WARNING: SPOILERS GALORE BELOW!!!
YOU GOOD? WE WARNED YOU. SPOILERS!
I love DC's Earth One universe. It has produced some of my favorite hardbacks that sit proubly on the shelf. It has also stuttered as of late. Despite Grant Morrison's best efforts of ruining what I loved, I looked forward to Jeff Lemire's follow up to Earth One: Teen Titans.
I guess I should have kept lower expectations.
If you read Volume One, then you know that Niles Caulder (The Cheif and maybe even Robotman) ran a couple of secret projects involving metahumans based on the DNA from a captured alien. Five of those subjects figured out the truth of their captivity and broke out along with the alien. They did this with the help of a Native-American teenage mystic Raven and the "father" of one of the subjects: Slade Wilson. Joey (Jericho) has the unique ability to jump into peoples bodies. He ends up taking over his dad's body while Vic (Cyborg), Tara, Gar (Beast Boy), and Tempy (Tempest/Aqualad) escape to the Seattle suburbs. Raven and Kory (Starfire) hole up in an Indian reservation in Utah.
We pick up where we left off in Volume Two. Jericho, while in control of Deathstroke, fights his way to see The Chief in order to strike a deal. He knows where the alien subject is and offers to bring her back to Caulder. Meanwhile, the other subjects are hiding in a building development. Vic is slowly loosing himself to the living metal while Tara is getting sloppy in her pill runs. Gar and Tempy are spending some good ole bro time, seemingly oblivious to the state of their situation.
Caulder figures out where the "Starefire" subjects are, and sends his own group of "Blackfire" subjects after them. Wally (impusle), Cass (Wonder Girl), Kole (Kole) are The Chief's Titans. They drop in on their unsuspecting relations and make short work of them.
Meanwhile, the strike team that Jericho assembled to take Raven and Kory have their asses handed to them. Jericho tries to take over Raven's body, but quickly finds that he is inhabiting a void which Raven locks him into. Free of his "son's" influence, Slade expresses his desire to help take down The Chief despite Kory's eagerness to kill him. Slade concocts a plan to infiltrate the "Blackfire" site, free the other subjects, capture Niles Caulder and force him to help Joey. Raven and Kory agree to help.
Vic get's seperated from everybody else and is plugged into Kory's space ship... for what I assume are reasons. Slade's plan to infiltrate the bad guys place works and he quickly subdues Caulder while Raven saves all the other subjects while psychically imparting the truth of their existence to them. Wally confronts his "father" but Caulder calls in subject 8, "Blackfire."
A not so epic battle ensues. Jericho escapes Raven's hold and inhabits Blackfire, but the combined effort of all the subjects proves to be too much for Jericho after Cyborg awakens with a giant Robot suit he decides to name "Rover." Jericho flees the battle carrying Niles Caulder off with him. Raven teleports the remaining subjects and Kory back to her grandpa's shack in Utah. Everybody seems to be acclimating to their change in fortunes, for good or ill, in more or less positive ways. Tara and Vic are working things out. Kole and Gar are possibly making out. Cass and Tempy are best of pals. Raven reveals to Kory that her "shield" over her may have dropped during the battle against Blackfire and that the robots who annihilated Kory's home world may know she's on earth. Happy Ending?
So, I'll cut to the chase: This book disappointed me.
Don't get me wrong. There is nothing terribly wrong with this book, but there is nothing special about it either. Some choices were made on how to change up established characters and continuity (which Earth One exists to do); but some of those choices don't add anything to the characters and may even make them less interesting.
Take for instance the reinterpretation of Blackfire. She, at least in most continuities, was always Starfire's less then well adjusted sister. In Earth One she is Starfire's botched clone. Bizarro like in appearance, she has been kept away from all the other "subjects" because she would be "made fun of." She is misshapen, carries a doll, and seems to have a hard time understanding nuance. Our protagonist Starfire calls her "ugly me" on top of her insistence on killing Caulder whom Blackfire would identify as her "dad." This makes a certain amount of sense due to the fact that "Starfire" and "Blackfire" are really the names of the projects that Caulder created around the capture of the alien Koriand'R, whom Starlabs kept in stasis until Raven, Tara, Vic, Gar, and Tempy broke her out. The portrayal of her seems... I don't know.... mean.
Maybe that's good writing? Feeling compassion for what used to be a villain worked well in Earth One: Superman Volume 3. I felt bad for this would be villain instead of animosity. Hopefully Blackfire will be free of Jericho at some point, and we will get some kind of reconciliation between the clone and cloned. Yet, I couldn't help but wonder what you do with this character after the eventual redemption: Phantom Zone? Bizarro World? Death? Join the TT? None of those options seem great... or interesting.
It's not to say that I didn't like allot about this book. The portrayal of Impulse was great. I like Wally West as a leader and a hard ass. It turns the idea of Kid Flash on it's head while at the same time being believable and having a character you still want to root for. I enjoyed some of the quips about renaming Tempest "Aqualad." I enjoyed the abject display of power by Raven and Starfire. I love how human Raven is. Most of the character portrayal is great. I particularly love Niles Caulder and look forward to seeing the Doom Patrol in the future.
The art is as inconsistent as the choices in story. Sometimes we are offered up amazing, emotional panels, other times we get lumpy faced characters and messy fight scenes. I am amazed at how much difference there can be from page to page... and not in a good way. I'm not sure what kind of time frame Andy MacDonald was working under, but his work on Detective Comics Rebirth is much more elegant and detailed then what we get here.
Overall, I'm a bit at an impasse. If you own all the other Earth One volumes then you do need this book. If you only only Earth One: Teen Titans Volume One and you liked it, you may want this book. It's better than what Grant Morrison gave us for Earth One: Wonder Woman, but for $22.99 for the hardcover and $14.99 for the digital version you could get some of the other great Earth One books... like the ones written by Geoff Johns.