This incarnation of the Teen Titans, originally launched by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone, has suffered greatly since the “One Year Later” event. For the past two years it has struggled to find its identity, occasionally getting caught up in weak crossovers like “Amazons Attack” or rotating batches of artists and writers. But since Sean McKeever has taken the reigns, “Teen Titans” has rebounded to become one of DC’s better team comics.
The key to McKeever’s success with the title, and the key to his success in the comic book field in general, is his strong emphasis on characterization. He’s a solid plotter with plenty of imagination, but McKeever really shines when he gets a chance to illuminate the inner lives of the flawed members of the team. And he seems particularly interested in the newer members of the Teen Titans, the ones who just sort of popped up after the “One Year Later” gap, and have now become integral to the concept of the book. McKeever has done more with Kid Devil, for example, in the past few months, than anyone had ever done in the two decades the character has been around. And in “Teen Titans” #58, it’s Miss Martian’s turn to twist in McKeever’s slightly warped spotlight.
Miss Martian, a.k.a. M’gann M’orzz, may look like a cute green girl with red hair, but she’s really a vicious white martian. That’s the set-up with the character, as established months ago, but in “Teen Titans” #58, McKeever deeply explores the psychosis beneath Miss Martian’s surface. She recently confronted her future self, in the last story arc, and has to reconcile that ruthless alternate version of her life with what she wants to become. She wants to be a good girl, but she has the DNA of a killer, and McKeever addresses that duality by showing Miss Martian’s schizophrenia.
You’ve seen superheroes or supervillains deal with dual natures before, but McKeever handles it well, placing Miss Martian in circumstances where her evil nature explodes at the most unsettling moments. Ultimately, this story is about Miss Martian unifying her sense of self, accepting who she is, and controlling what she might become. The climax provides her an opportunity to rid herself of her flawed half, but in heroic fashion, she literally wrestles with her inner demon and remains whole, flaws and all.
McKeever balances this personal struggle against a larger threat, as the so-called “Terror Titans,” a gang of young supervillains, slowly grows more menacing. It’s classic superhero plot structure from the days of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas as the central hero (Miss Martian) battles inner conflict while struggling with a threat from outside (Disruptor, from the Terror Titans) as an even larger threat looms (the Terror Titans have big plans, and they don’t look good for the heroes). But that classic structure works when handled by someone who knows how to use characterization, and that’s exactly what McKeever does well.
“Teen Titans” #58 may not astound you, but it’s a good superhero comic, and its another step in the right direction for McKeever’s run on the series.