New direction, more attitude, in your face. That's the tagline for this first issue of a new Teen Titans volume. That, and the preview that ran in DC titles last week, had me expecting to be annoyed by this issue. Well, doesn't 'attitude' equal 'annoying'? It certainly did when attitude was zeitgeisty.
Happily, the title characters here aren't irritating in the least. Wonder Girl, Red Robin, Bunker, Raven, Beast Boy ... while different in personality, they all come across as decent kids as they rescue a school bus from terrorists. The bad guys are out to do something nasty involving Star Labs, but our heroes aren't going to stand by and let that happen.
Cue plenty of action, planned and improvised, which lets the young metahumans show they're not beginners any more. They know how to use their powers, they work well together - they're pretty much unrecognisable as the sour-faced, backbiting loners who populated the last run. OK, so Red Robin is still rather dour, but he is from Gotham.
I'm not sure writer Will Pfeifer is trying to say anything with his story, other than 'I'm relaunching the team in a less New 52, more classic mode' (well, there is a tolerance message, but that's pretty much Bunker's every breath). I'll take that, and thank him.
There's no forced 'edginess', no one is on the verge of villainy. A few baddies die, but there's no revelling in it and, while I'd rather they faced the courts, well, it serves 'em right. Perhaps as the story develops - this issue works as a one-and-done but it's also the beginning of something bigger - we'll see something of Pfeifer's world view.
For now, though, I'm just delighted to see a story of the newest Titans that doesn't make me retch. Lots of camphones at the end of the issue set up the apparent direction which sees the Titans as celebrities. It's an overdone concept which doesn't excite me in the least, but Pfeifer wrote one of my favourite Aquaman runs - if you missed the Sub Diego stories, dive into the back issue bins - so he gets some leeway.
Using Star Labs is a nice nod to the New Teen Titans launch of the Eighties, and it also allows some pre-New 52 DC characters to enter the revamped continuity.
I spot Josiah Power of the Power Company super-team and Manchester Black of the Elite. Anyone recognise Jensen or 'Sir'?
Kenneth Rocafort's art is clean, energetic, full of fascinating layouts that don't get in the way of the storytelling. New York looks fantastic, and I appreciate the character he puts into the non-speaking bystanders. I like his take on all the characters, but Wonder Girl really does need straps on that costume. She'd be falling out of it every ten seconds, and isn't Cassie Sandsmark meant to be an adventurer, a practical type?
Rocafort's work is coloured by Dan Brown, who makes things fresh without being too bright, while John J Hill's letters are sharp and welcome.
In an age when relaunches almost inevitably bring a price bump, kudos to DC for holding the Teen Titans line at $2.99. And even more thanks for giving the team a second chance at stardom. On the basis of this issue, it might just work.