Teen Titans: Earth One Carves a New Legacy
By Ashley V. Robinson
With GREEN LANTERN: EARTH ONE now in stores, we’re taking a look at the Earth One books in general, revisiting the now-classic standalone tales that set the stage for the newest graphic novel.
If you’ve read any Teen Titans article I’ve written here (and there are many) you’ve likely noticed that I have a huge pro-Teen Titans bias. I’ve always been very forward with it, so I’m being forward with it again, just so you know what you’re in for with this look at TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE. If you’re back following my breakdown of BATMAN: EARTH ONE, welcome to more alternate Earths goodness. Teen Titans: Earth One is one of my very favorite Earth One titles so I am super excited to be writing about it for you today.
By the by, I would love for you to let me know in the comments which of the currently available Earth One titles is your favorite: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans or Green Lantern?
Something that has always drawn me to each and every incarnation of the Teen Titans is the prevalence of legacy characters. I live for legacy characters and sidekicks! So, what does Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1 do? It presents the reader with a Teen Titans team that is made up exclusively of the non-legacy characters. WHAT!?
I know! Jeff Lemire, as the writer of this collection, must be absolutely insane, right? Well, he might be, but if he is, then he’s an insane genius. His focus on Raven, Starfire, Terra, Cyborg, Beast Boy and Joey gives each of the characters some fascinating definition that they sometimes didn’t get in the regular Teen Titans or Titans titles because more prominent characters like Nightwing or Wonder Girl needed to drive the narrative.
I’m not sure if this was a Lemire-driven idea or an editorial mandate, but I think it is to the great strength of the book and really serves to set it apart from the powerful Teen Titans legacy.
Artist Terry Dodson is definitely no slouch either. More than in any of the other Earth One titles, Teen Titans: Earth One renders these familiar characters freshly designed. Comic fans know that Dodson is a tremendous talent and force in the industry—particularly when supported by his wife, Rachel Dodson, as he is here—and his designs for these Teen Titans transcend the force of the story that is being told in the book. They’re so stunning that they were even made into a line of action figures, and you had better know that I own each and every one of them!
Rather than spoiling the entire plot of volume one, because I do want you to read it and graduate on to volume two, I want to focus on the characters that I think have the most compelling Earth One counterpart.
First is my beloved Raven. If you were a weird girl who grew up liking comic books, there’s a good chance that you shared my affinity for Raven growing up and through this very day. This reimagining of her taps into the wildly underrepresented Native American community. In fact, the book opens with a dream sequence of Raven’s that features a highly creepy version of her spirit animal. There’s a healthy folding in of Native American spiritualism that I think both serves the role that we are used to seeing Raven take on while maintaining a completely singular point of view. It’s something that pays off more in the second volume, but I know you are going to find it super fascinating and then agonize over the intervening pages.
Tara and Vic are in an intimate relationship in a way that rings true for two high school kids who have never kissed anyone else before. They share the kind of love that you write coming-of-age movies about and that touches your heart when you are thirteen or fourteen years old. What I love about the pairing up of this couple is that, from their classic counterparts, never would I ever have expected Tara Markov and Victor Stone to be able to share a bond on this level. There is a healthy dose of “You don’t understand me, Dad!” in both of their characters. As they uncover the truth of their respective powers (Victor’s gradual transition into Cyborg is another visual stunner as executed by the Dodsons), their independent attitudes wind up saving their lives when a very classic—arguably the best—Teen Titans villain threatens their safety and well-being.
I also want to give a super quick shout out to the Teen Titans: Earth One incarnation of Starfire. Like Raven, she has more to do when the second volume rolls around. Here she’s mostly just incredibly striking and evocative, and frankly, scary in a way that you might not be used to seeing from the aliens of the larger DC Universe. SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE does a good job at addressing just how scary it would be to discover yourself in this type of situation, and I think Lemire and Dodson are able to ring that same bell here with Starfire.
For my money, Teen Titans: Earth One does a phenomenal job at crafting a completely unique world with some names attached that resonate greatly for fans like me. The fact that these names are amongst some of my favorites in the world only adds to the character examination and overall reading experience. I loved this debut volume and I hope you will too!
Ashley V. Robinson writes about the DC Universe for DCComics.com and covers The Flash for the #DCTV Couch Club. Look for her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson.
TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE VOLS. 1-2 by Jeff Lemire, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson and Andy MacDonald are available in print or as a digital download. Look for the newest Earth One graphic novel, GREEN LANTERN: EARTH ONE, now in comic shops.