Monday, January 7, 2008

A Return to Form in 2008!

It's never fun realizing you've been neglecting your responsibilities. The holidays, family and computer issues combined are just part of what's been happening to me the past few weeks, but I'm sorry to say a lack of posting on The Latest Issue can be squarely placed on my shoulders and all the other things happening in my life can be pretty much disregarded as just unwelcome distractions. I've tried several times since December 16 to get a new post written, from a summary review of the just-ended World War Hulk, to the new Legion of Super-heroes run with Jim Shooter at the helm, to a Stevereads and Moving Picture Trash-inspired Best and Worst of 2007. Sadly, all these attempts were scrapped before a single paragraph was completed, as my attentions were drawn elsewhere.

I like to write for the Latest Issue, and hate to think I've let down my loyal readers with my neglect and my own issues. So, with enough of my ramblings out of the way (don't you hate when people whine about their lives?) here it is, the first Latest Issue of 2008: Teen Titans, Year One.

Written by Amy Wolfram (in her first print book; She's better known as a writer on such animated series as Teen Titans, Legion of Superheroes, and Xiaolin Showdown) and with pencils by Karl Kerschl (Adventures of Superman, Flash), Titans is both a retelling and revamping of the Teen Titan's origins, as young proteges struggling to establish their identities apart from their mentors. Book one reintroduces us to four original members of the Teen Titans franchise: Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl.

One of the first things we notice about these characters is how they're properly portrayed as their namesakes suggest, larger than life super-humans, but teens all the same. When we first see Robin, he's deep in the Batcave, using the computer to try and find out information on a sneaky cat burglar who's been terrorizing Gotham (His screen name: BOYWONDER07) by contacting other young superheroes. Before he can get any answers, a particularly bad-ass Batman pulls him away from the computer to do what Batman's always done: patrol rooftops looking for anyone suspicious. It's somewhat a metaphor for the generational differences of the superhuman community ("In my day, superheroes went out to fight crime, they didn't sit in front of the fancy-dance computer all day first") and also sets some friction between the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder not seen since George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell represented those roles (or was that the friction between the franchise and the movie-going public?).

This in turn leads us to Wally West, better known as Kid Flash. He answers Robin's chat message too late to catch Robin, and we get to see Attention Deficit Disorder at it's greatest level. This is a kid who will run to Paris just to get some streetcar french fries, and that just to pass a few seconds while he awaits for Robin to respond. Instant messaging is too slow for Wally, and this part of the issue is by far the best paced part of the story.

After the Kid Flash intro, we're out-of-the-blue introduced to the next two teen superheroes, Aqualad and Wonder Girl. Of the four, Aqualad is the least believable to become a Teen Titan. He's portrayed as downright cowardly of sea life... sea life he's had his whole life to this point to get used to. He's extremely timid and despite the one hilarious part where he shrieks like a schoolgirl in front of a grown-up Aquaman, he's not very believable as a character who will eventually become one of the mythic teenage superheroes. Wonder Girl is almost as bad, but doesn't hold a candle to Aqualad's pathetic-ness. Her character actually resembles the closest to her original depiction, a naive, cute-boy-crushing, kinda-clumsy little girl who doesn't look like much, but could probably put you into orbit if she wanted. She seems to be searching for her mentor Wonder Woman, but with no explanation as to why. Not a lot of time is dedicated to these two characters, though that will probably change in future issues.

Despite the allusions to the four characters, it's really Robin's story that takes up this first issue (with Kid Flash a distant second) as he comes to grips with the fact that Batman is not himself (as a little bat-on-bird domestic violence proves), and seems to be the most likely to propose the soon-to-be-formed Titans.

After the main story is a little two-page mini story of a tiny green fish who finds himself in an undersea adventure that promises to unfurl over the issues of this run. Although it's never explicitly mentioned, it seems likely that Beast Boy (no doubt one of Wolfram's favorite characters) is getting his own story along with the Titan reboot. I like Beast Boy too, and I can't wait to see how he's portrayed as a full-fledged Titan if the series goes that far.

I really liked Teen Titans, Year One for a variety of reasons. The art of Kerschl is fantastic (and by extension Steph Peru on colors is the same) and perfectly captures each of these characters' settings, from the stark blackness of the Batcave to the bright colors of Kid Flash's suburban home, to the richness of detail underwater and the bustling metropolis that is the big city. There character designs are fantastic, if you can get past the overly-sharp elbows of the characters. Who needs superpowers when you could kill someone with those pointy elbows? Seriously, though, it's a minor art quibble, one that is more noticeable on the cover than in the book itself.

If I liked the artwork, I loved the writing in this book. This may be Wolfram's first comic, but you can definitely draw the connections between here and the Teen Titans television series. Wolfram mixes in equal parts drama and comedy and has a particular knack for dialogue that can come from being a successful TV writer. The characters come off for the most part as believable due to this chatter, interconnectivity that you need to make a successful title. This may be the beginning in a new career for Wolfram.

So there it is! Teen Titans, Year One is the perfect way to start off 2008 for new comic fans. I was never a fan of the Titans until the TV show aired starting in 2003, and with that pedigree behind this new relaunch, I'm excited to see how Year One proceeds, and this will definitely be a title I keep my eyes on for the near future. After all, I don't read nearly enough DC titles this good.