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‘Teen Titans #20’ (review)

Written by Adam Glass 
Illustrated by Bernard Chang
Published by DC Comics

“Teen Titans! Seek and destroy!”

There you have it. And we’re off.

Welcome to the next great era of the Teen Titans. New team. New faces. New attitude. And a whole lot of it.

Got to hand it to DC, it’s not always easy to breathe new life into an old franchise, particularly when your hook is the leaner, meaner, edgier version of the original – but it looks very much like they’re going to pull it off with this book.

It’s the sort of concept that can go sideways in execution.

Damian Wayne has always skated the line between conceited superiority and the… darker inclinations of being so. It’s beyond time for someone to explore those inclinations.

And given the sort of cultural anger and the growing sense of injustice our younger generation is growing up within right now, it makes sense to have him do that within the context of a newly crafted version of the team Damian inherited with the mantle of Robin.

Tackling those issues in a team book though, much less one of DC’s premiere franchises, runs a real risk of getting heavy handed and tedious. Emotional, over-serious, angsty, preachy. All of which would be a real disappointment in a Titans book.

But I tell you what – new Teen Titans writer Adam Glass has got the stuff, man.

His storytelling is both lean and cinematic. Something artist Bernard Chang uses to great advantage and good effect. Glass understands his characters as well, and he understands his source material. He seems to understand teenagers too, and like the coolest kid of any crowd he’s content to show off his chops without trying too hard.

Most of all though, Glass knows how to write dialogue.

The true test of any team book is how much the writer can tell us through the interactions of the characters. It’s the relationships on the page that matter most, and if you do that right you can pull in any audience and keep them.

And Glass seems to understand that.

Not that he sacrifices action to do it either. Gotta give the kids a chance to impress. Can’t be a good superhero comic without the flashy super-heroics.

Glass weaves the two effortlessly right out of the gates. And then once it’s clear he’s got that patter down, he downshifts from action to hang time, and the patter keeps on going.

By the end of twenty-one pages, we’ve been treated to enough personality, posturing, shade, subtext, and teases of motivation and backstory, that accepting this new gang of kids as a team in the making is wholly believable, for all that it’s clear they have a long way to go.

And some pitfalls to avoid.

So, who have we got?

Robin, Kid Flash, Red Arrow, Crush, Roundhouse and Djinn. Who now?

In classic Titans style the team is a mix of known and unknown, drawing in equal parts from the DC sidekick community, and the greater DC Universe of possibilities.

Kid Flash we know already. Wallace West, like Wally West before him, has all the power of the Flash and all the hyperactive focus of a teenager. But Wallace is less hot-headed than he is perpetually ahead of himself. Too angry, and too cool, for school. That’s what he wants us to see anyway. We all know better than that though.

Roundhouse, “The Human Wrecking Ball!”, is new. He’s round. He’s blue. He’s powerful. Maybe more powerful than he lets on in fact. But first you’d have to get past all the dorky celebrity fan-boy comical. He’s got powers, and life’s a gas. We’ll see how that ends up going for him on Damian’s team.

Crush is well named. And considering Lobo has a daughter who will never fully escape her father’s shadow that’s a good thing. Not that she seems to be trying mind you. I’ll bet that changes though. Well, maybe.

Djinn is enigmatic and she’s a major powerhouse. She’s an actual wish-granting Genie after all, 4,000 years old, Arabic naturally, and.. a teenager? Well, maybe. Maybe by djinn standards. But we also learn pretty quickly that she’s skilled at deception too. And doesn’t like cages. Watch out Damian.

And then there’s Red Arrow. The third ‘sidekick’ of the gang, though she’d certainly bristle at the label. Of course, she’s prickly about damn near everything, and only seems to be on the team at all, for reasons all her own. Reasons Damian is exploiting somehow for his own ends.

Robin in fact is exploiting everything for his own ends it seems. And that’s not good. Not good at all. He seems to view Red Arrow as his only real peer in the group, and it may go somewhat beyond that even, but I expect he’ll find that’s a hard sell. Even more so when it becomes just exactly clear, how far down the rabbit hole he’s been willing to go recently.

At least now we know what’s happened to Brother Blood.

Hold on to your hats. Things are gonna get messy.

But at least we’ll be getting there in style.

Oh yeah.

Next time: Mercy is just the name on the door.

 

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