A New Era Of Super Friends Gathers: Reviewing ‘Titans’ #1

Many times, when beginning a brand-new series, creators are looking to kick things off with a bang. Sometimes, quite literally. Enter DC Comics’ Titans #1, the beginning of the fourth volume for the team of former sidekicks, which truly begins with that aforementioned bang.

What is behind the big bold SFX emblazoned “Bang” that is in the first panel of the issue is not something I’m going to fully discuss here. It’s a pretty big spoiler leading into the cliffhanger of the issue and the series direction (at least for this arc), and is best experienced by the reader.

I will say that in some ways, it’s quite an effective opening, and speaks to some of the things that Tom Taylor does quite well as a writer, and that is character-based stuff. There is a character that is part of this opening that only appears in these two pages but we feel the weight not only because they are a long-established character that is beloved, but because Taylor focuses on the core things that would drive them in these moments.

I’ve been writing the reviews for the Nightwing series that Taylor writes, where the Titans plotline in Blüdhaven was initiated, since the first issues of the run. I’ve loved a ton of what has been done there with the title character. The re-establishment of his deep friendships with the other Titans and was quite excited coming into this series. I’m still overall excited about the direction and where things will go but I do have some quibbles with the execution of the stated purpose of this title.

<Spoilers for Dark Crisis follow.>

In Dark Crisis, the Justice League was thought dead. They turned out to be alive and trapped, and were eventually rescued but ended up disbanding (for the time being) at the end of the crisis. Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, etc. decided that while they take time away from the JL there needs to still be a premier team, leading them to Dick Grayson (because he led heroes in their absence in said crisis) and the Titans to fill that role. So, this title is meant to be the Titans taking the big step forward to be the big heroes of the DC Universe.

I have to say, I’m not feeling that here. Don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoyed the family aspect of this tight-knit group and the great character beats (especially with Raven and Beast Boy’s relationship), and their little fight with Titano, and their back and forth with Peacemaker. None of it felt like epic big Justice League-level stuff, though. These moments and this fight were lowkey enough to just be a normal Titan story. This is fine, except for the premise that this is the Justice League now essentially. So far, that isn’t the vibe coming off this series.

With the cliffhanger, we’re promised the return of a typical Titan villain that just got some live-action attention and that plays into this not entirely feeling like the Titans are being elevated. Look, we all know that the Justice League will be back sooner rather than later (ongoing comics love their status quo), but along the way we can enjoy the Titans being them for the time being. I have faith in Taylor delivering on this premise, and hope that as we move forward the threats, they face feel sufficiently big or world-threatening or such for them to be the premiere heroes of the universe.

Another pairing of old teammates happens behind the scenes as well. This series sees Taylor and artist Nicola Scott together once more, after their previous work on series like Earth 2 years ago. Scott has a dynamic art style that fits putting the Titans into such a big celebrity-like hero status space. There is a specific vibe that is hard to fully explain but when I look at the heroes gathered outside the tower, the way that Scott draws them makes them feel like real people that happen to be wearing costumes rather than larger-than-life fictional characters.

Not sure that even makes sense, but there is an almost realistic energy in many cases and it’s a good feeling. Yet, there is also a very playful energy that is infused through the pages because this is a superhero story at the end of the day, and Scott makes sure that we can see and feel that fully.

I guess one way to put it is that there is a vulnerability, but also a relatability that can be felt. These characters are a family that  also happens to be superheroes. At this point we’re so used to them, even the newer of these characters is quite old by now, and that familiarity is what Scott taps into here. Beyond that, though the action scenes are so smooth and dynamic, that moment Beast Boy changed and went for Titano was so damn epic I expected to hear music from something like Godzilla Vs. Kong to start blaring from somewhere.

Colorful is the name of the game, and Annette Kwok plays that game quite well. Not only are there plenty of bright pops of color to be found all over, befitting that superhero nature, but there is also an almost shiny aspect to the work that feels actually kind of nice. I think it works with the idea that this is a team of heroes that are being held up now as the tip-top of herodom, so them feeling flashy/shiny and such works. They are practically glowing (and not just cause of being around all that radiation).

Alongside that effect, there are some more toned down realistic colorful choices made to give the settings a more grounded feeling compared to the big fantastical superpower things. All of it together feels modern but also has an element of classic Titans, or even Justice League, story vibes.

It’s not just Taylor that gets to stay around Blüdhaven with this series. Letterer Wes Abbott also makes the jump into this title alongside the work he’s doing over in Nightwing. The colors and story elements play into the superhero energy space. The lettering is also big and bold, with so much volume and power as well as a ton of colorful elements sprinkled around. Caption boxes match the color scheme of characters, and all the loud and lively SFX, alongside all the usual small but very important changes made to the dialogue fonts to make sure readers are accurately hearing how the words would be said.

Titans #1 is now available from DC Comics.

Many times, when beginning a brand-new series, creators are looking to kick things off with a bang. Sometimes, quite literally.COMICONRead More

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