Jackson here, once again filling in for Cam. I listed this issue as my “Most Excited” in this week’s Upcoming Comics, and boy I don’t regret it. Despite its ridiculous premise, this story wonderfully continues the character focus established in the first issue. There are still plenty of convention-related hijinks and action, but the heart of the story remains Robin’s personal identity crisis (no, not that one. No, not that one either). With Dick Grayson’s leadership so clearly established by the time we reach the iconic New Teen Titans of the 80s, this comic gives a chance to see it develop as he comes into his own.
While everyone else on the team heads to a fun day at “TitansCon”, Robin is stuck back at the Batcave. Far more explicitly than in the first issue, we see the conflict between Batman and Robin about how he should behave as a costumed crimefighter. It’s clear that Dick desperately craves the spotlight and excitement of superheroing. Unfortunately, Everything he’s been taught by Bruce revolves around keeping to yourself and not trusting others. Most tragic of all is how this has shaped how his teammates view him. In his attempts to be a good leader, Dick has alienated his friends by creating a flawed belief that he doesn’t enjoy being a Titan in the same way they do.
What’s really impressive about this conflict is how no one is turned into an unreasonable jerk to make it happen. Both sides have valid points, it’s just that Bruce and Dick are fundamentally different people. It’s an excellent representation of the kind of conflict that arises between a father and his teenage son as the latter begins to grow into his own person. This kind of character development is what makes this series special, and is the highlight of the story.
The TitansCon setting itself provides a lighthearted yet revealing look at how the Titans team operates and interacts. It allows the little moments to shine through where we see how everyone behaves in a low-stakes environment. That sort of thing is really important for a team book like Teen Titans, but often doesn’t get the time it needs when every 20 pages needs a bad guy to fight. Each Titan has a clearly defined voice that lets them stand out from one another, without resorting to caricatures and reducing their personalities to a single note.
Everyone (except maybe Aqualad) gets at least one “moment” to highlight their personality. Wonder Girl awkwardly falls into dealing with her status as both an idol and role model, and Speedy shows off to his fans while Kid Flash tries to deflate his ego by embarrassing him. On the whole it’s a group of friends having fun with their adoring fans, with one key exception: Bumblebee. In a moment that will almost certainly lead to further exploration down the road, Bumblebee has a panic attack when her fans try to take off her mask. We get to see at least a glimpse of how precious her secret identity is to her, and hints of some sort of personal issues that may lie at the root of that fear.
Bumblebee’s problems don’t just end there. The issue’s villain, Toyboy, is obsessed with her and wants to make her his. Thematically, it ties in really well with everything else going on in the story. The specific connection to Bumblebee’s anxieties about her privacy are obvious, but in a broader sense it also acts as a distillation of the issues raised with the Titans taking such an active public role. He’s the manifestation of all of Robin’s (and Batman’s) fears about what might happen if they’re not careful with gating themselves off from everyone else.
While on a thematic level the Toyboy fight works really well, narratively it feels somewhat out of place. It’s briefly foreshadowed early in the story, but his sudden appearance at the convention doesn’t really follow anything else that’s going on. It’s like there’s half a comic of the Titans doing convention stuff, and then out of the blue: a villain. It doesn’t help that the fight is ultimately resolved by Robin also suddenly appearing to help. It gives the sequence somewhat of an impression of “well it’s a superhero comic, so we have to have them fight someone”, even if, like I said, it still ties in well to the story’s message.
It’s an overall minor complaint to a climax that still ends up being a lot of fun to read. Lupacchino’s art makes even the most tense moments maintain a lightheartedness that fits with the overall tone of the book. There’s enough detail to beautifully depict the individuality and actions of each of the characters, while still keeping a simplicity that prevents things from getting overcrowded. Jordie Bellaire’s colors also deserve a shout out in making everything pop so vibrantly. They go a long way in defining the style of the characters and environment.
- You want to see the Titans having fun
- Robin’s personal identity crisis is an engaging conflict
- Vibrant art makes for exciting action
World’s Finest: Teen Titans #3 manages to balance the low-stakes fun of the Titans attending their own convention, Robin’s continuing internal conflict about what kind of hero and leader he’ll be, and exciting action. The heart remains Robin’s personal coming of age journey, but enough time is dedicated to the rest of the team that we get to see what kind of people they are while fighting both villains and hordes of fans.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.