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Graphic Novel Review: Teen Titans: Titans East by Geoff Johns, Adam Beechen, & Tony Daniels

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Teen Titans: Titans East is the latest graphic novel gathered from the pages of the newest incarnation of the young heroes in the DC universe. Led by Robin (Tim Drake, actually the third person to wear the Robin uniform), the team consists of Wonder Girl, Miss Martian, Kid Devil, Ravager, Cyborg, Raven, and Jericho. They formed the new team after the events of Infinite Crisis (which would take a HUGE column to explain).

This volume opens up with an introspective peek into Kid Devil’s life. Since he mysteriously appeared in the pages of the monthly comic series, writer Geoff Johns works his familiar magic in bringing the character to three-dimensional life. I love watching Johns write stories like this, and I knew I was going to be in for a treat when I started in with first-person narrative from Kid Devil.

Johns has got a deft, sure hand with every character he touches. I’ve yet to hear him strike a false note. To be honest, I wasn’t very enamored of the Kid Devil character. He looks kind of neat and is probably fun to draw for the artists, but he just didn’t appear to have much depth. After Johns’s first arc of the Titans East storyline, I can safely report that just isn’t true.

Eddie Bloomberg (Kid Devil) is, literally, a tormented soul. Hero worship was what brought him into the hero biz when he wanted to be the sidekick for Blue Devil. I never much got into Blue Devil either, but he was pretty interesting the way Johns presented him. And, in the end, it was hero worship that boomeranged and trapped Eddie in a situation that could leave him as one of the devil’s own – literally – when he turns twenty in three years. That story detail is left dangling for the time being, but I was good with that.

As the story moved into the next section of the arc, Deathstroke the Terminator attacked the Teen Titans with a group of super-powered kids he’d gathered and called Titans East. Long-time readers of the Teen Titans will remember that Deathstroke has been a main opponent of the Titans since writer Marv Wolfman created him for the reboot of the series he did back in the 1980s.

Johns is very clever about his plotting. He generally is. Sometimes he lays all his cards on the table and lets the readers simply watch him work magic. Other times, he keeps a card hidden or turned over or turned so that it looks one way when it’s really another. That’s what he does in this graphic novel and it makes it a little difficult to talk about much of the plot without giving too much away.

Jericho and Ravager are the son and daughter of Deathstroke. Jericho He tells the Titans that he’s there to reclaim what is his. Of course, a battle to end all battles ensues.

In Deathstroke’s corner there is Batgirl (who we find out later is drugged into listening to Deathstroke), Risk, Sun Girl, Bombshell, Kid Crusader, Match, Inertia, Enigma, and Duela Dent. If you’re not a comic geek, the names aren’t going to mean much and it would take too long to explain. Just let me say that the line-up is impressive and filled with a lot of Teen Titans history.

Johns’s scripts crackle with energy and vitality. The characters, complete with strengths and weaknesses, transcend the page and become real. Wonder Girl is still struggling with the death of Connor, as is Robin, and they’re conflicted about the attraction between the two of them. (If Connor ever resurrects and comes back, that’s going to be a can of worms!)

Tony Daniels’s art matches Geoff Johns’s writing. They are really a good match. Johns provides plenty of room to work and lots of emotion and action to draw. There aren’t any static pages, no filler. It’s all high-action storytelling that keeps readers turning the pages.

I love supergroups because of all the dynamics possible within them. Teen Titans has consistently provided that kind of storytelling, and this current volume delivers again. I had a blast reading the story, even slowing down and re-reading scenes and pages to savor the smart dialogue and the beautifully drawn sequences.

The flip Johns provides at the end of the novel is fantastic. I didn’t see it coming, and I’m used to his kung fu. But his kung fu is mighty. If you like the Teen Titans, you’ll have to pick this one up. Sadly, this is one of the last story arcs Johns will be writing on the book for the foreseeable future. But I continue to enjoy what he’s doing on Justice Society of America and Green Lantern.

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