Amazingly enough, Judd Winick -- whose Titans: Old Friends showed promise, but left much to be desired -- and Sean McKeever -- whose Teen Titans has so far failed to impress -- join together in Titans: Lockdown for story that's simply fantastic. Titans fans, do not miss this one; Winick loads the bases a story that successfully demonstrates all that's good and bad about the Titans "family," and then McKeever hits a home-run with a single "Day in the Life" issue that well upholds the longstanding Titans tradition.
In his introduction to Outsiders: Looking for Trouble, Judd Winick described wanting to create a super-team with such rich characterization that an entire issue could be spent with the heroes sitting around in a bar talking, and it wouldn't get boring. Winick never did achieve such an issue, but the closest he came was Outsiders #23, not coincidentally also called "Lockdown," and the four-part story found in this Titans collection. Both this and that are great stories, both deal with the team confined to a small space as they seek out a traitor in their midst, and both highly revealing of the characters involved (the similarities, too, to Winick's own Real World experience aren't probably accidental).
Winick sets the tone in the second chapter, where the Titans, to prove none of them have been possessed by former teammate Jericho, privately speak a secret to a lone camera (enter, again, Real World comparisons here). The page literally gave me chills. Beast Boy admits his parents didn't die in a boating accident, Cyborg says "he's not my son" (emphasis mine), Red Arrow admits that [the Green Lantern/Green Arrow issue, presumably] wasn't the last time he used heroin, and Starfire says that "they" weren't all dead when she arrived.
Now, these are blind statements that -- especially with Winick no longer writing Titans -- I don't expect ever to be followed up upon, but the sheer depth it shows, which carries through the story, is astounding. Of course it wasn't the last time Roy Harper used heroin, as it often takes recovering addicts many tries, but nowhere else has another writer been brave enough to confront this. And while I'm not thrilled with the idea of giving Cyborg an illegitimate (or not illegitimate) son, again, a fascinating suggestion.
Just as Titans: Old Friends examined the old sawhorse that family is who you choose and not who you're born with, Lockdown looks at the importance of trust in a family, and what a family is like without it. Winick is wise in noticing former Titan Jericho as the complete antithesis of the new Titans group; a team that's all about trust breaks down completely when Jericho, someone who could be hiding within someone else and therefore betraying that trust, enters the picture. The center can't hold -- as soon as the "Jericho question" abounds, the team very nearly disbands, because it negates the Titans' only reason for being together.
I questioned Winick's use of Jericho as a villain -- after he wasn't, then was, then wasn't again, making Jericho a bad guy again seems rather obvious. It didn't help that, for a large part of the story, Jericho's motivations are mysteriously unclear (and even in the end, he's just "doing bad" for doing bad's sake). But in the middle, Jericho demonstrates how the use of his powers -- often at the Titans' behest -- has driven him crazy, and this makes him the perfect villain for this Titans series. These Titans, at least together, are never going to stop bank robberies; they're going to sit down to breakfast, chat a bit, and then Brother Blood will pop out of the French press and make mayhem. Titans stories should be all about the personal, and the guilt that Nightwing feels in the end for Jericho's trouble is perfect for this series.
Temporary Titans writer Sean McKeever (he departs after the Deathtrap crossover) pens the epilogue to Winick's story, written in the vein of Marv Wolfman's old "Day in the Life" Titans issues. The scenes of Roy Harper reverting to his playboy ways after breaking up with Hawkgirl are wonderfully sad; it's never been clear enough to me that the relationship was so steady that Roy would take it this hard, but his self-destruction is fascinating nonetheless. McKeever also breaks up Raven and Beast Boy, which is great if it's a bump along the road or terrible if it's permanent, but either way made for great reading. McKeever's Teen Titans have never felt this rich to me, and I was pleasantly surprised at his take on the older group.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that no doubt part of what makes Titans: Lockdown better than Old Friends is stellar art by Howard Porter. I remember fondly Porter's JLA days, and while I wasn't much for his side-step into painting, Lockdown is Porter at his best. It's a little thing, but I loved how Porter drew Superman's S-shield slightly raised, as is the current post-One Year Later style; Porter's lines are clean and his figures heroic, and his contribution to this volume is significant.
Maybe nothing gold can stay; I liked this volume of Titans, but it's all set to change in a book or two. I still hold out hope that the "villains for hire" Titans idea will ultimately end with this classic group coming back together; if not now, perhaps some day.
[Contains full covers]
On now to follow the Titans into Deathtrap ... come join me!