So, as anyone can tell from my previous post about BAGS (Bad-Ass Group Shots) or where I decided not to collect the Teen Titans book because of McKeever’s sudden decision to become kill-crazy, I’m kind of a fan of the Titans. It’s why I also get upset when members of the team get killed, turned evil, or when the book just suffers from bad writing or bad art.

As I also mentioned, for the book I’m putting together of reviews of bad comics (hey, if I’m going to be reeaally late with the recaps, I might as well make it worth your while to get a lot of them all at once), one of the ones I decided to do was Judd Winick’s nightmarish Titans #1.

Needless to say, the book hasn’t exactly been a favorite of mine. I love the fact that the adult Titans are getting their own book, but the writing was amateurish and the artwork was just horrific, be it from Ian Churchill’s 90s-esque “sneers, muscles, and look at the bewbs” or Joe Benitez’s… unique view on human anatomy, the book just hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders and I dropped it the second I decided I could spend my money on better things. But then, surprisingly, two weeks after Titans #4, the follow-up issue debuted on Wednesday. The cover was still by Benitez, but the interior artwork was by Julian Lopez. But it’s got to be the same kind of stupidity from last time, right?

Any book that features the line “You’ve got a bear in the lobby” is off to a good start. As such, behold the horror and intrigue that is…


More and SPOILERS behind the cut!

Yes, you read that correctly – this issue was actually really good. Sure, it’s not Watchmen, but it doesn’t try to be. This is a shining character piece, filled with some sweet moments between characters while setting up actually interesting plot points. And like the image above says – it features a bear in the lobby. In this case, Beast Boy decides to show up at Raven’s school as a big green bear and pose as an advertising stint (which is actually FUNNY, as opposed to the lame humor we were subjected to in the previous issues from Beast Boy). Now, the only thing that confuses me here is that Raven is supposed to be in high school, yet the fact that she has a roommate and a lobby for her school where any green bear can be received as a piece of mail seems… odd, like it was meant for college. Still, it’s amusing so I’ll forgive the one lapse there.

Beast Boy wants to talk to Raven since she’s been through some crap lately. Now, what’s really fascinating about this is that Winick has been writing Raven like a stereotypical “bitchy high school goth girl” who’s snarky and mean and uses expletives left and right… which Raven certainly does not do. She usually speaks with a very dramatic tone, with controlled words for what she does and says. As such, while the tone in her speech here isn’t perfectly in sync with her Marv Wolfman days, she doesn’t sound TOO far off for her current personality.

Another funny bit ensues when Raven asks Beast Boy if he’s asking her out on a date:

We switch to Titans Tower, where Cyborg is about to show Arsenal, Troia, and Flash his new body. Now I especially comment on this because of two things: one, Donna Troy is back in her starfield costume (though I still miss her cleavage-less halter top), discarding the fugly black outfit with red stars along the side. Two, the artwork TOWERS over Joe Benitez’s work, with actual human proportions on display. I mean, just take alook at cyborg here as compared to Benitez humans from the cover of Issue 3:

Joe Benitez:

Julian Lopez:

Now, a word on the art – sometimes lopez nails it, but he seems to have a real problem with facial expressions if they’re closer up. He’s much tigher in shots that have the characters taking up a reasonable amount of panel space, but then in the very next panel from the Cyborg one above, we have Donna Troy look like, well, this:

Or Raven looking like this…


In any case, in terms of actual plot developments, besides for the previous two threads, we also see Dick Grayson and Starfire having A MATURE CONVERSATION ABOUT SEX AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP. And bear in mind, this was written by Judd “Green Arrow and Black Canary are going to have a 24-hour sex-a-thon” Winick. It’s mind-boggling that we’ve suddenly gone from atrocious to quality so quickly. In any case, Starfire is the one who says the two can’t have a relationship because, as she asks Dick to confirm and he does, he doesn’t truly LOVE her. While this is a frowning moment for me, since I’m a Dick/Kory shipper, it’s actually maturely handled and it’s a natural development between the two.

My theory is that Nightwing himself hit Judd Winick with his Magical Fist of Morality (see the end of the Titans East storyline) and it wapped a clue into him about proper character writing. Now, I know Judd’s capable of writing good stories – I’ve certainly read them, but it’s just he’s been failing so utterly lately in his writing that it’s shocking to see something so damn GOOD coming here.

Anyway, the issue’s final scenes are of Raven admitting to Beast Boy that she feels like she’s a monster because she’s been fantasizing about killing the Titans, leading to the other Trigon children (the plot of the last four issues, which was a neat idea, if poorly executed) appearing and helping her leave. Beast Boy tries to stop them, but sadly is outmatched.

So, yeah, this was actually good. I’m going to pick up the next one to see if the quality endures, but I’m honestly surprised by this. What’s even more shocking is that apparently this is the first issue where Dan Didio directly edited it, so it might be because of HIM that the book was good.

To quote Cordelia Chase from Angel, what freaking Bizarro-world did I wake up to?

There’s something that, more often than not, gets my comic-loving heart a buzzin’: the bad-ass group shot (BAGS). You’ve undoubtedly seen it countless times before, from Crises to group books and even sometimes in an individual character’s book. It’s a shot of superheroes or cast members gathered together and grinning right at the reader with a look in their eyes that says, “You are all so %$^@ed.”

The most recent example has come from Trinity #15, which featured the Titans (both Teen and Winickmess), the Outsiders (sans Batgirl for some reason), the JSA, and he JLA all gathered together and ready to kick serious ass.

But not every BAGS works quite right. For example, let’s compare two such occurrences in the Titans books. Now, what got me into comics was the Devin Grayson Titans series. As I began to collect back issues of the series, I came upon this BAGS from Titans #4, wherein the Titans travel to hell itself in order to rescue Starfire and thousands of kids:

Look at that. Just look at it! The sheer bad-assness just radiates off the page and makes you want to pump your fist into the air in delight. Now, Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans had quite a few of these, especially when it came to calling in the entire Titans roster from past groups to go to war. The best example is from their confrontation with Dr. Light, however let’s take a look at one from the tail end of his run, right when Adam Beechen takes over during the Titans East storyline. Raven and Cyborg have gone off to find help to fight Deathstroke’s team of Titans. And who do they bring back? The original Wolfman/Perez era group (sans Wally West, since he was in another dimension and Bart Allen had been aged due to events in Infinite Crisis).

I mean look at it. It’s just UGLY. First of all, the angle of the shot is tilted as if we’re seeing a scene from Battlefield Earth and the facial expressions are a bunch of heavy-lined sneers. Donna Troy has her fist in the air… for some reason, which is even weirder since most of her arm is obscured by Nightwing. I mean look at the two examples above and then compare it to this one, in particular the one of Devin Grayson’s Titans – sure, characters have their fists in the air, but we can see most of their arms plus we get energy radiating from the fists as a means of intimidation to the bad guys. Beast Boy in particular has got it bad. It doesn’t even look like him! It looks like some kind of monkey cross-bred with Leonard Nimoy.

Plus grabbing this particular group of people makes no sense at all. Using their communicators, Raven and Cyborg could’ve easily made a call to EVERY Titan to bring them to the fight, but instead we get this select group.

Now I think what’s going on here is that DC wanted to get some early promotion for the fact that they were reassembling the Wolfman/Perez era Titans for a new series under Judd Winick and Ian Churchill (Don’t worry, I’ll get to that nightmare of a series when I release the Atop the Fourth Wall book), but otherwise dramatically their appearance here makes no real sense. As such, I now present the five basic rules to follow when making a Bad-Ass Group Shot:

1. A BAGS should consist of AT LEAST five characters.

2. If the BAGS does not consist mostly (about 75%) of characters who are either regulars to the series or part of the team, there must be at least 10 characters present.

3. The shot should be facing directly towards the reader, so as to resemble the perspective of the person(s)/villain(s) who’s seeing the BAGS
-COROLLARY: A side shot is acceptable if you’re attempting a DOUBLE BAGS, which features two groups of characters facing off against one another.
EXAMPLE (From Titans/JLA: Technis Imperative #2):

4. While not needing a one-liner, having something bad-ass to say increases the awesome factor by 28%.

5. Dramatic build-up to the point of the BAGS is essential. The appearance of the BAGS should be a surprise, but one that makes perfect sense for the story.
For example, the BAGS in Trinity was built up both within the single issue and the previous ones based on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman bringing more heroes into their investigation. The example used in the previous corollary to rule 2 featured an argument between the Titans and the JLA about rescuing Victor Stone or trying to shut him down when he went nuts and tried to steal the moon. The set-up lines were simple but brilliant:

BEAST BOY: If you try to hurt Vic, I’ll stop you.
ORION: I believe the earth saying goes, “You and what army?”

And thus appeared the DOUBLE BAGS. In the example of a bad BAGS, the only hint of it coming was an appearance by Nightwing in the first part of the story from a few issues back, and it was a pretty superfluous appearance beyond welcoming back Jericho, who had returned from the dead.

So, I’m going to be dropping Teen Titans after what’s happened in this latest issue. Why? Well, click behind “Read More” and you’ll find out.


The exact pages in question can be found here.

For those that don’t want to slog through it, I’ll explain the problem:

Marvin and Wendy, the two teenage Superfriends carryovers who run maintenance on the tower, discover a strange dog that’s landed on the island and they decide to take it in. In the same book, they’re discussing how they should leave, since they serve no purpose there. After getting reassurance from Cyborg and Red Devil that they are in fact wanted around there, the Wonderdog they adopted turns into a giant monster and kills them gratuitously on panel.

Let me be even more accurate: Wendy discovers the monstrous dog eating her dead brother, only to have said dog start chasing her through the tower. She cries out for help through the intercoms, but since they’re still under repair, she can’t get to them, and then, while crying and continuing to try to escape, she’s eventually cornered by the monster and killed off-panel.

You know, I gave McKeever a lot of credit last time for the team-up issue with Red Devil and Blue Beetle. I thought it was funny, entertaining, and I thought things might actually be turning around in this book. But now, McKeever has apparently decided to fall back on a horrible shock tactic of murdering two teenage supporting characters to show… what, exactly? That comics aren’t for kids? That he’s not writing Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane anymore?

People gave a lot of trust to McKeever because of his previous experience in writing teen heroes. Even I gave him that trust. That trust, I can see, is unfounded. His stories have been lifeless, the characters have been moody, unnecessarily dark, and just plain unlikeable. Beyond Issue #61, I see no reason why any of these teens feel like they’d want to hang around with each other as friends or as a team.

I got into comics because of Devin Grayson’s run on Titans. I loved that book and I’ve stuck with it through hard times and good times, but this is it. I don’t buy comics so I can read about a teenage girl fleeing for her life and crying the whole time without hope of rescue until she’s slaughtered by some monster. This isn’t a slasher flick, Sean – it’s supposed to be a positive book, giving hope for the future of heroism. I am dropping Teen Titans and until McKeever either shapes up or we get a better writer on the book, I’m not looking back.

And don’t even get me started on Eddie Barrows’ artwork, and this is coming from a guy who usually doesn’t notice bad artwork unless he’s actually looking for it.

In any case, I think I’ll leave Martin Sheen to sum up my feelings on Sean McKeever right now:

So, after seeing the Star Wars: Clone Wars film (though “film” is probably too generous a description), I think I deserve millions of dollars since I think I can write a Star Wars movie just as good as George Lucas can. Here’s a brief outline of how such a film, if doing it how George Lucas does films, would go:

-Opening Crawl, accompanied by triumphant music and goofy names (or, in the case of Clone Wars, a goofy narrator SPEAKING the opening crawl in contrast to the rest of the series), making the goofier names even goofier-sounding when they’re actually spoken out loud.

-CRASH BOOM POW DIE! Action sequence!

-Brief, talky expositional scene. “Actors” should be as bland as possible when speaking. Faces should convey no emotion whatsoever.

-CRASH BOOM POW DIE! Action sequence!

-Longer talky expositional scene. “Actors” should be as bland as possible when speaking. Faces should convey no emotion whatsoever.

-Brief talky expositional scene. “Actors” should speak their dialogue with a tone of voice that implies they really want to get the scene done with because they’ve got Baseball tickets. Be sure to mention a “disturbance” at least once.

-CRASH BOOM POW DIE! Action sequence!

-Repeat steps 2-7 at least six times. Sprinkle in droid humor when appropriate (or when it’s most inappropriate).

-CRASH BOOM POW YOU’RE BREAKING MY HEART! Action sequence with forced dialogue that’s supposed to be emotional but doesn’t convey any emotion whatsoever!

-Characters standing dramatically. Triumphant music and end credits!

Movie producers, feel free to contact me on appropriate payment methods so I can begin writing my own science fiction epic.

AFTERWORD: Anakin’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano, was actually quite badass. Only redeemable trait of the whole thing, IMHO.

Batman #147

As a change of pace, I did a recap of one part of a Silver-Age Batman story for one of my favorite sites, The Agony Booth.

As such, you can find the review HERE!