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DC emphasizes the "Teen" part of "Teen Titans" in this engaging but uneven take on the classic team.
If DC Comics loves anything more than its reboots, it's alternate timeline stories. (So much, in fact, that the company plans to replace the New 52 with them for two months in 2015.) But for new readers, an ideal alternate universe stomping ground is Earth One, a line of standalone graphic novels telling superhero stories in completely new continuities. With only a few books to its name (Superman and Batman, specifically) Earth One has shown it can embrace the spirit of classic characters while changing their backstories almost entirely.
Now DC Comics has set its sights on Teen Titans, designing a 21st Century version of the classic young superhero team. The result is a story that strongly emphasizes the teenage part of "teenage superheroes" with an origin story going in a completely different direction than any established Titans roster to date. Regardless, there's just enough familiarity to draw long-time Titans fans, and solid world-building to engage first-time readers.
Sadly, Teen Titans: Earth One's greatest strength is also its greatest fault; They're actually behaving like high-school students. While that's meant to make the heroes more relatable, it has the effect of sending teenage angst levels through the roof with its "the adult world is completely against us" metaphor. But if you don't mind that, or can get past it, this makes for an enjoyable read.
Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Cam Smith, Brad Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date Nov. 18, 2014
In the original DC line, Teen Titans was introduced as a "Justice League for the sidekicks", where characters like Robin and Kid Flash had their own adventures and relationships without paternal superheroes looking over their shoulder. Eventually this expanded into an original cast of characters like Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Raven, who became iconic figures in their own right.
But since every Earth One book assumes superheroes don't exist yet (let alone teenage sidekicks) Teen Titans: Earth One takes a very different approach. The story focuses on modern versions of the New Teen Titans cast, each of whom are no different than your average high school student until they start manifesting bizarre visions and powers on the same night. Fleeing their homes and stumbling into each other, the Titans follow the vision trail and uncovers a secret facility that has been experimenting on them for years.... which happens to be run by their parents.
As you likely can tell from that description, Teen Titans combines the entire teenage superhero spectrum. You've got everything from the puberty-as-superpowers metaphor of X-Men to the "my parents are out to get me" theme of Runaways. And for the most part, it fits together quite nicely. Jeff Lemire and Terry Dodson have done a great job portraying the tumults of teenagers and awkward high school discomforts in a convincing way, making the inevitable power manifestations both surprising and believable.
The core team consists of Victor Stone (Cyborg), Tara Markov (Terra), Gar Logan (Beast Boy), and Joseph Wilson (Jericho) although the book barely references their superhero names. Instead, keeping with the teenage theme, these characters all behave like typical high school students, not younger, reasonable versions of superpowered adults. Vic and Tara are the smokers who don't bother seeking their parent's approval anymore. Gar is the clown who doesn't mind being laughed at, since people are paying attention to him. And Joseph's time at private school means he relates far more to the teachers than fellow students. They're not necessarily likable, but they are relatable, especially if high school is still fresh in your mind.