Teen Titans (vol.4) #1 (2011)

Teen Titans (vol.4) #1 (November, 2011)
“Teen Spirit”
Writer – Scott Lobdell
Penciller – Brett Booth
Inker – Norm Rapmund
Colorist – Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer – Carlos M. Mangual
Assistant Editor – Katie Kubert
Editor – Bobbie Chase
Cover Price: $2.99

For this weeks episode of The Cosmic Treadmill, Reggie and I discuss a favorite from my youth… Generation X #1 by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo.  Revisiting that classic book made me realize that I might just need a bit more Lobdell in my life, and so… here we are.  I’m actually quite surprised it’s taken me this long to cover a book that he’s written on the humble blog, being as though he was one of my all-time favorites growing up.  He wrote Uncanny X-Men #308, which holds a special place in my comics-readery heart.

Now, considering how much I enjoyed Lobdell’s X-Works like Generation X… I figured it was only natural that I’d really dig his Teen Titans.  Did I?  Hmm… let’s find out.

We open with Kid Flash butting into a news report about a big fire in Westchester County, New York.  Gotta wonder if the burning building might be a reference to a certain School for Gifted Youngsters our writer used to know.  Kid Flash then charges in to fight the fire and save some “nearly toasted buns”, however does not take into account that his super-speed might just cause a back draft making an already bad fire many many times worse!

The fire goes full inferno, and Bart is sent flying.  The reporter, who I’m sure DC is happy they didn’t name-drop as Linda Park sends it back to the newsroom where the anchor discusses the recent surge in teenage metahumans.  Tim Drake is watching the news play out via his holographic video monitors in his penthouse before shutting them down.  He looks at his photo of him as Robin (because, hey… Tim was Robin at some point) with Batman.  Gotta wonder who snapped this pic, right?

He tosses the photo aside as a few characters enter the scene.  We meet a creepy thin man with odd shades from the organization known as N.O.W.H.E.R.E.  He is flanked on either side by some blue-masked guards, all of whom have their targets set on Tim.  He’s come to offer Tim clemency, if only he were to join their cause in rounding up young heroes.

Tim ain’t digging that, and so he triggers the penthouse to blow.  He dives out and plummets toward the street below before activating his (ugh) Red Robin wing-suit.  Here he mentions that he was once Robin, the Boy Wonder.  I’ll choose to believe that.

We shift scenes to Malibu, California where Cassie Sandsmark drives her stolen car down the Pacific Coast Highway.  She is pulled over by a police officer and when she tries to play coy… he grabs her by the throat!  I suppose I ought to mention that this scene features our obligatory Pandora cameo.

Anyhoo, the officer gets kicked in the back of the head by Red Robin who must be one hell of a quick traveler.  He introduces himself to Cassie, and refers to her as Wonder Girl… which, she ain’t too pleased about.  He tips her off to the danger she is in, and the nebulous plans of N.O.W.H.E.R.E.  He manages to sort of gain her relative trust, just in time for an enemy helicopter to hit the scene.

With no other choice, Cassie “Wonder Girls” up.  Though, don’t call it that… she doesn’t like that.  She launches herself into the helicopter and proceeds to tear it apart.  She is disappointed to find that the entire rig was automated… as she had her heart set on busting a few heads.

After the threat is neutralized, Cassie falls into the water.  Red Robin offers her a hand, and this is where we come to learn that this new Wonder Girl is kind of a jerk.  This gets worse as the series progresses… but that’s a story for another time.

We shift scenes to a laboratory “half a world away”.  It would appear that this is a N.O.W.H.E.R.E. facility due to the appearance of our man-with-the-shades from earlier.  He is demanding a young woman… who we all know as Gen¹³ member Caitlin Fairchild to do… something.

That something is… releasing the Superboy!

Now, this is a bit of a challenge.  It’s difficult for me to review this issue as a single chapter, because I know where it leads.  I’m going to do my best to take a look at this issue in a vacuum, far away from the… rather unpleasant (in my opinion) volume in it’s entirety.  I feel like the volume falls apart rather quickly and doesn’t ever feel like a legitimate Teen Titans series.  The closer it limped to its, for lack of a better term, mercy killing… the more difficult to read it became.

Anyhoo, this issue… not bad.  Not really what I want from a Teen Titans book, though maybe it would feel more right if it were the first issue of a Red Robin ongoing series.  Of course, I suppose we must consider that we are reading something from the “for the trade” era, so it’s difficult to hold any feelings of incompleteness against the issue itself.

Cassie is horrendously unlikable here… and from what I recall about the series as a whole, she never really becomes all that sympathetic.  I’m not sure what was wrong with her pre-Flashpoint origin… or personality, that we needed to go with this unpleasant version.  Before we watched an awkward and self-conscious young lady blossom into a formidable and inspirational team leader.  Here?  Just a bad girl with a chip on her shoulder.  Pretty big downgrade.  I do think her costume is pretty cool though.

Speaking of costumes… I hate… haaaaate Red Robin’s wingsuit.  When I first saw it as they were announcing the New-52! titles, I thought it was a gag.  I just don’t see Robin, Red or otherwise, using a wingsuit.  He should be using bat-lines and grappling hooks… not flying or gliding.  Just my opinion…

Also, sticking with our team leader… I am reviewing this from a copy from the first printing of this issue.  If I understand correctly, subsequent reprintings and collected editions have been edited to remove any mention of Tim having ever been Robin.  I know this caused quite the uproar online when it went down… but I think I was too caught up in my (ugh) head-canon to even notice a difference.  To me, Tim Drake started his crime-fighting career as Robin.  Whether or not DC agrees (this week) doesn’t really matter to me.  Not gonna get mad about it… and neither should anybody else.

I do remember thinking it was pretty cool that Fairchild from Gen¹³ was brought into the mainline DC Universe.  I always enjoy stuff like that… and it totally makes past issues with her teaming up with the Generation X kids (as well as all of the Image folks) feel really far out!  I didn’t read the New-52! volume of Superboy, so I’m not entirely clear how large a role she had… though I did (unfortunately) read as much of the Ravagers series as I could stomach.  Don’t remember much of it, beside the fact that I did not like it.

Overall… I’m kind of on the fence with this one.  I can’t tell you it isn’t a good issue… because it’s really not bad.  I also feel strange recommending it, because I so disliked where this (and the following) volume goes.  Keep in mind that I say this as a guy who gives Scott Lobdell a lifetime free-pass for having written the excellent Uncanny X-Men #308.  The characters are wildly unpleasant… and it becomes really rather difficult to cheer them on.  Not surprisingly, this has been made available digitally.  It’s only a buck (as of this writing), so if you have some curiosity gnawing at ya… checking it out won’t cost ya all that much.

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