Titans: The Complete First Season – A Review

Have you heard that DC Comics started its own streaming service with original content? It’s true. Their debut show, Titans, has concluded its first season and is now available on DVD and BluRay. (Special thanks to the Normal Public Library for purchasing it after my request to do so.)

I have to tell you, I felt very excited to see this series. I had no idea what the quality of the story would be, the ability of the actors, or the caliber of the production due to the infancy of DC Universe.com. I’ve got good news. Generally speaking, I give Titans high marks for all three.

Before I explore these aspects, though, I want to make it clear that this version of Titans is not for children. Yes, it has Robin, Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire, but these are not the iterations of the cartoon series. This is a violent depiction laden with profane language.

With that being said, though the series is very uneven, I enjoyed it. I say it’s uneven because sometimes it’s a horror show, sometimes it’s an action show, sometime’s it’s a science fiction show, and sometimes it’s a drama. It never quite figured out how to be all of those things at once.

However, the production value is very high. I couldn’t believe just how good everything looked. The only moment in the eleven shows that looked “fake” was whenever Beast Boy became a tiger. They tried their best with the CGI tiger, but it never quite looked right. Otherwise, it all looked great. Robin’s costume, Starfire’s powers, the sets, the locations, the stunt work–it all impressed.

I thought the overall story had some issues as well. For the most part, it totally engaged me. Unfortunately, near the end of the season, Raven’s father and mother become a focal point and the show lost a bit of steam there. Up until that point, though, I thought the show made a lot of really smart choices with how it slowly revealed details about each character. There are major differences between what we know about the Titans and what this show chooses to do with them, but their essence essentially remains true to their source material.

For me, the standout story line actually centered on Hawk and Dove. I found them to be the most capable actors with the most captivating arc. I also liked them the best, which is ironic because I’ve always found Hawk and Dove to be uninteresting during my forty years of comic book reading.

I also thought Anna Diop was incredibly charismatic. I won’t argue against the fact that they deviate from established Starfire lore quite a bit, but I feel they really made this character work perfectly for the show’s general tone. Another standout includes Curran Walters, who plays Jason Todd, the second Robin. Walters’ accurately captures Todd’s cockiness and charisma, his spirit and darkness. I loved it when Dick Grayson and Jason Todd shared the scene together, and I love that Titans was brave enough to go that deeply into the Batman canon.

There were two things that did not work for me at all, though. The first is the decision they made regarding Raven’s father. If you know the character at all, you understand that he is the demon Trigon. Trigon is a giant, red, muscular, multi-eyed monster. Titans took the easy way out with him, and it totally deflated the series’ ending as a result. Furthermore, though Batman’s shadow hung over the entire season, the final episode really made it all about Batman. I thought this was a serious misstep after having worked so hard to establish Dick Grayson as a fully realized character disconnected from Batman. Everyone and everything took a backseat to Batman in what should have been an episode that pulled out all the stops for the main players. We can’t be expected to take these characters seriously if the show itself would rather be focusing on Batman.

Nonetheless, I had a great time with Titans. It is extremely violent, bloody, and profane, but it’s also brave, bold, and stylish. I’ve already seen some teasers for season two and I’m very excited. It appears that Superboy, Aqualad, Ravager, and Jericho will be appearing as well. If Titans can simply settle on a consistent tone, it’s got everything it needs to be a hit.

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Teen Titans: Earth One by Lemire and Dodson – A Book Review

Jeff Lemire is always hit or miss with me, but when I saw that Teen Titans: Earth One received positive criticism and when I found it at my local library, I had to give it a shot.

I’m glad I did.

The Earth One concept is an interesting one at DC Comics.  They’ve had success with both Superman and Batman under the Earth One banner, and the idea is basically that these heroes are debuting in modern times in the world we live.  The biggest advantage is that they are completely free of any previous baggage.  Anything goes with the Earth One titles, but honestly, Superman and Batman remained largely unchanged and didn’t take enough risks.

Teen Titans, on the other hand, made a very large break from their original incarnations, and, in my opinion, it’s a positive one.

Lemire has a very good handle on Starfire, Changeling, Cyborg, Raven, Jericho, and Terra.  The plot is that Starfire has been held captive since her arrival as a baby on Earth.  Scientists used her DNA to run experiments, and those experiments resulted in a certain group of teenagers developing amazing abilities that are largely beyond control.  Raven looks on from afar at her Navajo reservation, connected to the group for reasons we don’t fully understand, but always prepared to intervene when necessary.

This book is definitely a case of familiar names in very different situations.  In my open, Lemire has done a fantastic job of keeping these characters’ essence the same while remaining unpredictable.  In an industry that sometimes becomes stifled by its own intricate serialization, Teen Titans finds a way to be fresh and exciting.

Terry Dodson, as always, creates fluid, beautiful images that rocket the story forward.  His perspectives and layouts are always masterful.  It’s a fun book to read, but it’s even more fun to view.

Near the end of the book we are introduced to a favorite Teen Titan and the groundwork is laid for even more to appear in the future.  Teen Titans: Earth One is a satisfying origin story, and it certainly leaves the door wide open for a sequel.

Traditional Teen Titan fans will find this unusual angle interesting, and the casual fan will have no trouble getting to know these characters and joining in the adventure.  I look forward to seeing where Lemire and Dodson go next.