Teen Titans #16
TEEN TITANS #16 by Marv Wolfman and Tom Derenick
TEEN TITANS #16 is an enjoyable read, though it's far from perfect. The heroic spotlight on Starfire gives great insight into her character, but an impatient plot takes away from the experience.
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The New 52 portrayal of Starfire was problematic, to say the least. While the version portrayed in RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS had her strong moments, the intense sexualization of the character pushed many fans away. After Rebirth rocked the comic book world, many of these problems disappeared. In fact, writer Ben Percy brought a new light to all of these characters in his seminal run on TEEN TITANS. With the release of TEEN TITANS #16 this week, though, Percy has stepped down for the creator of Starfire, Marv Wolfman. So can Starfire hold her own on this solo adventure? Or will the story simply fall flat?

After a daring battle with Mammoth, an off the cuff remark from Beast Boy manages to drive Starfire away. Alone and questioning her place on the team, Starfire finds herself suddenly under fire. A group of civilians, empowered by mysterious technology, begin to assault her from every angle. As the battle continues, Starfire discovers that her attackers are part of an alien species known as the Psions. These reptilian creatures have devoted themselves to intense, galaxy-wide research, and Starfire is their newest test-subject.

Starfire’s Journey

Teen Titans #16
TEEN TITANS #16 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

In general, I enjoyed TEEN TITANS #16. It doesn’t have quite the energy or narrative fire that Percy’s work has had, of course. Still, it feels satisfying to see such an in-depth spotlight falling on Starfire. In fact, many of the best moments of this story come from Starfire’s inner-monologue. Her constant anxiety over Beast Boy’s statement regarding her age made total sense. This anxiety reflects the fact that Koriander didn’t grow up in an environment where jokes were necessarily allowed. She was raised to be a hard-skinned warrior, and the allusions to that side of her past mark some of Wolfman’s best moments.

X-MEN and TEEN TITANS: The Diverse Revivals

I do have to question, however, the continuity with the New 52 portrayal. This isn’t simply an issue with TEEN TITANS #16, but with Starfire’s portrayal in Rebirth in general. TEEN TITANS #16 simply stands as the first chance readers have had to sit down one-on-one with the character. None of her recent history is addressed. I enjoyed the references to her life on Tamaran and the social disconnect she suffers. However, Wolfman never dives into what drove her change. This version of Starfire, an intense leader and powerful warrior, has a definite intrigue about her. However, I wanted some reference to how she truly got here.

The Psion Battle

Teen Titans #16
TEEN TITANS #16 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Past the characterization in TEEN TITANS #16, I still felt a little disappointed. The overall battle with the Psions has genuine possibilities. An entire species devoted to torture as a form of research poses interesting moral dilemmas that would balance nicely against Starfire’s warrior heritage. It also plays nicely into her history. However, I never felt like the pieces came together. The story felt unnecessarily rushed. The battle sequences, while flashy and well drawn, never felt cohesive.

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To generalize, I didn’t feel like TEEN TITANS #16 really had a plot. The events that take place simply act as a setting for Starfire’s character exploration. You may find that good or bad. I personally lean toward the latter. There are so many examples of comic books beautifully balancing an intense, interesting plot with detailed characterization. The story just falls flat. Luckily, Wolfman manages to save it with great characterization, but I wanted something more. The villains feel like a faceless mob. In fact, we never get a full explanation as to why Starfire represents such an interesting case study. The Psions just really, really want to see how Starfire reacts to pain. And man, do they go to a lot of trouble to do it.

Taking Up The Palette

Teen Titans #16
TEEN TITANS #16 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

TEEN TITANS #16 stands as Tom Derenick’s first appearance in this series, and for the most part, I really enjoyed his style. There is a certain grittiness to his pencils that fits this story well. Every line held a certain weight that tried to aid the intensity of the plot. I especially enjoyed the opening sequence, wherein the team did battle with Mammoth. The anatomy and crisp linework in this section showcased Derenick’s artistic strengths in a major way, but it sadly also showed some of his weaknesses.

There seems to be a trend within the art of superhero comics. In the industry, a particular style typically wins out if it’s distinctly “comic book.” I don’t typically have a problem with this style. In fact, it’s what I grew up on. However, I do have some issues with certain aspects that continually pop up in modern comics. Sadly, Derenick falls victim to one of my least favorite. Every single woman he draws in TEEN TITANS #16 has incredibly exaggerated anatomy. I understand that certain women have larger breasts or backsides, yet it feels a bit copy-and-pasted when Raven and Starfire have nearly identical builds. This may seem like a minor detail and, for the most part, it is. Derenick’s style is otherwise masterful. I just wanted a bit more variation in character design and anatomy.

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS: Rebirth vs. New 52

Final Thoughts: TEEN TITANS #16

TEEN TITANS #16 is an enjoyable comic book. The plot is passable and, despite some minor anatomical pet peeves, Derenick manages to craft the entire tone of this issue with his art. Where TEEN TITANS #16 really shines, though, is in its characterization of its main heroine. Starfire comes through better in this issue than I think she has in a very long time. Despite a disconnect from the New 52 portrayal, Starfire’s war-torn history and trust issues come through perfectly here. This is a story for fans of Starfire and people who want to learn more about this character, and Wolfman does a fantastic job of telling it. Just don’t expect more than an alien brawl for the meat of the story.

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