Teen Titans: The Hunt for Raven have already been pretty widely panned (Titans Tower has a good collection of quotes); perhaps not unrelated, the writer was later scheduled to write a Static Shock series but was later dropped from the title.
I picked up Hunt for Raven because I'm a completist, like many comics fans. With the DC Relaunch in full swing, to skip Hunt and then pick up JT Krul's Teen Titans books to follow would leave me with all the collected volumes of this Titans series except one. Even despite the tepid reviews, I'm not inclined to have such a hole in my collection.
To that end, my goal with this review is not to tear apart Henderson or Hunt for Raven (you can find plenty of that elsewhere), but rather to mention a couple of things I found interesting about the book, as well as to cover a couple of its difficulties. I don't recommend this book, but I imagine there's a population out there who might own it for the same reasons I do, and therefore I think it's worth considering for discussion.
Henderson inherited a somewhat fractured Teen Titans team from writer Sean McKeever. I think the team became closer-knit or more confrontational depending on the needs of a couple of stories by McKeever, Bryan Q. Miller, and Henderson in the last few Titans books, but in whole the Titans that Henderson ended up with were not the buddies fresh from Young Justice that began this series under Geoff Johns. A large part of Hunt for Raven therefore involves building camaraderie amongst the team. It is heavy-handed in the same way that early episodes of a television series have these same "friend-building" episodes so that any character can share a scene with another later on. This transparency on Henderson's part, however, at least gives a sense of Henderson's intentions for the series, had her run lasted longer than this book.
Of note, for one, is a sequence in the book's third chapter in which the villain Holocaust has imprisoned Wonder Girl, Static, Aquagirl, and Bombshell. Bombshell has been the stereotypical "angry outsider" of the group, but when Wonder Girl and Aquagirl each accidentally collide with her trying to escape from plastic bubble prisons, the whole team shares a good laugh. It's the old "imprison a couple of warring characters and they'll bond as they escape" routine you've likely seen on a Star Trek episode or two, but it works here. Henderson is able to play plot against character in such a way that the characters do emerge changed when the scene is over.
Even after, Henderson preserves the animosity between Bombshell and Aqaugirl, which is somewhat amusing, actually, reminiscent of New Titans Pantha sniping at her teammates for a while. Not surprisingly then, when Henderson splits the Titans off into teams, it's Bombshell and Aquagirl who have to wait together at the bottom of the ocean, and ultimately bond. Such bonding unfortunately comes after the two have to escape the belly of a sea dragon (hard to say if the sea dragon's phallic stomach tentacles came from Henderson's script or José Luís's imagination), but the storyline is still cute in a Saved by the Bell kind of way (the bonding, that is, not the tentacles).
Wonder Girl remains a character that troubles a lot of writers (amazing, after Peter David wrote her so well), but I thought Henderson gave her characterization a good effort. From the beginning, Wonder Girl recognizes she has led the Titans poorly and takes charge in what I thought was a realistic way, to the point of overcompensating. The team of rather strong personalities starts to leave to help Static on a mission; Wonder Girl drags them back to the conference room to talk out the details before they go. In a similar meeting about rescuing the kidnapped Raven, Wonder Girl listens to all the contradictory viewpoints, thanks everyone for them, and then makes her ruling. Henderson's Wonder Girl comes off as shrill as she did under McKeever, but the way she leads seems like the way one would have to lead a group of super-powered teenagers, so I thought Henderson's approach was a little better than what came before.
No doubt readers might object to Henderson's portrayal of Wonder Girl and Superboy's relationship. After years of Wonder Girl moping over the deceased Superboy, and considerable confusion prior to this book as to when and whether Wonder Girl knew of Superboy's resurrection, it's surprising (if not inconceivable) that she would push him away in these pages. Further, Henderson's depiction of Wonder Girl rejecting Superboy early on and then accepting him later lacks finesse, such that the reader is as confused as Superboy, and Wonder Girl comes off the jerk. Henderson is trying here, however, to present the conflicts of a female leader (and one dating Superboy, no less) juggling a relationship with a man and also not wanting to seem "soft" before her team. This, too, is likely a bit of realism not often covered in comics; Henderson's intention is good even if the depiction is not.
Hunt for Raven, unfortunately, comes apart in the finer details. The two stories collected here involve searches for Static and Raven respectively, and it seems on almost every page a character repeats "Where's Static?" or "We have to find Raven!" If Henderson's scenes work as a whole, they have trouble moment to moment -- in the fourth chapter, Superboy and Kid Flash are distraught that Holocaust seems to have killed the other Titans, and then in the next panel they're strangely sanguine; when the Titans are revealed alive, the two have no reaction. Henderson introduces a couple of scientists who call each other pet names ad nauseum; if Henderson means them to be funny, the result is just annoying. Henderson goes back and forth between scenes sometimes only with a page inbetween, far too suddenly, and sometimes multiple scenes are repetitively introduced with the word "Meanwhile."
And this is aside from a number of technical errors, including Wonder Girl once referring to her group as the "Team Titans," and a couple of pages in the fifth chapter where Wonder Girl is colored as Miss Martian and vice versa.
Teen Titans: The Hunt for Raven ends with a viable concept -- the evil Wyld creature turns out to have been accidentally created by Raven and fashions itself as her son; Raven actually tries to defend the Wyld when the other Titans defeat it. The implications of such get swept under the rug when Felicia Henderson must quickly pare down the team for the purposes of J. T. Krul's run beginning in the next book. It's little sparks like these that bring me to say I didn't dislike Henderson's Titans run as much as I was lead to believe I would -- this is no great comfort, but I believe I disliked Sean McKeever's main Teen Titans work more. This is still, however, not where this book should be, and I'm hopeful Krul can turn things around before the series ends with the DC Relaunch.
[Contains original covers]
Next week ... all week ... Collected Editions reviews Flashpoint! Look for not one, but two Flashpoint-related reviews, plus DC solicitation news and more. Don't miss it!