The Teen Titans have started an academy! And I’m moderately hyped about it! Will the original Titans be up to the task of training a whole cadre of greenhorn heroes? Will we get a good mystery out of the “who is Red X” hook? Will my excitement be rewarded? Keep reading to find out.
The story wastes no time jumping into the first day of classes, as a handful of OG Titans (Nightwing, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Donna Troy) heap on the responsibility of teaching a whole batch of fresh heroes-in-training.
This should be pure joy. It’s a got-damned superhero school. Who hasn’t thought about how cool it would be to take classes at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, My Hero Academia’s U.A., or the Fantastic Four’s Future Foundation? Is that just me? Problem is, instead of slathering on loads of escapism, or a sense of wonder — writer Tim Sheridan has made the, er, bold decision to take the “how do you do. Fellow kids?” route.
There’s a bit of manufactured generational conflict that feels exceedingly awkward and forced. The biggest example of this would be the above interaction between Nightwing (sorry, Mr. Nightwing…) and some students, in which Sheridan plus-ultra-whiffs a pop culture reference by not knowing that people’s problem with Harry Potter these days isn’t the series, it’s J.K. Rowling. Equally awkward attempts at “humorous” “with-it” dialogue litter Teen Titans Academy #1 — an extra-cringey standout being Stitch, a student/sentient rag doll, referring to themselves as “nonbinary effigy” (though they prefer “genderqueer quilted American”). It’s been a while since a comic has made me involuntarily eye roll.
Speaking of the students, are they at least interesting? Couldn’t tell you. Issue #1 was too busy with expositing and awkward Millennial/Gen Z conflict to show me. Though I have high hopes for Gorilla Gregg — who joins the likes of Gorilla Grodd, Ultra-Humanite, Monsieur Mallah, and Gorilla Grimm in the “DC has a lot of sentient gorillas” club. The kids from the Gotham Academy series are here, but they aren’t fleshed out beyond a collective sassy attitude. Billy Batson even shows up in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it two-panel appearance. Also there’s a kid who can transform into a tube? I have no idea who these kids are, and issue #1 doesn’t do much to set them up and endear them to me. I bet having a POV character to anchor everything, at least for the first issue, would have gone a long way towards remedying TTA’s shortcomings.
As for the plot, the obvious initial hook for Teen Titans Academy is the mystery of Red X. So how’s the set-up? In short, not great. The students are basically like “So we were wondering about this plot point, can you exposition it for us?” and then everyone collectively exposits about Red X for almost two pages. There are some other bits involving Nightwing’s birthday party and a wayward Red X mask that felt equally contrived.
Starfire’s hair somehow looks fake… in a comic book. It looks more like a flowing scarf or something than hair. Now that I think about it, about half (outside of one of the Gotham Academy kids) of Rafa Sandoval’s hair this issue looks like it was cast from a mold. Makes me want to reach into the screen and pop them off like I would a Lego figure.
Sandoval’s faces fare a little better, but often look wooden and lifeless. His habit of making the eyes dark slits doesn’t help. When the backgrounds aren’t barren single-color voids, they’re boring glossy high-tech fair — all monochromatic sharp angles and unnecessary lines.
All that said, Alejandro Sanchez and Jordi Tarragona’s colors and inks are excellent. Sanchez’s color work on Cyborg and Tarragona’s use of hatching and spot blacks are especially enjoyable to look at.
- You’re a fan of the Extranormal Institute genre.
- You’ve been really missing the o.g. Titans lately.
- Red X was your favorite character in the Teen Titans cartoon.
As those of you who read my Infinite Frontier #0 review might have gleaned, I was excited about this premise. I was prepared to love Teen Titans Academy #1, but the lack of wonder, awkward and forced generational conflict, so-so pencils, and contrived mystery setup really took the hype out of my sails. That doesn’t mean that the series is doomed… just off to a rocky start. Here’s hoping they get their act together.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.