Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be doing a recap/review of a few of the Rebirth titles. We’re about a year into the initiative, and it has mostly a success. The “back-to-basics” approach has brought some great titles. Some aren’t as great. Comics from the Big Two (DC and Marvel) are always going to be a mixed bag. That’s just kind of how art and literature works.
Dan Abnett and Brett Booth’s Titans seems like a good place to start. It’s sort of the prime Rebirth comic. The return of Wally West was the lynchpin of DC Universe: Rebirth, and the lighter tone of Titans certainly exemplifies the direction that DC is trying to go in at the moment. Plus, you have Dick Grayson’s return to the mantle of Nightwing, Donna Troy and Tempest’s reappearance, and the hint-drops in the direction of who is manipulating the DC Universe as we know it with the “missing 10 years.”
It’s also only printed once a month, which I prefer to the twice-a-month titles for financial and narrative reasons, but we’ll get to that with other Rebirth titles.
So, what has happened so far in the adventures of Nightwing, the Flash, Arsenal, Tempest, Donna Troy, and Omen?
First, the team had to cope with the returned of someone they didn’t even know they lost, the Flash, aka Wally West. With his return also came the return of the villain Abra Kadabra, awakened by Omen’s telepathic excursions into Wally’s mind in the hopes of discovering the root cause of the missing ten years and his own disappearance. It turns out Abra Kadabra was the one who somehow cast Wally out of this dimension and into the Speed Force. The Titans struggled greatly with this foe, having to even fight younger versions of themselves before Wally managed to save the day himself.
Upon digging into Kadabra’s mind, Omen found a focus on the word “Manhattan.” As such, the team relocated to Manhattan in the hopes of discovering what is going on. There was also a neat reunion between Wally West and the new-old Superman.
Bumblebee, the wife of former Teen Titan Herald, came into the scene here as the Titans discovered the corporation “Meta Solutions” run by the villain Psimon. This company, which can remove and bestow powers with their technology, removed Herald’s powers upon his request and augmented and helped control Bumblebee’s with a bioelectric suit. Though putting out the appearance of reform, the Titans quickly discover that Psimon and his affiliate Fearsome Five have ill intent with the corporation. With the help of Bumblebee, they manage to bring down Psimon’s operation.
The Annual for this book teamed up Nightwing, Donna Troy, Wally West, and Tempest with Batman, Wonder Woman, Barry Allen, and Aquaman in a massive labyrinth set up by the villain known as the Key. This adventure tested the bonds of the Titans with their respective tutors. It also resulted in Donna being told that she was originally created as a weapon to slay Wonder Woman. This resulted in a strained relationship between the two heroines, but these eight champions still managed to escape and defeat the Key.
Deathstroke and the Lazarus Contract come into the scene next, which crosses over into Deathstroke and Teen Titans. Since it’s still relatively recent, I won’t spoil too much of the plot beats. The premise is that Dick Grayson made some pact with Slade in years past, and Slade has returned, hijacking the powers of the Kid Flash, to go back in time and save his son, Grant Wilson, from death due to the powers granted to him by H.I.V.E. Slade always blamed the Teen Titans for this, and he is not willing to allow them to stop him, no matter the consequences.
And that’s what’s happened in a year of Titans. It’s been a rock-solid series with a good standard of quality. Dan Abnett is among the best writers in the industry right now, and Brett Booth’s artwork fits the comic’s tone and identity perfectly. There’s a nice cartoonish visual style, and the colors are fairly bright to match the lightness of the story.
It’s managed to balance plot and character mostly well. Each of the members of the team has their own unique personality, Nightwing being the less-than-serious leader, Flash being the optimist and joker, Tempest and Donna Troy being varying degrees of warriors, Arsenal being the cocky jackass, and Omen being the tormented telepath. The stories have been interesting with good villains. The flamboyant showman Abra Kadabra and the ever-intense Deathstroke were particular delights.
The pacing goes a long way to keep the story interesting. Action is frequent enough to never leave an issue narratively bogged down. The dialogue is well-written, and interactions between any two characters never feels wasted.
The aforementioned Flash/Superman issue was something of a “breather” comic, something I personally love. I’m a fan of the principal of the X-Men playing softball. I like knowing what the heroes do in their free time, and a race between Superman and the Flash was a nice pit stop between longer stories in the book.
The narrative feels a little disjointed at times, and not everything contributes to the overarching story of Rebirth. A little more focus on the personal side of the characters would be appreciated. While each member does have a definable personality, Tempest, Donna Troy, and Arsenal don’t get enough spotlight for my liking. They have been allowed some little moments, particularly a rather sweet date between Donna and Arsenal, but the spotlight focuses far more on Nightwing and the Flash. That’s not to knock Nightwing and the Flash; they are both great. However, more on the other members would make the team feel more complete.
Despite those caveats, the book is still genuinely great. The team is really likable, the stories have remained interesting, and I am left wanting to know what will happen next. This is one of the prime jewels of Rebirth, and it is worth jumping on now if you haven’t started it yet. The Lazarus Contract has just concluded in Teen Titans, so the next issue will be starting off a new story.
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