Monday, September 19, 2011

Teen Titans: Year One

Cover by Karl Kerschi

Teen Titans: Year One (2008)
Writer: Amy Wolfram
Penciller: Karl Kerschi
Inker: Serge LaPointe
Colorist: Stephane Peru
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

I picked up the graphic novel, Teen Titans: Year One, not really expecting much. It was the first graphic novel I’ve read in quite a while and seemed like it would be fun and easy enough. All I really knew about Teen Titans was that Robin is the leader and the animated series was supposedly pretty good (I never saw it).

So I read this fairly quickly thinking, why not, it’ll probably be silly fun.

Well, it was very silly but I wasn’t having any fun.

I understand that the Teen Titans, especially the animated series which was worked on by several of the creators of this graphic novel apparently, is aimed at a younger audience by DC. The readers of the Teen Titans are not necessarily also reading Sin City or Watchmen or something similar. I get that, so I guess I should not have been so surprised by the overwhelming juvenileness of this graphic novel.

I am a fan of young adult literature and count several young readers novels as some of my favorites, however, I am always irritated when the writer of a young reader work talks down to the intended audience. I had the distinct feeling while reading Teen Titans: Year One that Wolfram had no real knowledge of how adolescents talk to another. Worse yet, she seemed to be writing the dialogue as if it were for the animated series, which was probably watched and enjoyed by an audience younger than even the main characters (of course, I’m sure older kids and even adults watched it, as well, seeing as I am also a huge fan of JLU; I’m just saying that it was probably overwhelmingly watched by kids who weren’t even teens yet). Therefore, she was basing these teenagers’ interactions on pre-teen expectations. It was pretty embarrassing.

I was particularly taken aback by her rendition of Wonder Girl, Wonder Woman’s younger sister. I have no real previous history with Wonder Girl and therefore really didn’t have any high hopes or expectations of her in this graphic novel. I was, instead, embarrassed by how weak and ineffectual she was. Wolfram did display her as having strength in the literal sense but my God, she spent the entire novel either crying, losing her mind over her boy band crushes, panicking and doubting herself or locking herself in her room to daydream.

Okay, I know the flip side to this argument is, Hey! You’re insinuating that to act stereotypically girly is to be weak! Why are you equating femininity with weakness, Kerry?!

I’ve thrown that exact same argument to more people than I can count. And I admit it, when I was 11, 12, I locked myself in my room, hung up boy band posters on my walls, wrote about my crushes in my diary and cried over the random, unimportant things. But this wasn’t all I did and nor was it the sum of my identity. I had lots of other interests, strong convictions and did things that fell out of the norm of stereotypical pre-teen girlishness. I would have been fine with the inclusion of these traditional aspects of being young a teenage girl if Wolfram had given more depth to Wonder Girl. She was as one-dimensional as you could get and had no solid identity. This struck me especially in comparison to some of the other characters in this novel, such as Kid Flash, who had more depth and conflict.

Moving on to the actual plotline… meh. Some evil guy is hypnotizing all of the Teen Titans’ mentors into unfeeling criminals. It’s time for the kids to fight the adults! It was a sadly wafer thin conflict and one that I could see coming a mile away. The resolution was wrapped up far too quickly and then the plot shifted towards the kids just being kids. Maybe I’m too old already but it was very boring. Wolfram did give the reader another conflict in the second half of the book but the novel ended with no real resolution to this one. It just sort of whimpered off.

The art by Kerschi was extremely cartoony, which was the point as this was supposed to remind me of the animated series. I, however, do not watch the series so I was too busy comparing the art to something out of Disney Adventures magazine. I found the art grating but then again, I’m not 12.

I would love to read a solid Teen Titans book as I so enjoy Avengers Academy. I suspect, however, that Marvel was ruined me for any DC teen-centered comic books.

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