Tiny Titans: Penguins in the Batcave
Two comics for kids, two very different approaches.
DC’s Tiny Titans is funny in a way that kids will appreciate. The art style is more reminiscent of Nick magazine than classic superhero comics, and the four stories in this issue are short, simple, and good for one quick laugh each. There are lots of superhero references, but they are all explained; the intent here is clearly to introduce kid-friendly versions of the DC canon in a simple, easy to read style. I do have two complaints: There were lots of ads, which interfered with the flow of the stories as they were not well demarcated, and $2.25 for 32 pages (including ads) doesn’t seem like much of a bargain. But then, I’m conditioned by manga.
Here’s the acid test: My eight-year-old nephew absolutely loves this series. We had a family event yesterday and he was walking around with the Tiny Titans FCBD comic, showing it to people and reading the jokes aloud. It totally cracks him up.
Power Pack, Day One, is a totally different animal, and to be fair, it seems to be written for older children despite its All Ages rating. Take a look at page one:
Now mind you, this is page one of a brand-new series. Do you have any idea what’s going on? No, neither do I, and I don’t appreciate being told on page one that I should be buying another comic to help me understand. There is a preceding page that tells you that the adults are the Fantastic Four and names the four children, but in fact, nowhere in the comic do the editors bother to tell us their superhero names. Given that this is number one in a series, and an origin story at that, a better beginning might be to introduce the reader to the characters, rather than plunging in in the middle of some unrelated incident.
Once the story gets going, it’s pretty easy to follow; four kids are introduced, along with their inventor father, and some space aliens kidnap the parents and try to grab the kids as well. The art is dense but clear, and the writing is too, for the most part. However, the kidnapping sequence is cluttered with text balloons in which the fighting aliens introduce a fairly complicated backstory. I would much rather have seen this as, you know, sequential art than read about it in big blocks of text exposition.
Actually, the best part of the whole comic was the two-page extra in the back, in which Zero-G of the Power Pack talks about gravity. Yeah, it’s educational, but it’s also drawn in a more cartoony style that I would imagine would be easier for younger readers to follow, and it’s really cute.
The Power Pack comic has great production values, much better than Tiny Titans (which more closely resembles the cheap comics of my misspent youth), but it’s also $2.99—again, not much of a deal for 32 pages, especially when what’s presented here is mostly setup. This issue is part 1 of 4, which means that for 12 bucks, the reader gets a 120-page story.
Tiny Titans may not be great literature, but it’s the kind of thing that a kid who had never read comics before could pick up and enjoy right off the rack. Power Pack is attractive and well drawn, but it’s not very user-friendly for the reader who is new to superhero comics.