Monday, November 19, 2012

Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls Is Divided Between The “I Don’t Care” And “Necessary Evil” Storylines.

The Good: Moments of character, Moments of plot, Moments of artwork
The Bad: Lousy character development in the first story, Light on development in the second, Unclear time for first story, Dismal plot for first story
The Basics: Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls focuses on Garfield Logan and, truth be told, it’s virtually impossible to care.

Despite how I seem to select a pretty major superhero each year for my yearly study of a different character from graphic novels, I am actually a big fan of obscure, but cool, heroes. I am, for example, a huge fan of Justice League: Generation Lost (Volume 1 is reviewed here!). So, I was not at all adverse to the concept of the Teen Titans when I first picked up A Kid’s Game (reviewed here!). In fact, that book proved to me that in the right hands, Teen Titans could be entertaining and worthwhile.

But, I always had a little fear that theTeen Titans books would be simplified and droll, a fear that really came alive for me – despite having read two volumes of the series – when I saw the cover to Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls. The cover was animated and looked ridiculous with cartoon versions of the characters from the first two books I read. Fortunately, inside, the book was quite a bit more substantial on the artwork front than that. Unfortunately, the stories were – in many ways – overly simple, containing silly moralistic bits, and resulted in the first real dud of a graphic novel since I started reading Teen Titans.

Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls is actually two stories, though both focus primarily on Garfield Logan. Gar Logan, Beast Boy, is arguably the character I care about least since I started reading the Geoff Johns-era Teen Titans. He is a washed-up child actor who can shapechange into any animal he knows of. Unfortunately, his green skin keeps him from getting a lot of acting gigs, so he has been working to raise the new generation of Teen Titans.

The first story in Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls finds Garfield visiting Hollywood and whining about how he can’t get work. Staying with his loafer cousin, he is shocked when he is implicated in a series of acts that make it appear that he has lost all control of his abilities. While Gar freaks out and rots in prison, his former teammates, Nightwing and Flamebird, come to town to figure out just what is going on. When it becomes clear that another shapeshifter is at work, Gar comes face to face with the consequences of his own prior bad choices.

This first story is a real lemon. It rapidly becomes a mystery, but the mystery is pretty obvious because there has really only been a single stand-out guest character in the book. So, lacking a real mystery, the first story in the book is basically Gar complaining a lot and it is filled with ancillary characters who are anything but interesting. Flamebird is a pretty generic teen girl hero who seems very out of place in Gar’s attempt to seriously refocus his life. Gar’s slacker cousin seems utterly ridiculous and Nightwing’s appearance seems mostly to harken back to a series of events I have not read.

While the artwork in this section is at least fair, this whole plotline reminded me of “Assignment: Earth.” “Assignment: Earth” (reviewed here!) was an episode of Star Trek that Gene Roddenberry was using as a launching point for a new program he was trying to sell to the networks. It basically had the crew of the Enterprise back in the late 1960s meeting up with a guy whose mission was to save the planet and see Earth through the tumultuous end of the Nuclear Arms Race. The show mixed the recognizable characters in with new characters who were clearly struggling for a sense of identity and the resolution was basically the hope for a tangential project. This first section of Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls feels like that. But, given that I don’t much care about Gar, his cousin, or Flamebird, I’m not even looking into any follow-up to this series.

The title half of Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls is a bit better, but the more I considered it, the more it felt like a “necessary evil” storyline. “Necessary evil” storylines are those where the basic premise of a book or series invites a specific type of story to be executed. In the case of Gar Logan, because he is afflicted with an incurable disease, it makes sense that at some point there would be a story where someone tries to cure him. The latter half of Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls is that story. Unfortunately for Gar, the results are decidedly mixed.

Following the incident with Brother Blood in Family Lost (reviewed here!), the team is working on recovering. This includes Gar, who pretty much loathes doctors. As he begins to exhibit the signs of having a common cold, residents in San Francisco are alarmed when their youth begin turning into giant green animals! As Gar is mysteriously reverted to the full appearance of a human, the young people in San Francisco fall to the dreaded virus. Gar must work to restore the children and come to understand how, or by whom, they became infected!

Unfortunately, the moment the villain is revealed, the book is pretty much all over. With the villain having shapeshifting abilities as well, Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls gets to feeling extraordinarily repetitive. Gar fights one shapeshifter, Gar fights another, nothing really changes. Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls did not make me love the character.

However, the b and c plots in Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls are actually surprisingly decent. Connor Kent discovers that Tim Drake has given up the mantle of Robin after he finally “comes out” to his father! At the same time, while Raven gets acclimated to life on the mortal plane again, Cassie Sandsmark learns more about her lasso. An encounter with Ares foreshadows the return of Donna Troy, but Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls is actually more memorable for the scene between Wonder Girl and Ares than it is for the a-plot with Gar!

Ultimately, though, Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls has the pretty trite “it’s important to be yourself” message and it falls pretty flat as a result. The book is not terribly engaging and given how both feel like they are more in the middle of other stories than standing on their own, it is easy to pass by Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls.

For other books with outsiders in the DC universe, check out my reviews of:
Justice League: Cry For Justice
Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits
Amazons Attack!


For other book reviews, 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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