Titans: Rebirth #1 is an awakening. Under the aegis of the Rebirth project helmed by DC chief creative officer Geoff Johns, Dan Abnett presents a story about the return of memory and the arousal of deep feelings from anaesthetic coma. Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, and Andrew Dalhouse craft a visual awakening to take the central mystery of the Rebirth era to greater intensity after the busy DC Universe Rebirth #1 and the somewhat dreamlike The Flash: Rebirth #1. Booth’s clean lines and sculpted forms give the images a vibrancy enhanced by Andrew Dalhouse’s bright, luminous colors. So luminous are the colors that when the figures are standing in Dick Grayson’s new apartment surrounded by Norm Rapmund’s purple-black shadows, they glow slightly. It would be a stretch to say they look angelic, but the hint is there, and it’s totally in keeping with the apparent intent of Rebirth to reintroduce more active, positive overtones to the DCU.
For some reason, a certain group of readers and creators disdains books deliberately crafted to please fans. At first blush, such an attitude makes no sense, for what are fictional stories for if not to please? Some, I suppose, would argue that fiction has a higher calling. They see it as an instrument pointing beyond this world to a realm of more genuine meaning and true emotion. I suppose in this way of platonic thinking (ironic since Plato viewed art of all kinds with hostility) greater truth always supersedes meer reader pleasure. Luckily, Dan Abnett and Brett Booth do not seem to be of that peculiar philosophy. The frame story, involving the returned-to-time Wally West entering Dick Grayson’s apartment and encountering his old friends, is told efficiently and quickly. The meat of the tale concerns each Titan in turn touching Wally and receiving an etheric shock from the Speed Force, bringing forth memories of their lost teammate.
Abnett has chosen each memory to reveal something important about both the Titan in question and his or her relationship with Wally. So we see the speedster being introduced to Roy Harper’s secret bachelor pad while they remark on the difference between their mentors. We see a romantic interlude with Lilith Clay that hints at complications to come for Wally, and a moment of joking with Donna Troy that goes farther to establish her personality than anything we have seen since her reintroduction to continuity in the pages of Wonder Woman. Likewise, a brief conversation with Garth as the Atlantean considers abandoning the surface world is the best piece of characterization we have had with him in years. But the central memory, and for most people probably the most pleasing, is the image of Wally and Dick Grayson “borrowing” the Batmobile for a joyride.
The flood of memories that fills this book might have turned into a tedious procession of predictable images. However, Booth's creative use of angled panels, punctuated by one spectacular double-page splash, moves the reader along briskly, as does Abnett's rapid pacing and admirable narrative restraint. Booth's weakness with faces and the sometimes disproportionate anatomy of his characters does distract in some panels, but he largely keeps his worst instincts tightly leashed. His designs for the characters are clean and modern, without the 1990s throwbacks that hurt his earlier work with the Tim Drake Teen Titans. More of a problem is that Abnett seems content to reintroduce the memories of the characters without trying to advance the central plot. But that is a fine and pleasing thing to be content with.