You might say I’m developing an unhealthy fascination with Titans. “Look, Seb,” (you’re saying) “it’s been eight issues, now. You’ve done your duty, you’ve established that the series is an irreparable train wreck. Just let it go!” And you’re probably right. But like all the best train wrecks (although, how many train wrecks does one actually tend ever to see
? Even on telly?), I simply can’t tear myself away from it. Each month I have to know just what Judd Winick is doing to a group of characters that were once a byword for strongly-written personality-driven superhero drama. And I have to rant about it here.
This probably says more about my obsessive tendencies than it does about the comic, but never mind. It just rankles with me that stuff like this can get the support of its publisher when series like Blue Beetle get cancelled. Or indeed that it can get published – and thus make it past all kinds of editorial levels – at all, given the woeful fundamental mistakes it tends to make. Because after a marginal improvement last month, this is at least five or steps back in the wrong direction. It’s dreadful. Quite possibly the worst the series has been since that astonishingly bad second issue.
It’s not just that it’s massively insulting to anyone with a prior interest in the characters – although it is that, quite spectacularly so, in a sequence which sees fit to apparently retcon significant facts in the histories of four or five characters for no apparent reason other than a cheap laugh – because if it were only a disappointment for Teen Titans fans, it might still have something else to recommend it. But it doesn’t – it honestly, truly, doesn’t. It’s stupid comics at their absolute worst. The dialogue in the opening pages is clunky and error-strewn, sometimes at the same time (“How are we to know who he’s possessing? It’s not me, but how in the world are any of you suppose bone dry download free to believe me?”), and guilty of the worst kind of cheap, clumsy exposition. Then there’s the way the plot pieces are shuffled round to fit what Winick wants to happen – so the Titans’ headquarters just happens to come with a security system that “can only be unlocked by seven of us”. Just the thing for when you’ve got eight team members but you don’t know which one of them has been possessed by a malevolent git, and entirely useless for any other situation! Convenient!
To cap it all off, the majority of the issue is subsequently revealed not to have happened at all, in one of the most ludicrous fake-outs I’ve ever seen in a comic. Hey, you thought “it was all a dream” was a plot device that even an eight-year-old with learning difficulties would dismiss as a cheap cop-out? Well, Winick doesn’t! Spectacularly, then, not only is the comic rubbish, but it turns out that twenty pages of it are entirely meaningless rubbish, and we end the issue barely progressed from where we started it! That’s a special kind of genius, I think you’ll agree.
One of the reasons why #7 showed an improvement over previous issues, meanwhile, was that the ever-rotating carousel of artists had somehow managed to land on somebody who managed not to make me want to claw my eyes out. No such luck here, though, as Howard Porter steps in, presumably to bash out the pages in his lunch break after the originally-scheduled artist took one look at the script and decided going hungry was better than being a laughing stock. Porter’s inconsistent art was always the thing that made me take Grant Morrison’s JLA less seriously than I otherwise might, and as with the recent DCU : Decisions catastrophe, he shows here that if anything, he’s regressed rather than progressed as an artist. Aside from some shocking portrayals of action (one panel with the Flash attacking Jericho looks… well, rather more comical and suggestive than I suspect was intended) and a strange predilection towards showing characters with their heads cocked to one side, his worst crime here is his apparent inability to draw human eyes. I mean, come on, the guy’s a professional artist – and, despite never really being to my taste, hardly the biggest hack in the world – so should he not at least know by now that eyes are never quite so far apart? Or that they’re usually at roughly the same height as one-another? Or that they tend to be kind of oval-shaped?
Gah, enough of this. Titans is a terrible, terrible comic. It’s also a comic which insults the discerning reader inside me, both in the appallingly cack-handed nature of its crafting, and in its continued stomping up and down on the legacy of a great series. I’m not sure why you needed another seven hundred words telling you that, since I’ve already devoted far more time, effort and space to it than it deserves, but never mind. I’ll try not to write about it in full-length reviews from now on unless something dramatically changes, but I’ll end by reiterating the message one more time : buy this comic, and you’re telling DC that it’s alright for them to foist relentlessly stupid, rushed garbage upon the comics-buying public, and charge them three dollars for the privilege. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to wash my brain out. Where did I put that Casanova trade…?