Teen Titans #34

"New Teen Titans Part I: One Year Later"
Story by Geoff Johns, art by Tony Daniel, Kevin Conrad, and Art Thibert.

Every superhero comic has to contain at least one fight scene. That's not a 100% hard-and-fast rule: I can remember an issue of the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans in which the characters did nothing but talk about their relationships. (I thought this was the very height of maturity; my friend Nick Chin thought it sucked. In retrospect, it's obvious which of us was the more sophisticated reader: if you want to read about people not fighting and you buy superhero comics, you are a moron.) But it's enough of a rule that I can't think of another example. Explosions and fisticuffs are part of the form, like the discovery of the killer in a mystery. A superhero story has a fight scene in it.

But an individual comic is not a superhero story anymore. This issue of Teen Titans, for instance, contains the first 22 pages of a multipart story that will run at least four issues. That story only makes sense on the heels of the seven-issue Infinite Crisis miniseries, in which one Teen Titan died and another went into a coma. Teen Titans #34 is not a story; it's a chapter. (And it will be presented that way when "New Teen Titans" is collected into a paperback.) Requiring every chapter to contain a fight scene makes for some wack storytelling.

I'm picking on this book because the fight scenes feel particularly forced. The story begins as Cyborg wakes from a yearlong coma and thus gets to play Reader Stand-In, as he (and we) learn what's happened to the team in his absence. One of the things that's happened is that Ravager, a former villain, has joined the Titans, and so the first thing Cyborg does on waking is try to punch her out. After that little contretemps has been resolved, the team goes looking for Wonder Girl, who happens to be in the middle of a fight with Gemini from the Brotherhood of Evil. Cue more punching before they implore WG to rejoin the team. The fighting is clearly not where Johns's mind is at -- so why can't he just write an issue about how the Titans have reorganized, and what it's like for Cyborg to cope with these changes all at once? He could get to the fighting next time, or at the story's climax circa issue 40.

Other points: It's cool that Cyborg complains about how crap the new team is, and Robin says, "They're the best I could get right now," but is this what fans want to see? (Possible advertising slogan: "Teen Titans: The Best Characters We Could Get Right Now.") It's also cool that Robin is responding to this labor shortage by trying to (re)clone Superboy, last seen heroically dying in Infinite Crisis. (It's only cool because he's going to fail hard; if this is an excuse to bring Superboy back in six months, it will not be cool at all.) Plot niggle: how do the Titans know where to find Wonder Girl punching Gemini?

This will be the last of these for a while (the One Year Later issue of Supergirl, the last one I'm going to review, won't be out until April 26). Look for some summing-up type stuff later this week.