When there’s trouble you know who to call;
From their tower they can see it all…
Hard to believe that for five years that was the musical answer-clue to the Jeopardy question: “Who are the Teen Titan?”
What the ‘Teen Titans - The Complete Fifth Season DVD set’ doesn’t tell you is that it was the FINAL season of the very famous/infamous animated series. A very polarizing animated series that split fandom into those who loved –well, at least liked the show (mostly kids and people who are big fans of anime) and those who hated- no, more like disliked or dismissed the show (older fans of the Teen Titans comics and anime fanatics). I suppose I always fell somewhere in the middle on all counts and seeing the series end. I could always appreciate from a distance the missteps and the wild artistic direction the show would take because
…frankly, these weren’t MY Teen Titans. My Teen Titans were Robin, Wonder Girl, Speedy, Aqualad and Kid Flash.
This set of Teen Titans, however, was more than less based on theMarv Wolfman & George Perez created ‘New Teen Titans’ of the 80’s with Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Beast Boy, Starfire, Cyborg and Raven. A wildly successful relaunch of the franchise that was more influenced by the new X-Men and than its Justice League mentors. Nearly two decades later the Teen Titans animated series took that same lineup, amplified aspects of their individual personalities to such a degree as to make them almost unrecognizable and processed it a faux-anime style. Easy to see how it could’ve turned so many people off.
It’s also easy to see how it could win so many new fans, too. More so than those Teen Titans comics, these Titans were definitely written as teenagers. It had a fast pace that often made the episodes seem shorter than they actually were. And with the way each ep could switch so quickly between madcap, goofy fun to all-out, gratuitous violence, it was much more on the mark of its stated mission of being a superhero cartoon for younger kids than either The Batman or Batman Beyond.
As much as it may have seemed to the casual viewer that the show threw away all the Teen Titan’s history, throughout the series they regularly fought obscure villains from the old, old Teen Titans comics (such as Mad Mod, Ding Dong Daddy) and in the first four seasons they were overly plagued by Slade, the Terminator, H.I.V.E. and the demon Trigon. But the show never seem to progress much until the fifth season where there was a single storyline building and ratcheting up the tension in each episode. Not to mention giving airtime to almost every Teen Titan we’ve ever seen.
Parts 1 & 2”- Beast Boy is reunited with his family, The Doom Patrol. Led by ‘Mento’ (replacing ‘the Chief’ from the original Doom Patrol), this team is run more like a military unit and he’s demanding that Beast Boy “re-enlist” to fight with them in their war against The Brotherhood of Evil. Dude seems a bit hardcore paranoid until the end when you find out he’s right.
This sets up the entire series as we see the Brotherhood’s plan is to capture every Teen Titan worldwide. As Robin is trying to traverse the globe to put T-comms (communicators) in the hands of all Titans, so they can be alerted to the progression of the plot. ‘Madame Rouge’(an evil shape-shifter who’s even more of a bitch than the X-mens’s Mystique) is dispatched to track down a T-comm. With it The Bootherhood of Evil is able to track down Titans as quickly as Robin can recruit them.
This a total comedy episode that focuses entirely on the West Coast Teen Titans (Speedy, Aqualad, Bumblebee, Mas y Menos) and how they get no respect: They’re headquarters isn’t as good as Titan’s Tower, Speedy is constantly mistaken for the Robin by the fans and worst of all they face off against the villain ‘Control Freak’- an obvious parody of Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles who fights with movie props (i.e. lightsabres) and a reality-altering remote control.
It’s actually a pretty funny episode that does a good job of making fun of internet chat culture. It’s also notable that this version of Speedy makes an appearance in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon the same year, thus finally linking Teen Titans to the Bruce Timm produced Batman-Superman-Static Shock-Justice League animated universe.
This my absolute favorite episode of the entire series, and not just because it features my favorite Titan, Kid Flash. He’d been notably absent throughout the series and here’s a whole episode devoted only to him as he takes on Madame Rouge by himself while trying to pull the young villain in training, Jinx, away from the dark side.
If there’s any speculation whether or not this is the same Wally West/ The Flash from the Justice League series it’s erased by having the same voice actor, Michael Rosenbaum, in the role. It’s a tight, well-written episode and most interestingly, Wally as Kid Flash is animated as having much more effective control of his powers than he ever did as The Flash in any of the Justice League cartoons
Kind of an odd choice to wait until the final season to show what’s essentially the pilot episode of a series, but here’s the much awaited origin of this Teen Titans. Gone is the somber story of Raven bringing them all together to stop her father, Trigon, from destroying the world. Instead the five teen superheroes meet while defending the city from an alien invasion of Gordanians trying to recapture Starfire. Besides setting up all the personalities of the characters and how they’ll interact for the rest of the series, we get to see how very different Starfire was perceived before she decided to try to fit in amongst humankind. She’s like a ferocious beast of immense power that the Titans wouldn’t stand a chance against as an enemy. Luckily she quickly developed a crush on Robin.
“CALLING ALL TITANS “ & “TITANS TOGETHER”
This two-part climax of the series is a real doozie. The Brotherhhod of Evil have won the war! With virtually all of the significant Teen Titans from all over the world defeated and captured it’s up to Beast Boy, the team screw-up, to gather the few remaining Titans to mount a suicide assault. This culminates in maybe the all-time largest animated battle royale between maybe every teenage hero and every villain that has ever appeared in a Teen Titans comic book (except Wonder Girl). Even though “Lightspeed” is my favorite episode, these are probably the best of the series.
This episode is the last one on the disks and it’s notable in that it makes no sense being in the fifth season at all, let alone the final word to close out the series. The Titans return from defeating the Brotherhood of Evil to find their city isn’t as familiar to them as it used to be. While they spent the next 22 minutes tracking down shape-shifting creature that attacks them out of nowhere, Beast boy goes a.w.o.l. to stalk a high school girl who looks like his dead girlfriend Terra to convince her that she really is Terra. The ‘Terra’ storyline played out seasons ago and wasn’t exactly calling out for a resolution…which is good because this episode doesn’t resolve EITHER subplot! Where the Teen Titans was already going out with a bang, it seemed to decide that it preferred a whimper.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES:
The extras on this DVD set are a reviewers dream as they are sparse beyond sparse and I can wrap this up quickly. There’s no “Making Of” documentary. No audio commentary tracks. No games. Not even a lousy list of the cast and their previous credits. Here’s what you do get:
“Teen Titans: Friend or Foe” featurette
In quick cut interviews the directors discuss their takes on the different heroes and villains that appear in the show. It seems lame but is actually a bit more interesting than you’d expect. For Instance, you learn that the animators wanted Kid Flash in the group from the beginning but didn’t permission from Warner Bros. until almost the end of the series.
Well, it was interesting to me, anyway.
Trailers “Trailers of what?“, you may ask with this being the last season and all. Trailers for the animated adventures of other DC Comics heroes? Nope. Trailers of things that seem almost random: The Richie Rich/ Scooby Doo Hour Vol.1 DVD set, the “Ben 10: Race Against Time” movie and “Speed Racer: The Game”.
It’s sad to me that the plug got pulled on Teen Titans just as it showed it’s potential to be a great show, even sadder that the abandonment continued onto this final DVD collection. I still say that if you’ve ever been curious about the Titans this DVD would be the one to purchase.
…Or I suppose you could wait another 20 years when the kids who grew up loving this cartoon are in charge of pop culture mass media. They’ll no doubt “rediscover” the show and reissue it in the deluxe, collector’s edition boxed set it deserves.