Charged with the goal of shaping the next generation of Teen Titans, we discover Nightwing, Starfire, Cyborg, Donna Troy, Raven, and Beast Boy taking on new roles as teachers in this school for superheroes. With familiar faces such as Shazam and newer characters making up the student body, the question remains whether or not Teen TItans Academy #1 moves to the head of the class… or finds itself at the end of the line.
Written by Tim Sheridan
Art by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, and Alejandro Sanchez
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
Writer Tim Sheridan kicks the story off on the first day of classes as the original Titans - now the faculty - begin to introduce the students, and by extension the readers, to Titan Academy. The new-to-teaching faculty offer the incoming students a purpose for why they've applied to this program, but right from the onset, Sheridan sets to work creating awkwardness between the reader and the Titans - using honorifics such as "Mr. Nightwing" and Ms. Starfire" to address our heroes. It's unclear whether this is meant to be taken seriously or tongue and cheek, and the awkwardness only continues.
As Nightwing later welcomes students to his defense class, he makes a Harry Potter reference, welcoming them to his "Defense Against the Dark Arts'' class, but then believes no one laughs as kids today wouldn't understand a Harry Potter reference. Instead, Dick gets corrected for both his assumption that they didn't get it but also for referencing what the students believe to be a problematic and best ignored intellectual property. The problem here isn't that the Harry Potter series is problematic as it continues to be today; instead, Sheridan misses the point that the social issues lie with its author. This is but one of a handful of instances where Sheridan seems to be trying a little too hard to create generational tension and rather misses the mark.
Sheridan then heavy-handedly rushes into a lesson to introduce through the dangers and seductiveness of the dark side vis-a-vis the Red X - a past identity Grayson once wore and clearly a role someone in the new crop of heroes will adopt to bring this lesson home.
Later on, Dick confesses that he shouldn't have let the students goad him on into sharing the story, but in truth, we never really saw Nightwing need much prompting for him to launch into his diatribe.
The long and short of this issue is that too many of the beats in this story feel entirely predictable and cookie-cutter, and as a result, it feels like a knockoff from early X-Men story arcs from Xavier's Academy for Gifted Youngsters than some original to connect with readers of all ages.
In terms of the art, Rafa Sandoval's linework meshes quite well with Alejandro Sanchez's colors to allow for a bright and dynamic rendering of Sheridan's script. Given the light-hearted tenor of the setting and story, it was also good to see Jordi Tarragona's inks take a lighter approach to allow Sanchez's colors to pop versus weighing them down. Overall, the artistic team certainly did a fine job of making the classic characters look familiar and yet fresh while still helping the story move along complication-free.
Overall, Teen Titans Academy #1 feels entirely too rushed in terms of introducing enough of the characters and their motivations. If readers didn't know in advance that Shazam appeared, one would never know given how quickly his presence is glossed over. But more importantly, we don't get enough of a reason why the Titans felt it important to embark on this new adventure of teaching in this first issue, nor do we really understand the frustrations of certain new characters. Add in a feeling of artificial awkwardness with the characters throughout the entire issue and Teen Titans Academy #1 feels like a paper that really wants to earn an "A" from the teacher but ends up getting a "See me after class" note instead.
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