A Playable Hand: Teen Titans #1-6 in The New 52 Pick Up

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Given yesterday’s review, I’m just going to come out and say something positive: I actually like the character Bunker in the new Teen Titans book.

We’ve had some talk about this before, but it was all mostly wait and see. Well, we’ve waited six issues (of which Bunker has been around for four), and I don’t have any complaints. The purple costume is ugly, but Lobdell is hedging his bets by having a character or two in the book make cracks about it. And hey, drawn by Brett Booth, it’s a vast improvement from years past when Lobdell outed Northstar.

Then…

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Now…

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And thank you America for just enough social advancement over the last two decades that a writer can approach a character’s sexuality with some degree of subtlety.

I’m glad that Lobdell took a turn different turn from his Red Hood comic. I haven’t read his Superboy at all, but reports say that he’s writing each book very differently. It doesn’t make me want to read Red Hood, but Superboy sounds interesting, and I’m left to wonder if these books are going to be brought together somehow. It won’t likely make me buy all three books, though, since I’m more interested in the evocation of the nineties going on here.

The comics I read in my earliest youth rarely look as good as they did whenever I revisit them, and those were comics from the early seventies. I can only imagine what nostalgic rose-colored glasses are shattered when readers who grew up in the nineties go back and finally open up those bagged X-Force comics once they find out what they’re actually worth. I’ll try not to go into that any more than I already have regarding post-90′s disappointment, but there does seem to be a big push to take advantage of (or simply create) that nostalgia at DC, whether it’s desperate marketing trying to get nineties kids to buy comics they know won’t likely be worth anything, or former X-Men Editor/Marvel head Bob Harrass whispering in as many ears possible now that he’s over at DC.  So let’s address this.

This is like a nineties comic in that the writer and and artist both had their heydays in the 90′s, but the work is far more readable and professional than 95% of the mainstream titles I read in that decade.  That decade was not kind to Lobdell, given his X-Men assignments at the time, and how much soliloquizing and political relevance had to be fitted in a badly drawn page filled with head or full page spreads of characters whose faces evoked either two emotional ranges, anger or mannequin.  I swear, the average X-Men comic had enough overwriting to make Kevin Smith take out his blue pencil. It was as if the writers were in a competition over who could do the best Chris Claremont impression. Lobdell lost the contest pretty hands down in my eye, but I didn’t end up feeling great about the winners either.

The best summary of the 90′s can be found in the often-reprinted Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe by Garth Ennis.  In one scene, on the moon, The X-Men, Magneto, and all the other enemies and sub X-Teams go back and forth making speeches. Plenty of time for the Punisher’s timed nuclear device to go off. The nuke could be be seen as a metaphor for the direct market crash at that time, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Some “hot” writers I followed from the 90′s have disappointed me greatly beyond their heyday. This is my first time reading Lobdell for over a decade, and he’s actually improved. His dialogue is still wordy, evoking the 90′s style, but comparatively, it is much more functional and tighter. Out of the list of artists he worked with, I also can’t remember one as good as Booth in his corner (yes, I do include Jim Lee in that list). Often cartoony, Booth’s work is much more lively than what we’ve seen in the current Justice League comic. For the moment, I can forgive Lobdell for pinning an X-Men plot to the book (substituting “mutants” with “metahumans”) so long as the social conscience stays well in the back. Maybe the hunted superbeings schtick is just one more wink to the audience.

I mentioned liking the character of Bunker above, but I have to just say this that comparatively speaking, Bunker is the only character, fully realized anyway. The rest of the team is a bit stock. Red Robin is stoic leader, Wonder Girl is a bad girl, Superboy (not a member yet) is the antihero, Kid Flash is Impulse, Skitter is the angry character, and Soltice seems to bear the prophet-like mantle that Raven had in the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans. That’s a little disappointing, but also forgivable so far.

Truthfully, I’ve been looking to cut my monthly comics intake for reasons revolving around income. Some titles are easy to drop. With Teen Titans, aside from monetary reasons, I haven’t come up with another solid reason yet.

The apparent nineties revival is something to ignore by and large, with Liefeld trying to relive our youth more than his readers are, and Ethan Van Sciver on The Fure of Firestorm giving me an idea of what his Cyberfrog must have been like. Even as I’m stocking up on eyewash before looking at Rob Liefeld’s Deathstroke on the racks, I have to admit it’s kind of nice to read something by old pros in the field who obviously don’t want to repeat themselves too too much. Pick it up and tell me if I’m just suffering aftereffects from drinking the Firestorm Kool-Aid for so long.

About Chad Parenteau

I'm a poet. I run the Stone Soup Poetry series in Cambridge that runs every Monday night. I review comics in my spare time.
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