Thursday, November 1, 2012

Resurrecting Raven, Teen Titans: Family Lost Is Too Self-Referential To Stand On Its Own!

The Good: Decent story, Good artwork
The Bad: Light on character development, Heavily references events not in the book.
The Basics: On their first true mission as a team, the Teen Titans struggle with confronting a former member of the Titans that relies heavily upon prior volumes for any real sense of catharsis to it in Teen Titans: Family Lost.

As I await my next batch of Flash graphic novels, I have been opening myself up to other works by graphic novel authors whose past works I have enjoyed. In the case of the Geoff Johns library, this has compelled me to read Teen Titans and while I began, sensibly enough with Teen Titans: A Kid’s Game (reviewed here!), I have obviously moved on to Teen Titans: Family Lost. One of the things I am actually enjoying about this (so far) brief exploration of Teen Titans is that it does not feel like much of a departure from my Flash Year, because this generation of Teen Titans features Bart Allen – whom I was introduced to earlier this year in Flash as the character Impulse – as Kid Flash, so this series of stories seems to be tangential to several others I have read lately.

Teen Titans: Family Lost is a very average graphic novel: decent plot, good artwork, light on character. In fact, the most significant aspects of the character elements in Teen Titans: Family Lost remain without resonance for me as they reference heavily the prior incarnation of the Teen Titans and several characters and struggles with which I have no direct experience. As a newbie to the Teen Titan corner of the DC Universe, this strikes me as more than just a little flaw.

Having made a spectral resurgence within our realm, Raven appears to have been resurrected in some form. After the Teen Titans encounter Ravenger, who is promptly killed by Deathstroke’s newly recovered daughter, Rose, they find themselves embroiled with trying to get supervillains transferred to Alcatraz Island (which is part of the deal Kory and Victor worked out with San Francisco for allowing them to build the Titan Tower there). While Robin moralizes obsessively about what it means that he has to lie to his father, the Teen Titans are drawn into a conflict that involves a cult of blood.

There, Brother Blood is resurrecting Trigon, Raven’s biological father. As the semi-spectral Raven moves to stop Brother Blood and the Teen Titans infiltrate the cult and take down the skeletal version of Trigon, Deathstroke and Rose arrive to put Raven down once and for all. Between our world and a demonic pocket dimension within Raven, the battle rages for her body, mind, and soul, a battle the Titans may not be able to win!

On the character front, the most accessible aspect of Teen Titans: Family Lost is the Tim Drake arc. While Connor Kent continues to whine about detention and Krypto and Bart Allen has pretty much been reestablished as actually smart, Tim Drake faces the very real internal conflict of what it means to him to have to continue lying to his father about his secret identity. It was only as I continued to read Teen Titans: Family Lost that I excitedly realized that I actually know how that whole conflict resolves itself as it is a secondary plot in the wonderful Identity Crisis (reviewed here!). Here at the outset of the conflict, though, Tim is very easy to empathize with as he struggles with who he is and who he wants to be in relation to his father.

Teen Titans: Family Lost puts most of its emotional eggs in the basket of Raven and Deathstroke/Rose for much of the book, though. Raven’s background is encapsulated in convenient paragraphs at the beginning of the book, but her relationship with Brother Blood, the cult, and all of the emotional nuances of her character are not present there and Geoff Johns (smartly, on the one hand – for the fans) does not belabor the retelling of Raven’s full story in Teen Titans: Family Lost. Unfortunately, it means that on its own, Teen Titans: Family Lost stands up less well for one of the major characters and arcs of the book.

Moreover, the whole nature and relationship that Brother Blood and his cult have in the DC Universe is treated more like something a reader might already understand. Alas, as this is (to the best of my recollection) the first time I have encountered the character, the seeming history of him and his conflict with the Teen Titans remains elusive to me.

On the art front, Teen Titans: Family Lost features vibrant colors and well-penciled artwork. All of the characters are recognizable and there is a very clear delineation between reality and the demonic world inside Raven and the Temple of Blood. Visually, the story is very easy to follow.

But, because so much of Teen Titans: Family Lost focuses on the psychopathic Deathstroke and his daughter Rose, large parts of the book lack real emotional resonance. While the end is absolutely creepy and comprehensible, the impact of that moment is gone because this is only my second or third experience with Deathstroke. As a result, his emotional struggle rings pretty false, especially for a hired, trained killer.

Ultimately, Teen Titans: Family Lost is very average; it is worth the read, but not superlative in any way I could find. It will, however, entertain most readers at least while they are reading it.

For other graphic novels that follow secondary characters in the DC Universe, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Justice - Volume 2
Justice League Of America: Cry For Justice
Brightest Day - Volume 1


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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