Review: Teen Titans Vol. 3: The Sum of Its Parts trade paperback (DC Comics)

I had high hopes for a turnaround for the third volume of DC Comics's second New 52/DC You Teen Titans book, especially with Scott Lobdell joining writer Will Pfeifer and then Greg Pak taking over the title. Unfortunately, Teen Titans Vol. 3: The Sum of Its Parts doesn't mark an improvement for the title, or if it does, it comes too little, too late in this title for the turnaround to have an effect.

It's almost laughable at this point, but Sum of Its Parts includes yet another "Who is Wonder Girl" story -- laughable because that title's gone beyond mere tradition to full-on necessity, the way continuity wipes away each successive Teen Titans' Wonder Girl (and Rebirth is no exception). That's Pak's story, for which again I had high hopes -- he's knocked it out of the park on Action Comics -- and it's not terrible but not great; I don't think Pak is helped there by artist Ian Churchill. But here at the almost-end of the New 52, when indeed Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark is about to take a continuity wallop, Sum does serve to fully-realize a story thread from Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman series, for what that's worth. Better, at least, that it's tied up than that it's not.

[Review contains spoilers]

Sum collects six issues, but doesn't really get moving until Pak's Wonder Girl story begins in the fourth chapter. Of the initial chapters by Lobdell and Pfeifer then, the first and third contain extended fight scenes that only move the story by inches, and for those reasons, to some extent this feels like just a three-issue collection. That first chapter takes the whole issue for the Titans to break out of police custody, with too much lofty narration by Lobdell's Alpha Centurion; some police brutality against the Titans that comes off absurdly over-the-top; and sketchy and distorted (and often over-sexualized) art by Noel Rodriguez. The third spends the whole issue on the Titans fighting Durlans who've come to reclaim the Titan Chimera -- whose backstory has never been all that clear anyway -- essentially just as a vehicle for Pfeifer to clear the decks before Pak comes on. Lobdell's "Doomed" Reiser also departs, and Kid Flash simply disappears mid-scene; we equally know very little about why he was there in the first place.

The second issue is a Robin War tie-in story (as opposed to a main part); I appreciate that Titans keeps continuity with Robin War as to where Tim Drake is, but at the same time the Robin War material amounts to three pages, so it ought not be that off-putting to those not reading Robin War. The main story is actually an effectively grotesque encounter between the other Titans and Gotham's Professor Pyg, though unfortunately I'm fairly sure that the storyline set up at the end is never going to be realized with the Rebirth changeover. Ian Churchill's figures are over-sexualized as well (especially Wonder Girl in a simply unbelievable bathing suit) but some of the egregious semi-nudity does help to reinforce the slasher flick sense of the story.

It's with that fourth issue by Pak that Titans begins to pick up, in a story that uses characters and locations from Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman run. Some time ago Lobdell's previous Titans  established, in the background and unremarked upon, that the character Lennox from Azzarello's story was Wonder Girl's father. Wonder Woman itself, none the wiser, never addressed this, nor did Titans, but it's hung out there as something I'd hoped a book would go back to, especially as Lennox was a fan-favorite, now deceased. Pak and Churchill return to Wonder Woman's London apartment as depicted often in Azzarello's run, and even use Lennox's severed stone head, and so for Azzarello Wonder Woman fans there's an aspect of this that's nicely nostalgic.

Greg Pak's story gets points for a use of Wonder Woman that's respectful and in line with her established character. I also thought Pak did well giving some nuance to the Wonder Girl character, who in the New 52 sorely needs it; Pak wisely establishes that Cassie's penchant for theft is part of a pattern that occurs when the teenager is troubled. Unfortunately, "Who is Wonder Girl" never ultimately answers that question, because we don't learn about how Cassie's mother and Lennox met or why he left, nor is there any resolution to the fact that Cassie is cursed to wear demonic armor. The story also turns on Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth being fooled too easily, I thought, and by the kind of thing I didn't quite believe the lasso wouldn't have protections against.

Certainly Pak and Churchill's story is a vast improvement on what's come before, especially in Teen Titans Vol. 2: Rogue Targets, but it's not totally seamless. One scene has the Titans entering a convenience store, when a sound effect -- "Clang, clang, clang" -- causes the clerk to announce there's a shoplifter. Everyone goes outside, but the apparent shoplifter is gone; then the Titans open their car door, and Cassie wearing a pair of sunglasses is enough for Tim to admonish her for stealing. What is the "clang" alarm? What gas station has theft devices attached to sunglasses? Given the group of kids that just walked into the station, why wouldn't the clerk rightly suspect them? And how does Tim know before even seeing Cassie that she's the thief, and that the sunglasses aren't just hers?

There's little disconnects like this throughout the story where writing, art, or effects don't match up -- characters' dialogue suggests they're crying while they're drawn smiling; the narration tells us nine hours pass when it only seems a few minutes for the characters; and across seven pages, fleeing civilians are all written written with the same "Aaagh!" dialogue, even in the same panel.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Teen Titans Vol. 3: The Sum of Its Parts

Only one volume of this troubled Teen Titans title remains, with the creative team switching again to Tony Bedard and a cameo by Scott Lobdell. At this point I must admit it's just inertia carrying me through; I've come this far so I might as well see how it ends, but most of all I'm just hoping that the Rebirth Teen Titans title will make up for much of what's gone wrong here. Teen Titans Vol. 3: The Sum of Its Parts does wrap up one of the title's hanging threads, if that's important to you, but to be sure this is no model for how we want our comics to be.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Teen Titans Vol. 3: The Sum of Its Parts
Author Rating
2 (out of 5)


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