Teen Titans (vol.3) #1 (2003)

Teen Titans (vol.3) #1 (September, 2003)
“Teen Titans”
Writer – Geoff Johns
Penciller – Mike McKone
Inker – Marlo Alquiza
Colorist – Jeromy Cox
Letters – Comicraft
Associate Editor – Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

During the 2000’s there really wasn’t much of a “sense of urgency” in getting to the comic shop as they opened the doors.  Back during the height of speculation, you’d almost have to be there as the doors opened in order to keep up with your favorites.

The 2000’s were very different times… instead of paying the proprietor to have books held, shops were now offering (somewhat deep) discounts if you asked them to!

Just like reserving a rental car though… just because you have a book on your pull-list, doesn’t guarantee you’re going to receive it.  That was the case for me with this very issue of Teen Titans.

It was like nothing I’d seen since the early-1990’s… every single shop on my side of town was sold out on this issue.  I remember doing a ton of driving that night after work… before finally finding a single copy on the other side of town… probably a good hour and a half from my house.

In the years that followed, Marvel and DC both would try to release books with the “get there when the doors open” sort of hype… but, it would never actually result in me pounding the pavement and engaging in a “hunt”.  Not for Civil War, not for Infinite Crisis, not for the Death of Captain America, or even the Fantastic Four “Three” storyline… but for this issue of Teen Titans.  So weird.

Sooo… was it worth the expenditure in time and gasoline?  Let’s find out…

We open in Smallville, with Ma and Pa Kent… well, Auntie and Uncle Kent at this juncture… driving their “nephew” Conner to Smallville High School.  Superman has set up a civilian identity for the lad so he could have something resembling a “normal” childhood.  He arrives at school… scans the hallways, and decides “nahhhh”.

He thinks listening to chats about cow-tipping are pretty lame… so he instead heads out and makes some Superboy-inspired crop circles.  Seems just as lame, if you ask me.  Anyhoo, as he plays hillbilly hooky, Superman flies up to check on/lecture him.  During the discussion, the subject of the Teen Titans comes up.  Kon ain’t feeling it, but Superman urges him to at least consider it… and go back to class.

We shift scenes (we’re going to be doing that a lot) to Gotham City, where Robin is fighting Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum… while Batman chats him up about joining this new team of Teen Titans.  Tim’s a bit iffy…

Next stop, Keystone City where Jay Garrick and Wally West talk about what to do about their impulsive young speedster.  Jay suggests the Titans invite, but Wally ain’t all that keen… after all, he was a founding member of the team, for all that matters.  It seems like Wally wants to keep Impulse out of the Titans, like that can only be part of his history… guess he never read the late-Marv Wolfman run, because… Impulse was already a Titan!

Turns out the Bart overhears the conversation, and decides to pop his head in.  It’s here that we learn that young Master Allen has something of a photographic memory… he’s able to retain everything he reads (at super-speed, even!).  Not even Wally can say that!  This concept will be very important a couple of issues later.

Let’s head over to Gateway City, where Cassie Sandsmark (and her mother) is being reamed out by her Principal.  Ol’ lady Griffith doesn’t like her Pagan-ish practices… nor her claims of being granted superpowers by Athena Zeus.  Cassie flips out, and smashes a desk… which probably doesn’t help her case.

She rushes to the bathroom, where a couple of mean girls call her a Pagan.  As Cassie stares into the mirror… an odd, helmeted face stares back… that’ll come back around later.

Anyhoo, moments later she is joined by Starfire… who is there to issue an invite, and talk a little bit about Wonder Girls past and present.  Cassie almost immediately agrees to join up, and before we know it the pair are flying over San Francisco in a bee-yootiful double-page spread.

The pair arrive at the new Titans Tower… and Cassie is almost immediately approached by our old friend Gar Logan… and boy is he a pervert. Still, somehow far less creepy than the Millennial-skeevo he is in post-Rebirth Teen Titans.

We learn that Titans Tower was built by Cyborg with funding from the city of San Francisco… in exchange for “favors” to be named later.  It’s been awhile since I’ve read these early issues, so I couldn’t say if/how that rolls out.

While Cassie admires the architecture, a few old friends arrive.  Former Young Justice founders, Superboy, Impulse, and Robin head in… and it’s a bit of an icy reunion.  In the months since Donna Troy’s death in Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day, it would appear that the YJer’s relationship has been strained.

Over the P.A. system, Cyborg welcomes the newcomers… and suggests they get a good night sleep, as they have an early-morning orientation.  That night, neither Robin nor Superboy can get any sleep… and have an uncomfortable/almost contentious late-night chat.

Neither knows why they’re there.  Kon suggests it might just be because they miss their friends… which Robin doesn’t disagree with.  Suddenly, Robin gets an email… from Snapdragon.  I don’t remember who or what “Snapdragon” is… but the email includes Kon’s Cadmus Labs file…

… which reveals the name of the human donor of half of Superboy’s DNA makeup.  Uh-oh…

I remember not being blown away by this at release.  Maybe I wasn’t keen on the story… maybe I was just annoyed that they cancelled Young Justice to make way for it.  I will say I enjoy it more and more with subsequent rereads though… and, if I’m honest, I have a real hard time revisiting Young Justice these days.

I remember also not digging the art the first time around.  McKone’s style feels a bit loose… though, I suspect that might have something to do with the inking.  Noses look like putty… and like they’re just floating on the faces.  I used to get McKone mixed up with Georges Jeanty back then.  Both of their styles have grown on me over the years.

I’ve heard it said that Young Justice was like Junior High School (or middle school, if you prefer) and the Teen Titans was more like High School.  There is definitely something to that.  This issue wasn’t just an “assembling the forces” story… it was a story full of adolescent discomfort (or maybe I’m just projecting).

This felt very much like a “first day of school”.  There are familiar things and people around… while at the same time, everything’s new.  New places, new dynamics, new priorities… and boy did Cassie “grow up” over the Summer.  Use of the elder-Titans as mentors for the next generation is a great touch as well!  Really lends to the old feeling of “legacy” in the DC Universe.  And, boy is it nice to read a Beast Boy that doesn’t make me want to tear my comic in two!

I feel like Johns really captured the discomfort and uncertainty felt by the new team members.  Their “civilian” and “solo” lives are in all sorts of upheaval… and now they’ve all been thrown on this new team.  Really such an interesting dynamic.  Throw in a killer cliffhanger, and we’ve got ourselves a great opening issue.

Overall, one of the best runs for the Teen Titans starts right here.  I’d definitely recommend checking it out.  Thankfully, you won’t have to drive all over town to snag a copy, as it’s been collected (several times) and is available digitally.

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