Titans Season 1 (DC Universe)

  • Series Title: Titans
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 11
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Teagan Croft, Anna Diop, Ryan Potter
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

This review includes spoilers for the first season of Titans.

One thing that I demand from films, especially films adapted from other media is that they should be able to stand on their own – the audience should not have to “pull knowledge” from other sources to understand the film. For television series, this “rule” can be relaxed a bit since there is more time for the plot and characters to develop and if the audience is patient, everything will eventually make sense. I found that with Titans, even though I liked the show, it really depends on “outside knowledge” – it helps a lot if you’ve read at least some of the Titans (or Teen Titans) graphic novels (or soft books) or at the very least watched the animated series Teen Titans. The series begins with Rachel Roth (Raven) experiencing “weird stuff” and having no idea what’s going on, and Kory Anders waking up after a car accident having no memories at all. And Dick Grayson has quit being Robin and is a police officer in Detroit. So you have a character who has no idea what is happening to her, an amnesiac, and a guy who no longer wants to be a superhero because he’s disgusted with it – leading a superhero series. That would be confusing for some viewers, and others might not like the “but they aren’t acting like superheroes” thing. I found it an intriguing premise, plus the show does move along extremely quickly and there is a lot of development in the plot and characters over the short length of the show. This is a graphic novel for TV.

The first episode focuses on Rachel and to a lesser extent, Kory. Rachel seems to be developing some type of powers, something she doesn’t understand, and something that terrifies her mother. When her mother is murdered in front of her, Rachel runs away and ends up on the streets in Detroit. A homeless food kitchen offers to take her to a youth shelter, but she is spooked and throws a rock at a police car. This gets her arrested and she’s introduced to Detective Dick Grayson. Dick tries to help her, but Rachel, for perfectly understandable reasons – is suspicious. Dick’s called away and while he’s gone, another cop kidnaps Rachel.

Meanwhile, Kory wakes up after a car accident with no memory. The driver of the car is dead, and no sooner does she wake up than another car shows up, and shoots up the crashed car. Kory out of instinct raises her hand and burns the shooters up with bursts of light and heat from her hand. Kory doesn’t understand this but finds a hotel key in her purse. She goes to the hotel and finds out she has the entire penthouse. Slowly Kory starts to figure out a few things, and she realizes she needs to find Rachel, to protect her.

Dick realizes that Rachel’s been kidnapped and goes to rescue her. Kory also arrives and helps. they rescue Rachel and try to figure out what’s going on, including visiting Rachel’s home in Traverse City, Michigan, Dick finds out Rachel’s mom was murdered, something she had mentioned in her initial interview. Dick, Kory, and Rachel discover some mysterious organization is after Rachel. Dick then takes Rachel to his friends Hawk and Dove (Hank Hall and Dawn Granger) a couple who are superheroes and old friends of Dick’s. Hank, however, is suffering from the physical effects of his previous football career and being a superhero. Dawn is trying to get him to retire. They are meant to stop one last gang – gun runners, then move to Minnesota to retire. The Organization sends “Nuclear Family” after Rachel. During the fight, Dawn is tossed off a roof. Rachel also thinks Dick was going to abandon her with Dawn and Hank. Kory leaves with Rachel. Dawn ends up in a coma in intensive care. Hank, understandably, isn’t happy about this.

Kory and Rachel leave, and at a skating ring Rachel meets Gar and they form an immediate friendship. Dick arrives too and they get four motel rooms. But when the Nuclear Family attacks again Rachel simply runs into the woods. She runs into Gar and finds out he can transform himself into a tiger. He introduces her to the Doom Patrol. But when their head scientist wants to do experiments on Rachel, Gar stands up to him. Rachel’s powers start to get out of control, but Dick and Kory arrive. They leave the Doom Patrol’s mansion, and Gar joins the team. Personally, I felt this episode was more an introduction to the Doom Patrol, another DC Universe series, than really an episode of Titans. It didn’t seem to be a backdoor pilot because it was clear the Doom Patrol had been operating for a while, but on the other hand, it was definitely meant to get the audience to watch the next series on DC Universe, which happened to be Doom Patrol.

After the Doom Patrol incident, Dick, Kory, Rachel, and Gar form a solid team. Dick is able to find the “head” of the Organization, Dr. Anderson, when the capture the Nuclear Family after one of their attacks. The Nuclear Family literally has their heads blown-up by Dr. Anderson. But Anderson says he and Dick will be killed by the Organization. Dick fights off a team of fighters well, and Jason Todd shows up, dressed as Robin, to help him out. They go to a safe house and catch up on family business. Dick has Kory bring Rachel to the safe house. Dick also has “rescued” Dr. Anderson and preventing him from killing himself. They try interviewing him and he insists he will only talk to Rachel. Dick is hesitant but finally relents. Dr. Anderson tells Rachel her mom – her real mother is still alive and is being held at a private asylum. The team debates what to do.

Rachel and Gar run off to rescue her mom. They are captured. Dick and Kory discover Rachel and Gar are missing and head to the asylum to rescue them. They are also captured. Dick, Kory, and Gar are tortured, while Dr. Anderson “interviews” Rachel and tries to convince her that her powers can be used for good. Rachel, to her credit, realizes he’s lying. But earlier he had cut his own throat and Rachel had used her powers to heal him – she takes it back and he dies. She takes keys and goes to rescue her friends and her mother – having seeing the torture of her team on Dr. Anderson’s monitors. Rachel with help from her team as she rescues them one by one, succeeds, but at a high cost. Kory because of the torture starts to remember who she is and her mission. Gar during his rescue turns in to a tiger and attacks and bites the man in a lab coat who was torturing him with whips and electric shocks. He’s shocked that he bit someone (mauled and bit them to death). Dick is put through drug-induced psychological torture – when they are leaving his fights with security guards are considerably more violent than they need to be. Dick also has Kory blow-up the building. They do rescue Rachel’s mother though.

Rachel’s mother has a house in Ohio and says they can stay there. Dick decides to return to his job as a police officer in Detroit. At first, everything seems OK in Ohio, but then strange things begin to happen. Soon we find out Rachel’s birth mother isn’t the innocent she pretends and she’s working for Trigon (Seamus Dever) though the series doesn’t quite tell you who he is. Kory’s memory returns and she takes Dick to her invisible space ship. They use it’s computer banks to find out who Kory is and her mission. She is Koriand’r from Tamaran. Her planet names Rachel or Raven the “destroyer of worlds” stating she will be the door that allows a being from another dimension to return. This being will destroy Earth and continue on destroying worlds until it reaches Tamaran and covers Kory’s home in darkness. Kory was sent to kill Raven to prevent this disaster from happening.

Dick and Kory head back by car to the house to talk to Raven, when the car dies. They try to get back to the house, but it’s hidden by a force field. Also, all phone communication is down. Dick runs at the force field and gets through. Meanwhile, Rachel’s mom has poisoned Gar, but she tells Rachel he’s sick, and she needs to use her powers to heal him. Gar is coughing up blood. When Rachel can’t cure him, her mom convinces her to bring her father across because his powers will cure Gar. He does, but he’s also very dangerous. Dick gets into the house but is immediately overtaken by a hallucination. Unfortunately for Dick, he never seems to realize that everything he is experiencing is a hallucination and he gives in to his darker nature – he’s overtaken by Trigon. The series ends on a cliffhanger of Dick being in Trigon’s thrall. There is a tag scene in the ending credits, wait for it!

I did like Titans a lot. It is a good show, with great acting. The series moves quickly. I was glad I’d been reading the Titans Rebirth series and that I’d seen some of the animated series because I was familiar with the characters and knew who they were and their basic plots. One episode I didn’t mention was “Hank and Dawn” which fills in the background of Hawk and Dove as Hank thinks back on his own history while observing Dawn in her coma. Also, Raven tries to psychically contact Dawn during her coma, which does eventually wake her up. When Dawn awakes – she tells Hank they have to find Jason Todd. Hank’s answer is: Who’s Jason Todd?

I liked Titans and I plan on getting the second season whenever it’s available as well as watching the other DC Universe series (Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, and Young Justice). But I don’t like that the series is on yet another streaming-only channel. This means I can’t get it. I live in a rural area with satellite internet and it is physically impossible to do streaming. The satellite TV system blocks all streaming services by capping data downloads. The nickel-and-diming effect of subscribing to half a dozen streaming services is also a concern for a lot of people I know who are getting tired of literally having to pay a streaming service fee for every show (service) they want to watch. I just end up waiting for the shows produced by any streaming service to show up on DVD or Blu-ray eventually which is usually a 12-18 month wait or more. However, I liked Titans and I will be waiting for the Blu-Ray set for Season 2. I also highly recommend this series. It has a fair amount of violence and some off-screen implied sex, so I’d classify it an Age 15+ series.

 

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Teen Titans Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Teen Titans
  • Season: 2
  • Date:  2004
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast: Scott Menville, Hynden Walch, Greg Cipes, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Ashley Johnson, Ron Perlman
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers Animation

The second season of Teen Titans consists of two discs that have very different attitudes to the story presentation. Disc 1 has the characters one at a time dealing with typical teenaged stuff: fitting in with others, being themselves, teenaged bodily changes, finding time for friends, etc. Killer Moth even threatens the Teen Titans unless Robin brings his bratty daughter, Kitten, to her Junior Prom (only for everyone to discover the spider-headed villain the Titans were fighting at the beginning of the episode is her boyfriend). The style of these episodes is also very much like traditional cartoons, rather than realistic animation – when characters are surprised their eyes literally bug out, a character in love has hearts in his eyes, confused characters have question marks over their heads, etc. And every episode has a major fight scene.

The second disc is done in a more realistic animation style, and in general the stories are more serious, or not focused on teen issues for the most part. The series introduces Terra, the ill-fated teen hero who can manipulate the Earth. When she arrives Terra is not in control of her powers, however, the Titans aren’t quick enough to offer to help her – and she leaves. Terra falls under the influence of Deathstroke who teaches her to control her powers. When Terra returns she quickly becomes friends with the Titans – especially Beast Boy who falls in love with her. In the season finale, though, she proves to be working with Deathstroke and gets the Titans to separate (they go after various villains who have appeared before and whom she and Deathstroke released) so she can defeat them. The Titans know Deathstroke is controlling Terra but in a bit of a double-standard, only Beast Boy believes they should help her anyway, after all the same thing happened to Robin the previous year. The rest of the Titans feel too betrayed to trust Terra and to try to help her.

In the end, the Titans work together to defeat Deathstroke. They convince Terra to come back to them. But as the fight in Deathstroke’s underground liar has stirred up a volcano – Terra stays behind to stop it. She’s turned into a stone statute. The Titans vow to find a way to release her from her stone prison and lay a stone at her feet calling her a true Titan and a true friend.

The scenes of Deathstroke controlling Terra are actually truly terrible though: he offers her something she truly wants – to learn to control her powers. But he also continuously tells her she has no friends, that no one cares about her, that she’s alone – and only Deathstroke would even dare to work with her. His manipulation is very abusive. He also constantly tells her the Titans aren’t her friends and don’t care about her. Deathstroke isolates Terra – then tells her no one wants her. He’s the classic abusive “boyfriend”. And he uses her power for his own gains. Deathstroke even electronically controls her “Slade suit” and has her wear an earpiece to be in her ear and her head all the time. The manipulation and abuse is terrifying.

Overall, even with the inconsistencies, Teen Titans Season 2 is pretty good. There are some interesting concepts and episodes (I loved the green, alien, talking dog). Recommended.

Please read my Teen Titans Season 1 Review.

Book Review – Teen Titans vol. 1: Damian Knows Best

  • Title: Teen Titans vol. 1: Damian Knows Best
  • Author: Benjamin Percy
  • Artists: Khoi Pham, Jonboy Meyers, Diógenes Neves, Wade Von Grawbadger, Ruy José, Sean Parsons, Jim Charalampidis, John Kalisz, Corey Breen
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Damian Wayne (Robin), Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, Kid Flash (Wally West mark II), R’as al Ghul, Batman, Talia al Ghul
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/01/2017

This graphic novel re-introduces Teen Titans as part of DC Comics’ Rebirth. Rebirth also has a Titans book, with older heroes from the former Teen Titans. The Titans in this book are: Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, and Kid Flash, and it brings in Damian Wayne as Robin. But this isn’t really a team book – it’s Damian’s story that the other Teen Titans almost guest star in. The book opens with each of the Titans being knocked out by a mysterious figure. They wake up, in restraints, and meet their attacker and the person holding them captive – Robin. But the team is still reeling from the death of their Robin, Tim Drake (in Rebirth’s Detective Comics).

The Titans pull together as a team, and break out of their restraints. Robin uses this to prove his point – they are stronger together, as a team. He tells them a team of assassins has been sent after them, then Damian tries to appoint himself leader of the New Teen Titans. This doesn’t go over well, and when the assassins show up almost immediately – the Titans are quickly defeated. Robin disappears but returns with a stolen Bat-plane and rescues them.

However, the team doesn’t really pull together or gel – and soon Damian leaves again, making his way to R’as al Ghul’s island fortress to offer himself in return for the other Titans’ lives being spared. R’as pits Damian in a fight against his cousin, a girl he’s always managed to defeat before. But she’s learned a few things. In their first fight, she defeats Damian but doesn’t kill him.

The Titans follow Damian and try to rescue him. In the end, they defeat the team of assassins not in a fight, but with the truth – exposing R’as al Ghul’s lies about their families willingly abandoning them. Damian is able to escape and the threat against the team is neutralized. The Teen Titans agree to accept Damian into their ranks. Damian, however, has to face his father – Batman.

This really is a Damian story, more than a team book – though the team is definitely there. I also personally preferred the older team of Titans. But, considering the book is about Damian and his history, as well as how he spends his thirteenth birthday, it’s about Damian becoming part of the team – though not in the typical way. The story at times is very cold, because Damian is a cold character (and oddly suited to the warmer team – even this slightly older version of Raven).

Still, it’s a good book, and a good story. It’s interesting to see Damian choosing Bruce and Batman over Talia and his grandfather. Recommended.