Stan Lee once said, “Every comic book is someone’s first.” I quote “The Man” in this context because the philosophy that every comic book story should be told with the new reader in mind is so rare these days and that ideal seems to permeate every issue of the DC Rebirth Titans comic. Indeed, the most impressive aspect of Titans #13 is how it serves as both an excellent introductory issue as well as a continuation of the series’ many subplots.
As the issue opens, The Titans are invading a laboratory run by HIVE – a sinister organization that is stealing people’s superpowers and reselling them under the guise of a legitimate business that is meant to help metahumans gain control of their abilities. Karen Duncan (a.k.a. Bumblebee) went to HIVE and gained the control over her shrinking and flying powers that she sought but had all memory of her husband, Malcolm, and newborn daughter erased for reasons unknown.
The search for Karen’s memories leads The Titans into to a conflict with Mr. Binder and The Hivemind – an AI that can give Mr. Binder any metahuman power he desires from a catalog full of options. Naturally the first one he chooses is Body Multiplication – what better power for fighting seven superheroes at once?!
The fight with Mr. Binder takes up most of the issue and it’s a good fight scene as these things go. What makes Titans stand out as a series, however, is the focus on the relationships between our heroes and their own personal dramas. As the cover art suggests, one subplot involves Roy “Arsenal” Harper’s jealousy at an apparent romance building between his crush, Donna Troy, and speedster Wally West. Romance is also blooming between team psychic Omen and the Atlantean powerhouse Tempest, though the conflict between them is one of trust – both because of Tempest’s being overprotective of the physically weaker Omen and because of a premonition Omen had that someone… possibly even the man she loves… will soon betray The Titans!
This sort of romantic mishmash is par for the course in superhero team books, of course, but Dan Abnett’s scripts makes even the most tired of tropes seem new. He also manages a unique wrinkle in one subplot involving Wally West, which apparently developed during the recent Lazarus Contract crossover. A recently diagnosed heart condition now limits Wally’s ability to access his super-speed powers safely and (oh bitter irony!) The Fastest Man Alive has to slow down or die. I’ve always been fascinated by superheroes whose powers require them to make some kind of sacrifice in order to be a hero and Wally’s dilemma is one I can sympathize with as someone with a familial history of heart problems.
Most of the series’ long-running art team remains, but Titans #13 sees the premiere of a new penciler – V. Kenneth Marion. I’ve never seen Marion’s work before but a glance at his biography reveals a wide variety of previous professional credits. Marion’s style draws obvious influence from Michael Turner and Jim Lee’s 1990s work, though Marion has a slightly stronger sense of proportion. Unfortunately, Marion’s work suffers in that many of his poses seem forced. Thankfully, unlike with previous penciler Brett Booth, this never becomes distracting from the story at large – merely an occasional oddity. Inker Norm Rapmund and Colorist Andrew Dalhouse continue to deliver their usual stellar work.
Bottom Line: If you haven’t given Titans a try, now is the time to do so.