Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Adam Beechen, Teen Titans, and Cassandra Cain

First, a thanks to Ragnell for posting about, and drawing my attention to this. After commenting on her post I thought further about, and am expanding upon, my thoughts here.

I would also like to give a warning that this post is LONG. VERY LONG.

Newsarama broke the story that Geoff Johns will be leaving Teen Titans and replaced by Justice League Unlimited and Robin scribe Adam Beechen.

As I intend to discuss stories from Robin, Teen Titans, and things relating to Batgirl:

Here There Be Spoilers

The majority of Geoff Johns' run on Teen Titans was spectacular. While I haven't been crazy about the things going on in the book after the One Year Later jump, the first few story arcs were excellent. Bringing in the Young Justice characters and mixing them with the remaining members of The New Teen Titans was a great way to bring in new readers who hadn't picked up a Titans book before, but still keep fans of the Wolfman/Perez run happy. Johns then added some great villains like Deathstroke (this was four years ago, before he was completely over-exposed), an updated Brother Blood, and (in my favorite arc) future versions of the Titans themselves.

Due to delays, a truly unfortunate two-issue fill-in by He Who Must Not Be Named, a serious down step in the art after Mike McKone left for Marvel, and my overall disinterest in the line-up after One Year Later, I dropped the book.

Adam Beechen is a writer who first caught my attention with Justice League Unlimited #5.

I think for obvious reasons:

In which Blue Beetle is left alone in the satellite on Monitor Duty, and has to defeat The General. It's full of humor, a surprising amount of action, and due to legal reasons the only time we've seen the animated series style Blue Beetle. It's excellent. Based on the strength of this issue, I picked up the trades of the series, which at digest size are $6.99. They're worth every cent. Beechen tells amazing one-shot stories about the League, and not having to worry about the cost of a show is able to showcase characters like Stargirl, The Question, Adam Strange, and even VIBE. Yes, that's right... VIBE. So when he was announced to take over Robin, I put the book on my pull-list.

His first story arc on the book is now infamous for changing the character of Batgirl from a force for good into the leader of the League of Assassins.

While the given motives for Cassandra to change into this evil ninja criminal mastermind were questionable at best (Daddy didn't love her, she wanted Robin to be by her side), I'm not entirely against the idea of this change for three major reasons.

1 - At the end of her own book, immediately before the One Year Later jump, Cassandra had a life-changing quest to find her mother. She ended up fighting her mother to the death, discovering what it meant to be "the one who is all," and decided that Batman's way might not be the way for her. Immediately after, during Infinite Crisis, all of Cassandra's non-Bat friends and family were killed, as well as her new home of Bludhaven completely destroyed by Deathstroke.

If any thing's going to cause someone to snap, it's killing your mom, then coming home to find all you friends dead and your home a radioactive wasteland.

2 - Speaking specifically as this character affects Robin, he has absolutely NO rogues gallery. What makes Batman great is The Joker, Two-Face, The Riddler, etc. This is why no one cares when Batman fights villains like Doctor Phosphorus - Batman is usually only interesting when thrown into contrast with his villains. Robin has no such catalogue of criminals, which is why he's usually most effective in a group, like the Teen Titans. Cassandra Cain as the head of the League of Assassins is a GREAT villain for Robin!

3 - Robin stories should be a reflection of Batman stories. He's basically mini-Batman, and what makes a good Robin story in my mind is one in which we get to see how the character contrasts and compares to Batman. Cassandra Cain, head of the L. o. A., with her army of ninjas and grand designs is part Ra's Al Ghul, and by wanting Robin by her side she's part Talia Al Ghul. So we get to see how Robin would handle stories similar to the Dennis O'Neil 70's Batman stories, and Cassandra Cain could potentially be even more dangerous than Ra's Al Ghul to Robin, as she's closer to him than Ra's ever was to Batman.

This, however, was tossed out the window with this week's Teen Titans #43.
I'm tired of writing it, you're tired of reading it, but I feel the need:

For the love of god, SPOILERS.

So apparently Cassandra had not become evil of her own volition. I'm really opposed to this. To see why, let's run down the character's history one last time:

Cassandra was abused by her father, David Cain, who used her as a living weapon.

Then she found her way to Batman, who used her as a living weapon. That point might be in contention among fans, but I think that since Batman simply loosed her onto Gotham City's underworld based on her fighting skill, and never even taught the character HOW TO READ, then he gets the, "You used her!" treatment. If you want, you can chalk that up to another one of pre-Infinite Crisis Batman's blunders (see: Brother Eye).

When she finally broke away and sought out her own identity, she became completely evil and arguably insane to get back at David Cain and to win the alliance, and sub-textually love, of Robin.

Now with this new issue of Teen Titans, we discover that Cassandra has been brainwashed by Deathstroke, who is using her as a living weapon. And not only is he taking away her free will, but the motivation for doing this have nothing to do with who she is, or what her character traits are, but instead because brainwashing and using her would distress Robin.

So arguably one of the strongest female characters, one who has BESTED the greatest martial artist in the DCU, has never been used outside of her own book as anything other than a tool for male characters.

Could this change? I'm sure she could, at the end of the arc, snap out of things. But looking at the pattern of events, and the way the character's been handled, I'm not sure it will.

What do you guys think?
Will this end well for Cass?
Will she still be Batgirl by the end of the arc?
And does such continual abuse of a character solely for the benefit of other male characters grant her a spot on the Women In Refrigerators list?

Let me know what you think.



Anonymous said...

Yep. This is worse.

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