Teen Titans #15, written by Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza and drawn by Brett Booth, is a strange read. It’s part of the Death of The Family crossover going through the Batman Family books, and it features the same Joker as those books, with his skinned face strapped to his head, and ostensibly more terrifying than ever, but it doesn’t feel of that crossover. Where most of the other issues in this crossover put the focus on how Joker is more modern and direct and personally violent in many ways, this issue feels almost… quaint. Sure, it has several characters talking about how deadly Joker is, and how frightening it is to face off with him, but the overall feeling is that it comes from another era. An era of death traps and convoluted master plans and big primary colors and crappy gag lines.
This is a 90s comic book, from the plotting to the scripting to even the art style. It is a strange fit with the terror and brutality that has been the stock in trade of the rebooted Joker in other issues of Death of The Family, and it therefore feels… odd. It is like being in line for an Odd Future concert and seeing someone roll into the parking lot in a neon blue Dodge Neon with flames and a spoiler, and seeing the driver jumping out with Hammerpants and a Kid-N-Play fade haircut. It is retro where retro is not needed – or necessarily wanted – and therefore the instinct is to beat the perpetrator like a rented goalie.
And make no mistake: I will be throwing some punches at Teen Titans #15… however, there is some good stuff in this issue, and that deserves some attention, too. After all – M. C. Hammer and the Houseparty movies didn’t make a billion dollars twenty years ago because they were always reprehensible to everyone everywhere.