The New Teen Titans: Terra Incognito

I’ve reached the last New Teen Titans trade in this particular batch of comics, and I began it with the same eager anticipation as the others.  I thoroughly enjoyed each trade that preceded this one, and had no reason to believe this collection would be any different.

I still can’t quite put my finger on it, but for some reason this collection felt just a little off, and the overall quality of the comic seemed to dip as a result.

The angst-ridden teenagers angle was certainly used in previous issues, but it permeated nearly every panel here, with each and every Titan dealing with their own personal issues.  I get it, they’re teenagers, they all have problems to face, but when they all have such serious concerns at the same time, it gets to be a little too heavy to wade through all the drama.  Certain portions of these comics started to feel more like an episode of “Dawson’s Creek”.  That would be fine if that was the tone of these comics from the beginning, but this is supposed to be a superhero comic.  The constant drama just started to bog down the story.

That being said, certain parts of this dramatic tension were actually done well.  Raven’s concerns in particular were more poignant that others.  While her fellow titans were questioning whether they should be a member of the team, or dealing with broken hearts, Raven was facing a true crisis, figuring out how to control her soul self, that part of her which is her father Trigon and, if left unchecked, could spell utter doom for the entire universe.

Knowing the potential power within her, Raven is kidnapped by an enemy faction and forced to face  her greatest fears.  As they begin, we learn that one such fear is the inability to help those who need it:

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I found these panels very moving and extremely well-drawn.  The story’s significance was enhanced when Raven’s next fear was depicted: the worry that she would be unable to contain her power and would end up causing her friends’ deaths.

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Raven’s fears are entirely founded given her recent loss of control, and this depiction brings the extent of her power to the forefront of the reader’s mind.  She is not merely a hero; she is a time-bomb  who, without constant vigilance and control, could detonate at any given time.  For this reason she continues to be one of the most intriguing characters to read about.  There are simply so many layers to her character.

While this trade was filled with plenty of life and death situations, there were also quite a few moments focused on the more human side to each character, addressing their hopes for the future, and especially their love lives.  With perhaps the only “happy ending” we get to see in this trade, Donna Troy, aka Wonder Girl, agrees to marry her long-time love, Terry Long.  With their engagement set, the two are given a brief yet romantic moment together in the park:

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Because such tender moments were virtually non-existent in these comics, it made this particular panel that much more moving.  After the tragic death of Starfire’s romantic interest, though, I can’t help wonder if Donna’s happily ever after will be short-lived as well.

One of the biggest changes in this particular trade is referenced in the collection’s title: the appearance of Terra, a young girl with superpowers and a hazy past who is made a member of the Teen Titans after proving her mettle.

The introduction of a new Titan didn’t bother me one bit. It makes sense that the Titans would filter in and out and that they would inevitably meet new worthy crime-fighters along the way.  I didn’t, however, enjoy the specific character.  Terra (real name Tara) is shown as a petulant little brat, complaining that the Titans don’t trust her while keeping her entire past shrouded in mystery.  I was beginning to seriously dislike her, and hoped she wouldn’t become a mainstay in the story.

Luckily, we eventually find out that Terra is a double-agent, working with none other than The Terminator to learn the Titan’s secret identities and bring about their downfall.

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I was so happy when it was revealed that she was a bad guy.  I suppose the reader was supposed to be upset that she’s double-crossing the Titans, but all I could think was, “Yes! Now I’m allowed to hate her.”

Does this make me a bad person? She’s a bad guy, so I’m going to say no.

So much focus was put on Terra, along with the in-house bickering between the Titans, that it was difficult to locate a main central story in this trade.  Honestly quite a bit of it read simply as:

ANGST ANGST ANGST (RANDOM FIGHT WITH A BAD GUY) ANGST ANGST ANGST

Yes, The Teen Titans has always had angst, but this was the first time it felt like it overpowered the main story.  None of the villains had an overwhelming presence in the series, and nothing really tied the story together from issue to issue.  The characters and their internal woes carried over, but there wasn’t a clear plotline to trace throughout the trade.  Character-driven stories are great, but the characters need to actually be doing something, not just sitting around pondering their own existence.

Unfortunately this trade ends rather abruptly, with no major resolutions given to the problems that had built up over past issues.  This would be okay, except for the fact that this is the last New Teen Titans trade on “the shelf” (at least from this particular run).  Luckily, Mistah J had given me a head up that I wouldn’t be getting the complete story (and it’s a good thing too, because if I just got to the end of this trade without knowing beforehand that I was done reading about The Teen Titans for a while, I would have been just a LITTLE upset.  He’s a smart one, that Mistah J.)

Although I’m a bit sad that I didn’t love this collection as much as the others, it does have a silver lining.  I’m not dying to keep reading about The Teen Titans, at least not as much as I was with the previous trades.  Still, the overall stories were more than enjoyable enough that, should Mistah J choose to expand his New Teen Titans trade collection, I will gladly go back and finish the series.

-Jess

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