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Around the DC Universe: Titans Debuts

Welcome once again to Graphic Policy’s regular roundup of the best, the worst and the goofiest content on DC Universe, the premier subscription service for all things from DC Entertainment.

Originals

A new heading gets added to the feature this week with the much anticipated debut of Titans, the first DC Universe exclusive original series. Early reactions to the series’ teaser material was decidedly mixed with many fans decrying what appeared to be it’s dark and gritty tone and the open use of profanity, especially when associated with a franchise with many younger fans thanks to the animated series Teen Titans (also available on DC Universe) and Teen Titans Go!

I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed the premier episode. The show is indeed dark and gritty but the tone works really well to provide a fresh take on thirty year old material that has been adapted several times before.

In this iteration Titans is very much an examination of young people coping with trauma, a theme that is all too relevant in the wake of #metoo and a generation of young veterans suffering from PTSD. Raven (played by Tegan Croft) is the real standout of the show and much of what occurs is seen from her viewpoint, something that makes the tone very apropos. I was a little worried that they were going to draw Dick Grayson too far towards the rendition from All Star Batman and Robin but Brenton Thwaites retains an essential likeability and vulnerability even while brutally wading into criminals with no quarter asked or given. “Fuck Batman” was a shocking and needlessly edgy line in the trailer but in the context in which it used it did work for me. I’d go so far as to say that this portrayal of the “boy” wonder might be the definitive live action one for a generation.

If there’s a flaw in the first episode it’s that Anna Diop’s Starfire is too far divorced from Robin and Raven’s plotline for much of the runtime. I get the feeling they were trying to make her mysterious but she came across as more of a distraction than anything else. Hopefully their paths will dovetail together next week. While I’m mostly over the idea of R (or in this case TV MA) rated superheroes I think it does work here.

One episode is not enough to justify $75 for a year’s subscription but if the rest of the season is as good or better a month or two to binge the entire thing will certainly be worth it.

Comics

I’ve been busy catching up on analog comics for the last two weeks so I haven’t spent as much time reading on DC Universe as usual. One title I did get to finish though was Hawk and Dove (2011) by artist Rob Liefeld, scripted for the first five issues by Sterling Gates and done solo by Liefeld for the last three. Hawk and Dove‘s cardinal sin isn’t that it’s bad; it’s that its boring. At no point in this run do we get a sense of the characters as anything other than generic super heroes. There’s nothing compelling here, no reason why we should care what happens to anyone. The story also seems to be a continuation of threads laid down in a previous series, an odd choice given that the New 52 was supposed to be a fresh start for all but the most successful DC titles. It’s not even worth it for Liefeld fans as his work here feels rushed and bland. It’s almost like he lost interest or ran out of time halfway through, producing  a forgettable story and a poor introduction to the characters.

A much better use of your time is the first six issues of All Star Western (2011) written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with artwork by Moritat. Bringing Jonah Hex to Gotham City in the late nineteenth century was a stroke of brilliance and making his sidekick Amadeus Arkham makes for some great odd couple dynamics as the two try to solve a series of murders similar to the Jack the Ripper killings. The art (reminiscent of the french master Moebius) is in turns sexy, and disturbing and never less than brilliant. The only bad thing I can say about these comics is that there are not enough of them. All Star Western ran longer than any of the other New 52 launch titles without traditional superhero leads and only the first trade’s worth of material is available to read online with a DC Universe subscription. Hopefully more will be uploaded soon as these are some of the best comics produced by a major company in recent years and the series only gets better from here.

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