'Titans' Sets the Standard For DC Universe Originals

I wish I could start this review without talking about that “F*ck Batman” line from the first Titans trailer, but that just feels wrong. So here goes —I love that line. I loved it before I heard it in context, and then loved it even more after. I like a good excuse to tell anyone to screw off, but Batman in particular sits right with me. Yeah, he's a rich guy who helps people without having superpowers, so I guess I’m supposed to instinctively respect his intentions. But there’s also more to comics than Batman, he's had decades of unwavering attention, so yeah, I feel you, Dick. And if you were polarized by that line to be anti-Titans here’s why you should still give it a chance.

The series introduces Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin, as the main protagonist. There’s some paternal drama (hence, F**k Batman) between Batman and Robin. Rachel, a.k.a. Raven, who has some pretty scary, demonic powers that she has no idea how to control, fills us in on Dick’s traumatic past. Her empathic abilities lead her and Dick to cross paths IRL, and she causes him to pull some strings that involve resurfacing elements of his past life as Batman’s sidekick, like fellow teammates Hawk and Dove. Starfire quickly comes into the picture, but she's still a wildcard on her own journey. The mystery behind her origins will loom over this show, while Raven’s story propels the overall narrative. Beast Boy, who has the least screen time so far, seems to be just along for the ride.

titans review dc universe original shows superhero tv series "Titans" premieres Oct. 12 on DC Universe. DC

The best part about Titans, the first original show to launch on DC Universe, is that it pulls from the vibes of all the other superhero offerings and spits it out into a whole new thing. Marvel’s Netflix shows aren’t that fun, and DC’s shows on The CW aren’t that deep. Titans is the most balanced superhero show out there. It’s skillfully constructed, narratively speaking, and there’s a surprising amount of flavor beneath its classification as a dark, moody, teen drama. Titans has something for every type of comic book fan — casual fans, superfans, fans who only watch comic book stuff, and even fans who want more of the brooding Batman thing.

There’s still a few wacky leather costumes like the ones in the Arrowverse. Raven brings a horror Constantine-type situation. Beast Boy is the sciency, quirky one. Starfire is the ‘super’ who gets all the best lines. All of this makes Titans feel distinct and dimensioned. I'm hesitant to describe Titans as "dark" just because of its brutal violence; it's not the show's only tone, especially as the series progresses.

raven dick grayson robin titans Rachel and Dick with Robin's car. DC Universe

Between Raven, Robin, Starfire and Beast Boy, Titans almost presents itself as four different shows as it introduces these characters individually. While somewhat jarring at first (Starfire starts off all the way across the world), it does work. The “Let’s be a team” thing doesn’t happen so fast, one of the many signifiers this is a superhero show willing to cross genres, at least as it starts.

There’s no episode-to-episode formula, or mandatory huge cliffhanger question dropped in the last thirty seconds. Thankfully, no corny prompting questions you’ll find in any show involving a team-cast: “Oh so how do we [insert x problem]” that could have been explained in casual dialogue, or not explained at all. I didn’t feel like Titans was underestimating my intelligence as a comic book fan, or a trained, vigilant millennial binge-watcher.

hawk dove dc universe titans fight Hawk in action. DC Universe

Titans is hard to define, which is refreshing when every superhero show sort of puts itself in a box; we know what to expect from The CW shows, we know what to expect from Marvel’s Netflix shows, and … does anyone even know what is happening on Legion (if so please use the comments).  The spirit of the show isn’t so straightforward yet, even after three episodes provided to critics — is it a witchy tale about Raven sucking out people’s insides? Is it about Robin running away from his problems with the Bat? Does the success of this show depend on me watching Starfire sass baddies into oblivion?

If the series can find a way to preserve each individual character’s identity and mold them into a team without compromising what makes them unique in the first place, Titans will prove there’s casual demand for a different kind of superhero show. Watch it Oct. 12 on DC Universe. 

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