Graphic Novel Reviews

Teen Titans: A Kid's Game

(2004) Geoff Johns, Titan Books, £7.99, trd pbk, 190pp, ISBN 1-840-23839-9

This is the umpteenth re-launch of the Teen Titans and is, to some extent, in the shadow of the very popular nineteen eighties version by Len Wein, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. The Titans first saw the light of day in The Brave and the Bold #54 back in 1964 as a sort of 'team-up for super-sidekicks', and included the then Robin (Dick Grayson, now Nightwing, who is running the Outsiders, originally formed by Batman), Aqualad and Kid Flash (Wally Wood, now the Flash following the death of Barry Allen in Crisis on Infinite Earths), and later added Wonder Girl (Donna Troy, now dead, which we'll return to). ((The original Superboy - now seemingly written out of continuity - appeared in Legion of Superheroes, so was part of his own 'teen team'.)) This new team includes, from the eighties, Cyborg (de facto leader), Raven (resurrected by Brother Blood), Starfire (Nightwing's alien girlfriend) and Changeling (now grown up and calling himself Beast Boy again as he was in the days of the old pre-Grant Morrison Doom Patrol) and new members Robin (Tim Drake, the third Robin, following the death of the second at the hands of the Joker), Impulse who, within this volume, becomes the new Kid Flash (he's a Barry Allen descendent from the future), Superboy (the half-Superman, half-human clone created during Superman's 'death' a few years back) and Wonder Girl (created by Zeus in the current run of Wonder Woman).

This volume collects the first seven issues of the new Teen Titans title, as well as Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files. There's a handy potted history intro by the current writer, Geoff Johns, at the front of the book, and an even handier set of profiles of the current crop of characters (including villains) at the back of the book, along with the covers from the original issues. All of which is very good for a) new readers, and b) old readers who are not up on current continuity. This first volume begins some time following the death of Donna Troy, caused, some would say, by the teen sidekicks. The new members are encouraged to join by their mentors, partly as a way of dealing with their various feelings of guilt over Donna's death, and partly as an attempt to get the protégés to attend a 'school for super-heroics' run by Vic Stone, Cyborg. Death hangs heavy on this story and, in a hall of heroes-type setting, we meet all the Titans who have lost their lives during the various incarnations of the team. The action begins when old nemesis Deathstroke the Terminator (from the eighties version) returns to attack the team following the death of his own son - Jericho, an eighties Titan, actually killed by Deathstroke - and starts by kneecapping Impulse/Kid Flash! Meanwhile Raven is being unwillingly resurrected by the followers of Brother Blood, and Superboy discovers something startling about the human DNA donor who provided 50% of his makeup...

Johns' story is quite crisp and pleasingly grim and he is ably abetted by the pencils of Mike McKone and Tom Grummett, and the inking talents of Marlo Alquiza and Nelson. While the artists are no George Pérez (and there's no reason why they should be), they nonetheless have successfully bridged the gap between comic-y artwork and the death-laden grimness that suffuses the plot. There are, needless to say, plenty of guest appearances by the JLA mentors of the team, not to mention Nightwing's Outsiders. By the time you finish this volume you will either be a fan of the new team, or you'll hate it as confusing. On the whole, I think it deserves to be the former since usually anything suffers by comparison to a previous 'classic' version, and I'm just fair-minded enough to believe that the book should be judged on its own merits, rather than being criticised for not being something it was not trying to be. Give it a chance if you're an old fan and definitely pick it up if you're a new fan with an interest in DC's past continuity.

Tony Chester

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