When Warner Bros. and DC Comics announced the creation of the DC Universe online service, fans were promised content from the storied past of DC Comics, including curated comic runs, feature films like Richard Donner’s Superman, the classic Batman: The Animated Series, Lynda Carter’s classic Wonder Woman TV series, and new content created explicitly for the online service. The first project of that original content, DC’s Titans, premiered this week, and the darker, gritty take on one of comicdom’s most hopeful and colorful superteams is a mixed bag — to start.
Titans stars Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson/Robin, Anna Diop as Kory/Starfire, Teagan Croft as Rachel/Raven, and Ryan Potter as Gar/Beast Boy. The show is created by Akiva Goldsman, Greg Berlanti, and Geoff Johns. Goldsman is no stranger to DC Comics properties as the writer of Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, two of the most controversially bad films of the Batman cinematic catalog. What saves Titans is Greg Berlanti, who has had a hand in creating The CW’s “Arrowverse” TV shows, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Black Lightning. Rounding out the creative hive mind is Geoff Johns, a DC Comics legend, who reinvigorated Green Lantern in the mid-2000s, and has worked on some of the comic company’s biggest character-driven comic events since.
Titans is slated for 13 episodes, with a new episode released each week on the online service. The pilot, simply titled “Titans,” works to introduce the audience to the main cast. Dick Grayson (Thwaites) works as a detective for Detroit PD, having left Gotham after a misunderstanding with his former “partner.” Rachel (Croft) is a troubled teenage girl who has dark visions and dreams — including a dream about a certain horrible night at a circus in Gotham — and whose mother (Sherilynn Finn) locks in her room each night for protection. Whose protection is up for interpretation. Rachel lives just outside Detroit, and after a tragedy occurs, she runs away to the big city to escape the demons that plague her. This puts her on a collision course with Grayson, who still suits up as Robin at night and takes on child abusers and criminals in dark alleys.
Halfway around the world, in eastern Europe, Kory (Diop) wakes up from a car crash unsure of who she is, and as her mystery unfolds, her powers manifest themselves in an explosive way. The last Titan, Gar (Potter) is introduced at the very end of the episode, as he steals an Xbox game while transformed into a green tiger.
Berlanti, Johns, and Goldsman all contributed to the teleplay of this first episode, and while it eschews many of the comics’ tropes in favor for more adult fare, including some jarring language, there is still that glint of colorful fun that Marv Wolfman’s original Teen Titans books carried. Director Brad Anderson does a great job of setting up shots, and the fight choreography and more action-oriented scenes are both filmed very well. The lighting is dim and dark, almost to a fault, but it sets a decent mood for the dark mysteries of the story being told on screen.
Thwaites is solid as both Grayson and Robin, as is Croft as Rachel. She carries an air of innocence about her, so when Raven appears, its a nice change of pace. The real star of this first episode is Anna Diop as Kory/Starfire. She carries the show and demands your attention when she’s on-screen. When she powers up as Starfire, it is a sight for sure. Gone is the comically innocent, demur alien princess from other Teen Titans projects, and her “amnesia” serves to replace that naiveté. It also helps that Diop is gorgeous, and has the acting chops to back it up. For what many complained might be the weak link of this new series, Diop comes out of the gate in Episode 1 on fire — pun fully intended.
Sadly, Titans can’t be binged here at the start, as the DC Universe service plans to release a new episode every Friday morning. The mysteries presented in this first episode are enough to bring the audience back for more, and in the hands of Geoff Johns and Greg Berlanti, good stuff is just ahead, I’m very confident of that. Join us next week for a review of Episode 2 of DC’s Titans.
Titans is available on the DC Universe online service, which costs about $8 a month, or $75 a year. All images © DC Universe.