Although this issue is labeled as “Deathtrap Part 1,” that storyline has been false-started in many different places. Maybe this story is an official new “plot” for the characters within, as Jericho plans to launch his own deathtrap, but the goings-on with these characters seems to stretch back to Geoff Johns’ and Mike McKone’s run on the early issues of the current “Teen Titans” title. Jericho is overwhelmed by the snippets of personalities clinging to his psyche. Worse than voices in his head, as we see in this issue, Jericho actually has ghosts rattling around with the bats in his belfry. Of course, we’ve seen this a few times over the last few months, dating back, at least, to “DCU Decisions.”
The plot might even have its roots back in the days of “Titans Hunt,” but Jericho as a foe is a tired plot device and this issue did nothing to make me think otherwise. If Joey’s going to be bad, then make him badass. The ability and knowledge are there; don’t make him a shell of a wannabe. He won’t ever measure up to Deathstroke as a foil for the Titans, nor should he. He could be much more a Brainiac to Deathstroke’s Luthor — capable foes, but not interchangeable. Jericho lends himself to being physically, mentally, and psychologically imposing whereas Deathstroke doesn’t have quite the creepy edge to him.
This issue takes the months of tedious set-up and regurgitation and does very little to advance it, save for a pathetic plot to lure Vigilante into a confrontation with the Titans. McKeever is better than this. His treatment of the characters here is solid, but the execution of the plot is heavy-handed and contrived. If Vigilante is as savvy as the writer would have us believe, wouldn’t he employ at least one contingency to ensure a fair encounter with the Titans on his own terms? Instead, he bursts in and takes a shot at Cyborg.
And it’s a poorly rendered shot, at that. The splash page Unzueta devotes to the tussle (at point-blank range) between Cyborg and Vigilante’s gun made me scratch my bald head. It is drawn as though Vigilante shoots Cyborg in the face — the human side of Vic’s face — yet when the aftermath is revealed, Cyborg’s metal faÃ§ade is shredded. Sure, Vigilante could be using some super-destructo-metal-only gun, but this confusion could be settled with better layout.
Otherwise, Unzueta’s pencils are uneven throughout the issue. Most notably, just follow Beast Boy. In some panels he looks like an elf, in others an abandoned sketch of the cartoon Beast Boy. There are strong panels, most notably any involving Red Arrow (is that the name du jour?) but the uneven effort only serves to distract from the strengths that do occasionally pop up in this issue.
I’ll admit, I was looking forward to “Deathtrap” as a point to re-immerse myself in the “Titans” side of the DC Universe, but this issue falls short. It feels less like “Judas Contract” or even “Titans Hunt” and more like the morass that Titans fell into after “Titans Hunt.” I’m not sure this story needs the five issues, crossing over into “Vigilante” and “Teen Titans” that have been allotted to it. I suppose there’s only one way to find out.