NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for "Teen Titans" #1
The prospect of telling the latest story in the saga of the Teen Titans isn't as simple as it may seem. For writer Benjamin Percy and artist Jonboy Meyers, it means giving the team purpose, when the traditional premise of the title is straightforward, if not simple: young heroes unite to catch criminals and come of age. What makes "Teen Titans: Rebirth" seem even more difficult is the fact that the main characters are mainly the same Titans that DC Comics fans will be most familiar with as modern members.
The solution, at least early on, seems to be Damian Wayne. After spending the "Rebirth" issue covertly ambushing and incapacitating Kid Flash, Beast Boy, Starfire and Raven, the first issue of the series proper has shed more light on his motivations. In keeping with the title and adolescent angst it's explored in the past, Damian Wayne's thirteenth birthday has caused him to rethink his life - and his first mission begins with putting previous Teen Titan rosters to shame.
He'll need to do it quickly, too... since his first step into manhood has gained the attention of his grandfather. And it isn't a gift Ra's al Ghul is sending.
A 'Better' Teen Titans
Since his introduction as the in-continuity child of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, Damian Wayne has been nothing if not divisive. It's not hard to see why: he's arrogant, antisocial, and eager to both please his father and point out his shortcomings. Bundling that up in a preteen who's also been trained by the League of Assassins is a recipe for a brat, but Percy and Meyers act quickly to show that adolescence will be as formative a time for Damian as any boy his age. Forget just appreciating the care that Alfred Pennyworth has shown him in Bruce's absence - Damian actually wants him to know he's appreciated. As for the Titans... well, there's still plenty of ego to go around.
If there were ever any doubts that Damian was truly the offspring of Batman, his monologue delivered to the captive heroes would end the debate. Explaining at length how easy it was to outsmart and defeat each hero, two things become clear: Damian actually is the Batman of this particular super team, and he makes a compelling argument. As the Titans collectively escape and work together to corner him, they've made Damian's point for him: that they were easy to defeat on their own, but together, they could be a truly formidable unit.
There's a moral lesson in his offer (if you can call "I dare you to join me" an offer), as Damian has come to realize that a person's upbringing, family, or background don' define who you are. Of all the children in the DC Universe, the desire to leave one's past behind them would be easiest to grasp for Damian - but the past has a mind of its own. And that, it turns out, is the real reason a new take on the Teen Titans is needed.
The Real Threat On Its Way
Many DC readers would have a hard time actually calling Damian a "hero," given his wavering morality and loyalty in the past. But nothing shows one's heroic side than an even less likable villain, and Damian's grandfather looks to be the prime mover in the new book's chain of events. No matter how determined Damian is to become greater than his mother or father, the wrapped birthday present from Ra's al Ghul reminds him that his life is not his own: a dead robin with a note claiming he lives only because he is allowed to. With those well wishes comes a simple choice: either Damian fulfills the destiny his grandfather has assigned him... or be killed.
That's as good a justification for assembling a strike team of allies as any, although it's unclear just why or how Damian has included Raven, Gar, Wally and Koriand'r in his impending doom. We wouldn't put it past him to actually place them in harm's way to necessitate a team up, but whatever the reason, the team's only chance at survival means striking as a fist, not individual fingers. Oh, and dealing with their personal struggles and insecurities before Ra's al Ghul's team of assassins arrives to kill them.
It's a wise move to differentiate Damian so clearly from Dick Grayson or Tim Drake before him, with their differences in personality reflected in their motivations and manner in founding a team of young heroes. For the first time, it may actually be their powers that bring them into a team, not a shared age, angst, or sidekick complex. It's a new take on the Titans, and if it gives Damian Wayne a storyline all his own along the way, you won't hear us complaining.
Teen Titans #1 is available now.