STORY: Scott Lobdell
ART: Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund
Whenever I review Teen Titans, I find my thoughts tend to devolve into “Scott Lobdell can’t write.” That’s a harsh accusation and one that’s barely accurate. Scott Lobdell does indeed have a lot of good ideas – he thinks big and writes even bigger. Too often, unfortunately, those thoughts are simply too big, causing Lobdell’s entire structure to fall apart. This was the case for “The Culling”, which was rooted in interesting causes, but was conveyed in such disarray, that it ended up being one of the weakest story arcs of 2012. On the flip side, Teen Titans #12 points out another monthly problem with Lobdell’s writing: the inability to accurately express teenage dialogue.
Just like in the real world, each character in DC’s universe has their own voice. One of the chief goals of a comic book writer is to convey said voice effectively while simultaneously injecting their own narrative flair. Writers like Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder understand this concept – one doesn’t change so much as bend a character in an effort to develop something new. Pushing these heroes to their limits is acceptable, but Bruce Wayne’s favorite band or hairstyle doesn’t change from creative team to creative team.
One of the reasons Teen Titans feels so half-baked is because there hasn’t been any effective character development. Basically, he’s so wrapped up in his plot to pay any close attention to smaller details that build a character from the ground up. I’ve spent paragraphs outlining Lobdell’s missteps, so I’ll spare those of you who follow my coverage of TT. But this lack of development is really only the beginning of the problem.
Having cardboard cutouts as your main characters in issue 12 is a huge fault with Teen Titans #12. Without more concrete personalities, each member of the Titans ends up sounding like an uptight, 30-something rather than adventurous teenagers who have already seen more horrible things than most of us will ever see in our entire lives. “I’m sorry…but the longer I am fully covered in the Silent Armor, the less control I have over my actions,” is about the blandest way this concept can be conveyed. Seriously, what kid talks like that? A much more believable sentence might read, “This armor…the more I wear it, the more I lose control” – it get’s the same point across without sounding cold and clinical, like reading from a script or cue cards. Later, Red Robin chimes in with this gem, in reference to Cassie’s soul becoming engulfed by the mystic armor: “I know that is you inside that armor!” A sentence so awkwardly structured that I had to read it again just to make sense of it in my head.
This strained, clumsy working of the English language isn’t even normal for refined adults, let alone superpowered teenagers. In a motel off the Jersey Turnpike, Bunker, Kid Flash, and Solstice are holed up while Miguel recovers. As the ever-tenacious Bunker attempts to go help Superboy and Red Robin, only to fall to the floor in pain, Solstice analyze’s the team’s situation in yet another terribly awkward sentence: “Miguel, if we’re going to be a team, which you have been such a strident proponent of, then we have to take our leader’s orders seriously.” (Aside from the atrocious substitution of commas in place of hyphens) When writing, it’s a general rule of thumb to use the least amount of words possible while still effectively conveying your idea. The revised version of the above sentence could easily read, “If you want this team to work – something you’ve been fighting for quite adamantly – then you’ve got to follow Red Robin’s orders.” While not wildly different, the latter sentence flows so much more easily and naturally.
But enough of Jay’s English Class.
Teen Titans #12 continues to look at the origin of Wonder Girl. And honestly, this arc has been far more interesting than anything so far – I really enjoyed the mythology and mystery surrounding the Silen Armor. Last month, we found out the Silent Armor was forged in the center of the sun and somehow causes Cassie pain and cuts years off her life. Now, things are getting harry as Cassie loses control to the armor more and more, harming her teammates in the process. Red Robin and Superboy hatch a plan to give Kon-El a sliver of separation between Cassie and the armor so he can use his telekinesis to separate them, thereby destroying the armor.
That’s when homeboy Diesel shows up. Honestly, he’s not that important yet. After taking the essence of the armor from Cassie while ripping her a new one for leaving him for dead, Diesel doesn’t even try and fight Cassie – he just flies away. Cassie’s remarks about the situation on the last page help make things interesting as far as cliffhangers go, but nonetheless, Diesel is still a pretty big enigma.
I spent a lot of time on this post, mostly because I feel that in the past, I may have lambasted Scott Lobdell without anything to back it up. Sure, I explained my general misgivings with his style, but I really wanted to find examples, evidence to my claims that the man just keeps tripping over one of the easiest character archetypes in the literary world: the awkward teenager. So while I’m admittedly impressed with this arc’s mythological aspects, the Teen Titans themselves are still about as interesting as a plank of wood.
Also, where’s Skitter?