Teen Titans (2003) #51-70, Titans (2008) #1-13, and several specials and miniseries

There’s a ton of books in this review. I was going to write several mini reviews, but time got away from me, and I have to be honest … I wasn’t as invested in this stretch of Titans as much as I had been with the 2003-2006 issues. Funny enough, that was the case when they originally came out. I am not entirely sure when my last issue of both Teen Titans and Titans was, but there was a point around 2007-2008 when I completely stopped buying comics.

It wasn’t the Titans books that did it for me. It was a combination of financial things as well as not really having the time to read everything. But as far as the comics went, there was a huge feeling of burnout. I’d absolutely loved the leadup to Infinite Crisis and quite a bit of the actual event. 52 was also a good read. But then we got Countdown to Final Crisis and Final Crisis as well as the lead-up to Blackest Night. I was starting to get serious event fatigue. Moreover, I was getting tired of spending my money on books that I just wasn’t enjoying (and in may cases, reading out of obligation). So around the time that Final Crisis #3 came out, I ditched comics altogether.

That lasted for about a year and a half. I’d been listening to some comics podcasts and reading the solicits for a few of the titles that I’d previously read. So I’d eventually get back in, starting around issue #88. I’d finally end it all when that book finished with issue #100 and the dawn of the New 52.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What was it that made me want to quit buying everything and not just reducing my comics load to the Titans books?

Well, it was that even these books weren’t interesting me at the time. I was maybe half paying attention to what was happening in Teen Titans, and when Titans–a series that reunited the classic Wolfman/Perez lineup–started, I bought a few issues but didn’t like it at all and outright dropped the book. So the question was, of course: would I find it all better the second time around?

Teen Titans picks up in issue #51 with a sequel to the Titans of Tomorrow storyline called “Titans of Tomorrow: Today!” It’s basically the “Days of Future Present” of the book, and much like that X-Men crossover, it’s not as good as the original story. Granted, it’s fine (and I’d say much better than “Days of Future Present,” which I kind of thought was a mess), but suffers from a good amount of sequelitis. One thing that I guess is a positive for it is that it did help with the character motivations of both Robin and Wonder Girl, who were dealing with the death of Superboy (from Infinite Crisis) and dealing with it terribly.

Speaking of those two characters, they have the biggest roles to play in the way that the title diverges from what it was set up to be. Soon after the Titans of Tomorrow storyline, Robin leaves the team, mainly because of the chaos that was happening in the Batman titles. In fact, Tim’s own series is canceled with issue #183, and that has a “Last Rites” banner on it, which I think leads into “Battle for the Cowl” or something. It’s a story I’ve never read, so I can’t really help with that.

Wonder Girl, on the other hand, stays on as team leader and is one of the only consistent members through the entire run. She also winds up with her own miniseries around the time of Amazons Attack and Countdown to Infinite Crisis. That’s an effort to reestablish Cassie in the post-Infinite Crisis DCU by giving her a new secret identity (Drusilla, a nod to the Wonder Girl character from the 1970s TV show) and a new boarding school to go to in Washington, D.C. It doesn’t seem to catch on, Amazons Attack is a huge mess of a storyline, and the miniseries, while fun to read in the moment, is a bit of a shrug.

Two other Titans get miniseries in this particular stretch: Cyborg and Raven. The Cyborg series seems like it’s actually a trial run for some of the solo books he’d get later and involves a “re-introduction” of his origin by having his friend Ron (first seen in Cyborg’s “Tales of the New Teen Titans” issue) become an anti-Cyborg of sorts. There’s also a plot involving his ex-girlfriend Sarah Charles and her fiance, who is heading up the cybernetics experiments but is put in the Miles Dyson position of having his work be used for evil. I had actually been missing the back half of the series for years because I’d dropped comics altogether in the middle of it and finally got the rest of them by going through bins. It was … fun to read in the moment but ultimately seemed like more of a Nineties retread, to be honest (and the art is very early Image in places).

The Raven miniseries wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be either. Marv Wolfman was writing, so it had promise, and it was a pretty good story, but I was never a fan of the way Raven was de-aged once the Geoff Johns run started. Then again, the series wasn’t really meant for me anyway, so I’m not going to sit here and bash it. But I think that does speak to one of the problems that I’ve been having with some of the elder Titans in this era. So many of them feel as if their stories, in some way or another, are complete. There’s not much else that you can do with the tortured pasts of Cyborg, Raven, Beast Boy (Changeling), and Starfire without retreading old stories. Putting a few of them in mentor positions was a great idea from those writers who did it because you had them taking the next step and making them “adult” superheroes. But then you have Raven who, probably because of the Teen Titans TV show (or because Geoff Johns wanted it this way), got thrown into the body of a 15-year-old girl and had a lot of her character progression kind of scaled back. Well, it depended on the writer because nobody seemed to know how to write her. Was she older and wiser or was she a teenage goth chick?

So … yeah, three miniseries that were entertaining in the moment but really not worth more than a shrug when seeing them in the shortbox. What showed some promise, though, was the Terror Titans series. A dumb name, but a pretty cool idea that tied in (sort of) to Final Crisis (more on that “tie in” stuff later). The Clock King had kidnapped several former Titans members and forced them to engaged in an underground Fight Club (via brainwashing) that took place in the Dark Side club, which was at one point run by Boss Dark Side (the tie-in to Final Crisis being this, at any rate). One of the kidnapped Titans happened to be Miss Martian and Rose Wilson, The Ravager, decided to quit the Teen Titans and join the Terror Titans, but only to infiltrate the group so she could take it down.

Rose Wilson’s character arc is one of the highlights of this era, which was primarily written by Shawn McKeever. I have always been a fan of his work, starting with The Waiting Place, which remains one of my all-time favorite stories, and I really liked his Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane book. His handling of Ravager was really good, as he had her start to find herself after so much time of being manipulated by her father as well as not trusted by her teammates. The Terror Titans miniseries wound up being fun because of the way it pitted characters against one another and introduced Static to the Titans-verse. The rest of his run, unfortunately, was bogged down by the team being in disarray and while there does seem to be a storyline involving various villains including Lycus, a Greek God-adjacent character, the infighting among the team seemed to take away from it. It all had a feel similar to the Australian Outback era of Uncanny X-Men or the post-#100 New Titans issues.

What I don’t think helped was the weird way DC was trying to weave the continuity among all of the books. Certain characters appeared, had things happen to them, and even died outside of the Titans books and then the books were forced to pick up those threads (or at least acknowledge them). The biggest culprit was Countdown, which was a mess of a series that had quite a bit of potential. And Final Crisis also gummed up the works. In fact, I went back and read all of Final Crisis and the tie-ins (which I got via DC Infinite and a reading order blog) and thought it was a much better read than when I first read it years ago. I still think that if Morrison had stuck to just the Darkseid stuff and given a little more context as to what had been happening across the other titles (like, why is Mary Marvel now evil? When did that happen?), then it would have been more coherent. But the Monitors and Mandrakk and all of the other weird stuff, especially issue #7 just muddled everything. Or he could have kept it and made it an eight-issue series instead? I don’t know. Either way, it added to the listlessness of everything DC (that wasn’t Batman or Green Lantern), so I know why I left

Now, while Teen Titans meandered, Titans hit like a thud. I wanted to like this series, both the first time it was out and this time as well. But a storyline where the other children of Trigon showed up and Raven tried to kill the team was enough to make me remember why I dumped the book in the first place. It just felt reheated in a way that never quite did it for me.

And then, there was “Deathtrap.”

This was a multi-part crossover across three titles: Teen Titans, Titans, and Vigilante, which had launched only a few months prior. The villain was Jericho, whose resurrection into villain (he’d apparently gone crazy from absorbing bits of the personalities he came in contact with over the years … yes, it’s stupid …) was now complete and he created a “Deathtrap” scenario for the Titans that ultimately ended with them having to fight him and Vigilante finally getting what he needed, which was gouging his eyes out in revenge for some sort of assassination he’d pulled off in another book. See what I mean about things happening in other places and barely being explained?

At this point, I’m coming up on the last couple of years of these titles before finally sending everything out the door. I remember that they improved with writers like Felicia Henderson and J.T. Krul, so I’m hoping for some better stuff. But right now, the only positive thing I’m feeling is validation for having dropped the books for a year and a half.

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