Review Brew: Titans Rebirth #1
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artists: Brett Booth/Norm Rapmund
With many of DC’s Rebirth titles having a very metatextual theme, Titans Rebirth is probably best understood as commenting on DC’s missing sense of legacy. By the end of the 1990s, DC was very much a company that was always looking at three superhero time periods: the forefathers of the Justice Society; the current adult heroes in the Justice League; and the up-and-coming junior heroes of the Titans and Young Justice. Flashpoint, unfortunately, killed both ends of that spectrum. Titans Rebirth restores at least the forward end of it, reminding us that DC’s focus on future generations of heroes has been sorely missed.
Titans Rebirth is somewhat continuity-heavy, a bug to those unfamiliar with the Titans and a feature to those who love their 60 years of history. In the aftermath of Titans Hunt, DC Rebirth, and Flash Rebirth (you don’t need to read all of those…but it helps), Wally West has tracked down his old friends in the Titans who have no idea who he is. But something in the Speed Force can jog memories, and Wally quickly brings back flashbacks from the childhoods of Dick, Garth, Donna, Roy, and Lilith, leading the now-adults to remember a New-52 Titans history that we’ve never seen until now. The heroes’ time with Wally has been missed–sorely missed–and they don’t even know why.
OK, the plot device is a little hackneyed. This is quite literally Teen Titans: Friendship is Magic, where every time Wally touches someone, a piece of forgotten history is remembered through the power of Speed Force and friendship. (This worked between Wally and Barry, and Wally and the Titans, but annoyingly, not between Wally and his wife.) This kind of “lost history” mystery was handled better in Paul Jenkins’ The Sentry, where there was a more disturbing mystery to a missing chunk of the Marvel Universe. But then, we readers have the benefit of knowing who Wally West is and his history in the DC Universe, and it’s a little harder for us to share in the Titans’ confusion.
Plot device aside, it’s also sweet. This is a comforting reunion of old friends, seeing the Titans suddenly remember the good times they’ve had with Wally that they didn’t even know they missed. Dan Abnett uses the plot device as a dual means of both progressing the story–Wally reawakening his teammates–and reintroducing the readers to these characters. Remember, modern audiences aren’t necessarily familiar with these Titans. Since the 1980s, most readers have known either the Perez/Wolfman team or the Young Justice lineups. To that end, this issue gives us an effective reintroduction not only to these characters, but what they mean to each other. (This includes Lilith Clay, a Titan only used sparingly since the 1960s.)
The one thing that’s a little off here is Brett Booth’s art. By no means is it bad, but it’s a decidedly “hard” art that portrays the Titans as well-muscled machines both in the modern adult scenes and the missing flashbacks showing the characters as teens. Booth’s art works well on a book like Justice League, but Titans is an inherently youthful concept and could benefit from a softer art style. We’ll have to see how this plays out long-term, but if the book continues with teenage flashback scenes, it might benefit from an artist more accustomed to making kids who look like kids instead of just smaller adults.
In other words, Titans Rebirth is recommended for readers who’ve missed the legacy aspect of the DC Universe and the notion of younger heroes who have that special bond of growing up together. Readers should be aware that this isn’t necessarily a “teen” book in the vein of Young Justice or Young Avengers, but is more of a nostalgia piece seeking to recapture one of the New 52’s many casualties.
Rating: 3.5 Titans out of 5.