"Teen Titans Annual" #1 opens up the crossover with "Superboy" and "Legion Lost" by having the two teams meet in a completely unnecessary, but totally expected comic book fight. The story begins with Red Robin about to receive the business end of a spear from an ill-fated character named Artemis. Red Robin talks his way out of that predicament, but half an issue later, with the Teen Titans at his side, he plunges into battle against the Legion, without trying to talk it through first.
Sure, some of the angst fueling the fight could be a direct result of being trapped in the Crucible, a hellish battle arena filled with lava, rocks and all other manner of non-threatening-to-draw backgrounds. Or it could be residual from the method of teleportation used to "fling" the teams into combat, but that part of the story, unlike other areas, is not fully explained. Quite simply, the concept of having the two groups tussle seems much more appealing.
Their fight is virtually choreographed, however, as we learn that there may be more than coincidence that brings the Legion to this time period and to this confrontation. Harvest, the big bad in this issue, is a hand-wringing mustache-twirler with lackeys aplenty. Lobdell tells us that Harvest is enigmatic and that his past is a secret to all save himself. That comes across as being overly dramatic and unnecessary, especially since nothing is given to us regarding the character. Rather than tell us he's enigmatic, simply let him be an enigma. Lobdell clearly wants to lay some groundwork for Harvest early in this adventure, but it comes out forced and rigid. With over a dozen characters to try to make panel time for, Lobdell might simply be trying to be efficient in his explanations, but that efficiency is forfeited in other areas, such as properly introducing some of the non-Titans and non-Legion characters. As such, many of the characters in this comic are flat and uninteresting.
Some of those characters (particularly the males) suffer a touch of sameface under Brett Booth's otherwise capable pencils. That condition that is augmented by the phalanx of inkers as well as the oppressive setting that has soaked Andrew Dalhouse's color palette in oranges and reds. There is no denying that the characters are energetic and exciting to look at, but some of the storytelling choices, combined with the sameface, muck up the distinctions between characters. The aforementioned lack of substantial backgrounds (save the scenes in Harvest's lair) enables Booth to deliver a visual spectacle to the reader as the characters clash consistently throughout the issue. There's a lot to take in visually, and Booth offers up a solid effort, but could use a little more help.
I enjoyed Booth's work on "Justice League of America" and was hopeful coming into "The Culling," but I think this first issue might simply be too full. That said, I simply adore the throwback faces of the two teams framing the opening splash page in homage to the classic JLA/JSA crossover covers from yesteryear. I hope that continues throughout the story.
The backmatter to this first Annual of the relaunch is, sadly, just as interesting, if not moreso, than the thirty-two pages of the main story with a great deal of information and character introduction. Perhaps after reading the backmatter the story might be more engaging the second time through. There is no denying that DeFalco and Lobdell are trying to craft a memorable and engaging crossover with "The Culling." The energy is here. The characters are here. The enthusiasm isn't. I'm hoping that the lack of enthusiasm is simply from the overload of information and that the next chapters of this crossover are more entertaining.