Term begins at the Roy Harper Titans Academy, the DC Universe’s brand new school for ‘gifted youngsters’.
I’m not being snarky, the phrase is right there in the splash page legend for this Future State spin-out, which tells us that Nightwing, Donna Troy, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven and Beast Boy are ready to mentor the next generation of heroes.
Given how many teenage hopefuls have died on their watch, I’m amazed any parents and guardians would let their super kids within a mile of Titans Island, but there you go… perhaps there’s a Resurrection Class taught by Ra’s al-Ghul.
We do find out what a couple of the New Titans are teaching.
Actually, it’s Donna teaching the History of the Multiverse that’s funny, given how many times she’s been reborn as Crises hit. I don’t actually know how she’s got a teaching certificate, mind, given that the only college I remember her attending turned out to be run by a supervillain. As for Nightwing, Dick Grayson was at college for decades, and never won that flat hat. Still, it’s not like they’re in charge of the educational modules, obviously someone with proper teaching qualifications would get the job…
Oh well, at least Starfire gives a good speech. Sorry, I mean ‘Ms Starfire’, colleague of ‘Mr Nightwing’, ‘Mr Cyborg’ and the rest. I couldn’t stop thinking about Spidey’s old pup pal, Ms Lion… For once, Donna Troy wins the day by not using a superhero name, she gets to be plain old ‘Ms Troy’.
So, the set-up of the Titans Academy series doesn’t bear scrutiny, but that’s not a dealbreaker – plenty of comics have weird premises. I’ll go with it, the New Titans are running a school – it’s not like the likes of Beast Boy, Raven and Cyborg have actual jobs. And the last time professional photographer Donna picked up a camera, she used actual film.
Against all expectations – writer Tim Sheridan was behind the Future State: Shazam book which I did not enjoy – I liked this first issue loads. Sheridan juggles an awful lot of characters without the issue seeming overstuffed. The New Titans are on good form, the Teen Titans get a great action sequence and the freshman class are an intriguing bunch. Here are just some of that last lot.
We don’t learn what all their skills and powers are, though Summer was in the recent Endless Winter event, and the wonderfully named Gorilla Gregg looks to be from Gorilla City. My instant favourite is the student who may have something to do with Ragman, or could be a Ragdoll cast-off, but more likely is their own person – Stitch.
A nice surprise is that along with recent Teen Titans Crush, Red Arrow, Roundhouse and Kid Flash, we get former Justice Society member Jakeem Thunder and New 52 kid Bunker, a good character despite being saddled with the worst name this side of ‘Night Thrasher’. Also among the students is Billy Batson, which worries me, given how Sheridan played him in the aforementioned Shazam two-parter. If that’s where we’re heading, along with the sounded-so-grim-I-skipped-it Future State Teen Titans book, I’m not sure I want to be along for the ride. The best thing Sheridan could do would be to emphasise that the Future State stuff is a possible destination, and start deviating from it to make the point.
One demerit in that department is the inclusion of Future State cast member and TV cartoon Titan Red X, whose history – or at least some version of it – has been folded into the DC Infinite Frontier timeline. His involvement in this issue makes Dick look like an amateur.
Oh yeah, something’s off with the holographic fighting system, let’s not have computer god Cyborg check it out, just let it go. Then again, the ginger kid, Brick, looks like he’s doing a Maxwell Lord on Dick, soothing away his natural suspicions. Later in the issue we see he has an undeclared EMP burst, so who’s to say he’s not a secret telepath too? And there’s more suspicious behaviour, and a strangely passive Dick, after that. My guess is Brick has been inserted into the academy by a Titans foe – I could see him being the son of Psimon and Shimmer – but is kicking against his parental programming.
I’d be amazed were Sheridan not doing a ‘Traitor within the Titans’ plotline somewhere in this series, they’re always great fun.
One thing I wasn’t thrilled about in the script was a moment between Kory and Dick that suggests they still have a romantic spark. Been there, done that and the recent DC Love is a Battlefield special tied a lovely bow on it. Sheridan gets back in my good books, though, with a wonderful speech from Dick on the wearing of masks.
The ‘who is Red X?’ bit seems to be a major selling point for lots of folk, but as I’ve never seen the cartoon, I’m not one of them. I am, though, impressed enough by Sheridan’s blend of action and characterisation here to come back next time. With a Legion of Super-Heroes-sized cast, an obvious knowledge of DC history and a solid background as a professional TV superhero writer, Sheridan could produce a terrific series.
He certainly has a great artistic partner in Rafa Sandoval, whose clean figurework and vibrant layouts are a real asset to the book. The debuting characters are distinctive, while the New Titans have a confidence befitting veteran heroes. As for the middle group (I think I’ve come across ‘upper classmen’ in Gilmore Girls or somewhere), just gaze on this spread.
It’s a shame Roundhouse and chums have lost their book, but if this series is a success, you can add a ‘for now’ to that thought. And art this good – the talented Jordi Tarragona embellishes – can only help their case. Sandoval has been at DC for awhile and this could be his breakthrough book; I hope so, his stylish craft deserves attention.
The colours of Alejandro Sanchez are a feast for the eyes, while Rob Leigh lays down the fonts with his usual imagination – the letterman-style treatment for the clever story title, Admissions, is just one example.
Sandoval, Tarragona and Sanchez also provide the cover, and it’s rather unusual for a first issue, not showcasing a bunch of heroes, but showing a class of rightly rattled students. I like it.
Teen Titans Academy #1 is a great-looking comic book full of satisfying character introductions and teases, along with a smattering of mystery and a delightfully bombastic obligatory fight scene. This teacher gives it a gold star.