In "Titans: Rebirth" #1, Dan Abnett, Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund take the Titans back to one of their oldest and most meaningful themes: friendship. This issue is a classic cape comic, with detailed, house-style art, contrived fights between allies, on-the-nose dialogue and just a little deus ex machine to save the day. The most important ingredient, though, is heart; all the formulaic elements wouldn't work without it, and Abnett's script has warmth and feeling in spades. Admittedly, the lighter plot and frequent flashbacks may not win over new readers, but -- all told -- "Titans: Rebirth" #1 is a satisfying reunion for these characters.
As a prologue to the upcoming series, "Titans: Rebirth" #1 does an excellent job setting up the themes and goals of a team book. Wally West has come back to restore his friends' memories, but this seemingly central problem is solved pretty easily. Indeed, the solution is so out-of-the-blue that it's clear it's subsidiary to the real focus of the story: establishing these characters' connections. As he fights the other Titans, Wally doesn't narrate tactics or events. Instead, he says, "In their attacks, I see the very qualities that made them my friends." As each Titan gets his or her memories restored, they flash back to an ordinary, intimate moment of joy or solidarity from their friendship with Wally.
Of course, the last few pages offer some setup for the plot to come: "Something stole our memories... They attacked the world by changing its history." However, when Wally ends the issue by promising, "The Titans are going to figure this out... together," it's clear that "together" is the most relevant part of that promise. For new readers, this light plot and all of these flashbacks may not have much impact. For readers excited to see the Titans back together, though, it should make for some great reading.
Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund stick very close to DC's house style. The characters have chiseled, detailed bodies, where the reader can see every muscle involved in each movement. Andrew Dalhouse's colors are appropriately bright and shiny, and he wisely eases up the definition on the faces so that they feel more human. In addition, Booth's layouts are active and a touch playful. I particularly liked the way he calls out the similarities between photos and panels without getting too literal about it; it's a nice element in a book so concerned with memory.
Occasionally, though, characters' expressions look angrier, colder or more challenging than one might expect. In the flashbacks, the Titans all appear more distant than their dialogue would suggest. Of them all, Wally has the most open face -- appropriately, given the context -- and his reactions are quite expressive. In future issues, I'd like to see just a touch of that softness in some of the other characters, so that they're more readable. However, whatever my other concerns, the artistic team nails the most important moments. The group hug scene where Wally says, "I'm finally home" put a big old grin on my face.
As a whole, "Titans: Rebirth" #1 stages a lovely reunion for its characters and clearly establishes friendship as the true core of this series. Whether it will win new readers over is an open question, but fans of the Titans should come away quite pleased, and optimistic for the run ahead.