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Teen Titans Annual is Another Great Issue of an Under-Appreciated Comic

Over the last few months Teen Titans has quietly become one of the best superhero titles DC Comics is currently publishing. When Adam Glass and Bernard Chang took over the series with Issue #20, a new team was put together with a more dangerous goal than you might have expected. Led by the hot-headed Damian Wayne, these new Teen Titans were a bit rough around the edges but forged a believable, meaningful team dynamic.

Teen Titans Annual #1 furthers the team's dynamics in two parallel stories. One follows Damian as he confronts Jason Todd regarding the latter's possible involvement in the team's most recent botched mission. The other story focuses on the rest of the team members who square off against what might possibly be the most obnoxious villain of 2019 (and it's only January, folks). Usually when annuals have more than one story in them, there's a weak portion in the mix, or the narrative tone is unbalanced because multiple creative teams are working on different stories. Thankfully, Teen Titans Annual #1's bifurcated narrative feels like the A-plot and B-plot of the same story, and as a result, the entire project is strong.

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The consistency is due in no small part to Glass writing both sections (as well as a brief epilogue), and is helped by the two art teams having similar styles in terms of staging action and reaction panels. Now, I'd be lying if I didn't say I preferred one of these two portions more than the other. The stuff with Damian and Jason is just plain awesome, and the fight these two throw down in (which isn't a spoiler because it's really the whole selling point of the issue) is simply amazing. In fact, it's one of the more brutal hand-to-hand action moments the series has seen since Glass took over as writer. Ryan Benjamin and Richard Friend's artwork certainly speak to the reptilian part of your brain that still finds pleasure in seeing superhero comics drawn similarly to how they were in the '90s (specifically X-Men-era Kubert Brothers).

But while I could have been completely content with Robin Vs. Robin for the the entire thirty-plus page count, the second story is also really solid. In it, the team get entangled with an obnoxious gamer kid who has some sort of mind control ability. This section has a lot of humor, which mostly works, but it also contains the only real problem I often have with what is otherwise a near perfect title: Eye-rolling teenage pop culture references. This sort of thing bothered me when I was fifteen, and reading them now in my mid-30s, it's even more cringe-inducing. Luckily, it's not bad enough to sink the story, thanks in large part to the art team of Jose Luis and Jordi Tarragona. The action scenes are exciting, and while it doesn't lean into sketchy '90s territory, it is consistent in quality.

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Really, the only quibble with the second story (besides the forced pop culture references) is how Crush is underutilized. She's a compelling new character, and you just want to read more of her. The emotional volatility found in combining a teenage girl with the snarling attitude of Lobo is a winning combination. She's a character built to start conflict and turmoil both inside and outside of the team's dynamic. But hey, Glass is only a handful of issues into his run, so who's to say this won't change?

Teen Titans Annual #1 is another great issue in a criminally underappreciated title. I really can't recommend this series enough, and for fans who can't get enough of it, this issue is more than mindless filler, which is something a lot of annuals are guilty of. This is just more of the good stuff, just served with a slightly different flavor.

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