“Every story matters” was the refrain often heard throughout DC’s Dark Nights: Death Metal event. It’s a phrase that means, for our favorite superheroes and villains, the histories and continuity erased by whatever multiversal crisis or magical MacGuffin, will be restored. And, by my interpretation, for readers it means: That story you read, it counts. Whether it came out in 1983 or 2003, we respect those stories, your time, your passion, now let’s move forward together.
Future State: Teen Titans #1 does a fantastic job of putting that mantra to work.
The issue starts out at a decimated Titans Island in New York. Emiko Queen (now going by The Arrow) and Dick Grayson (is he Nightwing, or is he something else?) are salvaging what they can from the rubble and paying their respects at the gravesites of fallen Titans Wallace West, Donna Troy and some new heroes we have not formally met just yet. Grayson discovers the mask of Red X (the character’s first in-continuity appearance) laying among some other Titans artifacts, and we are sent into the first of three flashbacks.
A double-page spread shows Nightwing’s birthday party, a lovely group shot that is unfortunately the victim of the flashback’s muted color scheme. The classic New Teen Titans are running a school out of Titans Tower. A myriad of new students are among the partygoers, including the heroes of the recently wrapped Rebirth-era series.
“Where’d you find it?” Nightwing asks Starfire, referring to the Red X mask adorned with a decorative bow. “I did not get you a present, sorry,” Starfire replies, setting another mystery in place. Mysteries are aplenty in Future State: Teen Titans. What happened to Titans Island? Why have Cyborg and Beast Boy combined? Who is Red X?
If you’re looking for answers, dear reader, you will not find them here. And you may not find them in the second issue, either. Writer Tim Sheridan (known for various animated DC projects, most recently Superman: Man of Tomorrow) and artist Rafa Sandoval (The Flash, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps) will continue their run in Teen Titans Academy, beginning in March.
What you will find in this issue is Sheridan and Sandoval’s vision for the future of the Titans and DC’s other young heroes. The creatives pull characters from all corners of the DC Universe, as well as creating their own new ones, to make for a more diverse and far-reaching team. Notable non-Titans Shazam, Dial H for Hero, and Jakeem and Johnny Thunder make appearances.
We see Rebirth and New 52-era heroes return and the aforementioned debut of Red X from the Cartoon Network series. “Every story matters.” Sheridan and Sandoval’s ambitious scope isn’t only reserved for the cast. The plot will reach out into Future State: Shazam, also written by Sheridan and, as pointed out by an editor’s note, Future State: The Flash.
The Titans’ new status quo, the older generation mentoring the younger ones and the mysteries set in motion are reminiscent of Geoff Johns’ 2003 Teen Titans series, my own personal jumping on point back in the day. At this moment, however, the story Sheridan wants to tell is unclear. The questions being laid out are interesting enough to see how they all play out, but that leaves little room for forward momentum in this single issue.
The addition of Sandoval’s mature but expressive and cartoony-when-it-needs-to-be art style had me flipping through the pages long after I had finished reading the issue. Sifting through clues buried in plain sight in the art is half the fun. Not to mention, Colorist Alejandro Sanchez makes characters pop with his use of lighting. The golden hour sun of the opening pages set the tone perfectly. It’s a new day for the Titans, let’s see what it brings.
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