The end of “Check/Out” lays the groundwork for a new/revamped Batman and the Outsiders, and also, one imagines, a new Original Teen Titans reunion title.
BATO never really got me going the first time around. For one thing, it seemed like an attempt to cash in on New Teen Titans (a Bat-person’s team includes established and new characters*); and for another, it always made more sense for Batman to be in the Justice League. Let’s face it: we like Batman because he is such an overstuffed character. Not just smart, scary, and cool, more often than not he’s smarter, scarier, and/or cooler than anyone else in the room. Of course this can get old; of course it’s fertile parody material. However, even in the pre-Miller early ‘80s, it was expected of Batman. When the Outsiders crossed over with the Teen Titans, part of the story’s plot was that Batman effectively took over both teams. Batman’s appearance at the end of “Check/Out” took a similar tone.
Thus, to me, Batman fits best with the similarly oversized characters of the Justice League, where he’s not overshadowing anyone; and where he has the potential to be overshadowed. The original Teen Titans were similarly on the same social level, each effectively subordinate to a Justice League mentor. Accordingly, when they were reunited in 1999′s The Titans, the book’s tone was somewhat self-congratulatory: “look how well we turned out.” I suppose that’s what you have to do with these characters, considering that most of them will not replace their mentors (at least, not permanently).
As it happens, though, the combination of nostalgia and “appropriate promotion” has placed in the League a couple of ex-Outsiders (Black Lightning, Geo-Force) and a couple of ex-Titans (Flash, Red Arrow). While this doesn’t affect the current Outsiders much, it throws a wrench into the social dynamic of a Titans reunion. It’s not like there’s a shortage of third-generation DC characters, but the Original Titans have a certain appeal, and I’m a little surprised DC might try to float an adult-Titans book without all of them.
So who would be in an adult-Titans title? Well, it’s reasonable to start with the three “Challengers of the Beyond,” the codename-averse Donna “Troia” Troy, Jason “Red Hood” Todd, and Kyle “Ion” Rayner. Jason’s being positioned as the (ugh) “bad boy” who’ll come between ex-lovers Donna and Kyle, but as Robin he did work with Donna’s group of Titans right after Crisis On Infinite Earths ended. Back then, a floundering Donna looked to Jason for leadership, figuring that anyone trained (however briefly) by Batman had to be pretty good strategically. Needless to say, this turned out not to be the case. Now Donna’s been Wonder Woman, Kyle’s been both Ion and Parallax, and Jason’s similarly played on both sides of the moral fence. While all three are former Titans (Kyle joined after Zero Hour), Donna is the only lock for a new team. I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both of the others joined too, but I’m guessing Jason will stay on, and Kyle will return to the Green Lantern Corps. We can add Nightwing and Tempest from the original group, although Tempest’s been a little out of sorts since Infinite Crisis.
Thus, the candidate pool currently includes Nightwing, Red Hood (who hasn’t been hooded lately, come to think of it), and Troia. If Cyborg, Raven, and Jericho come back to an adult-Titans book, that would be fine with me. Starfire looks to be busy with Adam Strange and Animal Man, and I presume Beast Boy will stick with the Doom Patrol. I’m not confident Jason will make it out of Countdown.
Regardless, once everyone’s commitments end, an adult-Titans book could very easily star the post-”Judas Contract” New Teen Titans: Nightwing, Troia, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, Jericho, and Beast Boy. Many of them have worked together since “Titans Hunt” tore them apart back in the early ‘90s. I daresay they’re all still friends, at the very least. Still, they have no more reason to be together now than I do to organize all my best law-school friends into a new firm. I’d love it if it happened, but obviously it wouldn’t be exactly the same. Indeed, the aforementioned “Original Titans” reunion that brought Jason Todd into the group also featured the return of (ex-Kid) Flash, Aqualad, Hawk, and Speedy; and it was a mess. It was a mess on purpose, but still.
At the end of Outsiders #49, Nightwing tells Batman that his team was born out of the idea that it would be “all about work,” that “we wouldn’t fight alongside friends or family,” and that “I don’t like it very much.” I’m guessing this means his next team will be more relationship-based, and that lends more credence to a new reunion title. Again, though, a reunion implies that things will be exactly the same, except when they’re not, and don’t we want to see how that shakes out?
DC must know this, and if a reunion title comes to pass must surely use it as the new series’ hook. Regardless, as much as I would enjoy a reunion title, especially with the right creative team, it’s hardly the kind of thing that moves the characters forward. The Teen Titans is by definition a transitional group, because its members aren’t going to be sidekicks forever. The fact that it’s produced full-time Justice Leaguers and Justice Socialites, and spun members off into new titles, speaks to this process. For a while New Teen Titans was as important to DC as “Friends” was to NBC, and for similar reasons: attractive young people going through important transitions.** NBC’s fallen on hard times, but even if it could I doubt it would field a “Friends” reunion show. The stories involving those characters as a social unit may well have been exhausted, unless DC finds the right people to coax new life out of those relationships.
See, it’s easy to do a new Batman and the Outsiders. Batman could even take a less active role, passing the leadership on to Catwoman or Katana so he could participate in Justice League adventures. That leaves you with a rag-tag band of misfits struggling to find its place in a world of clean-cut capes.
The Titans’ relationships make them different, though. The trick may be to cultivate new relationships which can then lead organically to a different team as tight-knit in its way as the ones we’ve come to love. The question is whether DC is laying the foundation for those new relationships, or whether it’s just re-animating the old ones.
[* Upon further reflection, because I always liked Batgirl, I would definitely have bought a Batgirl and the Outsiders title, just as I now buy Birds Of Prey.]
[** Donna Troy = Monica Geller, but I don't know which NTT spinoff maps to "Joey."]