Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Post-Mortem: Teen Titans

The recent announcement that Adam Beechen would, in fact, not be taking over the Teen Titans following Geoff Johns’s departure as originally planned was greeted with relief by a number of newsarama message board posters—a response that seemed (unfairly to Beechen) to have been at least in some cases predicated on his involvement as pinch-hitter in the wretched “Titans East” debacle. I haven’t read much of Beechen’s other comic book work, so I can’t say whether his aborted tenure as Titans writer is a good thing for that series or not. What I can say, however, is that I should have greeted the news that his replacement would be Sean McKeever with nothing short of elation—much as I had when it was announced that McKeever would be replacing the seemingly irreplaceable Gail Simone on Birds of Prey. (Just spend an afternoon basking in McKeever’s tender and brilliantly scripted Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series for Marvel to see why.) And yet, McKeever’s appointment to the position of Titans writer finds me in an awkward spot.

You see, I cancelled my subscription to Teen Titans last week.

This may not sound like a big deal, but the fact that I stuck through the entire Jurgens series, not to mention its dismal follow-up, should give you some idea of the pathetic intensity of my Teen Titans cathexis. (Just in case the blather on Double Articulation hadn’t already furnished you with enough evidence!)

What was the final straw? At first I thought it was the sheer awfulness of the “Titans East” arc, which was a kind of HeroClix Titans battle utterly devoid of characterization, narrative logic, or even basic suspense. But I’ve sat through bad story arcs before, so that wasn’t it. Was it the loss of Johns as writer? Superficially, I suppose. But I can’t say that I’ve really enjoyed his Teen Titans either. Strangely, despite the magic he worked on The Flash and JSA, Johns’s Titans work was never really able to overcome the fanboyish impulses that occasionally (some would say, always) mar his writing. Johns’s Titans run was frustrating because the instinct towards reconnecting with a team or a hero’s history that is the hallmark of his most successful writing was reduced to a kind of frantic referencing of the past coupled with an equally hyperactive generation of endless new “Titans” and team line-ups in the present, as if he were presiding over a giant game board rather than a work of sequential art. God knows, I tried to get into it, but the experience was, on balance, depressing. Certainly, the Johns/Beechen “Titans East” arc was an unfortunate way for Johns to bow out of the series that he (without question, and despite my perennial whining) reinvigorated, because the dilution of Johns’s script unintentionally showed up the weakness that plagued his entire Titans run and which dampened the success of his Titans revamp.

So, then, what settled it? Why, after all this time, finally dump the Titans? To some extent, I can attribute it to my vague feeling that if Johns couldn’t recapture (or at least reinvent) the Wolfman/Perez magic, perhaps no one can. Certainly no current writer was more perfectly qualified to do so, though Sean McKeever might have a shot. But there’s a bigger problem too—and this one is entirely a personal one that cannot even pretend to critical distance or objectivity.

Basically, the Young Justice characters that now form the core of the Titans just never won me over. I was too old to invest in the stars of the original Young Justice series when it premiered, and in any case, I’ve never liked the interpretation of the Teen Titans as a sort of Junior Justice League. The JLA guest appearances in the Wolfman/Perez series were among my least favorite Titans stories, and when Superman popped up during the first Starfire/Blackfire story it felt like a visit from dad. I’ve come to see Superman differently as I’ve aged, but at the time, he represented everything old, stodgy, and boring about the DC Universe. The venerable Justice League of America was simply another iteration of this mustiness. Why did the New Teen Titans need to compare themselves to those fossils? They were already awesome! This is no doubt why I’ve never been able to get excited about the magnified role of Lex Luthor in the current Titans series, nor have I been able to read the romantic tribulations of the new Wonder Girl and Superboy with much interest. One of the things that was extraordinary about Wolfman and Perez’s Titans was the originality of its cast—most of the characters were brand new to me and were not simply junior versions of existing heroes. Is it any wonder that of the current cast the only characters who’ve remotely piqued my interest are Ravager and Kid Devil? Only these characters bear any resemblance to the freshness of Raven, Starfire, and Cyborg. (Ravager may be a rehash—but at least she is a rehash of a villain!)

Can McKeever write teenaged characters with wit and skill? Yes he can, and I’m sure he’ll do a wonderful job with his new cast, a group which certainly has lots of potential. But these just aren’t my Teen Titans. When it comes right down to it, what I really want to read is a character-driven adult book starring the adult Teen Titans from the Wolfman/Perez run. I guess it’s time for me to accept that and move on.

Hey, what's this I hear about “a possible comic starring some former Titans.” Hmm...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sean McKeever makes me want to jump on the book, not off. Johns Titans run hasn't been any good since the Future-Titans storyline. OYL was a mess. I enjoyed the old Titans stories, but never had the reverence for it that a lot of people had. I guess that's because I wasn't into them growing up. I was an X-men fan. My intro to the Titans was the crossover. I've since gotten into them through back issues and I'm a staunch DC fan now, but back then I favored Marvel books.

It's interesting to step back and see what really draws you to purchase certain books.

Oh, You also might want to take a look at Plok's blog.


He's got something interesting cooking where he's going to reimagine a superhero and is asking for reader suggestions. I want him to cover Chronos or Rip Hunter, Time Master.