Teen Titans Debut "Final Exam" (7/19/03)

Teen Titans... Could be better, but sure could be worse too!1/2

My future is coming on it's coming on it's coming on it's coming on...

J.C. Mašek III... 

When he was a TEEN!!!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

DC Versus Marvel! It started as a joke between friends, but eventually became a big rivalry. In the late Seventies, DC decided to compete heavily for the teen market by creating The New Teen Titans written by the incredible Marv Wolfman and illustrated by George Perez the man himself. Originally nothing more than a gathering of sidekicks, Robin, Speedy, and Aqualad, the New group was a gathering of teens now led by a Batman-free Robin, and featured not only kid sidekicks but new additions like Raven, Starfire, Cyborg, and Beast Boy (aka Changeling previously of the Doom Patrol)! This winning series was not only a sales boon for the great DC, but introduced some incredible characters in their own right, not the least of which was Slade Wilson, also known as Deathstroke: The Terminator! After a long successful run and a few spinoffs, the Titans went their separate ways. Naturally there were several attempts to revive the series, most notably by a post-Superman Dan Jurgens, but little fruit was borne.
POW! Take that!  I ain't Go-in' nowhere, I ain't goin' no where!  I can't be stopped now, 'cause it's comic book geek for LIFE!
Above: Your Reviewer, J.C. Mašek III wearing "Robin" cape, saying "Pow" March 1977, Ville Platte, Louisiana... Yes, I was a Comic Book Geek even then, and... yeah... yeah, that's a cow... yeah!
But who else has been into this for so long without actually being Stan Lee? I mean, who are you going to trust? Me, or some EW columnist? I wasn't even three years old yet! Ah? AAAAAAAAAAAAH?

Luckily the war for popularity between Marvel and DC continues... while in the year of 2003 Marvel unconditionally controls the box office, DC is much more popular on television, from Smallville to Birds of Prey to the Warner Bros cartoons featuring some of the best from Static Shock to Justice League! Naturally, a revival of Teen Titans by Warner Brothers on the Cartoon Network piqued the collective interest of Comic book fans everywhere. After having viewed the premier episode I have to ask one prime question pertaining to the series as a whole from here on out... why... why... why did it have to be so bad?

Okay, I should be fair here. I mean, it wasn't quite the ingrown toenail that it could be, and surprisingly its fairly accurate to the source material. The series centers, as it should, around Robin, Cyborg, RAVEN!Raven, Beast Boy, and Starfire!Starfire (gone are some of the other characters like Aqualad and Speedy, but I imagine that this is due to a professional pass to wait for a superior show). Like the comic they occupy a "T" shaped tower off of Manhattan which simultaneously makes one feel secure that heroes are about, and makes the kids easy to target by just about any villain that wants to find them... hell, just look for the Big T!

This, by the way, is exactly what happens in the debut episode. While out for Pizza fortunately in full costume (!), the kids get attacked by a trio of Marvel rip offs sent by a woman working for a "Mr. Slade." What follows is a plot as "formula" as New Coke in which proverbial clocks are cleaned, characters disappear and miraculously return lamer than Viggo Mortenson in a Tolkein film, and at the last minute the heroes remember they are super powered enough to save the day after all. Where were those powers in the beginning, lame-o? Did you forget those like Ollie North forgot all his Iran/ Contra dealings? (What? What? Too soon?)

It's not that we haven't forgiven formulaic cartoons before, but the issue here is that there is so much here that is just plain silly... and it seems intentional. First off, Ciro Nieli who also directs the Cartoon Network Justice League cartoon either had something to do with the Gorillaz videos, or he's a big enough fan to rip those off. Every character here looks like they're about to do a spin and glare into the camera singing "Finally someone let me out of my cage! Time for me is nothin' 'cause I'm countin' no age!" There is also so many conceits borrowed from the worst of Manga ClichÚs. For example, any time two characters start to fight the scenery vanishes and is replaced by swooshing lines. Likewise, the embarrasing theme song is pure bad Japanese Pop which made me cringe more than the theme from Star Trek: Enterprise! Not that every cartoon has to be The Animatrix, but all the characters here look a little one dimensional and rubbery at the same time. Speaking of Rubbery, there is a scene in which the actual "T" tower turns elastic and spits out four of our five Titans out into New York Harbor! Why? If the show's just for kiddies, then why in the heck did it debut at Nine PM? Still, rubbery or not, the animation beats MTV's Spider-Man hands down!

As alluded to earlier,

Other Comic Book-(ish) reviews:

  Spider-Man 2 (2004)
  Hellboy (2004)
  The Hulk (2003)
  X-Men (2000)
  X-Men 2 (2003)
  Spawn Season 2 (1998)
  Smallville (2003)
  Road To Perdition (1998)
  The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
these kids are pretty tough, and never once would one believe that "The Hive" (a trio consisting of a techno-midget, a Mr. Hyde-like tough guy, and a telekinetic chick who looks like the lead singer of Sunflower Sutra) was much of a threat. When time begins to run out on the show, then suddenly the Titans can kick butt. Again, not sure why... no real change occurred from the first or second meeting, but, hey, it worked this time, I guess, like this last time the Mary and Rhoda got together in spite of earlier failures! (What? What? Too soon?)

Lastly, these characters could use some exposition here. You'd have to have been living under a rock to not know who Robin is, but the rest of these characters are a little obscure, especially in 2003! Maybe a future episode will explain how Cyborg CYBORG!became a cyborg, Raven began to be... whatever she is, Starfire came from her home planet and Best Boy!Beast Boy got his powers to become any animal of any color (as long as its green). The series was hard hitting and dealt with drugs, terrorism and crime, and it's just hard to see this being quite so serious... but then again, Sesame Street did do that Mister Hooper funerary episode... so who knows? (What? What? Too soon?)

Again, this was fairly accurate, just a little skewed toward the silly, sort of like the Ford Administration. It was nice to see that they were planting the seeds for what could be an interesting future, doubtless featuring Slade Wilson (Deathstroke is seen only in Silhouette, but there's no question who this "Mister Slade" is)! As with the WB's Birds of Prey I have to say this... at least they're trying here. It sure beats some of the pathetic things that have passed for comic entertainment in the past.

Two and One Half Stars for Teen Titans! There's a long way to fall, for sure, but you know, there's a lot more UP they could go for as well! Let's hope like the Gorillaz their future is coming on, it's coming on, it's coming on... Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to write the networks to pass on a proposed Mary, Rhoda and Oliver North Television Special centering around the Ghost of Mister Hooper. I'd rather see an All Smurf "Hands Across America" with Cliff Robertson reprising his role as Charly Gordon as narrator of the event all sponsored by AT&T! (What? What? Too soon?)

Argh! Such thoughts I have!

If you want some SUPER reviews, click here!

Teen Titans: "Final Exam" (7/19/03) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his views and the Truly pathetic knowledge he posesses about DC Super Teams!
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