Teen Titans: A Kid’s Game

Leave it to Geoff Johns to create a brand new Teen Titans that pulls at all the right heartstrings.  Damn him.

This reboot of the popular Teen Titans series unites old and new superheroes.  Starfire, Changling, and Cyborg decide that the new generation of heroes needs a place they can go to be themselves and be around other like-minded superheroes, so they create a clubhouse of sorts, with a new Titan Tower in San Francisco.  They invite Impulse, Superboy, Robin, and Wonder Girl to be a part of the team.  Although some have reservations about joining such a group, they all agree, and journey to the new Tower for a weekend together.

The opening portion of the trade focuses on showing how lost or out of place each kid is, feeling uncertain in their current roles as they attempt to be normal teenagers by day, crime-fighters by night.  Each has their own distinct personality and feels wholly realistic.  Kudos to Johns for being able to write teens that can be emotional without sounding whiny.

Their quiet time at the Tower is short-lived though.  Arguing and resentment bubbles over fairly quickly, as references are made to the last time they were together, when they all saw Donna Troy (Troia) die.

Truth be told, this storyline wasn’t collected on “the shelf” so I had no idea it happened.  Luckily, the comic provides enough detail to make it clear that each teen feels responsible for Donna’s death, and is worried about fighting side by side again.

They’re forced to put these feeling aside as they learn that Deathstroke is in town, and has the Titans in his sights.

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Deathstroke, who famously killed his son Joey/Jericho (a Teen Titan) has decided that the Titans have no right endangering their lives, and plans to stop them, even if it means using violence.

He shoots Impulse in the kneecap and battles the rest of the Titans on a rooftop.  All is not as it seems though, as we soon learn that Deathstroke is, in fact, possessed by the spirit of Jericho.

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Jericho jumped into his father’s body right before he was killed, and has been waiting patiently ever since. It is he who believes the Titans shouldn’t exist, and he is determined to stop them.  A fairly exciting fight takes place, but before Joey can be stopped, Raven shows up out of nowhere and sends Joey’s spirit someplace far away, before being kidnapped herself.

It’s a lot happening in a short span of time, but the action is only half of the story.  The more compelling aspects are the characters themselves, who each face their own trials.  It seems fairly clear that the Titans’ next move will be to rescue Raven and track down Jericho, but what’s not so certain is how each Titan will grow and mature as the series progresses.

Impulse feels as though he isn’t taken seriously, so he reads an entire library worth of books and adopts the identity of Kid Flash, so that he may finally be viewed as a hero.  Robin feels torn between being a hero and figuring out what he wants to do with his life long-term.  Wonder Girl is kicked out of school because her identity is known, and doesn’t know how to cope.  Superboy has been given a civilian identity, but adapting to the slower life in Kansas provides its own set of difficulties.

Each Titan has their own personal struggles that feel completely normal for any teenager, even if they weren’t superheroes.  They all bear a common weight on their shoulders though: the death of Donna Troy, a pain that is still fresh in their minds.

This pain is finally addressed towards the end of the book, with Starfire characteristically lashing out.

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Blame is bandied about before everyone finally accepts that it wasn’t really anyone’s fault, and that it’s simply one of the hazards of being a superhero. Many have given their lives to save others, and Donna was the most recent casualty.  She won’t be forgotten, but it’s no reason for everyone else to hang up their mantles and never protect the innocent again.

This comic was a perfect setup for a new Teen Titans series.  I loved seeing the Titans interact with not only the JLA, but with former Teen Titans members as well. It makes sense that former members would stay on to offer guidance to the new crop of heroes, and I like seeing the former Titans in the more responsible adult roles (although truth be told, I don’t think Gar Logan will ever truly grow up.)  The character interactions feel fresh and new, and Johns writes each character with a clear understanding of their individual personalities.

What’s more, he’s able to inject just the right amount of humor into the stories.  He’s not as light-hearted as a Giffen/DeMatteis comic, but he still allows a few moments of levity that keep the comic from feeling too teen angsty.  My favorite such moment? When Superboy, Robin, and Wonder Girl are planning to sneak out of the Tower, Wonder Girl comments that Robin just lied to Starfire, to which he responds:

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This is probably the single-most badass thing Robin has ever said.  Who lies to Batman???  It casts him in more of a bad-boy/roguish role, and although it’s a simple one-liner, I found it to be one of the most entertaining in the comic.

Teen Titans comics are generally personal favorites of mine, and Geoff Johns’s stories are no exception.  He writes each character with a deftness that’s not easily matched, and with stories such as this it’s easy to see how he came to be regarded as such an influential writer.  His continuation of this series will no doubt be as good as the beginning, and I’m hoping I don’t have to wait too long to find out.

-Jess

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