With the first tussle of the Teen Titans and Trigon in the New 52 at a close, “Teen Titans” #22 adds in new members to the team, even as once again the Titans are on the verge of disbanding. While it feels like Scott Lobdell makes this instability part of a longer-term story, there does come a point where the constant angst becomes a bit too much.
Part of the problem is that “Teen Titans” is 22 issues in (plus an issue #0) and this doesn’t feel like a cohesive team. Lobdell tries to convince us otherwise earlier on, with Red Robin shouting out code numbers for attack plans as the Titans, Raven and Beast Boy go up against Trigon. This is still a group of characters who constantly bicker (and not in a charming or fun way), and while some of the erratic behavior from one character is explained away as part of a villain’s plan, it doesn’t explain the rest of it.
The bigger problem is that most of these characters are still missing any sort of origin. This becomes increasingly clear with the last pages of “Teen Titans” #22, which look to be leading up to the new backstory for Kid Flash. But at the same time, it’s hard to ignore the fact that most of the characters here aren’t so lucky. There’s a hint of a new character being connected to Bunker, but readers still know almost nothing about him. Solstice is similarly a blank slate, and up until now Kid Flash also fell into that category. (Of course, there’s still the missing member Skitter who I suspect most readers have forgotten about, and is either due for a surprise return or alternately has been banished to comic book limbo.) “Teen Titans” #22 is practically calling attention to the fact that most of the characters are little more than collections of powers and outfits; when the fighting stops halfway through the issue, the wheels promptly fall off.
Less haphazard is the art, which Jesus Merino draws based on thumbnails by Eddy Barrows (who’s instead working with Lobdell over on “Superman” #22 this week). It’s perfectly fine; Merino’s a dependable artist, and he tackles the action sequences easily. I actually like some of the other scenes a bit more; when the “transpatial initiative” characters show up, the silhouettes framed by the teleportation effect look sharp and interesting. Likewise, the Titans staring down Red Robin is a great moment, with their annoyance practically blistering off of the page. All in all, Merino handles his half of the comic well.
Ever since “The Culling” storyline it’s felt like “Teen Titans” has been grasping for a direction, even as it avoids the most obvious and perhaps easy one. The problem is, in trying to make “Teen Titans” different it feels like Lobdell’s thrown out what can make a team work. Namely, having it feel like an actual team of interesting characters. With at least one origin on the horizon, hopefully this is about to change. But all in all, this is a comic that needs to pull itself together quickly, before too much damage is done. Something needs to be done before readers give up.