Like “Suicide Squad,” I’m not certain this title needed a hard reboot, but with a creative team change-up, “Teen Titans” #1, written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by Kenneth Rocafort, feels fresh and welcoming, exactly what “Teen Titans” #1 should have been back in September of 2011. The Titans on hand are Red Robin, who serves as a mission commander through much of this issue, Wonder Girl, Beast Boy, Bunker and Raven.
Pfeifer goes to the comic book playbook and drops in Generic Threat X to plow through “Teen Titans” #1, giving the young heroes a point to rally around and showcase for the writer to illustrate the characters and personalities on the roster. It serves the readers well to learn who the main characters are, introduces a potential supporting cast, offers some connections to the larger universe, but really doesn’t deliver the mission statement for the not-so-new team. That threat takes form of a bus barreling through New York City, loaded with students from a girls’ school in Delaware and commandeered by a handful of thugs. Heading up the henchmen is a mysterious hooded and masked figure who is referred to several times as “she” and “her,” giving readers a clue that just don’t come through in word balloons, no matter how dynamic letterer John J. Hill makes them.
Hill’s lettering is solid throughout the issue, although a different descriptor font might be more effective when tagging characters and locations. For the most part, Hill keeps Rocafort’s art as uncluttered as possible, even if the artist doesn’t do that himself. Throughout “Teen Titans” #1, there are floating shapes in the white space of the pages. Sometimes the shapes make sense, like the media devices on page one, but other times it is almost as though Rocafort tried to create some decorative abstract shapes, but they really just hit the page as unnecessary noise. The storytelling, while mostly dynamic, takes a few bumps and bruises due to off-kilter and some unnecessarily reduced panels. One such example is when Wonder Girl exits the bus. Yes, the smaller panel allows the resultant explosion to blossom into more space, but the action in the small panel is just lost beyond the blur hit up with color from Dan Brown.
Rocafort’s art is not a total wash, however, as he brings some of the most gorgeously detailed animals to a “Teen Titans” comic since George Perez pushed the pencil towards Titans Tower. As a result, it appears as though Beast Boy might be a favorite for the artist in “Teen Titans” #1, and I’m actually looking forward to more diversity from Gar through Rocafort. The artist dumps scads of detail into the story, from shattering glass to smoky tendrils, taking the art over the top in this debut issue of DC’s teen team supreme. Some of his characters are likewise overly exaggerated to only-in-comic-books-extremes, such as Wonder Girl’s overly sultry uniform change, Gar’s snaggly teeth or Bunker’s pinched face. This is a different looking “Teen Titans” #1, and Rocafort’s excessively gritty and cluttered style actually works with Pfeifer’s story.
That’s not to say this is the best “Teen Titans” #1 ever, but it does offer promise. Pfeifer and Rocafort are getting to know the team, each other and their strengths and weaknesses with this book. The S.T.A.R. Labs crew lacks animation and emotion. One of the hostages just looks tired and worn out, not emotionally threatened. Bunker displays an incredibly short fuse and lashes out at a parent of one of the hostage children, in front of the kids. All of these are areas that don’t kill the concept, but could boost things if executed more strongly. Pfeifer and crew cut from the Bunker scene to finish out the issue, but there is no doubt this will be a launching point for future complications as the Titans essentially wrap up a done-in-one debut that seeds a number of subplots.