The Teen Titans are the future of DC Comics. Perhaps then it’s not surprising to think that the Titans, seemingly regardless of generation, were some of the characters hit hardest and most negatively by the New 52. DC Rebirth has already proven that it wants to do right by the ‘Titans’, but there’s as much time between the debut of the New Teen Titans and now as there was between that same issue #1 and the introduction of Alfred, and most of the characters that have gone on to star in Titans were created fifteen to twenty years earlier than that! No, if DC wants to convince us that it’s looking forward, it’s going to take more than merely having a pair of Titans books on the shelves.
With this issue, Ben Percy and Jonboy Meyers assembles this team of heroes, ranging from their early twenties all the way down to the tweens, but worthy to be called the Teen Titans. The book looks at each one of the members, through a series of four vignettes designed to introduce readers of any possible familiarity with what to expect from this take on the Titans.
The first teen hero we’re introduced to is Beast Boy, Gar Logan. Gar reads very much as a best of previous Beast Boys, acting very similarly to his Pre-Flashpoint incarnation and demonstrating the same Hollywood connections while also demonstrating the youth and excitability of his television counterpart. Ben Percy nails the unique version of charisma and desperation that drives this character, making him a wise choice to open the book with. Admittedly, even at this early stage the characters tend to be a little loose lipped when it comes to their powers and personalities, but there’s an impressive texture given to Beast Boy’s portrayal that keeps it from feeling informed. We may get the summary from Gar, but the details come through clearly in the dialogue.
The other thing that I loved about this sequence was how much Gar felt like a teenager. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that media’s insistence that teenagers only think about drinking, smoking, and hooking up is manipulative at best and predatory at worst, but the fact is that a lot of teens have internalized that message. Seeing Beast Boy drinking and PG-13 skinny dipping with a girl he meets at a party doesn’t make him a terribly good role-model, but I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see teen heroes free to make mistakes and not be role-models. Beast Boy is depressed and insecure and he’s trying to make himself feel cool and adult and, more and more, that’s a huge part of teenage life.
That point leads us naturally to Kid Flash. This is the character that will feel the most alien to most readers. Introduced but never fully realized during the New 52 era, this Wally West was harshly undercut by the return of his crimson haired namesake to the elder Titans. He also isn’t a familiar name to watchers of Teen Titans Go!, taking the ascended Cyborg’s place on this team.
Luckily, Percy makes a strong case for Wally. Kid Flash represents the eagerness of a teenager and the frustration of being stuck in-between. It’s a great, totemic encapsulation of who this character will be in this series and plays naturally into classic Wally West tropes.
Raven’s chapter is an odd one. She’s already seeming a little more…is it wrong to say devilish – than usual. Perhaps that’s continuity with her just begun miniseries, or maybe Percy wants to try a Raven who’s a little less cold. Either way, the interpretation brings little else to the table. Yes, I do like that her powers as an empath are put front and center, but they sound much more sinister than usual and the scene itself provides nothing new for her, save some nice visuals. Still, if nothing else, the script respects her power, which is a welcome change.
Starfire finds herself somewhere in the middle. Koriand’r proves the Titan most able to show rather than tell, combining her hatreds of freedom denied and deceptive indirectness into a natural story that manages to catch up new readers and reward fans of the character. Unfortunately, there’s only a few pages to do this in and the plot Percy is able to get all that information out of is not terribly interesting. I also have minor fanboy quibbles about Starfire being taken out so easily. It’s less power level nonsense, though that’s certainly in play, than my worry that Starfire’s role as the NTT’s physical powerhouse might be being forgotten yet again.
Together these vignettes make a strong case for these young heroes and their place in DC’s universe. The biggest problem with the book is that they, and the issue as a whole, are a little light on plot. That’s understandable, of course, given the page restrictions, and the clarity of ideas and character in play makes me excited to see what happens once the series begins in earnest. Still, if you’re on a tight budget, I’d understand if you took my word that this series is worth a look instead of paying $2.99 for confirmation that it’s safe, and then some, to trust this series.
That being said, I expect many readers will be grateful for a full issue of art from Jonboy Meyers and Jim Charalampidis. Meyers has exactly the type of adaptable, electrified energy that you’d hope for a book about an untested team of teen heroes. Certainly there’s an elasticity to the character designs, but it’s judiciously applied, giving each member and each segment of the issue a different look.
Beast Boy alone is an impressive challenge, requiring an almost manga-esque look for the hyperactive hero and a slew of animals, ranging from the cartooned to the photorealistic, but he’s also the most obvious and, in a way, the least interesting example of Meyer’s artistic consideration. Raven leans into the same look as Beast Boy but with a harsher edge and an interlude that further demonstrates the range of this title. Starfire is more than a little bit lean, especially to any Perez purists out there, but she and everything around her actually feel tropical, mixing heat and lapping waves into the look of every panel. Kid Flash mixes the two looks, capturing Wally’s swaggering confidence and intense determination. And, not least of all, these pages also show that Meyers can draw expression on a black face, a skill that I so wish I didn’t think of as a positive deviation, but is welcome nonetheless.
Charalampidis is also something of a superstar this issue and he and Meyers’ work mesh cleanly and easily. Charalampidis brings a bright, classic vibe to the book while tweaking it to suit modernity. The use of outlines and lighting effects in concert with Meyer’s own strong lines is great and helps each panel read clearly and with strong emotion.
If Teen Titans: Rebirth was intended to build excitement for the upcoming series, it is an enormous success. Percy and Meyer have a firm and loving handle on these characters and their trajectories. Solid dialogue wrestles with an intentionally shallow plot to provide an appealing entry point into this series and an argument as to why this creative team can be entrusted with the future of DC. Adding in Meyers and Charalampidis’ powerhouse artistic team only shores up the telling and the draw of this latest incarnation of the Titans.
There may not be a huge amount behind these introductions as standalone stories, but this issue makes it abundantly clear that they were never, and could never, be intended as such. Teen Titans: Rebirth understands the word at the core of the franchise: together.