Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Part 2 (of 4)
Reviewing stories found in Teen Titans v3 #13-19, Beast Boy #1-4, Teen Titans/Legion of Super-Heroes Special, Legends of the DC Universe 80-Page Giant #2, Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls
Written by Geoff Johns (with Ben Raab & Mark Waid)
Art by Mike McKone, Tom Grummett, Justiniano, Joe Prado, and Ivan Reis
This second round of Geoff Johns-penned Titans tales jumps back a few years to his Beast Boy mini-series. Around the same time, Johns was handed the reins of JSA and The Flash; he also co-wrote this four-issue story with Ben Raab. Beast Boy, aka Garfield Logan, had been strongly associated with the Titans since joining the team in the early 1980s. Johns leans into the character’s lengthy history in the DCU to write a story about a former child star trying to figure out who they are as an adult. This involves going back into Beast Boy’s time with the Doom Patrol and teaming him up with Bette Kane, the long-forgotten original Bat-Girl.
It’s a decent story; nothing about the narrative is spectacular. The story is so short that I was left wanting to see more of Garfield & Bette’s friendship and go deeper into the protagonist as a working actor. The art by Justiniano, however, is gorgeous. I used to dislike his particular aesthetic, but I’ve come to appreciate it more as I’ve gotten older. There’s the rich detail of George Perez without the stiffness, more of a manga-inspired fluidity. It works very well with a character like Beast Boy, whose body contorts and shifts into different animal forms, giving his powers a sense of flowing, that his body is not a wholly solid object at all times.
Back in the main Titans book, there are some issues with Garfield’s powers that go back to his roots from contracting a virus while in the rainforest with his scientist parents. We have Stephanie Brown guest-starring as Robin, which she had become for a short while in the Batman titles. Johns keeps teasing the bond between Wonder Girl and Ares, a storyline I don’t feel ever fully gets resolved during his run. Johns revives a long-forgotten villain from Beast Boy’s past in typical Johns fashion. Finally, there’s a tease of Lorena Marquez, Aquagirl at the time, maybe joining the Titans. It’s a lot of seeing potential plots, which is strange how some of them get dropped hard by Johns in the wake of Infinite Crisis.
The core story in these issues is a time-traveling one that kicks off when Conner Kent, aka Superboy, is pulled into the 31st century and then immediately returns, decked out in a classic Superboy costume. In that space of a few seconds, he actually spent months alongside the Legion of Super-Heroes. There’s some fun banter between the Titans and Legion when they meet up, mainly looking at parallels between members of both teams. The story culminates in an oversized special with art from Ivan Reis, which is spectacular. It’s slightly different from his work today, reminding me more of Phil Jimenez’s art. Finally, the teams face off with the Fatal Five Hundred, the result of the perennial Legion villains cracking the walls of Hypertime (the workaround for the absence of the Multiverse at this time in the DCU). I do feel like this story doesn’t get developed very much, especially when you have so much decompressed storytelling.
The arc I think Johns was really interested in getting to is “Titans Tomorrow,” where the team is rerouted on their trip back to the early 21st century to a couple decades ahead. Here they encounter their future selves, rent in half by civil war. Tim Drake has become a gun-wielding Batman, Conner has embraced his Superman & Luthor halves, and the team has generally just gone rotten. They are paralleled by a team still trying to do good, Titans East, led by Cyborg. This is probably Johns’ highlight of his entire run, leaning into his strengths of exploring the shared universe & history of DC Comics. There are lots of references to events from the past and relationships that exist between the characters.
The purpose of Titans Tomorrow is to look at how these characters might turn out. From the start of Johns’ run, the adult heroes voiced concern about their wards being let off the leash, so to speak. Cyborg & Starfire gave their assurances and leaned into their own experience as something the sidekicks could learn from. In the Titans Tomorrow future, we see how these young heroes got away from them, influenced by darker forces & tragedies. Of course, this was never going to be the actual future of these characters as readers would quickly find out with some of the more tragic events of Infinite Crisis, but it hinted that Superboy would eventually give in to his evil influences. As slight as Johns’ run on the book can feel, it was really the last time I felt invested in a substantial degree in a Titans title. Post-2007, the Titans books just sort of began running on fumes, unable to find a direction to consistently follow without wildly pivoting.