Pity poor “Teen Titans” #16 for being one of the last “Death of the Family” tie-ins to ship. Because while Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund have done nothing wrong, any sort of surprise last-page has already been beaten to the punch by all of the other tie-ins throughout January.
By this point, most of the plot of “Teen Titans” #16 will feel rather standard; kidnapped sidekicks/allies of Batman go up against the Joker, think they succeed, ultimately fail and wake up being presented a platter. It feels almost like it was a brief handed out to all of the different writers from editorial, and “Teen Titans” #16 follows that pattern to the letter.
Beyond that, though, there’s not much that stands out in this comic. Lobdell’s plot feels a little thin; most of it works because of the nods from earlier issues that have set most of Red Robin’s decisions and methods up. I appreciate the long-term plotting (or at least the appearance of it), and it goes somewhat smoothly. Nicieza’s script over Lobdell’s story is a bit wordy in places, and with thought balloons and “see ‘Teen Titans’ #8!” call-out boxes, it feels a little jocular and old-fashioned. It’s a strange strategy for this issue, and almost out of place with the series as a whole or this issue in particular.
I suspect readers will be more interested in the three pages in the middle that don’t feature Red Robin or the Red Hood, when we get some more glimpses into the mysterious Kurt Lance’s presence, or the appearance of a long-time “Teen Titans” face from previous continuity. Both of them are teases, but they also feel like a nod to the fact that the presence of “Death of the Family” in “Teen Titans” is almost over and the book can move forward in its own direction again.
Booth’s pencils are up to their usual standards. There are some nice-looking images here, like the opening two-page splash with Red Robin and the Red Hood sprawled on the floor. It’s a drawing that Booth clearly took a lot of care with, down to the little shards of glass and the splayed feathers from Red Robin’s outfit. Less impressive is Booth’s rendition of the Joker; the ragged new face of the character feels almost entirely lost in the shuffle here, with an almost-completely-normal version served up instead. Considering the “new” Joker is somewhat central to “Death of the Family,” losing that aspect feels a little unfortunate.
Ultimately, “Teen Titans” #16 isn’t a bad comic, but it’s a slightly forgettable one. The stakes never feel high, and even the eventual reveal by the Joker of characters connected to Red Robin and the Red Hood feels curiously muted, perhaps because they aren’t ones we’ve spent any time with in the current continuity. I understand that it can be tough to work with someone else’s story, and that’s what “Teen Titans” #16 feels like. All parties put in a good enough effort, but the energy from earlier issues isn’t here either. As much as I love “Batman” these days, I suspect I won’t be the only one glad to see “Teen Titans” clear of this storyline soon.