Teen Titans: Full Throttle
Written by: Adam Glass
Penciler: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Reviewed by: Joe Bones
Genre: Comic Book
“We’re done waiting for villains to commit crimes. We hunt the criminals down before they even make a move…and end them for good.”
Teen Titans: Full Throttle collects Teen Titans issues 20 through 24 and a special introductory issue. The arc contained in this volume is really fun and takes the Teen Titans in a new direction. Although Full Throttle is technically the next chapter in a series that started in 2016, this arc is a great jumping-on point for new readers. That being said, there are several footnotes throughout the book that reference recent DC events. Now, new readers don’t need to know about those events in order to enjoy and understand this book; but I personally find footnotes like these annoying when starting a new series. They make me feel like I either need to read a lot of other comics before starting the one I’m on, or do a bunch of Wikipedia research. I’ll save you all that trouble by giving you a quick rundown of the events that precede the first issue contained in this volume. If you don’t need a rundown, or want to go into this series completely fresh, my actual review starts below at the starred (*) paragraph.
In 2011, after decades of conflicting continuity and tomes worth of history, DC rebooted their main line with the New 52 initiative. The New 52 reset DC’s continuity by allowing writers to create new versions, and imagine new back stories and details, for DC’s large roster of characters. The authors of each title were able to start fresh with some aspects of the characters while keeping any older aspects or character histories they chose. Although the New 52 led to a lot of new readers picking up DC Comics, most of the titles were panned by ‘long time fans’ (read: old white guys). These long time fans didn’t like the new directions the characters were being taken in. So in 2016, in an effort to find a balance between the desires of the old fans while still keeping the new fans engaged, DC Comics relaunched their main line under the Rebirth banner.
Rebirth’s goal was to re‐lay the groundwork for DC’s future while celebrating and honoring its past and present. It continued the continuity established by the New 52 but reinserted some of the legacy and heart that many felt had been missing from the main line of comics. Teen Titans was one of the many titles reset under the Rebirth banner. Fast forward to 2017 and the Rebirth initiative came to an end during an event called Dark Nights: Metal. Metal ended with a hole being torn in the Source Wall, the barrier that surrounds the universe in the DCU. The hole in the Source Wall set up the next chapter of main line stories, under a new banner called New Justice. The stories under the New Justice banner started with an event called No Justice. Long story short, the heroes of the DC Universe had to form new teams in order to stop a group of cosmic Golems that had traveled through the hole in the Source Wall.
* Teen Titans: Full Throttle picks up after the events of New Justice. It follows Damian Wayne, the current Robin, as he puts together a new team of Teen Titans. This new team is comprised of both fan favorite and brand new characters, including: Emiko Queen (the current Red Arrow); Wallace West (the newest iteration of Kid Flash); Crush (new character, daughter of the intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo); Djinn (new character, literal genie); and RoundHouse (new character, tech genius and social media celebrity).
This new team is a great mix of teen heroes with varying levels of crime fighting experience. Some have powers or special abilities, and some are non‐powered but highly trained humans. Just like with the storyline, new readers don’t need to know much about this new Teen Titans roster to be able to jump in and enjoy the story. Current readers will enjoy seeing old favorites interact with each other and with the original characters that make up this new team.
Writer Adam Glass is a master of pacing. This skill is apparent throughout the story. Glass finds a great balance between action sequences, expository dialogue, and character development. A lot of the early character development comes from the quips the characters make to one another during high energy fight scenes. Each character has a unique voice and distinct personality, which is made evident within the first few pages. For a comic rated for Teens thirteen and up, Glass excels at towing the line between ‘too graphic’ and ‘overtly tame.’ The action sequences are violent without being explicit enough to constitute a Mature rating. For the most part, the dialogue is realistic without the heavy use of “teen slang” that might not be understood by older readers.
RoundHouse is the best example of Glass’s intelligent use of dialogue and characterization. RoundHouse is an awesome addition to the DC Universe, and Glass really makes him shine in this volume. Often in books centered around teams of young heroes, the youngsters are written to sound just like their adult counterparts and act in similar ways. Glass obviously put a lot of thought into how this new team of teen heroes would talk and act. RoundHouse is the best example of this. He’s immature, excitable, and often times inappropriate. He really helps to ground the series, giving the story a realistic feel while still retaining a fun and energetic tone and pacing.
Although I enjoyed most of the dialogue and the story as a whole, I did have some complaints with some Glass’s characterizations of these heroes. Robin and Red Arrow share a common trait in that they were both raised by assassins. Meanwhile, Kid Flash’s father was a super villain. All three have rejected the teachings of their parents and embraced lives as heroes. All three are concerned that they’ll end up following the same path as their evil progenitors and have to work to follow the codes of their new mentors. So it seems out of character for them to decide to suddenly eek out their own version of justice. The more permanent methods of dealing with their enemies practiced by this new team don’t really gel with the journeys these characters have been on for the last few years. Their actions seem out of character, and in many ways are a step backward in regard to the in‐continuity character development they’ve received in previous stories under other writers. Also, Glass makes Kid Flash’s style of dialogue sound very “street.” I’m sure the intention is to give him a more unique voice. However, at best this choice doesn’t add much to Kid Flash’s character, and at worst might be something that some readers will find almost insulting.
Just like with the writing, the art in Full Throttle has high points and low points. The illustrations start out pretty standard, but by the later issues in this volume Chang employs some really cool visual devices. Both RoundHouse and Djinn’s powers are drawn in a fun and exciting way. He also utilizes unique panel designs, giving a dynamic feel to the action sequences. I really enjoyed the several open‐paneled pages, wherein the action almost seems to be spilling from the page.
Those praises aside, I hate how Chang draws faces. Specifically Robin and RoundHouse’s lips. I personally think they look stupid and are not a design choice that lends itself to the close ups Chang draws throughout this volume. My other major complaint with the art involves color choice and lettering. I found some of the dialogue very hard to read. Specifically, Robin’s narration boxes. The white lettering in a red dialogue box was not penciled in such a way to make for easy reading. Comic books are obviously a visual medium, so it should go without out saying that a reader should never have to struggle to read the words on the page.
Readers who are looking for a good place to jump into comic books will find that opportunity in Teen Titans: Full Throttle. This volume features a fast paced story that new readers can relate to from the very first page, without needed an encyclopedia’s worth of DC comics knowledge in order to appreciate it. The art is creative but simple enough that it will be easy for those who are not used to reading comic to follow. Overall, Full Throttle doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does offer a fresh take on a classic superhero team. Its flaws aside, this volume contains a solid story and an exciting new beginning for the Teen Titans.