Teen Titans Academy #12 review

There’s one line of dialogue in Teen Titans Academy #12 that you can take as the TLDR version of this review

This comic is a mess. It’s being cancelled in May, but if this were the last issue it’d be a mercy killing. We have had a few good issues, concentrating on the better new characters, such as Stitch, Gorilla Gregg, Alinta, Summer and the Bat Pack

Actually, I used the phrase ‘such as’, but that’s it. The rest of the cast are basically random, even if they’re lucky enough to be named and have a power attributed to them, they’re not developed. So the revelation this issue that mystery person Red X, who’s been popping in and out of the Academy causing trouble, is really…

… doesn’t exactly excite. Brick… Brick… I remember he was around in the first few issues and there was some mystery around his powers. Or maybe not. This series has been so woolly that it’s tough to recall what’s been going on. It’s replete with elements that don’t make sense, go unexplained or serve the cast badly.

There’s the basic idea of the Roy Harper Academy – why did the New Titans suddenly decide to set up a school? How did they get accreditation? Why would any parents send their kids to stay with a group of metahumans who have constantly seen members die? Who would want to live in a tower that’s shaped like ‘T’ for ‘target’.

There’s the link to the Future State ‘event’ issues that makes remembering what happened to who in which timeline a pain.

And the sidelining of the previous Titans group, kids such as Crush, Roundhouse and Djinn, who were nicely developed before this book shoved them into a corner of the lunch room.

Plus the appalling treatment of veteran heroes Nightwing, Donna Troy, Starfire, Cyborg and Beast Boy, who are wrongfooted at every turn by Red X and made to look criminally negligent when it comes to ensuring the safety of their charges.

And of course, Red X, the big mystery of the whole series. Who is the new Red X? Who? WHO!

New? I didn’t know there was an one before this run. He’d never appeared in DC Comics continuity. Apparently Red X was a character in some Teen Titans TV cartoon whose story has been imported into the modern DC Universe off-panel. Last issue’s cover promised we’d find out who the new guy – the fourth, we’re told – was. We didn’t, which points to some serious changes having been made to that issue. Maybe they continued into this issue, because it’s dizzyingly confusing at times.

So, last time, the Academy/Titans Tower was blown up after a battle involving a student who, despite going by Nevermore and being linked to a hell dimension, wasn’t related to Raven. This issue begins with everyone fleeing said falling tower.

The chap with the big purple arm is Bunker, from two Titans teams back. He isn’t named, he doesn’t do anything and he vanishes after appearing in one more panel a page or so later.

The senior Titans take charge. Well, that’s the idea.

Red X makes the scene.

Poor Mark and Joely… anyone know who they were? We didn’t see them die last issue, or this issue. I’m very sad for them.

We do, though, see that ‘Coach Cyborg’ and ‘Mr Changeling’ are indeed in a pickle.

And there’s more. Red X IV was being run by Red X 2!!!

I honestly don’t know how I’m surviving all these shocks. Red X 2 gives us the full Basil Exposition, explaining why he placed Red X IV into the academy, including a ludicrous lie he told Brick.

Maybe it’s Darth Vader?

Although “Dick ‘n’ Brick” does have a nice ring to it, it’s hard to care who Dad is when we never knew Brick’s parenthood was a thing, I’m more interested in learning who it is answering a question from Starfire.

The reasonable expectation is that the page turn will reveal a surprise player, taunting Dick. That doesn’t happen. I guess the word balloon pointer was meant to be aiming at Nightwing.

And check out that previous panel. Dick swearing at two of the women who mean the most to him – it just wouldn’t happen, if there’s one thing Dick has, it’s poise.

Dick then goes off to team up with some unnamed person to take down Red X 2, shocking Starfire to her solar core.

Not HIM! Well, Deathstroke is someone the Titans have worked with plenty of times under extreme circumstances, and editing seems to have been a casualty of the Academy’s destruction, so I’m betting it’s Slade Wilson.

Starfire soon cheers up, and gives the grieving kids a speech/recreates a Coke ad.

‘Absolutely the right thing…’ Er, who’s she quoting. Or is the Mystery Ventriloquist still around?

Seriously, three kids under the care of Academy headmistress ‘Ms Starfire’ are dead (I’ve left one as a surprise), two Titans are at least seriously injured, Nightwing’s flounced off with murder in mind, the school is no more, there’s a killer on the loose, but hey, Titans Together!

It’s a truism that no one sets out to make a bad comic, but that’s what we have here. Despite the thoroughly decent art of DC stalwart Tom Derenick, the colours of Alex Sinclair and letters of Rob Leigh, this is a terrible comic. Writer Tim Sheridan comes from the world of TV, he’s written lots of DC animation stuff; I wonder if Teen Titans Academy was originally a feature-length cartoon that went unmade, and was repurposed as a comic book. If so, far too little attention has been paid to the needs of monthly comic readers. This isn’t a 90-minute film, in which there’s no need to introduce folk or plot points more than once, it’s a story delivered in monthly chunks.

Sheridan shouldn’t waste two pages on an unidentifiable Red X, or maybe Deathstroke, staring at a lot of rubble, he should use it to clarify the story and characters. A précis, a roll call, there are plenty of storytelling tools available.

And is editor Chris Rosa so under the cosh they can’t tidy things up?

I’m going on. Lord, am I going on. All these words for a comic that took five minutes to read, and dislike. If you’ve read it – and especially if you thought better of it than did I – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

18 thoughts on “Teen Titans Academy #12 review

  1. Wow. I didn’t like the set up described so haven’t touched this and now I feel fortunate. Its cancellation does mean no more contradictions about who Dick’s gal pal is tho’. My head canon will put it before Taylor’s Nightwing. It already bothers me Dick cheated on Kory when he came to tell Babs they were engaged.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve also been thinking of Earth H since Tom Brevoort’s blog covered a Brave & The Bold issue by Haney. Maybe this is set there since everything’s back.

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  2. It’s frustrating that after so many issues I still have no idea who 90% of those kids are. But worse, I have almost no idea who this version of the Titans are. Kory and Donna seem to be sniping at each other, why? Do they really think this poorly of Dick (who seems to be an abusive jerk in almost any book but his own)? How much of this mess is due to editorial demanding the book base the characters on the TV show? And WHY has nobody redesigned poor Bunker’s costume yet?

    The worst bit of the book for me was when Red X brought up the ‘you’re just turning them into child soldiers’ trope. I’ve been heartily sick of that one for at least a couple of decades.

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    1. You’re right, the kid soldiers bit is so tired. If that’s Red X’s problem he could always try the newspapers.

      This whole series has to be happening on another Earth or something, because it makes no sense.

      And yes, how DO you get characters who have been around for so many decades, so very wrong?

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  3. This book… is a mess. Has been pretty much since day one. It has some interesting characters and had a couple of little interesting story nuggets… but on the whole? A disaster.

    I cant get behind the idea that the Titans are hosting a school. Whatev. It’s the conceit of the series and I’ll go with it. I’ll let things like credits and parents willingly giving their kids up to this school fall to the wayside (but not the Mr. Nightwing, Ms. Starfire, Coach Cyborg stuff. That’s just ridiculous).

    But the storytelling has been a disaster. 12 months in and I still don’t know what a Red X is. I’m far far too old to have checked out the tv show. And what little I do remember of it from when my munchkin was watching it certainly didn’t include much of Red X.

    This is not how you tell a mystery story or craft a reveal. Red X is… who? I don’t remember seeing this kid in the book ever. And the rest of the cast already suspected him? And we’re just learning that now? In the issue with the reveal? S l o p p y !

    And all the stuff about Nightwing having a kid? Except he doesn’t? Again? What’s the point of a reveal if we didn’t know enough to expect that there was something to reveal?

    I could go on and on… the book is overstuffed with too many characters who aren’t getting airtime… the characters aren’t acting anything like I remember them acting… Ugh.

    Put this book out of it’s misery now (forget the last couple of issues… just pulp them).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You could go on and on, I went on and on…. Well, they at least get points for reader engagement.

      It really is incredible that this issue left the office; there has to have been lots of editorially-driven rewrites but I’d rather it had been delayed by a month or two so some alternate sense could be made of things. I can’t see this series ever being mentioned again after the cancellation.

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  4. Thanks Martin. It’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one disappointed in how this mystery concludes.

    I even went back to scan previous issues, and unless there was another pink-haired kid running around, I feel like there were moments that had both Brick and Red X in two different places at the same time (which feels like a big cheat).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes. YES! This book enraged him (actually the whole series has). I applaud your disdain for it.

    It’s just plain bad.

    The series assumes you read Future State Teen Titans, Future State Flash, and Future State Shazam (and understood them). And that you care about Red X because you watched the cartoon once.

    I think that word balloon you mentioned is pointing off panel to the person Dick hands the Red X mask to – whose back we shortly see. Are we supposed to know who that is? Some extremely muscular guy who wears shorts? Maybe that’s Red X 3.5 or 6. Cause he wants the mask, after all. Why would he want it unless he’s another Red X?

    Apparently Dick was very shaken up to see whoever that is, even as he hands over the mask in the very same panel.

    Anyway… will this be over soon? I don’t think so. I think this story has at least another year to run. Pretty sure that Cyborg and Beast Boy just got merged into one body, which is what often happens when buildings fall on you.

    But I’m going to finish up with #15 and be done with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See, now this is how confusing the book is. Dick doesn’t hand the mask to anyone…those ‘shorts’ are the holsters for Dick’s sticks that we see throughout the issue. You can see the light blue shoulder area of Nightwing’s costume, and that’s the last we see of Dick this issue, wandering off to team up with ‘him’.

      Why do you think this story has a year to go? Where would it go to after the cancellation?

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      1. That makes sense even if I can’t visualize it. Even the haircut is wrong – this character’s feet show him heading off towards the building, but it looks like we are seeing the part of his hair from the front. But from the back, in a much earlier panel, he appears to have a bald spot and pointy hair like Wolverine.

        Usually Tom Derenick does breakdowns for DC – which means his storytelling is prized. But this one seems to have defeated the art team. Rob Leigh didn’t know who was speaking, either, and Chris Rosa didn’t have it clarified. He only recently took over as editor after Mike Cotton left, and you’d hate for this book to be one of your earlier responsibilities.

        Another unclear moment is when Brick is told Raven isn’t coming for him. The assumption must be that she got into the portal she was sending Cyborg and Beast Boy through, but that wasn’t shown and easily could have been. Instead she called over Gregg and is just standing and watching Gregg accompany them through the portal.

        So you think the story goes straight from here to the Future State story, and there are no more gaps to fill in? Could be.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re right about that daft portal moment, that confused me too, I forgot to mention it.

        I never realised Derenick was specifically being called in to help late books. Must be a nice niche to have.

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  6. Thank you, Mart, for making me grateful I never picked this up. 😉

    I can’t believe this *isn’t* the last issue, considering all of those “rah-rah!” word balloons Kory has. Usually, that much space devoted to exposition is in a final issue, but I guess Dick must be allowed to be uncharacteristically dickish for a few issues. On a different note, weirdly, when I saw “eXpulsion,” I was reminded of “EXTREME Justice” from the late 90s. That was its own kind of awfulness, although I think I bought all the issues. Anyway, always lovely to read you, even when you’re reviewing the messier parts of DC.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ll get to reading this in about 6 months or so. But as much as I enjoy his art — it’s got a refreshing old-school feel, kind of a Neal Adams Continuity Associates vibe — having Tom Derenick take over pencils is always a signal to me that a book has gone off the rails. His books always have the feeling of a run of fill-ins marking time until they powers that be figure out how to relaunch the property or re-write the original ending, which was scrapped because of editorial meddling. Again, I like his art… but he always gets assigned to books that give off the whiff of last week’s milk.

    Liked by 1 person

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