The World’s Finest brand is quickly turning into Mark Waid’s vehicle for exploring DC’s Silver and early Bronze Age. It’s a time that’s often ignored in between the “origin story” days of the Golden Age and the later years when things started getting more serious. Waid’s approach to the concept has been to honor the light-hearted tone the era was known for, while also modernizing those stories with more complex character and motivations that readers expect today. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest started out as adventures the two shared in the early days of their careers, but over time came to include more and more heroes from the era. World’s Finest: Teen Titans takes that attitude and applies to the original Teen Titans lineup by trying to find what it was like for these teens to work on a team away from their mentors for the first time.
The status quo is quickly established with an opening sequence of the team taking down a Satanist cult trying to sacrifice people to bring about the apocalypse. It’s exactly the kind of cheesy, simple adventure with a cartoonishly evil bad guy that could have come straight from the pages of one of the issues from the 60s. Emanuela Lupacchino’s art is bright and vibrant, tying into the narrative’s fun tone. Each panel is packed with dynamic action that allows each character to shine while still keeping their individual fighting styles distinct. Everyone gets an introduction and enough of a dedicated moment to offer a taste of their personality.
While no one is left out, this is Robin’s story more than anything else. A great deal of attention is paid to him coming to terms with being a leader for the first time, and what that means as someone who has lived in Batman’s shadow for much of his life. In a reversal of Dick Grayson’s usual group role, here he’s the most closed off and serious. At first this might seem out of character, but it’s quickly revealed how much he’s simply channeling the only leadership figure he knows.
We get to see each of the team members discuss the Titans with their respective mentors, and while everyone else’s expresses support and encouragement, Batman is unambiguously critical of the idea. He trusts Dick, but does not extended that privilege to the rest of the Titans. To him, the whole idea is an unnecessary risk and a disaster waiting to happen. It’s through these interactions with Batman that we see Dick’s real feelings towards the Titans and how he wants to open up to them and be the amicable leader we know he’ll one day become. However, it’s his fear and uncertainty that allow Batman’s cynicism to take control – when you only have one frame of reference for what leadership looks like, you tend to mirror it.
The issue is bookended with a second mini-adventure at the end of the story, and Robin’s conflict with the rest of the team contrast it with the more positive opening. Just as before, everyone is showboating and having fun, but Robin’s belief that he needs to be responsible as leader has him pushing back. It’s clear that he wants to be part of the group, but the expectations set by Batman loom over him, and he redirects that internal frustration outwards. These sorts of personal, internal struggles humanize Robin in a way that few comics are able to do. It’s easy to relate to the idea of trying to put on a face when put in a new position of responsibility, and what that means for your sense of identity. This all acts as perfect setup for a story of personal growth and self-realization for Robin that I definitely look forward to reading.
- You want to see the early adventures of the original Teen Titans
- Dick Grayson’s personal journey of self discovery is a ripe topic for storytelling
- You’re a fan of Waid’s other throwback series, Batman/Superman: World’s Finest
World’s Finest: Teen Titans #1 is an exploration of the early days of the team with the fondness and excitement we’ve come to expect from Mark Waid. It uses those simple, optimistic adventures as a way to explore the character relationships of the young heroes who will eventually grow into the characters we know. Robin takes center stage as we see his first steps into a leadership role and the uncertainty that comes with it.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.