November 23, 2008
Not the Teen Titans, but at the same maturity level.
(Open on Linkara sitting on his Futon)
Linkara: The Titans are by far my favorite superhero group in the world. It's thanks to Devin Grayson's writing on it that got me into comic books to begin with. But the team has had its share of ups and downs. One of the ones that's gotten off to a rocky start is a relaunch of the Wolfman/Perez-era Titans into a new book called, of course, "Titans".
(Cut to a montage of shots of covers for the comic book series "The New Teen Titans")
Linkara (v/o): The book, when launched in the '80s, became one of the most popular comics at the time and created some of the most classic comic storylines, including the traitor on the team with the storyline "The Judas Contract", the epic superhero battle where all hope is lost in "The Terror of Trigon", and even finally brought Dick Grayson out of his role as Robin, creating him as Nightwing.
Linkara: The less said about the disco costume, though, the better.
(More Teen Titans comics are shown)
Linkara (v/o): And it was fantastic because it was well-written in the hands of Marv Wolfman and drawn by the always-talented George Perez, who could draw a hundred superheroes in a single page and yet still detail every one of them perfectly.
Linkara: So with such a fantastic legacy behind it to live up to, who does DC give the book to?
Linkara (v/o): Judd Winick as writer, whose last really spectacular stuff was years ago at Marvel, and Ian Churchill, who thinks that a woman's hips are just kind of attached somewhere to their lower torso. And while he never flinches away from an upskirt shot of Supergirl, according to all biological rules, this woman has no area where her legs actually come together.
Linkara: (holding up a gun) Suicide gun on standby. (puts gun down) And while I will say that at the time of this video, the stories have suddenly gotten a hundred times better, the first four issues still are terrible. How terrible? Well, I'll answer that for you by the end of this, (holds up cover for "Titans #1") so let's dig into "Titans #1".
(The cover of this comic is shown)
Linkara (v/o): This is a great cover. Most teen books when they start out will tend to have a shot of characters running at the reader or simply posing dramatically. Heck, with a book like this, I expected these characters running at the reader in the same poses as they had in the first issue of "The New Teen Titans". Going away from convention, this cover depicts the unity of seven teammates bringing their hands together as one, and it's just beautiful, even if the physical proportions seem slightly askew. It's simple, it's colorful, and it catches the eye instantly. It's a pity that couldn't remain constant with the rest of the book.
(The comic opens to the first page, beginning the story)
Linkara (v/o): We open in Gotham City, where Nightwing is leaping off a rooftop, but it's kind of weird. For one thing, we're seeing Gotham during the daytime, and frankly, it looks pretty damn good. In the background, there's some rather unusual architecture going for Gotham, with spires that don't seem Gothic or dark at all. In fact, while the colors are a little washed out, most seem to be green and blue buildings with lots of stained glass and spires that don't appear threatening in the least. Nightwing lists off the things he loves about Gotham.
Nightwing: There's these Cuban meat sandwiches at a dump called Ibano's.
Linkara: Admittedly, it's hard to get the Cubans to go into the meat grinder, but...
Nightwing: There's the near perfect acoustics at the Jonus Theatre.
Linkara: Well, they were perfect ones, but then Phil Collins had a concert there, and it hasn't been the same since then.
Nightwing: There's the 30-foot Robert Arneson statue of Muhammad Ali.
Linkara: How much you want to bet there's a Silver Age story out there where that statue comes to life, thanks to aliens?
Linkara (v/o): As Nightwing lands inside a large building, he exposits that Bruce has set up a series of safe houses throughout the city where any of the Bat crew can crash, take a shower, and change clothes if they need to. He mentions that only a few people know about all of them, including him, Bruce, Alfred, and Tim. He also mentions that Barbara only knew about a few of them. Good to see the Batman is so trusting of his compatriots. In the first of what's going to be many full-page spreads, Nightwing suddenly starts running out of the room and leaps out the window just as the apartment explodes behind him. Okay, there are a few things wrong with this. First of all, there's nothing either on the first page or the second page to indicate that he saw a bomb or that any kind of explosive had been planted in the room. In fact, in three small panels, we see Nightwing running towards the reader as the blank wall behind him just explodes for no reason whatsoever, so how did he know what to do? Furthermore, the art is just bizarre, since Nightwing's mask now covers half of his face. It's the same shape it's always been, but it's like someone stretched it out to cover up the maximum amount of face as possible. And in theory, this makes sense, except it's never been shown like that before! And by the way, you know that "but no one knew about the safe houses" thing he brought up? That problem never gets resolved. At all. Not in this issue and not in the succeeding issues. So why did he bring it up? The final confusion comes from the title of the story: "The Fickle Hand, Part Two: Today I Settle All Family Business." Part two? Part two?! There wasn't an issue zero; this is the first issue of the series! How can this be part two?!
Linkara: Allow me to explain this: several months prior to this issue's release, DC printed a one-shot called (holds up said one-shot...) "The Titans East Special". In it, the character of Cyborg assembled a new group of Teen Titans, only for them all to be mysteriously attacked at the end by red energy beams that appeared to slaughter them all. However, Ian Churchill's hands got injured, and he was unable to get the first issue out right after the special. As such, DC decided to sit on the book for months, expecting readers to remember everything that happened in the special. They didn't care about casual readers who didn't even know about the special, but picked up this book anyway because it's a number-one. Except it's not a number-one, it's technically a number-two. Oh, my lord, is it a number-two.
Linkara (v/o): In any case, in a feat of acrobatics that seems impossible even for someone of Nightwing's talents, he leaps out of the exploding apartment and hits the glass of the building across the street. Naturally, he just smacks against it and starts to fall, so he pulls out a Batarang and slams it into the glass, then cutting a swath down the glass as he falls like he's in a freakin' pirate movie. All the while, he continues narrating.
Nightwing: It's not possible. No one knew about the havens. No one.
Linkara (v/o): No one? You just said two minutes ago that at least four people knew about them!
Nightwing: It's not possible. It has to be random. I couldn't be the target.
Linkara: Geez, no wonder Gotham is such a hellhole. People just randomly set explosives everywhere!
Linkara (v/o): After managing to break his fall with a conveniently-placed flagpole, Nightwing bounces down to an alleyway. And of course, who should be waiting for him in the alleyway but about a dozen men and women dressed in S&M gear, with zipper masks, leather straps, and other assorted latex materials. I mean, what else would you expect to find in alleyways, am I right?
Nightwing: What are you kids all dressed up for?
Linkara: (as one of these people in the alleyway) Uh, yeah, hi, we're collecting for BDSM Awareness Day.
Linkara (v/o): On the next page, we cut away to the home of Buddy Baker, AKA the superhero Animal Man. Just to explain the backstory here, following the weekly series "52", the superheroine Starfire landed back on Earth and decided to stay with the Baker family for a while. So, what does she do when the Bakers aren't around? She swims around naked in their pool. And this scene is all about Starfire's own societal beliefs about clothing, and not just because Winnick and Churchill wanted to have a naked Starfire in their book. That'd just be... well, exactly what I'd expect, in fact.
Starfire: Human prudishness still baffles me.
Linkara (v/o): ...she narrates.
Starfire: I will never fully comprehend how a society that is so intensely preoccupied with sex is equally cowed by nudity.
Linkara: Perhaps it'd be best if you didn't encourage a (makes "finger quotes") "society preoccupied with sex", by making a character naked for (gets annoyed) the simple purpose of having TNA in a comic! You're not being ironic, you're being stupid!
Linkara (v/o): There are two odd choices for the artwork here. Starfire isn't colored orange-gold like she usually is, but rather a dark shade of yellow. Starfire sets up a towel to do some nude sunbathing and continues narrating.
Starfire: But since recovering my powers, I need to expose myself to rejuvenating rays of the sun as much as possible.
Linkara (v/o): Annnd... what is it about absorbing sun rays through her breasts or her ass that's so much more efficient than any other part of her skin? Seriously, there's no need for her to be completely nude here. They could get away with doing this at a beach and still have the same effect. Secondly, her hair is on fire. Yeah... it's a neat effect and better than the usual stuff, with the hair just being improbably long, but doesn't this give the idea that her hair completely burns off every time she's flying? Cliff, Animal Man's son, arrives home and sees the naked Starfire. While it initially looks like he's freaked out because the voluptuous alien superheroine is naked in front of him, he then points behind Starfire. Turning the page, it turns out there's a huge phallic demon thing with several rows of teeth coming out of the pool right behind the still-nude Starfire. Oh, and of course, its reveal is done on a full-page spread. We switch scenes to a high school that Raven is attending. Her classmates want her notes with them, but she refuses. Now, if this was just some random teenager, there wouldn't be a problem with this. The problem is that this is Raven, a superheroine whose powers are based on her emotions and her ability to read the emotions of others. She was raised in an interdimensional realm where she was taught to suppress those emotions, and where she didn't have a lot of contact with our world, much less American culture. As a result, she tends to speak in a very controlled, sometimes melodramatic fashion. She's also very compassionate in the way she spoke, and she also cared a lot about what other people thought of her, leading to a dichotomy where she both wanted friendship, but also was frightened by the possibilities it led to. Now, here's the exchange of dialogue that she has with two classmates...
Classmate #1: Oh, c'mon, Rachel...
Linkara (v/o): Rachel Roth being her secret identity...
Classmate #1: ...I thought we were friends.
Rachel/Raven: Well, one--we could debate the truth in you actually having "thought." But two, you hate me. Both of you. I know this, you know this, and honestly, I'm pretty comfortable with that.
Classmate #2: Well, we wouldn't hate you so much if you weren't such a bitch.
Classmate #1: Everyone thinks you're a bitch.
Rachel/Raven: Oddly, I'm comfortable with that as well. But I'd say your definition of everyone is more like the brain donors you hang with.
Linkara: Now, it could be said that characters evolve and change over time, so it's not like the same people they were when they first started. And in Raven's case, she has gone through a lot of changes in her life. The problem is, as a fan who has followed and read those transformations, (becomes angry) at no point did Raven transform into a snarky crew girl who's comfortable with being a bitch!
Linkara (v/o): And look at that – she's wearing a thong! This is a woman who was so confused about relationships that Wolfman wrote an entire issue where she and Starfire just talk about love and affection. And now she's wearing a thong!
(Linkara looks up in ire, then slams the comic book shut and takes out a huge gun and puts it to his head. However, he can't bring himself to pull the trigger and groans in frustration)
Linkara: God, give me strength! (opens up comic book again)
Linkara (v/o): Getting back to the actual issue, following that conversation, some kind of giant demonic warthog appears in the hallways as it breathe fire. And do I even need to mention that it's a full-page spread? Raven calls the girls to run, and in an unintentionally humorous piece, we see the two girls making what is loving referred to as "porn face", their mouths just hanging open for no explanation. And what should be stark terror just becomes silly. Cut to Washington, D.C. Is anyone else seeing a pattern developing? And we see Roy Harper, currently calling himself Red Arrow. There are three things of particular note here. One is that Roy Harper has blond hair in this scene, yet every other book in the past, I've seen him as a redhead. Second, his costume at this point is supposed to be a red version of Green Arrow's, but here, it's some kind of red leather jacket, with a vaguely arrow-like shape in the front. Third, his mask has become as huge as Nightwing's. Apparently, they buy from the same company these days. Anyway, he's driving along and talking to his daughter's babysitter. Apparently, said daughter has stuffed a waffle into the DVD player, and I have to admit, this is really the only genuine funny thing in the comic. Really, it's because of this nostalgic feeling I get for reminding me of when Devin Grayson was writing Lee Ann Wright Harper's young daughter; she was always cute, if not quite so destructive, and funny. Of course, this scene comes to an abrupt end, as large spikes come up from the ground, all around Roy's motorcycle, trying to kill him. And that's it; one page is all Roy Harper gets. Wow, it is just like the good old days of the team, where Roy didn't get any respect as the fifth member of the group. Yeah, I think my nostalgic feeling turned out to be indigestion. On the last panel, a different narrative caption comes up in a transition to the next page.
Roy: Ugh... I love cookie dough ice cream. I love Tom Waits.
Linkara (v/o): Apparently, we're listening to someone in a confessional box here.
Roy: I love red bikini briefs. I love being in charge of this motley crew.
(Cut to a shot of Nikki Sixx of the band Mötley Crüe)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, Nikki Sixx is joining the Titans. Nope, never mind. I flip the page...
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): ...and an establishing shot of a castle brings us to our next Titan under attack. This is the home of the Doom Patrol and, subsequently, of Garfield Logan, AKA Beast Boy. Our next artistic confusion is in the fact that Beast Boy, the green shapeshifter of the team, now is sporting mutton chops. Why? Who knows and who cares? So we're now twelve pages into a 30-page comic, so we're finally going to get some plot, right? I mean, we've had four attacks on superheroes, so it must be time to actually explain what's going on, right? Nope! Beast Boy wakes up and answer his phone, but the phone ends up being completely unnecessary to this scene. Beast Boy just walks over to it, picks it up, and expects to hear an answer, and instead, lava starts to fall from the ceiling!
Linkara: (grinning) Man, with that Starfire scene earlier, and now the lava, I can tell this is really a hot comic!
(He laughs uproariously at that "joke", then takes out his gun again and puts it to his head, before suddenly breaking down, crying)
Linkara (v/o): In yet another full-page spread, Beast Boy transforms into a flying squirrel. I'll save you the Rocky and Bullwinkle joke, and instead comment on the fact that...
(Cut to some shots of covers of the book series "Animorphs")
Linkara (v/o): ...this transformation sequence oddly resembles the front cover of the old book series "Animorphs", where human beings turn into animals to fight an alien invasion. Man, remember "Animorphs"? I'd really love to read "Animorphs" right now instead of this. Hell, I'd be happy to watch the low-budget TV series they made of it instead of reading this!
(Cut back to Beast Boy turning into a squirrel, while the Animorphs theme plays in the background)
Singers: It's all in your head...
Linkara (v/o): Out in deep space, Kyle Rayner and Donna Troy are arguing with one another. Oh, and hey, Kyle Rayner's mask suddenly got really huge, too, and– Oh, wait, his mask is supposed to look like that. Oh, I get it! In the scenes with Nightwing and Roy Harper, Ian Churchill thought he was drawing Kyle Rainer, and the inker and colorist just fixed it for him. Donna's costume is just looking hideous! In an artistic decision I'm still trying to comprehend, following Donna Troy's return from the dead a few years ago, artists decided to trade in her halter top for a tank top, one that exposed lots of cleavage. Of course, for all the insults I could throw at that decision, Churchill took it a step further and just made the cleavage for the costume nonexistent. So basically, Donna's wearing a bra that cuts down, exposes her entire cleavage, and then comes back together again for the lower part of the suit. I'd get into why these two are arguing, but it's related to "Countdown", and I'm already dealing with one comic abomination, and I don't want to get into two. A hole opens up in space itself, and thousands of tentacles come out and attack the two. And... that's our scene. Oh, and do I really need to say it? Yeah, the space tentacles were in another full-page spread!
Linkara: This is a really great drinking game: whenever there's a full-page spread in "Titans", (holds up a drinking cup of beer) take a shot.
Linkara (v/o): Our next scene brings us to Keystone City and the home of Wally West, AKA The Flash. And what is the first line of dialogue we get to hear from the fastest man alive?
The Flash: I stink like the inside of a buffalo.
Linkara (v/o): Wow, Wally, you sure know how to paint a picture. I'm not quite certain why the inside of a buffalo smells bad or even how you know what it smells like, but I don't think I'm going to argue. So the floor becomes a weird goo that rises up and starts attaching itself to Wally and attacking him. Oh, and of course, it happens in a full-page spread.
Linkara: (holding up a shot glass) Take a shot!
Linkara (v/o): The best part about this scene is that he just looks down at the goo that's covering more than half of his body, and all he scream out is, "Hey!", like he's the Fonz from Happy Days. And the expression on his face isn't horror about his attack and imminent death; it's just kind of an annoyed scowl, as if someone had just bumped into him without even an apology. Okay, we have yet another cut, and this time, it's time to the Teen Titans. So with twelve pages left in this comic, we must finally be coming to the plot, right? I mean, seeing the Titans who don't even star in this book must mean we're actually going to get some actual story and not random scenes of– Oh, no, wait, they get attacked, too. Sorry, false alarm. There's not much to tell here, as all that's mentioned is that they recently completed a storyline where they fought evil versions of themselves from the future, and that Robin wants to train more. The scene doesn't need to be here at all, in fact. I mean, we could've just had the group finally get together and realize, "Say, every person who is or ever was a Titan is getting attacked by some mysterious force." All it does is pad out the comic 230 pages, and yet, not a single one of these pages has been PLOT! What's worse is that these seven aren't even the stars of the book, and yet, three whole pages get devoted to their fight scene! That's more than can be said for Roy or Donna, who got one and two pages, respectively. We finally come back with one of the fight scenes. Nightwing is still battling the (?)-masked villains, generally doing a good job of kicking them around and knocking them away. He rips off one of the masks and reveals it to be a scraggly demons with maggots falling out of its eye sockets, pointed ears, and a green tongue that's so long, it would make Venom jealous.
Linkara: (looking up in shock) Oh, my God, it's Al Pacino!
Linkara (v/o): While Nightwing comments on the ugliness of the demon, a Batarang suddenly swoops down and grabs a demon behind him. Nightwing states that he "had him", and of course, we switch pages to a full-page spread of Batman, who has the demon tied up.
Linkara: (holding up shot glass again) Take a shot!
Linkara (v/o): Batman explains that the other Titans have been attempting to contact him on his communicator. After telling Nightwing that something happened, we cut to where things left off in the "Titans East" special. And, oh, look, another full-page spread, this time with the character Power Boy impaled on a tree branch.
Linkara: (holding up shot glass) Take a shot. (becomes angry) And then spit it out in disgust!
Linkara (v/o): I'd give you a rundown of the survivors of it, but really, it has no relevance to what's going on. A quick succession of panels shows that the Titans are all there, and they piece together what they know. Oh, my God, we're getting plot! Story is actually occurring here! They realize that someone is systematically trying to eliminate everyone who was ever a Titan, and it's someone with a far reach that they all came close to dying from their attacks. A pity we couldn't actually see that. Roy points out that it's clear that it was a supernatural attack. What, the lava from the ceiling, the maggot-eyed demons, and shower goop weren't a dead giveaway already? Contribute something useful, Roy! Nightwing thinks that everyone knows who it is, and asks Raven to tell him he's wrong. However, she confirms his suspicions.
Raven: Trigon has returned.
(A dramatic sting plays)
Linkara: (holding shot glass) All righty, and after we take a shot from the double-page spread of the Titans looking all sullen and grimacing, we finally get some plot. Now the book can–
(But it's revealed to be the end, to Linkara's shock)
Linkara (v/o): WAIT A SECOND! It's the end of the issue! What the hell! You mean to tell me we got through 27 pages of random, useless fight scenes, and we had all of one page of plot?! Oh, what is even the hell?! This is how you end the first issue of your book? You have maybe one question answered, who's attacking them, and then you just leave it at that?! Honestly, we could've had Nightwing step forward and proudly say, "Bring 'em on! We beat 'em once and we'll do it again!" Instead, we have this lousy, two-page spread that doesn't even make a lick of sense! First of all, Donna is in a different outfit. Her gauntlets now have a red star on them for no particular reason... I thought those were kind of an invincible Amazonian metal; how did you just engrave stuff into them? ...and now is wearing some kind of black leather with red stars coming down the sides. Oh, but the cleavage exposing remains. Thanks a lot, Mr. Churchill! Roy Harper is back in his Red Arrow costume, but in addition to the giant quiver he wears on his back, there are two other giant quivers hanging from his belt that would not be useful to him in battle. Nightwing has scuffs all over his costume and broken glass embedded in it. Donna had time to change clothes, but Nightwing didn't? Starfire has clothes on, but she's holding her elbows like she's cold. Can't imagine why. And she looks stoned.
Linkara: This book is awful! After counting a full-page spread, I discovered that there are eleven pages devoted to them. Eleven out of thirty are full-page or two-page spreads! This comic ended up costing $3.50, because more than a third of it has been used by a lazy writer and even lazier artists to make big spreads of the heroes. If I wanted a freakin' pin-up book, (becomes angry) I would've bought a freakin' pin-up book!
(Cut to a group shot of the Justice League)
Linkara (v/o): And you know, maybe I'd even let someone like Alex Ross get away with that, but not this crap!
(Cut back to the Titans 1 comic)
Linkara (v/o): The anatomy is bad, the costumes are drawn incorrectly or have just been made stupid, and while the monsters themselves look really cool, I didn't want to pay an extra fifty cents just to see them. The writing is atrocious, with no resolutions on the fight scenes, and the characters don't act like the Titans that got me into comics!
Linkara: (holding up comic) Really, I feel there's only one way to describe this comic: (leans in close to camera) it stinks like the inside of a buffalo! (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)