Three Stories in Teen Titans Special #1
Teen Titans Special #1 is a part of DC’s New Justice initiative. It’s a one-shot that will take the young Titans from Benjamin Percy’s Rebirth run to Adam Glass’s take in the wake of Scott Snyder’s No Justice. This issue is separated into three different stories. Each one follows a different member of Glass’s Titans line-up as they’re set on the path that will make them “sick of the superhero status quo.” Don’t expect an introduction to new heroes D’jinn, Roundhouse, and Lobo’s daughter. They’re, sadly, only shown on the issue’s last page.
Damian Wayne is a character who, no matter who takes his reins, the author will always revert him to an edgy, conflicted killer. This is, thankfully, not the only characterization he gets in this issue, as his actions are shown to be somewhat motivated by warm intent. The lack of carryover from Tomasi and Morrison’s work on this character feels like wasted potential. Damian has been shown to be repentant for the things he’s done; therefore, most of the work Glass does doesn’t make sense in context.
He tries to give some semblance of political commentary throughout the issue. This can work, but in this story, it feels particularly forced. It was really interesting to see Damian operate within his culture. It’s not often you see Damian relate to his mother’s side in a way that doesn’t have something to do with becoming the ultimate assassin. The specific anecdote about Talia adds a lot of characterization to Damian’s childhood.
This story doesn’t have a lot of faults, but it also doesn’t have a lot of things to intrigue the reader. It is remarkably inoffensive. The plot is serviceable but the problem is it’s really hard to invest in Emiko, and later on, “Wallace” West, because they’re always going to feel like replacement heroes. The story here only really serves to highlight how Emiko lacks uniqueness. She’s being stuck with the same mother/child relationship drama that Damian’s been saddled with for years. This, therefore, makes her unexciting and hard to latch on to. It isn’t shocking seeing Shado do a horrible thing because time and again we’ve seen Talia do it. This is made worse by the fact that Emiko isn’t given much characterization herself. I wouldn’t fault new readers if they left Teen Titans Special #1 wondering who Emiko really is.
This third of the issue is really representative of the big issue with Teen Titans’ new direction. Conversely, it also pulls it off the best. Kid Flash’s interactions with both the older Wally West and Suicide Squad make a fairly compelling case for why he’s rebelling against the older superheroes. The only issue is that this story has been done to death in this exact way. Glass isn’t bringing much new to the table. The attempts at political relevance go over much smoother than in the first story. They’re still obnoxiously obvious, but they’re also intermixed with some surprisingly fun banter and decent character work.
I will go on record saying that I’m a huge fan of Robson Rocha’s art. I have been since his short run on Batman/Superman with Tom Taylor. Rocha’s mastery of human anatomy is as good as any other artist today. Not that it’s the first time we’re seeing an artist get female proportions correct, but it’s still nice to see someone draw realistic women. He also attempts to make characters racially accurate, which can’t be applauded enough. Damian isn’t completely identifiable as Arabic here, and Emiko and Shado do look more white than I think most readers would prefer, but there’s enough there for you to tell he tried. Throughout this issue Rocha’s art is dynamic; you can feel the movement in every single panel. His facial expressions are also consistently bold and consistently moving. The panel that ends the issue’s second story is particularly moving.
There’s not much particularly special about the design choices in Teen Titans Special #1. I appreciate that he gave Harley pants, but other than that the only thing that really stuck out to me was Robin’s costume. He draws Robin’s tunic to reach all the way down to his knees, which looks odd. I don’t know if it’s something that was done for a particular reason, but it gives the impression that Robin’s costume is too big.
The big question this issue should answer for the reader is whether they should pick up Teen Titans 20. In spite of the flaws of this issue, it’s convinced me that I should see what’s coming next. I wonder if this book could grow on me, based on the proper motivation given to Kid Flash and the flash-in-the-pan compassion Damian was allowed to show.
I still think it’s a major bummer that we weren’t introduced to any of the new characters. They were what most excited me about this new Teen Titans run when it was announced. Damian’s generation desperately needs filling out if we’re not going to make use of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s wonderful creations, Beacon, Nobody, and Goliath, and if Brian Michael Bendis is going to hold Superboy off the table for a while. I have trouble escaping the feeling that Red Arrow and Kid Flash are retcons waiting to happen. I also worry that no matter what story is told with them, they’ll never be a draw on their own.
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