Every now and then, I get tricked by a comic book. Usually, it's "Teen Titans," which was immensely entertaining under Geoff Johns and Mike McKone (and later Tony Daniel on art). Annoyed, I end up walking away from the title, only for a few months later to hear it's gotten better, or get lured in by a certain storyline or character. Clearly, though, it's time to just make a clean break.
The latest lure was "Teen Titans" having a storyline set in Dakota City, the main setting for the Milestone comics. With Holocaust on the cover and Static on the team, my love of the Milestone books made me think that this was a moment to give the book another shot. What I found, though, was disappointment. Felicia D. Henderson seems to have at least escaped the ludicrously grim-and-gritty edict that was placed on the book for a while, but it's been replaced by a thoroughly by-the-numbers, predictable, and even slightly bland book. None of the characters have a distinct voice, their dialogue existing solely to service the plot. Characters shift from jovial to bitchy in the blink of an eye, and even characters who are supposed to be slightly bitter and annoyed with others are on the verge of singing "Kumbaya" so Henderson can have a touching moment. The story rings false from start to finish, and I felt slightly foolish for getting tricked back in to a story that ultimately has nothing to do with Dakota or Milestone aside from those names getting slapped onto captions. This could have just as easily been set in Washington D.C., Chicago, or Charlotte.
Joe Bennett's pencils are all right here, but we've seen better from him in the past. The art loses steam as the issue progresses, though, resulting in a final splash with the ugliest depictions of Cyborg and two surprise guest-stars that I've ever seen. One of the surprise characters has a flat head while looking slightly squished, and poor Cyborg is drawn in such a blocky manner I had to do a double-take to realize it was him. (Still, it's better than the second to last page, where the remaining surprise guest characters has a vein bulging out of his neck so large and distended I thought these were supposed to be robot duplicates.)
Even the back-up feature by Sean McKeever and Yildiray Cinar fails to entertain; if you're coming in late, it's slightly incomprehensible on who's in the hospital and why as a reader we should care. "Teen Titans" #81 was a disappointment from start to finish. This book has lost its way badly enough that if DC announced tomorrow that it was going on hiatus for a year to take the time to find a better direction and creative team, I think most readers would applaud the decision. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.