Despite the fact that a fair amount of geeks have seen the original series housed by the DC Universe streaming service, I’ve often wished they’d be enjoyed by a wider audience. Granted, the limited reach comes with the territory of being a niche platform, but I remember turning to a friend during a jam-packed Lucifer panel at Motor City Comic Con this past May and saying something like “if only all these people watched Doom Patrol.”
Okay, this review obviously isn’t about Doom Patrol (though they will be discussed in a bit), but you get my point. And now, with Titans: The Complete First Season‘s home video release upon us, the masses have their chance to get in on the ground floor for something that may prove to be as magical as The CW’s Arrowverse.
Before I delve into the product itself, I’d like to hand it to the folks behind DC Universe for releasing this show on Blu-ray within a year of the inaugural season’s conclusion. When it comes to Marvel’s Netflix stuff, we often find ourselves waiting years for those on home video, which I still find ridiculous.
Getting back to Titans itself, newbies should be forewarned not to expect something in the vein of the Teen Titans animated series, and certainly not anything remotely comparable to the tone of Teen Titans Go! Instead, imagine if Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans comic books got the Vertigo or Black Label treatment but in the live action realm. In other words, put the kids to bed before popping in this bad boy, though I surmise parents who took their toddlers to see Deadpool and let them play Grand Theft Auto won’t listen.
In a way, taking one of comics’ premier adolescent superhero teams to the TV-MA extreme seems reactionary to the aforementioned Marvel Netflix initiative, yet it worked. Before this show came into being, I never thought of this property being given the mature treatment. Swamp Thing? Definitely. Titans? Not in my wildest imagination.
To succinctly sum up what’s going on without giving too much away, compliments must be paid to Geoff Johns, Akiva Goldsman, Greg Berlanti and the rest of the creative crew for cleverly intertwining the stories of Dick Grayson/Robin (Brenton Thwaites), Rachel Roth/Raven (Teagan Croft) and Koriand’r/Starfire (Anna Diop). Garfield Logan/Beast Boy (Ryan Potter) is more so peripheral for the time being, but his presence is appreciated.
Basically, the first season focuses largely on the origin of Raven, although it’s important to note she’s not yet the superhero known to fans the world over. As she learns of her sinister parentage, she receives guidance from Dick Grayson at a time when he’s really trying to find himself; the aging Boy Wonder is now estranged from Batman and working as a detective in Detroit. Really, he’s struggling as he tries to figure out how to put the Robin persona behind him, with the Nightwing identity not quite in his grasp.
When it comes to Kory, we meet her as an amnesiac, hence the reason why she’s not wearing the familiar costume of her comic book counterpart. It turns out her mission is intertwined with Rachel’s coming of age, but you’re going to have to watch in order to find out more specifics.
Along the way, viewers will be rewarded with one treat after another. Not only does this show feature the first live action appearances of folks like Raven, Starfire and Beast Boy, but also cult favorites Hawk (Alan Ritchson) and Dove (Minka Kelly), Jason Todd/Robin II (Curran Walters), Donna Troy/Wonder Girl (Conor Leslie) and the Doom Patrol.
To be honest, I never had much interest in Hawk and Dove, and was all but ready to write off their inclusion going in. But to my delight, the two episodes focusing on them – “Hawk and Dove” and “Hank and Dawn” – can be counted among my favorites. The drama is pretty solid in both, not to mention the second of those two dealing with some very mature themes.
“Jason Todd” was another highlight in my view, which finally brought the story of Batman’s second apprentice beyond just comics and animation. Curran Walters proved to be a downright perfect fit for the role, and I hope to see more of him going forward.
“Doom Patrol” is quite obviously a backdoor pilot for the series of the same name, and is not to be missed. Just know that a different actor portrays Chief in this instance (Bruno Bichir, not Timothy Dalton) and the characterization of Negative Man (Matt Bomer) is a bit different from what you’ll eventually see on the Doom Patrol show proper.
If I were to have any complaint, it’s that there’s a sense of incompleteness to this season. As you may know, season 1 was originally slated to consist of 12 episodes, yet we received 11 total in the end. My best guess is that Warner Bros. wanted to end on a high note by playing the Batman card (yes, he does show up in some capacity), thereby pushing the originally conceived finale to season 2.
Because of this, the producers will have to wrap up the Trigon arc before introducing Deathstroke in season 2. Furthermore, we never actually see the Titans as a team in the purest sense. Rather, they’re more so a group of people brought together by bizarre circumstances. Yes, there’s a difference. Maybe they were supposed to come together as one would expect in the original finale, but I can’t speak for that right now. Perhaps you’ll agree with me after binge-watching this for yourself. Had everything truly come full circle, I’d probably have given this set a higher rating.
As for the bonus features, they’re plentiful but brief. On the plus side, you’ll learn much about the main cast and guest characters mentioned above. I recommend watching each of them for educational purposes, and because you’ll get a better understanding of why the producers took this show in such a mature direction. Hey, Geoff Johns is capable of making some convincing arguments.
By now, you’ve probably figured that Titans: The Complete First Season has gained my approval, so you should waste little time in picking up a copy for yourself. It won’t be long before the second season arrives, and it’d be worth your while to make sure you’re caught up in time. I have a strong feeling it’s only going to get better from here on out.
Not only does Titans mark a lot of "firsts" for the live action realm, but it stands on its own as a wonderful piece of serialized superhero storytelling that earns its mature rating.