Following directly on the heels of the Rebirth issue, Teen Titans #1 introduces us to the member of the team that we haven’t yet met in this incarnation: Damian Wayne. Benjamin Percy captures the over developed teenager’s voice rather brilliantly. Individual lines, not just their aggregate, present Damian’s confident intellectualism and his simplistically insufferable ego. Plenty of great Damian stories have highlighted one or the other and many have presented the contrast between his emotional childishness and his intellectual maturity, but this issue avoids the easy outs. Damian’s musings on growing up are fascinating and, though we are reminded of the harsh childhood he has been given, both story and character insist that we not make those an excuse. Like all teenagers, this Damian refuses your pity.
Of course, while the Titans’ new Robin is very much in the spotlight this month, this is still a team book and this is part of the formation of that team. Despite being taken down easily last month, Starfire’s still got the classic fire in her heart and the contrast between her and the rest of the team drive their characterization this month. It’s interesting to see a well-written Starfire and a well-written Raven who have no history together coexist. Likewise, Beast Boy and, especially, Kid Flash prove that Percy doesn’t need four page vignettes to nail this book’s characterization. And that’s really the greatest draw of this book so far; these characters feel vibrant and sincere.
However, the plot is clearly second to that characterization. You can’t deny that it’s set up, and somewhat formulaic set up at that. Of course formulas exist for a reason, but the cynical, or money conscious, among us might be willing to wait for the adventure to start properly as there’s really no big plot surprises here, especially with the villain spelled out on the cover and in solicitations.
Jonboy Meyers and Jim Charalampidis deliver some stunning visuals. Their version of Damian is among the most iconic and the entire team have distinct and potently colorful looks about them. The Teen Titans’ greatest success since the days of Wolfman and Perez has almost certainly come through television and the bold lines and anime inspirations do a lot to capture that same energy, even if it’s used to reconstruct the American look that the animated series replaced. Meyers obviously puts more of his effort into some panels than others, but none look bad and those that shine do so brightly.
There’s also an interesting effect that the art team uses to give the book an added pop, a teal outline around most characters. The result is effective, creating a sense of importance and depth, but it takes getting used to. At its best it immediately deepens the scene, but, at its worst, it can look like some of Meyer’s beautiful characters were drag and dropped onto the backgrounds. In fact, one of the most striking visuals of this issue, Meyers’ gorgeously multilayered rendition of Goliath, is repeatedly weakened by the choice to present him as a flat background element rather than a character.
The art in this issue is crisp and lively in a way that few books can boast. The colors are simply gorgeous and the designs are confident. I especially love the depth of it, whether that takes the form of the sleek, flat look of the Titans or the layered details in the backgrounds and hair. Unfortunately, as stunning as the art in this issue is, there’s something bittersweet about it, knowing that Jonboy Meyers will not be returning to the book.
Benjamin Percy has made a name in comics getting to the heart of his characters and giving them something to do that feels both modern and classic and now we can say with some certainty that he’s able and eager to do that for more than just Green Arrow. With a rendition of Damian Wayne that defies the traditional simplicities of comic storytelling without taunting readers and some incredibly striking art and color, Teen Titans #1 is a winning combination. Some titles needed a rebirth more than others and, as Damian is all too quick to point out, Teen Titans was among the most needy. Thankfully this issue delivers. It’s a slow, exposition laden bit of character work and it benefits significantly from its Rebirth issue, but the writing and art are top notch.