When I was a preteen, there were two comics that dominated the market: X-Men and Teen Titans. While the X-Men have maintained their popularity for the most part, the success of the Teen Titans has waned. Yes, writer Geoff Johns revitalized the title for a time and the various animated series are fun, but the ongoing comic is a mess. This is why Teen Titans Earth One gave me pause. The Earth One series aims to shed the baggage of prior stories and start fresh with our heroes in the modern day. It worked for Superman and Batman, but Teen Titans has many more moving parts in terms of its characters. With top talent like writer Jeff Lemire and artists Terry and Rachel Dodson on board, I had to read it and I’m glad I took the chance.
The story starts in Monument, Oregon, where a group of high school students begin to manifest strange powers. They discover that their powers are related to experiments performed on them by their parents and guardians. It’s a cohesive way to link the Titans and provide structure to the story, though it is reminiscent of the heroes’ evil parents in Marvel’s Runaways. Cyborg, Terra, Beast Boy, and Jericho must free the being that is the source of their powers with the assistance of the mysterious Raven. In grand Titans tradition, there is a traitor in their ranks and the story ends with the team on the run, searching for more answers. It appears that there will be more stories to come for this new team of teenage heroes.
While the story is interesting, this isn’t Lemire at his best (try Animal Man or his Essex County series for that). As page after page passes by without much dialogue, Terry Dodson’s art takes center stage. He draws people beautifully and everything looks shiny and glossy, even in the rainy setting of the Pacific Northwest. Inks by Rachel Dodson accentuate the glossy look, simultaneously allowing the shadows and silhouettes to tell much of the story. However, certain actions are repeated too often: there was an overwhelming amount of choking and one too many broken arms squeezed too tight.
This volume represents a promising start for the new set of Titans: the characters are different enough from the animated show and classic teams to feel like a new series, but similar enough for us to know who they are. Any teen who grew up on the animated Teen Titans shows, Tiny Titans, or Young Justice will be interested in this title. If only this team had been part of the New 52 relaunch, I might still be reading the series.
Teen Titans, vol. 1: Earth One
by Jeff Lemire
Art by Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
Publisher Age Rating: 13+