TITANS SPECIAL #1 by Dan Abnett and Ben Oliver
With an in-depth look at each member of the new team and a stellar suite of guest artists, TITANS SPECIAL #1 is a fantastic entry point into the upcoming series. There are some continuity issues and a lack of explanation over some elements, but these are small failures in an otherwise fantastic book.
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The DC Universe will never be the same after TITANS SPECIAL #1. At least, that is what Scott Snyder promised after his run on DARK NIGHTS: METAL. So far, he has kept his promise. The Source Wall broke during the event, changing the very laws in the universe. While Brainiac captured the Titans during the sequel NO JUSTICE event, they didn’t play a major role in defeating the Omega Titans.

However, they are at ground zero for this new status quo. Nightwing sees the need for a brand new team, and the Justice League has given him their blessing in TITANS SPECIAL #1. With energy flooding the Earth and activating dormant Metagenes, people around the world suddenly find themselves with new and dangerous superpowers. It is up to Nightwing, Steel, Beast Boy, Raven, Donna Troy, and Miss Martian to find them and save them from themselves.

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A Team that Makes Sense

TItans Special #1
TITANS SPECIAL #1 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Writer Dan Abnett absolutely knocked it out of the park in TITANS SPECIAL #1. The attention to detail on every page seemed absolutely perfect. This isn’t a plot-based story, but one of character. In fact, this doesn’t feel like one independent story. It feels like several interconnected narratives focused on each of the new team members. The attention given to each character gives this story a natural and entertaining flow.

This narrative never got old. The variance of story types, from Raven’s horror-inspired super fight to Donna Troy’s crumbling psychology, constantly satisfied me as a reader. More importantly, the narrative made sense. From a plot and character standpoint, Nightwing’s journey in this story perfectly showcased the reasons why this team needed these characters.

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Abnett did manage to lose me by the end of the story, though, for one small reason. As a long-time fan of TITANS, I have come to love the original lineup. To see this team only include one original member seemed odd. The last story arc before NO JUSTICE did see that team dissolve. However, by the end, it seemed as if they would reunite. The changes here feel rather sudden in that context. I don’t know where Arsenal, Tempest, or Omen went.

Part of me couldn’t stop questioning their disappearance from the start. This will likely not bother new fans. I think Abnett constructed a fantastic entry point for new fans. However, I need Abnett to explain the originals’ disbanding in future issues. It just seems odd that Nightwing wouldn’t approach more of his friends before gathering new characters. Especially when some of their character arcs weren’t yet complete.

Super Psychology

TITANS SPECIAL #1 page 2-3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

As I mentioned, Abnett manages to tell an incredible character-based story in TITANS SPECIAL #1. Each character receives their own small section, wherein Abnett sets their motivations and personalities in stone. The amount of work that the writer does throughout this issue on character is astounding.

This feels especially true for the new members of the team. While Ms. Martian could have seen more page time, the others become fully fleshed out in a matter of only a few pages. Beast Boy has lost control of his powers, making him a social pariah. Raven has as well, isolating herself in the desert. The new Steel, the niece of the original, has fallen into obsession over the new worldwide threats. These characters feel like real people almost immediately.

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This character focus feels especially true for the two returning characters. The problem with a number of team books is that they come together for a single massive threat. None of the characters has a truly personal stake in the events. Nightwing, though, is given a very real personal reason to face the Emergent Threat. His opening story did two things brilliantly. It focused in on the new world order after NO JUSTICE clearly and concisely.

Meanwhile, it put a human face to the issue. I also felt like Donna Troy’s story was one of the best in this “collection.” Her overriding fears from the original series managed to act as an important connecting thread. However, the way it explores her fall is darkly beautiful. Her line, “The Titans were friends. Maybe that was the problem,” absolutely broke my heart in the best possible way.

A Tribute to Brilliance

TITANS SPECIAL #1 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Along with each character introduction, a new artist takes the reins. Overall, this experience could have easily felt muddled. The disparate styles of each artist could have made for a messy reading experience. However, DC did something wonderful here. They took some of the industry’s greatest talent and filled this book with some of their best work to date.

Respected Heroes

Sergio Davila illustrates the opening Nightwing story, and he has the some of the most action-packed moments in the issue. His style is so dynamic, perfectly fitting the acrobatic fighting of Nightwing. However, it doesn’t lose the gravitas of the situation. This is largely due to the dark, moody inks of Vicente Cifuentes, which provide the perfect atmosphere throughout.

Tackling the Raven story is Brent Peeples and Matt Santorelli. Their shared pencils and inks illustrate one of the coolest moments in the collection. The trippy astral battle between Raven and her demonic foe seemed so strange in the context of everything else. However, it fit Raven beautifully, showcasing the pure raw power of which she is capable.

The Personal Life

The Beast Boy story sees SUPERGIRL artist Brian Ching picking up the pencil again. I think in this all-star group, I liked his work the least. I still love his style. The way it resembles the last TEEN TITANS arc elicits nostalgia. I just didn’t personally take as well to his work than to others in this book. This is entirely a personal taste criticism, not a critique of his style.

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WONDER WOMAN artist Nicola Scott handles the return of Donna Troy, and I absolutely loved this section. Of the stories, this one is the only set in an entirely mundane setting. Scott’s realistic style perfectly captures this setting and the realistic personalities within.

The New and the Old

Max Raynor is the only artist in this bunch to introduce an absolutely new character. His depiction of Steel is fantastic and utterly dynamic. Her environment and her battle skills stem from high-technology. This science fiction aesthetic bleeds off the page in beautiful chrome finishes. Machines aren’t easy to depict, but Raynor makes it look simple.

Finally, Ben Oliver handles the closing story, which brings together the team for the first time. I have to be completely honest. Oliver is one of my all-time favorite comic book artists. His more classical, painterly style feels wholly unique to his work in the best way. The way he captures the team’s first unified fight looks utterly chaotic and brilliant. Also, his introduction of Brother Blood at issue’s end looks incredible, having some of the coolest visual effects in the story.

TITANS SPECIAL #1: Final Thoughts

TITANS SPECIAL #1 is an amazing comic book, combining almost perfect amounts of story, character, and art. The highlight is the varied artistic palette provided by the many guest artists. However, the way writer Dan Abnett approaches character, giving each team member their own section, leads to an absolutely satisfying reading experience.

I did run into an issue with the way he represents past continuity. This is hardly an issue in the grand scope of this amazing story, though. Seriously, whether you are a long time fan of TITANS or are new to the series, this is a book you need to read.

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