DC Comics has not really known how to manage their Teen Titans brand since the start of the New 52 five years ago. The first New 52 incarnation of the title, which featured very ’90s Image Comics-influenced versions of the characters, didn’t really click with fans. The book relaunched a couple of years later, but this newer version didn’t quite work either. It seemed that DC was highly resistant to making the Teen Titans look anything like the version most fans identify with the team, via the animated show — namely, Robin, Raven, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Cyborg. Why they resisted the obvious corporate synergy of making the team look like something recognizable to casual fans seemed very wrong headed.
Well, for the big Rebirth initiative, DC is not making the same mistake again. The latest incarnation of the Teen Titans introduced in Teen Titans: Rebirth #1 are highly recognizable to any fan who grew up with the animated show. Robin is here, although he’s now Damian Wayne, and so are Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy. Sadly, Cyborg isn’t in the line-up, probably because DC is really pushing him as a member of the Justice League now (although why he couldn’t be the team’s slightly older mentor figure and a Leaguer? Seems like a missed opportunity). Replacing Cyborg is the all new Kid Flash, Wally West. Five members, all iconic Titans and not booger heroes, is the smart way to go.
Teen Titans: Rebirth finds the the team broken up and on their separate journeys, after the recent apparent death of their leader, Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, in the pages of Detective Comics. (He’s not really dead, but they don’t know that). Beast Boy is trying to channel his grief over Tim’s death by living the Hollywood party life, throwing huge shindigs at rented mansions in Los Angeles, attempting to impress girls and get some kind of Hollywood acting career going. Raven is in New York City, trying to stay away from other people by visiting museums late at night after hours, but she too has her mind on Tim (we aren’t given the whereabouts of former Titans Wonder Girl or Bunker, presumably because they aren’t going to be in this series).
Meanwhile, alien heroine Starfire is in the Caribbean island of Torando. She’s not just there because the climate reminds her of her former home planet of Tamaran. As a former slave, she’s taken it upon herself to try and stop child trafficking in one of the more lawless places in the Western Hemisphere. This is a far cry from how Starfire was originally portrayed when the New 52 began, where she was just this aloof, sex caricature, who didn’t remember which men she’d slept with, and had no interest in anything but fighting and sex. At the same time, the new Kid Flash is getting acclimated to his new superhero status in Central City.
All four of these former Titans (although it’s not clear that Starfire was ever a Titan in this continuity. We know she dated Nightwing once, but was she ever a Titan? Hopefully Rebirth will make sense of all this once it’s all said and done) are captured by a mysterious attacker, someone who knows their strengths and weaknesses and knows exactly how to take them out. Sounds very Batman, right? Well, not quite. It turns out their attacker and jailer is none other than Robin, a.k.a Bruce Wayne’s son Damian. It seems he has captured these heroes for a specific mission, so the Teen Titans are going to reform… whether they want to or not.
The issue is mostly a lot of set up, and it’s hard to tell if writer Benjamin Percy has a totally great handle on these characters or not yet. I will say that I definitely enjoyed Starfire’s portrayal, brief as it was. She’s a great character that has been reduced to a parody of herself in recent years, so I love how Percy writes her in her brief introduction here, really caring about the plight of kidnapped kids. Raven also seems in line with her more recent modern comics appearances, although my version of Raven (from the original New Teen Titans ’80s era comics) was far less emotional, almost Spock-like, so this version takes getting used to for me. Beast Boy seems to be the same wisecracking-but-tormented youth he’s always been, and that’s perfectly fine.
The art from Jonboy Meyers has a fun, cartoony, almost anime style, but considering the Teen Titans cartoon series had the same vibe, it makes sense for DC to capitalize on what readers think of when they hear the words “Teen Titans.” Some of the characters, ultimately, look too young for my taste because of this. Raven and Beast Boy are supposed to be at least 17, but often look like they’re 12. On the plus side, Starfire is still drawn as her buxom, sexy self without veering into porny territory. And Meyer’s style is perfect for a speedster like the new Kid Flash. Robin’s costume looks a little overly bulky and busy now, but I just chalk that up to artistic license.
The writing for this Rebirth one shot is fast paces does feel a little rushed, as the whole thing feels like an over extended prologue in the end. But still, it’s a fun prologue, with some beautiful pages to look at, and makes you genuinely excited about what’s coming down the line. Between this and Titans, featuring the now-adult former members of the team, it seems DC finally is giving fans what they’ve been asking from one of their flagship series.
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
Teen Titans: Rebirth #1 is available at comic book stores now.
Images: DC Comics