Of the comic book series announced to be connected to the events of Justice League: No Justice the one that did not catch my attention was the new Teen Titans series. While I’m a big fan of Damian Wayne’s Robin the rest of the roster that we were presented with for the new Teen Titans did not create any sort of excitement for the series. A lot of that falls on the majority of the new Teen Titans being new characters, making this relaunch feel less connected to the franchise’s history. Though given that the previous incarnation of the Teen Titans did not really catch on as well as it should have getting a fresh start with a brand new roster may be what this series needs. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case with Teen Titans Special #1.
Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Robson Rocha
Inker: Daniel Henriques
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Somewhere in Gotham City Robin chases down a criminal and knocks him out.
An hour earlier Damian Wayne is having dinner at one of his favorite places to eat in Gotham City that reminds him of one of his favorite things growing up, his mother’s ox blood soup.
A couple random guys working a protection racket enter the restaurant to force the owner to pay them money. Damian sees this and goes off to change into his Robin costume.
Robin enters the kitchen to save the owner from the guys threatening him. While he fights them off one of the guys bullets hits some grease canisters and causes an explosion.
When Robin recovers he sees that the owner saved his family’s life at the cost of his own.
Back in the present Robin interrogates one of the guys from earlier in a Batman-style way. The guy reveals he is working for Black Mask. Robin makes the guy fear him by letting go of the cable and catching him just before he hits the ground.
At the Gotham Baths Robin confronts Black Mask in a steam room. Black Mask tries to intimidate Robin by saying he has an army of men that will take care of him. Robin reveals he already took them all out. He then holds Black Mask at gunpoint, using Black Mask’s own gun, and reminding the villain he is not Batman.
Outside the door a gunshot noise is heard from inside the steam room.
Elsewhere, at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, Red Arrow (Emiko Queen) fights her mother (Shado). Shado is able to get away by forcing Red Arrow to save the people inside the building after she causes the roof windows to shatter on top of the crowd.
At her place, Emiko decides that she will need to stop her mother using a different method that means getting out of her comfort zone.
Dressed up and walking around the Seattle Global Exchange Conference gala Emiko flashes back to what started her investigation. It started when she found a Chinese diplomat and Australian banker dead with markings that showed Shado’s calling card.
It does not take Emiko long to find Shado drinking alone at a balcony. Shado talks to Emiko about their family history and says she didn’t talk about it before so Emiko did not get emotionally attached.
Emiko tries to convince her mother to stop from going after her current target. Shado says she is sad to see how weak her daughter is and gives her a hug.
Once Shado starts walking away Emiko starts feeling weird. Emiko quickly goes to find an outlet and electrifies herself in order to get poison out of her system, though she passes out from the shock.
When Emiko recovers she rejoins the party only to discover Shado already killed her target.
In Santa Monica Wallace West is enjoying his time at the beach. He suddenly notices an explosion at the pier.
Kid Flash goes to check out the situation and finds the Suicide Squad wrapping up their current mission. Kid Flash helps the woman that Harley Quinn captured. Harley Quinn and El Diablo team up to quickly overwhelm Kid Flash.
As the fighting keeps escalating Flash (Wally West) shows up to stop things. Harley shows Flash the mission she was given by her boss. Flash lets the Suicide Squad go and complete their mission even though Kid Flash complains he shouldn’t have.
Wally takes Wallace to a restaurant to reveal that the Justice League are currently giving the Suicide Squad a pass with their operations. Wallace doesn’t like that given that the Suicide Squad killed his father. Wally says Barry will explain it to him soon. Wallace says he isn’t talking to Barry.
Wally asks what happened with Barry and Wallace. Wallace doesn’t want to get into it. Wally thinks that Wallace still has a lot to learn as he is still young and new to the superhero life. Wallace says that those teaching him aren’t helping him improve because they continue to keep things from him.
Walking out of the restaurant Wally tells Wallace that he needs to spot acting like a spoiled brat and he is trying to help his cousin. Wallace says he is done compromising and runs off.
Wallace runs to a cruise ship where the tracker he planted on Harley tells him the Suicide Squad is holding the woman that he believes should be turned over to the police. When he goes inside the ship he finds the woman dead and a note from Harley with the tracker he planted left behind. Seeing this Wallace says he is done listening to “grown-ups.”
In Gotham City, while watching the restaurant he was at being cleaned up by the family, Robin says he is done listening to his father and the Justice League. Robin now plans to create a Teen Titans team that he can shape and mold with a new batch of heroes. End of issue.
The Good: Teen Titans Special #1 is a comic that is fighting for the attention of the DC Comics readership following the events of No Justice. The good news for the Teen Titans ongoing is that Adam Glass is looking to put up a strong fight for that attention with a direction that goes against all the Justice League titles and its big brother title, Titans. The execution of getting over the direction is well stated though not all of the three segments used to get that across end up landing the way Glass wanted them to.
While reading Teen Titans Special #1 it is hard not to compare it to the reason the Champions team over at Marvel. Both teams were formed to be the complete opposite of their parental counterpart. In the Teen Titans case, Glass is clearly positioning the Teen Titans as the anti-Justice League. It’s a direction that makes Robin forming a team of new characters actually make sense. With even characters that have been around for a bit like Kid Flash and Red Arrow choosing this direction does make the reader understand why they would come together to form a team.
Kicking off Teen Titans Special #1 with Robin’s world be broken was a strong way to start the issue. Out of all the characters in Glass’ Teen Titans Damian Wayne’s Robin easily has the biggest fanbase. He is the one that will really dictate if this direction will be successful. And Robin being given the motivation to stop going along with Batman and Justice League’s direction made the Teen Titans mission statement more believable.
Glass specifically taps into Damian’s past in going with more violent extremes to get the job done when he first started out. Seeing Damian go back to that after seeing the one group of people in Gotham City he connected with be destroyed by gang members gives us a good reason for this return to the old Robin.
It also gives Robin even more of a reason to recruit teammates who he can mold in his vision for the Teen Titans. Because one of the biggest problems with the Rebirth version of the Teen Titans is that they never felt like a family or friends due to being mash-up of past and present. Not getting that dynamic down made it hard to get behind that Teen Titans roster. But now that Robin is recruiting his own team it at least gives potential for one of the main selling points of Teen Titans can be reached once again.
Transition from Robin to Red Arrow was a smart play by Glass. Both Damian and Emiko Queen have similar histories as both characters turned against their respective mother’s to go on a different path with Batman and Green Arrow, respectively. Their similarities made it easier to understand who Emiko is for newer readers. Glass spends just enough time going over the history between Shado and Emiko to understand their relationship as mother and daughter.
At the same time Glass makes sure to show us that Emiko’s story is not the same as Robin and Kid Flash. As Red Arrow, Emiko is not motivated by being disillusioned by her mentor’s methods. Instead her main motivation for likely joining the Teen Titans goes more into how she still can’t overcome Shado. It speaks to Emiko’s inexperience as Red Arrow. That is something that can make Emiko an even stronger character as her arc can be much more about gaining that experience to go along with her already considerable skills as a superhero.
Robson Rocha delivers some solid artwork for Teen Titans Special #1. Rocha’s art style fits well with a series featuring young heroes like Robin, Red Arrow and Kid Flash. His artwork shines most when he is drawing the characters in their costumes, which is what you would like to see from a superhero comic. Though Rocha’s art when drawing characters out of costume is not as dynamic, which does take away from the momentum of the story during the slower moments.
The Bad: Easily the weakest part of Teen Titans Special #1 is the segment involving Kid Flash. While his live action counterpart has had some good development, the same can’t be said for the comic book version of Wallace West. Every time Wallace appears in a comic as Kid Flash writers can’t help but write him as a brazenly rebellious child. And Glass unfortunately falls under that trap and is unable to escape that one-dimensional character Wallace continues to be.
It does not help that Glass does not actually go into why Kid Flash is acting, as Wally West calls him, like a spoiled brat. Given that we do go into where Robin and Red Arrow are in their respective lives as heroes not getting that same attention for Kid Flash becomes even more noticeable. Even when Kid Flash is clearly trying to do the right thing he ends up making more of a scene out of a situation that did not need to escalate. And while it could just play into how he is still a rookie at being Kid Flash, his attitude does not help him gain a fanbase that’ll want to follow him.
Wally West does not come off all that great in Teen Titans Special #1 either. As someone that has been through what Wallace has been through it is odd that Wally did not try harder to mentor his cousin. Things like Wally not chasing after Kid Flash at the end just felt out of character for him given that he more than anyone knows the position his cousin is coming from. It’s one of those things that just makes you worry about the direction DC is taking Wally on since outside this appearance he is largely MIA until Flash War ends.
Additionally, it is odd that the Suicide Squad were so blatantly positioned as villains in Kid Flash’s segment of Teen Titans Special #1. DC has made a concerted effort in making the Suicide Squad more of a superhero group and after No Justice it would have been good to see that continue. Instead Glass just goes with making the Suicide Squad pure bad guys, especially with the ending where it is implied they kill the woman that was captured. That just came off out of character from how the team has operated when in contact with other heroes.
Given all these problems with Kid Flash’s part in this issue it would have been much better if that page count was dedicated to the new characters that make up the Teen Titans moving forward. Because as of now there is nothing connecting the reader and these new characters to actually get behind their respective character arcs. Not giving us any sort of hint on these characters hurts the interest in the Teen Titans ongoing since we don’t get that clue in how Glass’ team will actually interact.
On a minor problem side, Glass will need to be careful with how extreme he goes with the Teen Titans direction. Seeing Robin holding Black Mask at gunpoint did come off as a step backwards with how the Batman writers have evolved Damian’s character. It would have been more fitting to see Black Mask not have his gun and just seeing Robin knock him to an inch of his life. That would’ve been more fitting for where Robin was mentally without taking a step back into who he was when he was first introduced. Moving forward that is something that Glass will need to be careful about as it could easily turn off fans of the Teen Titans if that is seen more.
Overall: Teen Titans Special #1 is a solid issue that gets across the direction Adam Glass and DC Comics is looking to take the team. The Robin and Red Arrow segments of this issue help get the reader behind the idea of the Teen Titans working as the anti-Justice League. Unfortunately the strength of this issue presentation of the team’s direction is brought down by the story involving Kid Flash. The problems with Kid Flash’s segment hurt the overall impact Glass was looking to have with Teen Titans Special #1. In the end that makes this issue hard to recommend to any that is not a hardcore Teen Titans fan.