This week's Titans special sees Nightwing assemble a new team of the Titans in order to deal with the threat of the "Emergents" - a clear parallel to Marvel's mutants.
One of the greatest problems for comic book writers is coming up with an endless number of origin stories. Over at Marvel, Stan Lee resolved that problem back in 1963 when he created the Uncanny X-Men; he envisioned a process of genetic mutation, with random human beings gaining powers simply because of a genetic fluke that became known as the "X-Gene." It was a tremendously smart approach, making life a whole lot easier for the comic book publisher.
Now, in this week's Titans special, DC Comics has unveiled what's clearly intended as their version of Marvel's mutants. The No Justice miniseries saw the Earth exposed to strange energies, and those have triggered super-powers in everyday humans. The one-shot opens with Nightwing encountering the 18-year-old Jenny Lacey, a terrified teenager who had randomly developed the power to generate antimatter. Her powers are out of control, and she's so terrified that she runs from Nightwing, who assumes she's a criminal. Tragically, Jenny's attempt to flee ultimately leads to her death.
That opening sequence will be familiar to anybody who's read the X-Men comics. A random teenager has developed uncontrollable super-powers, and is mistaken for a threat? It's a typical X-Men trope, used countless times by Marvel Comics. As the issue continues, we see the general public reacting in a very familiar way, fearing these "freaks." What's more, one of the Titans develops a Cerebro-type device to monitor these so-called "Emergents." The X-Men parallels are striking - not least because some of these new powered people are referred to as having "metagenes."
And yet, this goes a little bit further. No Justice's "exotic energies" included magic, meaning some of these Emergent threats are also mystical in nature. Having started with a clear mutant parallel, the Titans special reassures readers that it will go a lot further; we're soon glimpsing a demon-possessed trucker!
The Emergent threat is clearly the core narrative behind the new incarnation of the Titans. Nightwing is given permission by the Justice League to assemble a new team, dedicated to protecting terrified Emergents and containing dangerous ones. The team include some classic names - Nightwing, Donna Troy, Raven, and Beast Boy - but also has some whole new members, Miss Martian and Steel. The two new members are clearly going to be essential, with Miss Martian serving as a liaison between the Titans and the Justice League, and Steel giving the Titans the ability to locate Emergents.
Ironically, the idea behind the Emergents is similar to a favorite fan-theory as to how mutants could be integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans have long suggested that some sort of exotic energy could be transmitted across the globe, triggering the X-gene. It's amusing to note that DC Comics has beaten Marvel to that particular idea!
The Titans one-shot is available on ComiXology now.