There has been no small amount of consternation from the fan community concerning Cartoon Network’s recently rejiggered DC Nation programming block. The cancellation of Young Justice: Invasion—and to a lesser extent Green Lantern: The Animated Series, which was itself really shaping up—evoked ample fanboy ire, and this was only amplified by their planned replacements.
Beware the Batman, a grittier follow-up to the previous Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon, eschews the all-ages fun of its predecessor in favor of a more violent take that has already been scaled back a bit following the Aurora theater shooting. However, the darker, more serious tone of Young Justice will be replaced by a chibi reboot of the early-2000s animated sensation Teen Titans dubbed Teen Titans Go!
Based on the New Teen Titans animated shorts, Teen Titans Go! sees Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Greg Cipes, Hynden Walch and Tara Strong reprise their roles as Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire and Twilight Sparkle er… um… Raven respectively. And while the animation style has shifted rather sharply from that of the original series, the characterizations arrive intact. Thankfully, so does the cleverly amusing writing.
Teen Titans Go! kicks off, fittingly enough, with a remix of the original theme by Japanese pop duo Puffy AmiYumi. But not just any remix, mind you; this theme was given the once-over by master turntablist and longtime Beastie Boys collaborator Mix Master Mike. I make this distinction because this choice is rather telling of the series as a whole.
Teen Titans Go! is, in a very real way, a remix of Teen Titans. Beast Boy and Cyborg are animated in a way that is much looser, more stylized, but they’re still the fast friends that you remember. Similarly, Raven is still sardonic, Starfire’s still clueless but well-meaning—as opposed to her hyper-sexualized Red Hood and the Outlaws counterpart—and Robin is still their alternatingly fearless/hapless leader. All the necessary components are accounted for, just maybe in a slightly different manner than you might expect.
In the sneak preview that I was afforded by Cartoon Network, I couldn’t help but notice the return of other series touchstones. There’s their shared domicile, for example, though it wasn’t exactly referred to as the Titans Tower of old, and in one of the teasers the featured villain was none other than nefarious pie-slinger Mother Mae-Eye.
Oddly enough, both episodes on my screener employed food as the go-to plot device. In an effort to earn money to buy Cyborg a birthday present Beast Boy takes a job as Mother Mae-Eye’s pie shop, only to discover her sinister recipe. The other ep centered on the group’s search for the components needed to make the ultimate sandwich—a bit of inspired busywork mandated by Raven to the rest of the team so that she could be left alone to watch an obvious My Little Pony homage. (See the third paragraph if you don’t get the significance.) It’s this clear sense of self-awareness combined with the more surrealist world-building that actually makes me parallel this new series not merely with its television forerunner and works like Eisner Award-winning comic book series Tiny Titans, but with other wonderfully weird Cartoon Network heavy-hitters like Adventure Time and Regular Show.
Teen Titans Go! is new and it is different and it may well be viewed as a slap in the face to those who desperately clung to the promise of a sixth season of Teen Titans-proper. Likewise its 180 degree turn from the character-driven drama of Young Justice is sure to put off another subset of fans. Yet it is, by its own merits, an engaging, fun and—dare I say—satisfying take on the source material.
In closing, to those still uneasy about this seemingly drastic shift in the Titans‘ status quo I say (in my best dad voice,) “Try it; you might like it.”
I know I do.
Review and promotional materials provided by: Cartoon Network