Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

The Kids Are Alright

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 28th, 2016

VariantTeen Titans: Rebirth #1
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Jonboy Meyers
Colors: Jim Charalampidis
Letters: Corey Breen
Cover artists: Jonboy Meyers (regular edition)/Evan “Doc” Shaner (variant)
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

DC’s Rebirth initiative has proven to be a sales success thus far; of that, there can be no doubt. Creatively, I’ve found it to be something of a mixed bag, but overall, DC has definitely improved and reinvigorated its broader line of super-hero titles. Some of what it’s doing is definitely influenced by adaptations of its properties in other media, and that holds true with its latest relaunch of its Teen Titans team. Teen Titans Go! is immensely popular. My six-year-old can’t get enough of the cartoon, and it’s been around in one form or another long enough so that young adults have some attachment to the Titans, despite a possible lack of familiarity with the comic-book counterparts that gave rise to the animated zaniness. As such, it’s no surprise that DC is giving the concept another go-around.

A number of elements drew me to this relaunch, not the least of which is the acerbic personality of the current incarnation of Robin and the undeniable energy that was apparent in previews of Jonboy Meyers’ art. There’s not a lot to be found in this Rebirth one-shot in terms of plot, but writer Benjamin Percy’s meticulous inner monologues offer excellent introductions to four of the five main characters.

The Teen Titans are no more and find themselves scattered about America, feeling alone and unfulfilled. Little do they know that someone has set his or her sights on them and begins engineering their capture. Former teammates and new faces will soon themselves thrust together – by destiny or perhaps by a less-than-friendly force.

While I’m convinced the popularity of Teen Titans Go! was a significant factor in this title’s re-establishment (and the selection some team members), I was pleased to see that Jonboy Meyers didn’t try to emulate the simplistic, anime style of the cartoon. However, he was an excellent choice for this book, as there’s a clear Japanese influence in his style. It’s much more detailed than what one sees in the cartoon, but it has a similar kind of energy, exaggeration and exuberance. His style isn’t one that would normally appeal to me, but it suits the tone of these characters and the title quite well. I think what I appreciated most of all is how the artist portrays the youth of these characters. Some super-hero genre artists’ depictions of teenagers are of shorter adults, but these Titans (save perhaps for the slightly older Starfire) look like kids. I was also impressed with the meticulous and varied backgrounds he provides throughout the issue.

Charalampidis brings some vibrant colors and some eye-catching effects to bear here that add to the energy of the book. I also appreciated the effort to vary the colors and lettering styles for the internal monologues of each of the heroes here. Percy’s script is a rather verbose one (appropriately so, given the character-driven focus of the issue) and the many captions never intrude on the storytelling or visuals.

Percy’s script boasts a couple of minor obstacles in terms of accessibility, chief among them the references to “Tim” (Tim Drake, AKA Red Robin of the previous incarnation of the titular team) and his supposed fate in another, completely unrelated title. It also assumes the reader is familiar with Damian Wayne, and while he’s far from a low-profile character, casual Titans fans might not be well-versed when it comes to the new(er) Robin. These aren’t crucial to one’s overall enjoyment of the issue, but they do strike me as potential question marks that could interfere with newer readers’ reading experiences.

The identity of the figure who targets and entraps the young heroes should have been obvious, but there was something about the comic – the pacing, the energy, perhaps the interesting introspection in the captions – that distracted me from it, and it kept me from figuring out what was going on and who was responsible until just before it was revealed. That added to the reading experience.

That being said, from a plot perspective, Teen Titans Rebirth #1 is far from required reading. I’m sure someone could pick up the actual first issue and have no problem following along, which is a key quality with a first issue. But Percy’s exploration of the protagonists’ inner conflicts made for a solid, engaging and worthwhile read. 7/10

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