“Teen Titans” #0 is an example of uninspired writing. As Red Robin himself declares in this issue, “… the narrative got away from me.” Unfortunately, that declaration is not a fourth-wall-breaking comics masterpiece. Quite the contrary — it’s the whiny excuse of a brilliant teenager whose cliche lifestyle has allowed him to endanger his loved ones with his brilliance.
Scott Lobdell keeps the basic premise that Tim Drake figures out who Batman is and thereby wins a golden ticket of sorts to become the Dark Knight’s protege. Lobdell tweaks the story a little too much, like over-ratcheting the bolts of some ready-to-assemble furniture to the point where the surrounding wood splinters and breaks. He makes Tim Drake too perfect and adds a cat and mouse game that makes no sense for the character of Batman and seems pedantic and oafish. If a teenager can figure out the secret of Batman, couldn’t a super villain with more motivation to divine the secret?
Lobdell then skews everything even further once Batman and Red Robin agree to form a partnership. The story itself reads like an early reader storybook told from a sidekick’s point of view, except Lobdell narrates the tale through the voice of Batman. More than once, I had to pause reading simply to check the shading of the caption boxes to be sure I was still reading the words of Batman.
Tyler Kirkham’s art is a nice choice for this tale (and possibly “Teen Titans”) as he brings a fiery energy and kinetic sense of emotion to this story. Accompanied by a trio of inkers whose influence shifts Kirkham’s art from Todd Nauck-like to Norm Breyfogle-influenced, the visuals of this book are at times supremely detailed and masterfully laid out and other times harried and uncomfortable. The upside to that is those shifts actually follow the tone of the story. Andrew Dalhouse compliments Kirkham’s moody work on this series rather nicely, helping to smooth the inker-triad transition over the course of twenty pages.
While the story does summarize the start of Red Robin’s career, it does so in a manner that compromises the character and integrity of Batman. That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the fact that this story ignores the rest of the Teen Titans save for one panel late in the issue. In “Teen Titans” #0, I expect a Titans-centric story. Instead I got “Red Robin” #0 under a “Teen Titans” #0 cover. I haven’t been closely following the adventures depicted in “Teen Titans” and there’s nothing in this comic book to bring me back. This story is one that needed to be told, sure, but it certainly could have been more engaging. It could have maybe even been more intelligently marketed, perhaps in “DC Universe Presents” or as a series of backups for a stretch of time in one of the Batman-starring comics. As an issue of “Teen Titans,” it is simply unremarkable.