"Teen Titans" and "Superboy" have been building towards May's crossover since their first issue, so "Teen Titans" #8 serving as a prelude to "The Culling" should be reason to celebrate -- but while regular writer Scott Lobdell is around to write this issue, a combination of a slightly predictable script format and an unsuitable fill-in artist means this issue isn't all it could be.
After being captured last month, the Teen Titans are being interrogated/tortured by Omen (a new version of the old continuity's character known as both Omen and Lilith) and one at a time she examines them and exposes some of their secrets. If this sounds a little too standard or on-the-nose, you'd be right. That's the problem with "Teen Titans" #8; it feels very by-the-numbers, as Omen unleashes some exposition on the reader. While it's nice to see the hints doled out that gives the reader an idea of the big revelations still to come about each character -- everything from Kid Flash's memories to the idea that Skitter is more than just a girl who turns into a bug -- it still ends up being a bit forced. (When even the villain comments, "You Teen Titans certainly love your secrets," in regards to how everyone has a secret being given up, you know it's starting to go a little overboard.)
On the plus side, Solstice's explaining to Bunker who Harvest is and why he's so dangerous is easily the most effective moment of the comic. In one fell swoop Harvest goes from a generic bad guy to someone that feels genuinely dangerous, if her memories are anything to go on. It's a good set-up for "The Culling" (for which Harvest is apparently at the center) and it certainly raised my interest.
Ig Guara and J.P. Mayer give Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund a break this month. And while I've liked Guara's pencils on titles like "Blue Beetle" and "Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers," this is not a good match between artist and comic. Guara's cartoonish style makes characters like Skitter no longer seem like a nightmarish monster and more like a cute, cuddly Halloween costume pulled into a regular person or Solstice's glowing bursts amid her dark clouds looking like spots of light instead of ball lightning. It's nothing against Guara, who's a good artist in his own right and has fun with some of the page layouts (I like Wonder Girl beating on the edge of the panel border). Rather is says a lot about how in just over half a year, Booth has made "Teen Titans" his own. These character designs work well with Booth's style, but this is the first real indication that they don't mesh well with everyone. Future fill-in artists hopefully will be a closer fit to what's been established up until now.
"Teen Titans" #8 serves both as primer (for those who haven't read the title before) and teaser (for those who have been reading) and while it's not a bad prelude to the big storyline, it's not as good as the title normally is from month to month. "Teen Titans" has proven itself to be a fun book month in and out, but this one feels like a small misstep off its normal path. Nothing to worry about, but if it wasn't for the hints about future stories, I suspect it would be quickly forgotten in the months to come.