Teen Titans #28

Story Title: Beast Boys And Girls Part 3: Changelings
Reviewer: Paul Sebert
Guest Writer: Geoff Johns
Guest Artist: Ron Liefeld
Guest Colorist: Matt Yackey
Letters: Comicraft
Assistant Editor: Jeanie Schafer
Editor: Joan Hilty
Publisher: The Distinguished Competition

Love him or hate him, Rob Liefeld is for better or worse one of the most important comics artists of modern times. His unique art style on books like Hawk & Dove and New Mutants stood out from other titles from the late 80’s/early 90’s, marking a gradual move away from “house styles” from the big two allowing readers to enjoy the wide variety of art styles within the mainstream today. The runaway success of Youngblood #1 proved that there was a potential goldmine in the field of independent comics, at least until a flood of imitators and glow-in-the-dark chromium die-cut covers crushed the direct market.

So yes, we cannot take away Liefeld’s unique contribution to the medium. Try as we might to paint him as the living incarnation of all that’s bad in the 90’s, he cannot nor should not be blamed for vicious cycle of greedy speculators and greedier publishers that nearly drove the medium to its knees. He and the other Image nine should be commended for forcing publishers to allow a greater deal of creative freedom to their artists while offering a commercially viable outlet for creator-owned work.

So why does every fanboy hate Rob Liefeld, despite his continued efforts to keep working with hot writers? Despite the fact that he generally comes across as a genuine nice guy at conventions? Despite his obvious enthusiasm for the medium?

Where do I begin? For starters Rob has a reputation for blowing deadlines, so much so that his fans have waited for over two years for the second issue of Youngblood: Bloodsport. Not only that, but his art itself often seems unforgivably lazy. Things that comic fans often take for granted like fully illustrated backgrounds, and a perception of depth are frequently lacking. Furthermore his grasp of anatomy is dubious, with characters frequently lacking human anatomy like necks and spines while having nightmarishly ballooned muscular and boobular builds. There have also been accusations of Rob directly copying panels from other artists works, though the line between homage and knock-off is often a fuzzy one.

The appeal of Rob’s art to teens back in the day was not unlike the “unusual loudness” that attracted Marty Debergi to Spinal Tap. Alas, like the leader of a hair metal band, he has grown tone-deaf over the years, completely losing touch with modern tastes. His audience has moved on, but he has not; stuck forever in a moment of time trying to recreate what made him a success all of those years ago.

Which brings us to this latest fill-in arc in the pages of Teen Titans… for a brief period there was actual talk of Rob doing more work for DC and even being involved in a possible Titans East spin-off. All such talks recently fell silent, possibly because there’s talk of Rob doing more work at Marvel, or possibly because someone read this issue.

Which isn’t to say Rob deserves full blame for this train wreck. Last issue writer Gail Simone tried a few ambitious things with the two-parter by introducing some new villains, offering some more spot-light on the new Hawk & Dove, and lamenting on how a team composed primarily of orphans dealt with father’s day. Alas, any potential these plot points may have had are now lost in a field of endless illegible slugfests. Hawk & Dove are shuffled into the background, while I still don’t know the names of half the villains introduced last issue. Robin confronting the loss of his father meanwhile is dealt with in a manner so laughably ham-fisted that I personally feel bad for Dave Meltzer who’s Identity Crisis is briefly homage-d in the most grotesque manner possible.

In short, this issue opens up with an evil purple guy named Kestrell stealing a horribly misshapen blob that I think is supposed to be Raven’s soul. The Titans jump in after him, but he’s aided by a Blue Haired Goth Girl and Girl Who Looks Like Void From The Original Wildcats. There is a fight scene that I think is supposed to take place in hell or limbo (or some place) as random characters battle it out against random blurry generic space based backgrounds. And the Titans eventually win before we see Rob taking on the test of a truly bad artist… he actually manages to ruin a bedroom snuggling scene between Raven and Wondergirl!

How inept as a whole is this issue? Even the computer coloring by Matt Yackey is god awful, as both Tim Drake and the Blue Haired Villainess have the same EXACT SAME HAIR COLOR! Meanwhile Raven is given the same gray-hued skin tone as her cartoon counter-part making me wonder if Mr. Yackey did even the slightest bit of research before tackling the project.

There is one positive thing though, the lettering by Comicraft is very serviceable. It is a nice clear font that is easy to read.

And when you’re appreciating the quality of the font used, you know you’re in trouble.