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Teen Titans: Earth One, Vol. 1

Review

Teen Titans: Earth One, Vol. 1

Written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Terry Dodson

Continuity is one of comics’ most powerful assets. Decades of publication history for a particular title lend great weight to story arcs that take advantage of that history, and in the hands of the right author, a hero (or villain) can hold an almost endless complexity of character. Which is why origin stories are so damned hard. When a writer takes on a series reboot, she must portray a beloved hero before that hero ever was, and create a convincing genesis that feels true to longtime fans, but also fresh. And she must do this in a way that takes advantage of the character’s history without allowing it to sap the new story of its own poignancy.

Enter Earth One’s Teen Titans in a triumphant debut, penned by the seemingly limitless Jeff Lemire and drawn by Terry Dodson. In a universe entirely lacking heroes --- meaning traditional Titan lead Robin/Nightwing is as absent as the Dark Knight --- Oregon teenagers Victor Stone, Gar Logan, Tara Markov and Joey Wilson develop strange powers overnight, and as far as they know, there’s no precedent.

"The Titans have a storied history, and ... with this first installment, Lemire and Dodson more than prove that they have the chops to add to that legacy."

But there is a clue, and her name is Starfire. She appears to them in visions the night of the change, and she’s in terrible pain. The fledgling Titans have little choice but to track her to a lighthouse not far from town, where they come face to face with a secret that has been kept from them since birth. And in New Mexico, on a Navajo reservation, a young seer named Raven watches them all.

Lemire hits all the right points here --- Tara (Terra) and her self-doubt and stony rage, Victor (Cyborg) and his fear and burgeoning self-loathing, Gar (Changeling/Beast Boy) and his goofiness and deep compassion, Raven’s higher purpose --- while not telling too much, and dangling juicy bits of comics lore for the familiar. The form of Slade Wilson’s appearance is unexpected but welcome, and the twist on his relationship with son Joey (Jericho) augurs quite the story coming down the road. Starfire serves mostly as a plot device, but the slow build to a meeting with Raven seems to suggest that she’ll be playing a major role quite soon. And the confrontation between Victor and his monstrous mother, Elinore, has dramatic ambitions bordering on the Shakespearean.

Dodson’s art hits the right balance between his personal style and a cartooniness reminiscent of the now-classic Cartoon Network show, but it’s his wife, Rachel, who really brings this work to life. Part of the appeal of the Titans is how conflicted they feel about their powers --- at the end of the day, they’re all just teenagers, and learning to cope with the burdens of one’s identity in adolescence is hard enough without looking in the mirror and seeing a robotic eye gaze back. Dodson’s inks cast the characters in just enough shadow at just the right moments, hinting at the darkness that lurks beneath the surface.

The Titans have a storied history, and the Marv Wolfman-George Pérez team that brought them to fame in the 80s is as hallowed a coupling as comics gets. With this first installment, Lemire and Dodson more than prove that they have the chops to add to that legacy. Teen Titans, go!

Reviewed by John Maher on November 19, 2014

Teen Titans: Earth One, Vol. 1
Written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Terry Dodson

  • Publication Date: November 25, 2014
  • Genres: Graphic Novel
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • ISBN-10: 1401245560
  • ISBN-13: 9781401245566