Teen Titans (2003) #1-23, Outsiders #1-22

So when The Titans hit bottom, there was another series that was going pretty strong, which was Young Justice. I know that when I was on the DC forums back in the early 2000s there were a number of fans who referred to YJ as the “real” Teen Titans series. And maybe DC or at least Geoff Johns did as well because in 2003 both series were canceled and the teams were re-shuffled via the three-issue Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day miniseries. The conceit of the book was that a mysterious robot (who would go on to be named Indigo) from the future arrived in our time and started seeking out similar cybernetic organisms. One of those was a Superman robot that wound up going on a path of destruction that ultimately resulted in the deaths of Omen (aka Lilith) and Troia (aka Donna Troy), although the latter was resurrected on the last page of series, we just didn’t know where or when.

From there, the heroes are visibly shaken and the lineups are shaken up so that Geoff Johns and Judd Winick (who wrote Graduation Day) could offload members of the groups that they didn’t want (for example, Argent and Jessie Quick were shown the door) and then could create two teams with members they wanted. Johns launched Teen Titans, which took the team back to its sidekick roots, being the home of members of Young Justice who were sidekicks and would be overseen by older Titans like Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Starfire. Winick took Nightwing to The Outsiders where he worked with Arsenal, a resurrected Metamorpho, and a couple of new characters: Grace and Thunder (the daughter of Black Lightning). Teen Titans was the “light” to the Outsiders’ dark, even though both series got into their fair share of darkness.

From the jump, these books were a Titans renaissance. I wasn’t tuned into the fandom of the time–this would have been around the time I was getting married and was more or less passively collecting comics, but I made a point to do my best to read and keep up with these two, especially when their storylines overlapped. And they often did. Since both teams had characters who had long associations with the Titans, the two books were companions to one another. Both Johns and Winick wrote well-paced stories that had a lot of character development, but unlike the previous Titans series, I never felt that the character drama got in the way of the superheroing. They made me want to read every next issue.

Was it the case when I started this re-read? Pretty much. It had been a little while since I’d read through this first quarter or so of the Titans and Outsiders, but this was probably the part of this era that I remember best. In fact, it wouldn’t be until just after Infinite Crisis where I would start to lose interest in the series and comics altogether, but that’s for another entry. I blew through these in the better part of a couple of days and they were just as much comfort as some of the older Titans books that I’ve read countless times.

They’re not without their flaws, of course. Johns molded a number of the younger characters into who he wanted to see. I have to give him credit on some level, especially with Bart Allen–Johns wanted him to mature and be Kid Flash, so he actually created a reason for that to happen in the book. I’m not so sure I saw the same transition in Superboy who went from his Young Justice incarnation to the Connor Kent T-shirt guise pretty quickly. That is, unless I missed what was going on in another title. Winick’s re-establishing of Brother Blood as a villain was a little too Cobra Commander for me, and the new Brother Blood plus the revelation that they worship Trigon? That still doesn’t work for me. And while the crossover with the Legion of Super-Heroes was fun to read, I think it needed to be a little longer than a special and a single issue, especially since it led to a complete reboot (the “Threeboot”, I think?) of the Legion.

Still, Johns doing his take on the famous “Justice Lords” episode with Titans of Tomorrow? The storyline where Dr. Light, who is fresh off his “readjustment” in Identity Crisis, getting a very cold and vicious revenge on the Titans? A rejuvenated Fearsome Five working for Dr. Sivana? All are high points that deliver what they promise.

I’m selling off these books because I don’t reread them very often and want to make room. Plus, I’m keeping my DC Infinite subscription, so I’ll be able to go back and reread when I want. Thankfully, though, I feel rewarded for making it through the low points of The Titans. Whether or not it will all hold up as we head into Infinite Crisis and beyond is another story.

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