If you were a fan of the original two seasons of “Young Justice” as they were coming out, it’s been pretty rough to get into their comic book counterpart. Thanks in no part to factors like “The New 52”, constant events and relaunches, the last decade has left the Teenage heroes of the DC Universe in shambles. That doesn’t even include everything horrible that has happened to Dick Grayson alone.
Since their first appearance in “The Brave and the Bold” #54 in 1964, the Teen Titans were an early standard for Teenage Superhero groups, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and later incarnations of the X-Men (the New Mutants and Gen X). However, the issue with these early days of the Titans is they are quite a product of their time. While they did portray a group of relatable young experienced teenagers learning to work together, they were also written by a bunch of middle-aged men in the 1960s’s assuming what teenagers at the time were into. With mod fashion and odd lingo, it was the 1960s version of the “How Do You Do, Fellow Kids?” meme.
However, last year in Mark Waid’s “Batman/Superman: World’s Finest” ongoing series (a book that takes place in the earlier days of the hero’s careers) we got a brief issue devoted to seeing Dick Grayson’s Teen Titans in its earlier days, and being a critically acclaimed book. We were fortunate enough to get a spin-off of the ongoing in the form of a mini-series called “World’s Finest: Teen Titans”.
Right off the bat, Mark Waid gives a brilliant interpretation of the original lineup of Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Speedy, and Wondergirl. Mark Waid also makes a retcon by establishing Bumblebee as already an established member, who – despite the recent character push in DC Superhero Girls – DC Comics has been underutilizing for years.
We get to see a young version of Titans set in our time, a group of Teens who are trying to be social media savvy, as a sort of community outreach group similar to what Beast Boy was doing in “Young Justice: Outsiders”. However, it is more in the background in order to put more focus on the other characters, and despite this being a mini-series of a crowded team book, we have each character of the team getting fleshed out and have their own little character arcs.
I have to admit, some of the character arcs do feel like a retread. The team having trouble trusting Dick Grayson due to his reluctance to reveal his identity has been done to death for a very long time. Aside from that, we also get some refreshing ideas, such as a blooming romantic relationship between Aqualad and Wondergirl, who bond of their knowledge of the Greek pantheon and both being fish out of water. We even get a slower issue involving Kid Flash hosting a slumber party with Aqualad and Speedy. I even appreciated the inclusion of more obscure members such as Golden Eagle, Omen, and Gnarrk.
The antagonists introduced are characters who are obsessive fans, rejected team members, and even Artemis Crock, who have all formed together their own team, the Terror Titans, who have all been given terrific redesigns. I admit it is a tad cliche, but it’s refreshing that the original lineup can now claim to have fought original opponents.
It was a good call to not redesign any of the character costumes to upgrade with the times, since they are all very iconic. The art on its own is also top-notch; the bright colors and expressions we see from characters work really well with the tone of the series – for instance, my favorite page in this series is Donna Troy coming out of a demolition derby.
Overall I highly recommend checking out this series if you are a fan of the Titans, Young Justice, or just teen superhero books in general. It does a great job establishing a mythos and status quo for the early years of the Titans while fleshing out other characters. I am personally hoping that maybe this spin-off mini-series can result in yet another spin-off, mainly Bumblebee, because despite her increased role in the past 50 years, comic readers have no idea how she got her powers. With Mark Waid’s full workload, it seems unlikely though, however, I loved Emanuela Lupacchino’s artwork and I hope to see more comics with her work.
“World’s Finest: Teen Titans” #1-6 was published monthly between July and December 2023 (to be found at your local comic shop or ordered online), or can be read now with a subscription to “DC Infinite Ultra”, the digital library app of DC Comics. A hardcover collection is scheduled to be released May 21st, 2024.