Full disclosure before I get started: I love the Teen Titans and all of their extensions beyond reason. The first comic book I ever bought on my own with my own money (okay, it was a quarter from my father), was THE NEW TEEN TITANS #39.
The very first page of TITANS VOL. 1: THE RETURN OF WALLY WEST begins with a flashback to the Teen Titans as teenagers, back where it all began when they were happy… then things immediately turn to poop. As the just-returned Wally West searches for the rest of the now adult Titans (Nightwing, Tempest, Arsenal, Donna Troy and Lilith), his former team is just wondering who this stranger that appeared from a bunch of lightning is. For all they know he’s a pretender to the Flash’s name. Wally is set the difficult task of not only catching his closest friends up on who he is, but any new readers who maybe aren’t as familiar with his version of the character as they are with the New 52 Wally West that’s currently training with Barry Allen in THE FLASH.
There is a nice moment early on in the story that flashes back to Wally’s reunion with Barry in DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH and serves to explain why he has a new suit. Here Barry tells Wally to continue calling himself the Flash because he has earned the moniker as much as anyone else who has ever carried it. I really love this scene in particular because it gets to one of the key questions of this first arc: Why is this version of Wally West important?
Luckily for Wally, by the end of the first issue, trusty Dick Grayson is flooded with memories of the former Kid Flash and the other teammates quickly follow suit. It isn’t long before Wally is welcomed back on to the team with an emotional reunion that no fans of this classic team should be able to read through dry eyes. Dan Abnett really drives the theme of family home with a great big hug between friends that have adopted each other into their lives.
This theme of family continues to be explored when Linda Park makes her first appearance. Fans who were introduced to Linda on the Flash TV show may not know that she is actually Wally’s wife. They have had children together in the past and she is one of the most important ladies of Flash mythology. Dan Abnett gets right to the reader’s heart with Wally’s unwavering focus on reuniting with Linda. Despite the fact that he knows he will have to start at step one and rebuild a relationship that he has already lived through.
Linda Park eventually becomes a concern for all of the Titans when she is kidnapped by the newly emerged villain Abra Kadabra and held hostage for Wally and all his teammates to come and rescue. Kadabra, for his part, puts up some pretty formidable obstacles for the team—themselves.
Abnett has Abra Kadabra conjure past versions of the Titans when they were the Teen Titans (Robin, Speedy, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Lilith), and these doppelgangers could use a serious attitude adjustment. They also have a few unique advantages over their older counterparts. For starters, they’re young and faster and often are able to outmaneuver the Titans when they go on the offensive. Not only that, but their evil younger incarnations know all of the Titans’ signature moves and do a very good job at predicting where they are going to be attacking first.
These fight scenes are just a wonderful place for artist Brett Booth to put his incredible skills on display. The book is kinetic, but the energy really leaps off the page as the Titans are forced to get creative in order to save their own hides and get to Linda Park in time. Plus, while we’re singing Booth’s praises, he also draws the absolute heck out of Wally’s new costume. It’s really just outstanding!
As both antagonists and as symbolic figures, the Titan doppelgangers are absolutely brilliant. After all, Rebirth is all about reinvention, and in the case of the Titans, part of that is the struggle with leaving the physical and emotional benefits of youth behind and accepting adulthood. How do you move past yourself? In the case of Titans Vol. 1, this takes the form of an actual, physical struggle, and it takes the Titans a few minutes to puzzle it out. However, these are some of the most successful super heroes and best strategic minds in the DC Universe, so you know they figure it out before the end. Of course, the struggle for this newly reformed Titans team is just beginning. While they do emerge victorious against Abra Kadabra (TAKE THAT, YA SECOND RATE ZATARA ZATANNA!!!), there is a final page reveal that sets up the most iconic Teen Titans villains of all time.
Titans Vol 1: The Return of Wally West accomplishes everything that Rebirth has set out to do. It is a perfect jumping-on point for both new readers and a welcome return for fans of the team. It elegantly folds the original incarnation of Wally West back into continuity without in any way diminishing the burgeoning legacy of the New 52 version. The Titans are allowed a moment of true teamwork and heroics and, by the end of the book, the new villain nods back to the legacy of everything that came before. Plus, it’s an important book for Rebirth overall. It begins almost immediate where DC Universe: Rebirth left off, explains a key mystery from that story and ends with a clue to what happened to the timeline that readers will understand, even if the Titans don’t.
If you have ever had any interest in picking up a Titans book, this is definitely what you want to pick up. It explores the colorful, sometimes complicated relationship at the heart of this classic team, offers up an exciting story that has impacts the entire DCU and boasts some beautiful art to boot. Wally West has never looked better.