Earth One’s Teen Titans Arrive in Style With Terry Dodson Designer Series Figures [Review]
The Earth One OGN initiative at DC Comics offered the chance for new origin stories to be given to characters like Superman and Batman without readers having to worry about any continuity beyond what happened in those pages. In addition to offering modernized takes on familiar faces, it also gave the creative teams a chance to inject new ideas and style into the mix. It's hard to shake-up characters like Batman and Superman too much without going full '90s, but with characters like the Teen Titans, there's a lot more wiggle room. That's where Terry Dodson comes in.
With Teen Titans: Earth One, Dodson took the cores of what made characters like Cyborg, Beast Boy and Raven so immediately recognizable, and slapped a little bit of new millennium thinking on them. Starfire gets the most drastic costume revamp, though that's mostly because she spends virtually the entire first book (assuming there is a follow-up based on the cliffhanger) in government captivity, and thus is consigned to wearing some sort of weird jumpsuit.
Anyway, the designs were strong enough for DC Collectibles to turn them into action figures for its Designer Series line. Where Greg Capullo's held the fort firmly with his Batman family pieces, Dodson's figures give us a glimpse at the side of the DCU we don't quite often get to enjoy on the merchandise front, and it's a smart, successful inclusion.
Most of Teen Titans: Earth One takes place in the Pacific Northwest, but writer Jeff Lemire and the Dodsons (Terry and Rachel) place Raven far, far away at the Ramah Navajo reservation in New Mexico. In this iteration, Raven is a Native American who has visions of Starfire and the other teens that will soon find themselves embroiled in mysteries and powers they can't quite comprehend. It's not a subtle shift for the character, and Raven's new origin is probably the most drastic alteration of the Titans. However, it works quite well, and makes sense given the raven's cultural meaning as a harbinger of messages from the cosmos.
Raven's cloak and predilection towards black clothing still holds, as does the gold belt that so often tied her classic DC Comic look together. There are also cowboy boots, which I love. Sculpted by Jack Mathews (as was Starfire), even without having Terry Dodson's name plastered over the package, the inspiration for this figure is immediately recognizable. She's got the classic Dodson proportions, with a slender but not ridiculous frame, and the sculpt is as clean as Terry's linework. The paint app, based on Brad Anderson's colors on the book, is near perfect, and reflect the character just as well here as they did on the page.
That kind of adherence to an artist's style does come with a few drawbacks, which affects all four of the figures in different degrees. Raven has some good articulation below the waist, but lacks any movement in the torso whatsoever. Her massive head of hair prevents the neck articulation from offering more than a 100 degrees of rotation, and she can only really look straight ahead or slightly down. Her cloak also prevents you from doing much with her arms, and that big hairdo prevents you from taking it off to get more range of motion.
Curiously, the Cyborg figure we get is based off the version that appeared on the cover of the graphic novel and not the one from the interiors. While Vic Stone will eventually look like this, completely covered in a synthetic spaceship coating that might be sentient, he hadn't quite progressed that far in the first book. By the end of this first tale, the bio-mechanical coating had only covered about 60% of his visible body. That the robotic portion will eventually cover his hair is certainly an interesting design choice, though I'm curious to see how haircuts will affect Vic in the future.
Cyborg has great articulation, and probably the most detailed paint app of all four Titans. Robert Lynders' sculpt captures all the recognizable elements of Dodson's style in 3D quite well. The detailing on the more alien elements, while simple, does a nice job illuminating the non-human parts of Vic Stone's body without getting overcomplicated. I would have liked a slightly shinier paint app for the metallic elements, but the subdued coloring does still look good contrasting with Vic's natural skin. Vic's the only Titan that comes with alternate hands, and you can swap out clenched fists for open palms if you want. They don't do much to change things up, but the inclusion does allow you to dial back the potentially aggressive poses you could only make with fists.
Beast Boy (or Changeling depending on whether you believe the box art or the name on his test chamber) is my clear cut favorite from this bunch. Though he spends a little bit of time as a few different animals in this book, he first turns into a cat, so that's the figure version we get. I'm cool with it though, because a cat-person who wears hoodies and cargo pants is pretty much my spirit animal at this point in my life. Aside from Starfire, Gar here has the most intricate sculpt (by Derek Miller). That's mostly due to Beast Boy here having the most actual clothing of any member of the team. The clothes look good and lived-in, and helps sell the idea that the character is in motion even when he's not.
The animalistic details are well-rendered too, and his tail can even be posed slightly thanks to a little bit of bendable metal inside. The green used to give Beast Boy his signature skin palette is fairly on point. I'm actually surprised by how great it looks alongside the rest of the "normal" Titans. Beast Boy also has a bit of articulation in his mouth so you can make it look like he's roaring, though you can accidentally open it too far, and then it just looks weird. There isn't enough articulation to put him into a cat-like stance, but even with the thicker clothing, he's still got some good movement.
For not appearing in full for about 90% of the book, it does seem weird that we get a Starfire figure instead of a Terra or Jericho, each of whom played a larger role in the first book. What little we see of Starfire throughout Teen Titans: Earth One is mostly confined to extreme close-ups of her eyes. When the rest of the gang finally does find her locked up deep in the lab that created them, the story is just about over, and we only get a few panels of Starfire in action. Her figure reflects the captured iteration well enough, and even includes the weird Tamaranean space robes her parents wore when the ship crashed in Oregon all those years ago.
The robes are removable, and give a better glimpse at the fan-favorite character. Her hair is rather subdued compared to other iterations we've seen over the years, though I wonder if that's more due to trying to fit it inside the hood than it is reflecting her in-book look. On the page it's a little harder to tell, but it definitely looks like that wild mane she's rocked throughout history is still in tact. It would have been nice to see a energy blast or something included, as the figure is rather plain. I know accessorization hasn't been the modus operandi for the Designer Series to this point, but unlike everyone else in the series, it's hard to know this is Starfire without having read the book or having someone tell you who it is.
That's not to diminish the sculpt or paint app at all, but her redesign is so different from what we've seen in the past, the figure could basically be any old alien woman. I like the idea that Lemire and the Dodsons were going for with Starfire and her family potentially being space refugees, but it comes at the cost of the action figure being fairly indistinguishable among other toys.
With a few different Designer Series under their belts, the team at DC Collectibles seems to have a more than solid grasp on turning signature styles into terrific action figures. Alongside the Greg Capullo and Jae Lee series, the Terry Dodson set is another fine addition. Considering this collection of figures has been tied to specific books each of the artists has worked on, it doesn't look like we'll see more of these Dodson-style figures until the next book of Teen Titans: Earth One arrives... which won't be any time soon based on the schedule I've seen. If these are all we get though, that's not a bad trade since these figures are really great. I just hope one day the rest of the Titans hinted at in the book do get their day in the Dodson.
The DC Collectibles Designer Series: Terry Dodson Teen Titans: Earth One figures can be found online through retailers such as BigBadToyStore, as well as your local comic shop, for ~$22. These figures were provided by DC Collectibles for review.
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