If there is one comic that was my hook into comics it was Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans. As a kid I had no idea that these two powerhouses of the comic book world were at their prime, and over the coming years I was to experience some of the best stories and art I’d ever read – even to this day – within the pages of this definitive series. I was genuinely shaken by Brother Blood and his creepy cult, surprised at the introduction of the Doom Patrol – at team I’d never heard of being new to comics – and pondered what it took for fascism to rise to power when Blackfire took over Tamaran, giving them the leader they needed, akin to Jack’s coup in Lord of The Flies, itself an allegorical reflection on the rise of Mussolini and Hitler. I felt these books were ‘grown up’ long before Watchmen and The Dark Knight informed us of such.
Because of this, I have stuck slavishly to following any incarnation of this group from the good (Geoff Johns’s Teen Titans), to the bad (Dan Jurgens’s 90s experiment that introduced an all-new team of teens) to the ugly (Danny Chase, the Teen Titans own Scrappy-Do) so feel I can look at this newest group with some authority. And, I must say, I’m impressed.
In one issue we have one of the best comics on the shelves this week (and there’s certainly some competition), thanks to writer Adam Glass, and art by Bernard Chang (who’s artwork on Batman Beyond was the reason I continued reading it long after I’d tired of the plots), both of who bring exuberance, energy and experience to this book. There are clear homages paid to Wolfman and Perez’s run, the most obvious one being the incorporation of Brother Blood into the mix, but less obvious in the make-up of the group.
Like Wolfman’s decision to create a team in which each character represented a different type of genre, I think Glass has gone for the same in his choices and creations. Just being introduced to the familiar and unfamiliar, this book feels to be embracing Wolfman’s faultless logic and so offering the reader and unspoken promise of stories yet to come. In Crush -daughter of Lobo – we have sci-fi and the inevitable first meeting between here and her dad, while in Jinn, we have this generation’s Raven, and the chance of more magical, mystical adventures facing some big bad genie or other she refers to in passing. Who will be her Trigon, I wonder?
Glass gives each character a distinctive voice – and in just one issue, too – while also beginning to build on relationships within the team. It’s what I loved about that very first edition of The New Teen Titans so long ago. Mixing action interwoven with flashbacks, we watch as they take down Brother Blood while revealing how Robin recruited each member, too. Viewtube (DC’s answer to YouTube) sensation, Roundhouse, is clearly a big fan of Kid Flash, who seem to be a fan of Roadhouse, but less enthusiastically so. Roundhouse is clearly awestruck by the very fact he’s sharing the same room as Kid Flash, let alone being on the same team. Kid Flash is a welcome face from the recent past, and another reminder of the Titans legacy, as is Speedy too. And, in Robin, we have…well, we have a real mystery. It seem, at first, that Robin’s motivation behind creating yet another Teen Titans team, he is once again rebelling against his dad and his Justice League friends, but the last page reveal suggests something far more sinister.
Glass’s writing is effortless, but undercut with so much potential. In just one issue, you can get an idea of the next year or so’s worth of stories, I reckon, and they all seem to be great! Science-fiction, magic and mystery too. I can’t wait! It feels like a return to greatness for this well worn, but much loved title.
Teen Titans #20 is currently available from DC Comics.