Do you know what Robin, Kid Flash, Red Arrow, Crash, Roundhouse, and Djinn, each have in common? No! It doesn’t have anything to do with them collecting string, silly. But rather, it involves them starring in the following series created by Adam Glass, Bernard Chang, and published by DC Comics. It’s August, 2018, and it’s time for a new breed of Teen Titan.

TO QUOTE Richard Bach: 'The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life'.

Over the last couple of months, Damian Wayne, otherwise known as Batman’s son, Robin: The Attitude Wonder, has grown increasingly frustrated with how the superhero community have handled their old foes. So much so, in fact, that he’s decided to take matters into his own hands by recruiting a new team of heroes. This includes two of his fairly close friends, Kid Flash and Red Arrow, along with three new members: Crash (Lobo’s daughter), Roundhouse (The Human Wrecking Ball), and Djinn (A 4000-year-old genie). 

Now their first order of business is to take down the church of Brother Blood and capture the main man himself. But in order for them to do this, they have to work together as a team without annoying each other in the process! Can they do that though? And if they can, what are they going to do with Blood afterwards? To find out, please pick up issue 20 of the Teen Titans today. In the meantime though, here, check this out…

Part One) WHAT WAS ONCE OLD IS NOW NEW AGAIN:   Throughout the years, both DC and Marvel Comics have tried to revitalize and re-brand their cast of characters in a number of different ways. Occasionally this may involve a character wearing a new costume or having a new attitude, whereas at other times this may require going back to the well and drawing from previous experiences. In this case though, well, I suppose DC are doing a bit of both. On the one hand, they are conforming to conventions by including characters normally associated with the Teen Titans, like Robin, Kid Flash, and Red Arrow, while on the other, they are deliberately doing something new, something vibrant, by including new characters along with a brand new attitude. An attitude, I hasten to add, that I’m not quite sure about at the moment. 

After all, the simple act of transforming a bunch of bright, colorful characters, into a dark, brooding team, has been done to death over the years, and yes, by now it’s starting to feel dated, very dated indeed. But having said all that, I’m still excited about this team (along with its slightly sinister direction), because, with all due respect, the Teen Titans haven’t been able to find their own feet for quite some time. Not deliberately, mind you, and not without trying either. Yet, to some extent, a few of their previous iterations haven’t quite worked out, not completely, anyway, not since Tim Drake left the team. Maybe this has something to do with DC finding the right balance of characters for Damien to lead? Or maybe the previous creative teams didn’t have enough time to establish a rapport among the members? Either way, the fact remains that a new group of heroes needed to be established and I’m happy with the current selection.

Well, let’s face it. Two teenage assassins, one magician, one speedster, one alien, and one of whatever Roundhouse is, does feel like a pretty good mix. Besides, any series, regardless of genre, tone, or style, must always try to engage with new readers while keeping us older ones happy and satisfied. So for a book to do that, it needs to be current, it needs to be fresh, and it needs to keep one foot firmly in nostalgia! Otherwise, it will drift off into the distance and we’ll have to wait, and wait, and wait, for another old / new incarnation to rear its head again -- one that may not be so dynamic or so captivating to follow. 

Part Two) NEW HEROES / NEW CREATIVE TEAM:   Yep. That’s correct. So far I’m really enjoying this new team of heroes, which in part I largely attribute to the work of Adam Glass. Well, considering the constraints placed upon him while he was writing the Suicide Squad (the previous team book he was working on), overall I’d say Adam is a pretty good writer, much better than most, because he knows how to tell a clear, solid, story, and convey a number of different characters without making them all sound and feel the same.

Along similar lines, I can say exactly the same thing about Bernard Chang too. Although, in his case, he’s an artist, not a writer, and his particular talents lay in composing vibrant action scenes and drawing characters that show a range of bold emotions. Go on, take a look at some of the images provided and you can see, first hand, how he manages to overemphasise certain facial expressions, such as a clenched jaw here, or a squint of an eye there, doing so in order to establish an expressive style that suits the bold tone of this series. 

Also, something else I’d like to mention; would have to be the characters themselves: The team, the actual roster, just so you know my general opinion on each one. Here, check this out…

Robin: I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of the Damian Wayne version of Robin. More often than not I find him to be a spoilt brat who’s annoying, obnoxious, and only seems relatable when he’s interacting with someone who’s the complete opposite, like Dick Grayson, for example. That said, however, I’m sure there's enough room within this series for him to grow as a person, both spiritually and emotionally, largely due to the different characters he’s been surrounded with...

Kid Flash: Which brings me quite nicely onto this nice chap, Wallace West, who unfortunately started out as a pale imitation of his more illustrious predecessor, Wally West, before gradually evolving into the hero he is today. And what is that exactly? Well, he seems like a cool kid, very cool in fact, who is kind, smart, caring, quick on his feet, and doesn’t seem to suffer fools gladly. I’m also looking forward to his evolving relationship with Damian and...

Red Arrow:...  Emiko! Yes. I said Emiko. Who some have referred to as being a female version of Damien. But as far as I’m concerned, even though they can cancel each other out in the personality stakes, that doesn’t necessarily mean their partnership can’t be more maternal in nature, warm even, and hopefully one day it will evolve into a strange brother and sister relationship. 

Crash: Did you ever see Young Justice? The comic book, not the cartoon, because if you did, then you must have seen how DC decided to de-age Lobo by transforming him into a young and very angry boy. No. This wasn’t a good idea. Not a good idea at all. As Slobo was annoying, too gimmicky, and indirectly devalued the original persona by making Lobo into a one-joke character. I hope DC have learned from their mistakes and will avoid doing the same thing with Crash, who seems promising, for now. 

Djinn: If Raven and Amethyst ever had a love child together — which is possible, quite possible, considering they’re both magicians — then I’m sure the byproduct of their union would turn out to be something like Djinn. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you. If anything, it’s always good to have a magician on the team, especially a cute magician who seems polite yet mysterious at the same time. 

Roundhouse: From what we’ve seen so far, Roundhouse appears to be a happy, vibrant character, that in some strange way kind of reminds me of Bunker: The purple Mexican gay superhero originally created by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth. Hmm? Wait a minute! I wonder if they’re related? Wouldn’t that be nice? As I’d love to see Bunker back on this book again, teasing Damian and the rest of the stoic crew.

So, in conclusion, all in all, I think that this issue of the Teen Titans was a pretty decent start. The story was simple to follow, the art was bold and expressive, and more or less, the future of this series seems very promising indeed.

No matter what way you want to look at it, this new group of Teen Titans are a bunch of rebels. So, with that said, why not musically match them up with the following song sung by David Bowie: ‘Rebel, Rebel’.

Now as I’m on the subject of rebels, I might as well compare this comic to the ultimate film about teenage rebels, ‘Rebel Without A Cause’, starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo.

At the end of this issue, we finally find out what Damian Wayne does with the villains he and his team eventually capture. So, out of the following eight options, let’s see if you can guess what he does with them? Could it involve…

  1. Forcing them to turn religious.
  2. Sending them to prison.
  3. Castrating them.
  4. Branding them.
  5. Beating them up.
  6. Imprisoning them himself.
  7. Getting them to learn Spanish.
  8. Urging them to see the error of their ways.
Nuff said.

TEEN TITANS #20 TEEN TITANS #20 Reviewed by David Andrews on August 14, 2018 Rating: 5

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