TEEN TITANS: YEAR ONE — FACT OR FICTION?

KC Carlson. Art by Keith Wilson

KC Carlson. Art by Keith Wilson


A KC COLUMN By KC Carlson

I think I mentioned a few columns ago that I was finally attempting a complete inventory of my DC Comics collection. It just so happened that I was trying to get my huge (four short boxes going on five, or somewhere north of 800 issues) collection of Teen Titans (and related) comics in some semblance of order, when this odd-looking six-issue miniseries jumped out at me from the stacks.

Teen Titans: Year One

Teen Titans: Year One


Teen Titans: Year One was originally published in 2008. (So it’s now 10 years old. Happy Birthday!) And it was originally published in an era when I am ashamed to say I was apparently too busy to read everything I bought right away. Big mistake.

It’s written by Amy Wolfram (also known for Teen Titans Go! and Ben 10) and illustrated by Karl Kerschl (Adventures of Superman, Majestic, Gotham Academy, and others) and Serge LaPointe (Civil War: X-Men, Ghostbusters, Gamora). Up front, this is pure fun, as well as the artwork being brilliantly odd, yet compelling. And the coloring (credited to John Rauch in #4-6; no name given previously) really helps drive this story’s many moods.

KIDS FIRST!

Teen Titans: Year One #2

Teen Titans: Year One #2


My favorite thing about this series is that the not-yet-Titans are actually drawn as children. Gangly, nervous, unsure, yet overconfident kids. And unfortunately for them, their mentors (Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman) seem to be not-themselves today… and for good reason, as we’ll find out later. These Titans are much different than the Marv Wolfman/George Pérez versions that most of you are more familiar with.

Everything you need to know about this series is in the opening pages of issue one. Robin (Dick Grayson) is in the Batcave chatting online with Kid Flash (Wally West), and Wally is going nuts about how slow Robin is responding. Dick, of course, is responding in real time, while the ever-impatient Wally is racing around his bedroom moaning “Come ONNN…” while gathering soda after soda at super-speed (caffeine much?) and simultaneously studying, watching TV, reading, and feeding his pet. (A turtle. Brilliant.) Eventually (several seconds later), his hunger has overcome him, so he dashes out for a second or two for more snacks. Some pommes frites. From France. Why not? Meanwhile, back at the Batcave, Batman seems more obsessed than usual about crushing crime in Gotham and calls Robin away from the computer to go out on patrol.

OKAY, THAT’S ODD…

Teen Titans: Year One #3

Teen Titans: Year One #3


Meanwhile, Aqualad is apparently afraid of fish. (This might be a problem down the road.) And Wonder Girl is somewhere in the Big City (looking for Wonder Woman) and apparently becoming sensory overloaded by it all. She crashes into (of course) a convenient hunky guy – and not noticing at all – his very annoyed girlfriend. (It gets worse after she squeals “A Boy! Iloveyou” at him.)

Later, it becomes obvious to Robin that Batman is more obsessive and angry than usual (really?), which culminates in Robin being on the receiving end of a brutal backhand slap that sends him flying across the room. “We’re through,” Batman sneers. “Don’t bother coming home.” Yikes!

In subsequent issues, Aquaman has no time or patience with the timid Aqualad, Barry Allen Flash blows off Wally West Flash with a curt “We’re not a team. We’re nothing. Beat it, kid! We’re not even related.” Not-yet-Teen-Titan Speedy is having similar problems with his mentor Green Arrow. In issue #3, Wonder Girl (recently arrived to the team) explains her conflicts with Wonder Woman to her new teammates, and bursting into super-tears, cries, “My sister hates me! BWAHHH!”

They all realize that something about this is not right and split into teams. (Carefully chosen so they don’t have to fight their mentors directly.) They do well, despite their age — including later when Robin confronts Batman (about going against his own rules). But there’s one last problem after the fights are over, and the kids are planning to form a team — a now supposedly cured Batman insists that Robin return with him to Gotham.

YAY! RETRO STUFF!

Teen Titans: Year One #4

Teen Titans: Year One #4


Issue #4 continues things in classic Titans style. All the Titans (except “trapped in Gotham” Robin) are co-hosting a teen TV show (featuring The Flips! rock band — another call-back to old continuity!). Wonder Girl is portrayed as a little too boy-crazy here, but the scene is saved by a cutaway featuring a heart-to-heart discussion between Alfred and Robin (while watching the concert on TV) that gets Dick back into gear when The Ant (another long-forgotten early Titans foe) attacks the concert backstage — but unfortunately Robin over-shadows Kid Flash while doing so.

Teen Titans: Year One #5

Teen Titans: Year One #5


Issue #5 is essentially action-free, mostly about Speedy and Wonder Girl’s first real date (which also amusingly features a scene of Speedy asking Green Arrow for the keys to the car for said date). Of course, the car is eventually stolen while the kids are smooching elsewhere. Normally I’d tell you who which villain took it, but he’s much too silly a foe to matter that much. (Hint: his name rhymes with Bing Bong Baddy.) Sadly, Roy blows his cool (not something you see everyday), so the potential Titans teen romance is off, and the issue ends in heartbreak.

Teen Titans: Year One #6

Teen Titans: Year One #6


Nightmares seem to be the theme of #6, as Robin dreams that all the other Titans die horribly, and their ghosts haunt him. (This is an oft-used theme throughout the Titans’ long history.) Things not to miss: Wonder Girl consumed by smoke, Aqualad singing (and apparently dying) in the shower, and I’m not really sure what Wally is doing besides eating a lot. This all cumulates in a scene more suited for a horror movie than a comic book about teen heroes — but then again, the story doesn’t really wrap up either — although it seems like the team has an optimistic end, until the confusing last page. Points off for that, sadly. This was going so well up until this issue.

Normally, I would tell you about the history of Teen Titans: Year One, why it came out and what it tied into, but I frankly have no idea. It seems to have snuck out, not done very well (perhaps because of the art, which is highly stylized and may have been too unusual for core readers), and been forgotten. The miniseries was originally collected in both hardcover and paperback formats, although I’m pretty sure that the hardcover is long ago sold out. In fact, I’m not even sure about the paperback, although plenty of used copies are available at Amazon. (Editor’s note: It is available. In fact, you can get it here.)

Summing up: Lots of funny cool, weird stuff, but the ending of the series does not feel like an ending. Perhaps everybody was over-confident that there would be a follow-up. Happens more often than you might think. However, I’d love to know more about what happened later. Somehow this seems unfinished.

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KC CARLSON Likes the fun stuff. Psychopathic Batman, not-so-much. Even today. Guess last week wasn’t Batman’s week either.

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. It didn’t really irritate me, but I wish that this series had worked out better. There was a lot of potential here.

BONUS TRIVIA FOR THIS WEEK: This may be the only week in comics where there’s an Amazing Spider-Man #1 and a Superman #1 hitting the racks on the same day. Take a moment to reflect on that today as you make your new comic book purchases.

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