“Follow the Leader” – Part One
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Emanuela Lupacchino
Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Steve Wands
Review by Bryant Lucas
Robin and Speedy butt heads, as the Teen Titans struggle with the spotlight in this week’s World’s Finest: Teen Titans #1.
Being a teenager is hard – especially if you’re a superhero. All the everyday stress of being a teen is magnified when you can run faster than the speed of light or telepathically communicate with sea life. Now imagine all of that stress and then throw social media into the mix. This is the core conflict in World’s Finest: Teen Titan’s #1.
In case you’re new to the World’s Finest corner of the DCU, here’s a quick rundown: Mark Waid’s World’s Finest books are set in the past. Therefore, this incarnation of the Teen Titans is the Silver Age lineup, featuring Dick Grayson Robin, Donna Troy Wonder Girl, Wally West Kid Flash, Roy Harper Speedy, Karen Beecher BumbleBee, and Garth Aqualad. Issue one introduces these characters, as they battle with a demonic cult and then the Detachable Man. During each battle, Roy videos the encounters to post them on the web. Dick is not happy about this type of publicity, and the two fall out over Roy’s desire to become an influencer.
Wading into Waid’s DCU
I’ve been reviewing Batman/Superman: World’s Finest, and it’s easily one of my favorite books of all time. Waid brings incredible energy to the title that is unlike anything DC has published in a long while. One of the great things about this title is that, while Batman and Superman are the focus of the series, Waid goes out of his way to situate them in the larger DCU. The book has always felt larger than its titular characters. It’s apparent that the folks at DC realize they struck gold with this book, allowing Waid another title to flesh out his own little corner of the DCU that’s unchained from the burden of contemporary continuity.
As for World’s Finest: Teen Titans #1, it shares all of the hallmarks of its parent title. Waid’s knack for Silver Age shenanigans serves him well, as World’s Finest: Teen Titans #1 is drenched in both charm and nostalgia. What’s particularly great about Waid’s approach is his ability to bridge generations. While this incarnation of the Titans is definitely a throwback to a pre-Wolfman/Perez era, Waid writes them as modern teenagers. They don’t feel archaic or cheesy. This makes the issue feel timeless, appealing to both Zoomers and Boomers alike.
Rising to the Occasion
When DC decided to pair Dan Mora with Mark Waid for Batman/Superman: World’s Finest, they somehow captured lightning in a bottle. Seriously, the aesthetics of the title are incredible. Needless to say, whoever DC tapped for the spin-off book was going to have some seriously large shoes to fill. Luckily for them, they chose well.
Emanuela Lupacchino isn’t a stranger to Mark Waid’s take on the DCU. She drew a few filler issues in between arcs. Turns out these were excellent training exercises for the task at hand. World’s Finest: Teen Titans #1 feels like its sister title without being a Dan Mora clone. Unlike Mora’s work, which has a certain edge to it, Lupacchino’s pencils feel less angular and more cartoony. Nevertheless, it’s clear that she’s been paying attention to Mora’s work, as she uses all of his character designs (with the weird exception of Batman whose suit has a different bat symbol for some reason). Part of this aesthetic continuity is in large part due to the coloring. Jordie Bellaire uses an almost identical color pallete to Steve Wands, so both World’s Finest titles feel like they are connected.
World’s Finest: Teen Titans #1 is a blast. It’s exciting to see Waid have the opportunity to flesh out his ideas beyond the pages of Batman/Superman. Although the issue felt more like an introduction to the characters than anything else, Waid’s characterization of these classic characters carries the book. In fact, this might be the best incarnation of the Teen Titans I’ve read since Geoff Johns’s work back in the early 2000s.
Final Verdict: if you’ve enjoyed the other World’s Finest title, you’ll like this one.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment