Comic Judgment: Titans, Together!

Teen Titans #88
Writer: J.T. Krul
Art: Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood (ink), Jason Wright (color), Adam Hughes (variant cover)
Letters: Sal Cipriano

Adam Hughes variant cover

When I got back into comics several years ago, I fell hard for Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans. I’d enjoyed the Wolfman/Perez stuff back in the day, and it seemed to me that Johns’ modern incarnation struck all the right notes. There was real chemistry among the characters, a good mix of the funny and the serious, and Johns never tried too hard to write “youth” dialogue. Mike McKone’s artwork? Wonderful.

I think you see where this is going. After a great run, the comic’s script quality dipped a few notches, and then, partly because of things taking place elsewhere in the DCU, it went over a cliff, exploded upon impact, and left a football field-sized patch of scorched earth in its wake. OK; that’s an exaggeration, but not a terribly big one. Suffice to say that many Teen Titans fans — me included — dropped it and never looked back.

Until now. DC has enlisted a new creative team, writer J.T. Krul and illustrator Nicola Scott, to pump new life into Teen Titans, beginning with issue #88. While this comic didn’t rock my world, it is solidly good and taps into the things that made TT work in the Johns era: an interesting team dynamic, witty banter, heavy action and boy-girl drama. They are teenagers, after all. (Mild spoilers ahead.)

Krul deserves a great deal of credit for making Cassie/Wonder Girl a less grating and more credible team leader. She seems to have really stepped up in Tim/Red Robin’s absence, and Scott, one of my favorite artists, draws her with an understated beauty and authority. Actually, that’s the way she draws everything in this book. There’s a lovely moment between Cassie and Conner/Superboy where she’s sitting on her bed, slumped forward with worry. And bless Scott for drawing heroines who look healthy and strong, not like blowup dolls.

But it wouldn’t be a party without Rose/Ravager, who is one kick-ass chick and the consummate antagonist. You want her on your team because she can take suckers down hard — but she also might take your man. I loved the panel where, after a workout, she throws her sweaty towel at Superboy and says, “I got a lot of energy.” All together now: Daaaaaamn!

There are a couple of nifty plot threads going on, too. The world’s sketchiest high school biology teacher has plans for a socially isolated student, and they’re not good. (Note to kids: Do not go into the darkened basement of an adult you barely know. But if you do, and you happen to see a gurney and mutants in cages, run like hell.) Dick/Batman 2 also decides that Damian needs to make some friends, and I’m a little nervous about adding him to the Titans community. He’s a tricky character to write, and casting him as a one-note jerk or a merry brat would be a mistake. Don’t do it, J.T.!

If you’ve missed the Titans, and I certainly have, issue #88 is a good excuse for a reunion. Don’t bust out the confetti just yet, but do keep a bag handy. Verdict: Well played.