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Rebirth marches on this week with Teen Titans, a franchise as much in need of a fresh start as any other. Can an updated roster and some fresh creators reinvigorate this once-storied series? Read on!

Cast of characters

Like many of its fellow Rebirth one-shots, Teen Titans is light on plot and heavy on character and situational exposition. We check in on several former, current, or never-were Titans, each with their own problems. But we aren’t the only ones watching, and as the book unfolds, a mysterious figure stalks these troubled heroes. But does he mean good or ill?

Writer Ben Percy does an excellent job of giving each character an interesting hook. Beast Boy barely keeps his head above suffocating loneliness by exploiting his powers for attention. Starfire shows great concern for exploited and abused children, an easy—but highly-effective—device for making her sympathetic. Raven’s soul is crippled by her heritage, but her repudiation of father Trigon’s ways surrounds her with a hope that she cannot see for herself. Like Beast Boy, Kid Flash is misunderstood, but he races away from despair instead of drinking himself deeper into it.

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Percy is largely successful in giving each of these characters his or her own voice. His DC You run on Green Arrow was troubled, not least by his Oliver Queen reading less like the Arrow we know and more like the thoughtful, prosey poet that Percy is in his novels. Other than a blip or two with Wally, I see none of that here. Perhaps more importantly, each character is likewise distinct from the others, with a strong identity revealed more in attitude than in information. So, even though most of the text in this book comes in the form of expositional narration, our sense of the characters is nevertheless rooted in observing who they are rather than in receiving their self-revelations. It doesn’t hurt that most of the exposition is artfully-delivered. I do imagine, however, that many readers will take some exception to our mysterious figure, whose dialogue—what little we get—is often out-of-character, even if it is pretty funny.

A thin line

Artist Jonboy Meyers has a very youthful, energetic style that seems to draw as much influence from animation as it does from comics. Several of our readers have expressed concern that the reborn Teen Titans may be too childish. While Percy never comes close to that, Meyers walks the line. I can’t definitively say whether or not he crosses it, but there were a few moments where—for me—the art felt too fun for the seriousness of the subject at hand. You may or may not have the same problem.

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What I can say for Meyers is that Teen Titans hasn’t looked this good in a long time. The character designs (with one exception) are fantastic, as are his renderings of Beast Boy and Kid Flash in action. Some of these late-Rebirth, once-monthly books have a significant artistic advantage over the flagship titles; they each possess a strong visual identity. Teen Titans joins Red Hood, Supergirl, and Trinity in establishing one of the most distinct aesthetics in the new line.

The jury’s still out

Good characters and striking visuals are as good a starting point as one could hope for, but the true test will come in next month’s Teen Titans #1. That’s when we’re going to see the team interaction (even if they’re not really a team at that point); that’s when we’re (presumably) going to get the chance to see how Meyers handles a story with more plot movement. This one-shot is a solid opener, but future installments can’t and won’t follow the same formula, so the Titans aren’t (necessarily) out of the woods just yet. We’ll soon see.

Recommended if…

  • You like a good character study.
  • You’re an animation fan, and you’re used to seeing a wide range of emotions represented in styles of illustration that some might consider childish.
  • You miss that lovable little cuss on the cover.

Overall

Teen Titans: Rebirth #1 is a quick, enjoyable read. It sets the stage for the series proper with solid character introductions and distinct artwork. If Percy can make good use of what he’s established here, and Meyers can keep up, Teen Titans may at last be emerging from its long winter.

SCORE: 7/10