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!