between LA and NY in his new executive role...how will he be able to keep all this up? Does anything think in the next year or two he'll be too busy to write comics?

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  3. I doubt it. Geoff comes across as a dedicated guy. If anything, he said when he got the job that it meant he'd still get to write, probably more than ever. So I don't think it will have a major impact on him.

    Brightest Day is probably going to be the last time he works on anything with the word "weekly" even remotely involved, though. Everyone who works on one of those always says afterwords that they're immensely taxing. I can't see him doing another one.

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  4. Yeah, the 52 writers were adamant that they would never do anything like that again, so I was kinda shocked to hear Johns was giving it another ago, albeit on a reduced level.

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  5. I read somewhere that it's in Johns' job description -- and Jim Lee's, too -- to keep writing and drawing respectively. I understand why they promoted Johns, as his vision for DC seems to dovetail with what the readers want, but he's such a draw that it would be silly not to keep him writing. I'm not presently concerned with Johns disappearing completely.

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  6. Oh hey, it looks like the Ravager TPB will be collecting the Deathstroke one-shot that David Hine wrote. It's possible you already knew that, but I didn't vOv

    http://www.amazon.com/Teen-Titans-Ravager-Fresh-Hell/dp/1401229190/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271872845&sr=8-1

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  7. Yes, I was pleased to see this. The reading order here will be all a-shambles, because Teen Titans: Deathtrap will essentially fit now between the pages of the Ravager trade, but I'd rather have the Deathstroke special than not have it.

    Now if only Cry for Justice would include the Prometheus special ...

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