Before going on their short hiatus Titans was picking up a lot of momentum. Dan Abnett found great success with deconstructing the team and having a story focused on the core four, Dick Grayson, Donna Troy, Wally West and Roy Harper. That said, due to the events that have happened in Titans there is no way the series and team can return to the previous status quo. Luckily the recent No Justice event is acting as a spark to give new life to all the team comic books in DC’s publishing line-up. That includes the Titans, who were also involved in the event. Now the question is how Nightwing will recruit a new Titans team that will function better than his first attempt at reforming his old squad? Let’s find out with Titans Special #1.
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artists: Sergio Davila, Vicente Cifuentes, Brent Peeples, Matt Santorelli, Brian Ching, Nicola Scott, Max Raynor, Matt Santorelli and Ben Oliver
Colorist: Luis Guerrero, Marcelo Maiolo, Michael Atiyem, Jordie Bellaire, Dinei Ribeiro, Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Nightwing chases a woman named Jenna Lacey, who has developed metahuman powers, through a subway. Jenna uses her powers to almost hurt a guy, who Nightwing saves in the last minute.
Sometime later Nightwing talks to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman about the rise of metahumans after recent events (No Justice). Nightwing uses his experience with Jenna as an example for why there needs to be a 24/7 team to respond to these metahuman situations. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman agree and wonder when he would begin the team. Nightwing is surprised to hear the Trinity want him to be part of a Justice League since his last team didn’t get their approval.
Nightwing then tells “Superman” to reveal who he really is. Martian Manhunter transforms into his regular appearance, surprised that Nightwing easily discovered him as Superman. Wonder Woman says they have a room in the Hall of Justice ready for Nightwing’s new team. Batman then says Nightwing will need a team ready to face things. Wonder Woman then asks Nightwing why he really called them.
Nightwing reveals that while trying to catch Jenna he didn’t realize how freaked out about being a new metahuman she was. Because of that Nightwing wasn’t able to predict Jenna blowing a hole in the subway and jumping off. Nightwing says that if he had an empath or telepath things would’ve gone smoother. He says because of that he wants to make sure to help save the new metahumans who have nowhere to turn.
Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman show Nightwing a list of heroes they think would make a good team for him to lead. Nightwing thanks them for their suggestions but says he already has his own list. He then says he didn’t come to them to ask for permission in forming a new Titans team but just wanted to tell them what he is going to do.
Somewhere in Arizona, Raven has been standing in front of a guy who has been infected by creatures from another realm. After three days of fighting Raven struggles against the creature. Suddenly Nightwing appears and knocks the guy out in the physical realm.
Using her powers Raven quickly understands that Nightwing has shown up to recruit her to his team to combat threats created by the Source Wall. Nightwing says he needs Raven’s help in leading a new team as her powers compliment him in figuring out how to deal with current and future threats. Raven agrees though she isn’t sure about who Nightwing plans on recruiting next.
In Hollywood, Beast Boy tries to shop in secret but a girl sees him. The girl’s mom asks Beast Boy to show them his powers. Beast Boy isn’t sure but gives in. As soon as he tries to transform he loses control and once again transform into a beast-like state. Beast Boy runs away when he sees he is scaring everyone.
Nightwing finds Beast Boy in the streets. Beast Boy threatens Nightwing to leave him as he is just a freak. Nightwing says he could use Beast Boy as part of his new team. Beast Boy isn’t sure given his unstable powers. Nightwing says that is why Beast Boy can help a lot of people and he’ll help find a cure for Beast Boy. Nightwing and Beast Boy leave just as the cops arrive.
In New York Donna tells Nightwing she won’t be part of his team. Donna talks about of what she learned about her villainous future she has been doing nothing other than drinking and training since leaving the Justice League’s house arrest.
Nightwing tries to continue to recruit her for his team but she isn’t sure since she feels like she broke the Titans as friends. Nightwing tells Donna this is a chance for her to prove the future her wrong. Donna still doesn’t want to be on a team without her friends. Nightwing says he will be there for her.
In Metropolis, Steel (Natasha Irons) defeats a new alien threat that appeared. She takes a sample of the creature back to her lab to analyze.
While analyzing the sample Natasha thinks about how the world has changed and it has actually helped her stay busy after breaking up with Traci-13.
Natasha hears her security alarm go off and puts on her Steel armor. Nightwing, Donna and Beast Boy tell Steel they are not their to fight. Nightwing tells Steel he wants her to be part of his new team as her special knowledge on what is going on will be a great asset. Natasha isn’t sure given where she currently is in her life. Nightwing tells Natasha that his new team has been sanctioned by the Justice League which peaks her interest.
At the Hall of Justice Nightwing takes Donna, Steel and Beast Boy to the Titans part of the building. There they meet up with Raven, who has an awkward reunion with Beast Boy.
Steel quickly fills up the Titans room with her lab that she brought with her. The sample that Steel got earlier starts reacting to the locket Nightwing took from Jenna.
The sample transforms into large creature. The Titans get ready to fight the creature. Miss Martian suddenly shows up and quickly destroys the creature with her power.
Miss Martian then introduces herself to the Titans. She then reveals that Martian Manhunter assigned her to be the Titans liaison. Nightwing and Raven aren’t a fan of the Justice League assigning them a babysitter. Before they can figure more out Steel’s computer recognizes a “Class Seven” threat. Nightwing tells the team to get ready to check out the situation.
Somewhere unknown Brother Blood tells his people that they can use the current state of flux in the universe to their advantage. Brother Blood happily goes on to say that the cosmic influences have affected all worlds. End of issue.
The Good: Titans Special #1 does exactly what it needed to do as we get to see the new team be established. Since Titans Special #1 had a greater page count than a normal monthly issue Dan Abnett was able to give each member of Nightwing’s new team time to show why they are on the team. For the most part it does end up working with Abnett providing each superhero on the team with motivation that can drive both main- and sub-plots for the Titans ongoing.
Right away Abnett goes about establishing the fact that Nightwing will still be the leader of the Titans. Given how out of control the previous Titans team got under his watch, there was a lot of questions when it came to if Nightwing was ready to lead a team again. Those questions were quickly wiped away by how Abnett portrayed the way Nightwing went about constructing his team. At no point did Abnett try to wipe away how horribly things went with the previous Titans team. Because of that Abnett made sure to drive home the fact that Nightwing did in fact take the disassembling of the Titans as a learning experience.
To show this, Abnett made a great move in having the issue open up with Nightwing going to Martian Manhunter, Batman and Wonder Woman about forming a new Titans team. This showed the maturity Nightwing has gained from his experience as he isn’t looking to have big secrets anymore, that became a theme of the Titans since its launch. Nightwing meeting with Martian Manhunter, Batman and Wonder Woman also established the fact that he won’t let the Justice League just dictate what the Titans should do. From calling out Martian Manhunter’s Superman disguise to providing his own hand picked roster, Abnett showed us a Nightwing that is not messing around with having his authority questioned.
While Nightwing will be the unquestioned leader of the Titans it was good to see that Abnett established Raven as someone who will at the very least act as the second-in-command for the Titans. This is something the instantly gives Raven a new role to play on the team. It also gets Raven away from having her story always being about her father or uncontrollable powers. And in giving Raven more of an active role in the Titans’ direction it allows us to see if she is ready to step up to the next level.
What made Raven’s promotion better was how Abnett explained it through Nightwing. With Raven on the team Nightwing now has that voice of reason who can look into their oppositions mentality. That’s a very important thing to have since Nightwing for all his skills does tend to let his emotions cloud him at times. Having Raven their to fill that role adds to what she brings to the team on the battlefield with her powers.
Nightwing and Raven having clear roles on the Titans made Beast Boy’s position on the team come off as even more unique. Out of everyone that was involved in No Justice, Beast Boy possibly got the biggest change with his powers now being unstable. This change has been much needed for Beast Boy, who has never gotten past the comedic little brother role he’s had since debuting. Now with his powers unstable Abnett can explore Beast Boy in a much more serious light than we have seen before. It also opens the door for the other Titans to try to act more like mentors rather than just Beast Boy’s big brother or sister figure.
Similarly, I did like how Abnett decided to portray Natasha Irons as the outsider of the group. While Natasha providing the tech genius role is extremely valuable to make the Titans a stronger team I’m more interested in how she will grow with the team. Since she has been a minor Superman Family character, Abnett has a good opportunity to explore more of what makes Natasha as Steel a character Titans fans can get behind since she is more of a blank slate.
With so many new teammates it was good to see Donna Troy still on the team along with Nightwing. Out of everyone on the previous incarnation Donna got the most interesting character arc by end of the previous Titans run. Unlike Wally or Roy, Donna still has a lot unleft resolved with the direction Abnett took the team. Seeing her become such a lost soul after the Troia incident puts her in a challenging position. And with Nightwing selecting Raven as his second-in-command it does open Donna up to figure out what she wants to represent. The quick moment of her reaching out to Beast Boy when he was down after his perception of Raven’s reaction to him is a good hint at what she could be for her new teammates.
While establishing the roles for all the Titans well handled the recruiting was, what was better was how Abnett defined the team’s direction. A direction was something that was missing from the previous incarnation of the Titans. That is not the case no more as Nightwing clearly sees the Titans as the first responders to the threats on the streets. With the other Justice League teams focus on cosmic and magical threats, having the Titans focused on the threats already on Earth fills a big hole in the DC Universe. It gives the Titans a connection to the greater vision attached to the Justice League while also operating on their own unique mission.
Brother Blood being brought in as the first big threat for this new Titans team was a solid choice. Brother Blood is a villain that needs a reboot of sorts as the character has become something of a mess. But now with all the DC Universe thrown out of whack due to No Justice this is a good time to refresh Brother Blood. Giving the villain a much needed power upgrade is a good way to integrate what happened in No Justice for this first story arc.
For as many artists that worked on Titans Special #1, this issue was held well together with consistent looking character designs. The majority of the artists had a similar art style that fell into a classic DC style. That pick made the designs of each of the Titans look more like the versions fans are used to seeing. Given that this was a very character focused issue, having a consistent look was a good thing as it helped connect the reader with the new direction of the Titans.
The Bad: The one team member that did not come off looking great in Titans Special #1 was Miss Martian. Though Miss Martian has some popularity thanks to her appearance in Young Justice, when it comes to the comics the character does not have any credibility. The lack of credibility in the DCU made it harder to get behind her being the Justice League’s liaison with the Titans. Everything about how Abnett present this idea behind Miss Martian’s role felt forced in a bad way. Hopefully Abnett has more to this role than what was presented. Because if not Miss Martian will easily be the weakest part of the Titans and could hinder the new direction.
While I do like the use of Brother Blood for this first story arc’s villain there does need to be more done with the character than what was present. Just being a cult leader won’t be enough. Seeing a bunch of followers in the shadows does not help Brother Blood’s presentation at all. The villain needs to go beyond just being a cult leader. If not, than readers will easily get bored by Brother Blood just as has been the case with all his modern day stories.
Overall: Titans Special #1 does a great job acting as the origin issue of the new team that Dan Abnett will be writing. Unlike the previous incarnation, Abnett makes it clear what the Titans direction will be from the beginning. That clear direction, and its ties to the Justice League, makes the Titans ongoing an even more compelling series moving forward. If your a fan of the Teen Titans franchise this is a great issue to pick up to get hyped for the direction of the new Nightwing-led Titans.