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    Review: Teen Titans #1

    By | September 29th, 2011
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Written by Scott Lobdell
    Illustrated by Brett Booth

    Tim Drake, Batman’s former sidekick, is back in action when an international organization seeks to capture, kill or co-opt super-powered teenagers.

    As Red Robin, he’s going to have to team up with the mysterious and belligerent powerhouse thief known as Wonder Girl and the hyperactive speedster calling himself Kid Flash to stand any chance at all against a living, breathing weapon with roots in another world! They — along with a few other tortured teen heroes — will be the Teen Titans in this new series from writer Scott Lobdell (WILDC.A.T.S, Uncanny X-Men) and artist Brett Booth (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA)!

    The Teen Titans, perhaps even more so than the Justice League, are DC’s flagship team. The sidekicks/legacy characters that have historically made up the Titans are some of most iconic in all of comics; Robin, Kid Flash, Cyborg, and Superboy are just some of the heroes that have made up the team in various incarnations.

    Now the Titans, along with all their members minus Red Robin, are undergoing a near-complete reboot with this new series. Does the new direction put them towards some of the classic Titans runs of the past, or has the luster finally worn off this title?

    Find out after the jump.

    When the initial solicitations for the “New 52” appeared a few months ago, Teen Titans was one of the titles that made me audibly groan. Replete with tattoos, feather wings, and hoods, this looked more like a leftover from Image Comics in 1994 than a new take on this iconic team. Adding to the confusion was the listing of Scott Lobdell as writer, who is usually associated with the mid-to-late ‘90s X-Men books and is currently one of only five writers on the DC staff (along with Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, Scott Synder and Peter Milligan) to be tackling three monthly books. Lobdell’s name, along with Brett Booth’s art, made the book appear to be more of a throwback than a step forward.

    Luckily, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

    The overarching plot of this first arc appears to be about the mysterious organization N.O.W.H.E.R.E. trying to round up and eliminate young metahumans. This directly puts the book in a crossover with Superboy, another Lobdell title that deals with N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and its nefarious relationship with teenage heroes. This is a potentially fertile plot, especially when considering how a government would want to control both its young people and its superpowered community. In the DCnU, it appears that those in authority positions are far more leery of the heroes than before, and so a story like this seemed inevitable.

    The part of the plotting that is frustrating is the complete removal of the basic premise for the Teen Titans: a group of sidekicks banding together for their own adventures. Even when Marv Wolfman and George Perez introduced new characters onto the team, the roots of the group were always in former sidekicks. In this new version, only Red Robin (Tim Drake, the third Robin) is affiliated with an established hero; Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark) refuses to be called that name, and it is made clear that Kid Flash (presumably Bart Allen) is acting independently of Barry Allen. These are the only three heroes that are given more than a panel in this issue, and only really Red Robin is given too much to do.

    However, this issue moves with real purpose and sets up a clear goal for the book, something that can’t be said for a lot of the new titles. Lobdell seems to have a knack for writing young characters, and everyone here seems just about right: Cassie is pissed off for having her “normal” life taken away, Bart is a hot-head who does everything fast (except think), and Tim is as playful as someone who was partly raised by Bruce Wayne can be. In addition to these three characters, the book seems primed to pick up more misfits and outcasts as time goes on, perhaps becoming something like a more costumed Runaways.

    Continued below

    Speaking of costumes, I expected far worse from Booth than we got here. I’m still not enamored with Red Robin’s feathered wings, but the costume as a whole isn’t as Youngblood as I had feared. Booth’s artwork does, at times, feel like a throwback to the 1990s, but in a way where a lot of the excess is trimmed away and we’re left with a relatively flashy but not incredibly over the top superhero comic. Booth’s art suffers a little from the overly muscled, large-breasted stereptypes of that decade, but overall his work here is serviceable and doesn’t offend. One aspect I particularly enjoyed was Cassie’s costume, which touches on both her costume and the one that Donna Troy (the original Wonder Girl) wore after leaving the Darkstars. This is a rare tip of the hat to a past design which is, unfortunately, overshadowed by yet another hood. DC loves their hoods nowadays.

    Each incarnation of the Teen Titans has had a distinctive feel to it: the innocence of the original run, the dysfunctional family feel of the Wolfman/Perez era, the generations working together of the last incarnation. What is this run’s distinctive vibe going to be? It seems, thus far, to be one of a gang on the run. And while that is a new direction for the book, is it a wise one? The Titans have been the most familial book DC has had for over 30 years; it is one of the aspects of the book that made it unique and memorable. Let’s hope that this new run either gives itself a distinctive flavor soon, or begins to re-establish itself as the first family of the DCnU.

    Final Verdict: 6.7 – Browse and see where it is in a few months

    Brian Salvatore

    Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).