It’s a new dawn for the Titans and though I’m not really sure what was wrong with the old team, I can’t help but be excited by the fresh start presented in Titans Special #1.
Apart from that pesky business with the Source Wall and the Omega Titans, the main upshot of the recent No Justice event seems to have been to show the heroes of the DCU that it’s time to change their rosters. Last week it was the turn of the main Justice League (with two more Leagues on the way) and this week it’s down to Nightwing to assemble a new team of Titans.
Thankfully, his decision to do so isn’t totally arbitrary. Right from page one, we’re presented with a dynamic action scene that explains Dick’s motivation for bringing together a new team (however, as it’s a set-up issue, Abnett is wisely conservative with the amount of action he inserts). Then, as he recruits the new generation of Titans, he helpfully informs them – and the reader – of his reasons for choosing each member. This process never feels repetitive or boring because of the charm of the central character- because he’s such a nice guy, Dick has an existing relationship with most of the DCU, which certainly helps when you’re putting a new team together. Abnett writes Grayson well, bringing his strengths as a compassionate leader to the forefront.
The characterisation of the rest of the cast is a mixed bag. Gar is bizarrely anxious and tempestuous to begin with but reverts back to his goofy norm by the end of the issue. I haven’t encountered Steel in mainstream continuity in a long time so it’s hard to judge the consistency of her portrayal but I think she cements her place in the team by saying, ‘I can’t keep a relationship going with anyone. But maybe I can save the world.’ If that isn’t the ideal résumé for a prospective member of the Titans, I don’t know what is.
My chief concern is how the Justice League are presented, particularly our beloved caped crusader. In Titans Annual #2, the Dick’s team triumphantly proved themselves and saved the world while the League looked on helplessly, yet somehow they’re still treating Dick like an errant child! For pillars of wisdom and symbols of hope, they are sure are assholes when it comes to dealing with the younger generation of heroes. What throws Batman’s attitude into even sharper relief is how starkly it contrasts with his treatment of his former ward in the pages of other books- is this really the same Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson we saw having a tender heart-to-heart in last week’s Prelude to the Wedding?
The more things change, the more they stay the same!
A few other matters that drew my attention:
- The opening action scene takes place in a subway, just like the beginning of the latest arc of Nightwing. I think this is a coincidence but I rather like the way it suggests riding the subway is a consistent part of Dick’s life in Blüdhaven; it makes the hero, and by extension the world he inhabits, seem more real.
- We’re told the physical changes Gar is undergoing were explained in No Justice. I’ve flicked back through my copies and can’t find anything of the sort. I must admit, I’m a bit nervous about this particular aspect of the story- Gar’s existing powers were cool enough; we don’t need him struggling with another side of himself like the Hulk.
- The damage to the Source Wall (see Dark Nights: Metal and No Justice) has somehow caused the emergence of new meta-humans. Though it seems unlikely, I’d love it if this somehow tied into the prevalence of the Superman Theory in Doomsday Clock.
- Lilith (Omen) is one of Dick’s best friends and she has a skillset very similar to Raven’s so why did Dick choose the latter for his new team? I suspect the real-world reason is that Raven is a more popular character.
- Steel briefly mentions her relationship with Traci Thirteen. If you’re not already familiar with her, Traci is a superhero with magical powers.
- Although I was disappointed with the behaviour of the Justice League this issue, their presence isn’t unwelcome. The larger the cast, the more stories you can tell (hopefully Roy still gets to cameo from time to time as well?) and their insistence that Miss Martian (I wish they would change her ridiculous name) act as liaison is bound to cause some interesting friction.
This Special features the work of a lot of artists! Sometimes I find this jarring but in this book it works just fine because each artist handles a different section of the story, each of which has its own unique mood. Brandon Peterson’s cover is beautiful (albeit featuring a Superman halfway through a staring contest), the pages that follow feature good action but terribly cramped faces and blank backgrounds…and why are the heroes’ hair and capes billowing when they’re standing in the Batcave?!
The art picks up after that though and we get to see the likes of Ben Oliver’s warm digital brush strokes and Nicola Scott imbuing Donna Troy’s apartment with rich detail and the returning heroine’s face with the pain of fear and regret.Recommended if:
- You’re a Nightwing fan.
- You prefer your superhero teams put together practically, rather than being formed from a friendship group.
- You’ve been waiting for a good time to start reading Titans!
Overall: This book does everything you’d expect. The bones of the past are picked over, the new order rises and a villain waits in the wings for the perfect time to strike. It’s frustrating to see heroes being mean for the sake of the story but there are plenty more good character moments – illustrated by a varied and talented group of artists – to get us excited for the future of the series.