TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 by Adam Glass and Robson Rocha
While vastly different from Ben Percy's powerful and lighthearted run on the series, TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 introduces a dark and interesting new dynamic to the fan-favorite team. Pushing the team back into the shadows, Adam Glass and Robson Rocha tell a deeply personal and interesting story from page 1.
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Not Your Parents' Titans
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TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 gives us a glimpse of a team that we’ve never seen before. During the waning days of the New 52, the Teen Titans were outlaws. Though many of their supposed charges were false or exaggerated, they spent most of their time together running from the law. As Rebirth began and Damian Wayne started his own team, he vowed to change this. He believed that the Teen Titans could become so much more. Even in the midst of his own anger issues and angst, he grew constantly as a character under Ben Percy’s pen. Now, in TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1, all of that has changed.

After the events of NO JUSTICE, Damian has decided that the adults don’t know what they are doing. Now, he promises to move past the law and become the hero he thinks the world needs. After the death of a close friend, Damian seeks deadly revenge against the Black Mask and his gang. Meanwhile, Emiko, a.k.a. Red Arrow, faces down her assassin mother before Shado can kill another politician. At the same time, on a visit to California, Kid Flash has a run in with the Suicide Squad, who are trying to kidnap a newly powered young woman.

The Aftermath

TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 is exactly that. It is special. This book excited me from the first page, despite its somewhat controversial characterization. Percy’s TEEN TITANS saw Damian questioning his role in the world. Raised by assassins but trained by Batman, he had to choose which path he would take. I did not want him to be where he is now. This murderous young antihero had turned away from the death and carnage.

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However, I am okay with this change in the status quo. The way writer Adam Glass handles this story makes the change believable. Damian doesn’t see results from his father’s way of working, so he needs to define his own path. Yes, so much characterization from the past immediately flies out the window, but Glass manages to make me understand Damian’s viewpoint. He weaves it into a very personal narrative, which can be said for all three of these intertwined short stories.

TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 succeeds because it delves deeply into these three characters’ shared themes. Each has villainous parents. Each has pristine, unerring, present mentors. More importantly, each sees that their parents’ and mentors’ paths don’t always work. This personal narrative fuels this issue, making it intensely thought-provoking from the start. I immediately cared about all three characters, despite their dark and sometimes jaded thoughts. I did feel like Wally’s narrative stumbled a bit in this regard. This is not Glass’ fault as much as it is an aspect of the character. Wally’s father is dead, meaning that any personal thoughts are weakened by the telling. We don’t get to see their jaded relationship play out like we do with the others.

Violent Emotions

TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

As should be clear, TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 is a comic book driven by theme. In many ways, this is the strongest aspect of the issue. The way it dealt with each character, fleshing them out in their own narratives, feels like a smart decision. There is no filler information, here. These are three highly concentrated tales that delve straight to the heart of the matter. They don’t delay the intensity with needless exposition, but Adam Glass isn’t afraid to explore character from the start. TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 succeeds because it manages to find a balance between action and character from the start.

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TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 is an inherently exciting comic book. The action sequences are well-choreographed, and the way Damian, Emiko, and Wally fight feels fresh and entertaining. However, it is the personal level of these narratives that makes this book so special. Yes, I said that about the characterization as well, but that ties more into the ways these characters explore their histories. Glass makes a concerted effort to make this book personal to the reader.

Glass makes a smart decision by starting the book off in Damian’s favorite restaurant, for example. He forces us to see that the boy is actually human, and it provides immediate motivation by threatening someone he cares about. In fact, Glass makes us care for the civilian characters in a way that I didn’t think possible in comic books. That level of detail sold me on the book from the start.

Rocha Rocks

TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Robson Rocha handles the pencils for TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1, and I was thoroughly impressed with his take on Damian’s world. In fact, this book likely couldn’t work without him. The way he handles each panel, whether slowly human or fast-paced, just drips personality and energy. His characters feel like real people with real emotions.

No, his style isn’t entirely realistic, but the way he approaches each individual moment makes me feel like I am looking at a photograph. This stems from the way he handles characters. They move so realistically and they convey so much emotion. Rocha creates a thrilling and interesting atmosphere with each page of TITANS SPECIAL #1, and I can’t wait to see more of his work.

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TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1: Final Thoughts

TEEN TITANS SPECIAL #1 continues the tradition started in TITANS SPECIAL #1. Writer Adam Glass presents the heroes in a deeply personal light, making certain that readers have an intense connection with them. With this groundwork in place, I cannot wait to see where the upcoming series will go. The way Glass approaches this dark twist to the TEEN TITANS mythos is both methodical and darkly realistic.

Every decision made by the characters makes sense. While Wally West doesn’t quite reach the same level of characterization as Emiko or Damian, this book does paint all three in pristine detail. This is a new step for the series that has worried me for some time. However, with Adam Glass’ introduction, many of my worries have subsided.

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