The New 52: Teen Titans #1
It only took a page, but I hate Kid Flash.
Really, the above frame from Teen Titans #1 is my problem with the idea of teen superheroes in the DC Universe: They are either the emotionally underdeveloped, cocky douchebag kid brothers and sisters of the Justice League, or they’re way too smart, way to poised, way too ready to take on the problems of the world. For all the negativity (rightly) heaped on Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, his take on the DCU’s hero/junior hero dynamic at least tried to make it clear that, no, things weren’t normal, no, they weren’t going to get better, and yes, everything was terrifying. Scott Lobdell’s Teen Titans so far don’t touch on the terrifying nature of the job these kids are doing, though it hints at the underlying metaphor of superpowers-as-puberty. His Kid Flash is an all-swagger jerk. His Red Robin is, as you’d expect from one of Batman’s compatriots, a master tactician. His Wonder Girl, upon realizing that she’s being hunted by a shadowy extra-governmental organization, says that things will never be the same.
Wonder Girl, it should be said, hates being called Wonder Girl. But that’s life for the kid heroes of the DC Universe, either suffering an identity crisis or from a lack of attention from their chosen role model. But they’ve got bigger problems than worrying about their old, idyllic lives racing stolen cars down the Pacific Coast Highway. The shadowy extra-governmental agency is called N.O.W.H.E.R.E., which is one of those acronyms that will probably forever be without explanation, and Red Robin (Tim Drake, for you Robin III fans out there) is a blogger and proprietor of a Wikileaks-esque operation, an anonymous folk hero who knows that he and other teen heroes, so derided in the media, aren’t going to do well on their own. So it’s a race between Robin and the trenchcoat-bedecked leader of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. to track down the teen heroes (Teen Titans, if you will) and create a team out of ‘em. Judging from the cover, it looks like Superboy, Starfire, a purple robot and a spider-woman have yet to join.
This issue never quite rises above teen comic cliche, and every Teen Titans comic runs headlong at the monumental task of equaling the Marv Wolfman/George Perez book from the 80s. It attempts to take a similar path as Marvel’s Runaways and Young Avengers, making it clear that these kids either have no ties to the big league heroes, or that their ties are tenuous at best. They’re on the run. They may have issues with their parents. But they’re archetypes, and as a writer myself, I often wonder if there’s any way to evolve a character from there. Will Red Robin always be the leader? Will Kid Flash always make me want to punch him? It’s issue one, which is way too early to tell…but nothing else in the first issue makes me want to come back and find out.
Brett Booth’s pencils are alright, though they’re very clearly in a Michael Turner vein. Lots of teen side-boob and mostly-naked aliens coming down the pipe. This seems like a wrong (read: dumb) move by DC Comics, who’ve somehow missed out on the potential goldmine the Teen Titans property has represented since the Teen Titans cartoon aired on TV. I don’t know if you know this, but comic books used to be very popular with cartoon-watching children. Not only that, but cartoon-watching children are now a vast, mostly untapped market for the medium. Sideboob and near nudity have been available in nearly every comic book I’ve read since I started reading them. The market for sideboob and near nudity is saturated. Why not throw a bone to the under-sixteen set? Why not try to interest new people? Why not offer something flashy and effervescent? It doesn’t have to be a cartoon, but it should probably be trying to attract the old cartoon’s audience. It doesn’t have to be a farce, but it should be different, shouldn’t it?