If you’ve seen any mention of We Ride Titans #1, or based on the title itself, you might have assumed that you’re going to have big ol’ mechs fighting kaiju. If you did think that, you’d be right because you get giant mechs called Titans fighting kaiju in a pristine futuristic city. What you probably didn’t know is that that’s merely the backdrop for a much richer story about family, legacy, and the responsibility and obligation those words carry. Written by Tres Dean, art by Sebastian Piriz, colors by Dee Cunniffe, and letters by Jim Campbell, We Ride Titans centers around the Hobbs family and their Titan, the Defender Nexus, that protects the city of New Hyperion. When current pilot Dej Hobbs’ drinking leads to problems defending the city, the family calls on his sister Kit to help out, who is less than thrilled with the impromptu family reunion.
If I hadn’t known Tres Dean was the writer of For Your Consideration: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I would’ve wondered about the character design inspiration for family patriarch Dwayne Hobbs. Speaking of Dwayne Johnson’s Fast and Furious character, I was reminded of the major themes of that franchise of family, loyalty, and forgiveness when reading this first issue. Comic reviews will often compare a first issue to other, more familiar comics or movies to let readers know what to expect. I don’t know how helpful that is, but if you wanted a comic that felt like a mash-up of Pacific Rim and The Fast and the Furious (or at least Fast Five) with a bit of the blue-collar, grungy sci-fi style of Alien, then have I got a comic for you!
The opening narration serves the dual purpose of setting up the role of the Titans and their pilots in protecting New Hyperion and as a metaphor for Kit’s relationship with her family. The first pages also immediately deliver on the promise of mechs fighting kaiju, but Dean’s strength is in laying the groundwork for who Kit is and why readers should invest in her story. She’s tough but caring, with a dry sense of humor. Another thing Dean does well is giving the reader just enough of a taste of the issues that lie at the heart of the Hobbs family without being too exposition-heavy. Although to be fair, I could have used more about the aftermath of Dej’s battle with the kaiju, specifically how Dej reacted to it. When you have Sebastian Piriz rendering the Titan with such intricate details and the Kaiju with a stunning ferocity that places the reader at the center of the conflict, Dej’s reaction and of those at the command center would have upped the stakes of Dej’s plight.
Another aspect that draws you into the conflict is the panel layouts, which start straightforward but then mimic the tilt and angle of the battle, so it never feels static. Piriz excels in subtle expression changes and body language to convey emotion, especially with Kit’s reactions. All of this is colored by Dee Cunniffe, who uses a bright, vibrant color palette. So although the image of Dej smoking as he operates the Titan is reminiscent of Alien, the colors of the series are futuristic Tomorrowland. It gives the reader the sense that the kaiju aren’t the real threat in this world, that the threats to and protection of New Hyperion have become normalized, managed. This isn’t a shadowy, post-apocalyptic, dystopian nightmare, it’s something else, and I’m intrigued by those bold choices. Letterer Jim Campbell has chosen a smooth, rounded font that works well with Piriz’s thin lines. Campbell’s use of connected balloons, at times, allows the panels to be read at a brisk pace and pulls double duty to convey Kit’s argumentative or impatient nature.
We Ride Titans #1 is a good first issue, great for any new readers of comics generally or Vault Comics specifically that are looking for a mix of science-fiction and family drama. There are some interesting elements here that the creative team has laid the groundwork for, such as other Titan Hubs ceding command of their mechas to local government, that I hope to continue to be developed in future issues. Overall, the sense of awe watching the Titan fight the Kaiju gave way to a compelling story about family and legacy. There are certainly some mysteries still to be uncovered about the Family Hobbs, but, more than anything, I felt a protectiveness over Kit. A protectiveness she certainly doesn’t need, given her tough exterior and supportive relationship, but there’s a sense that she was out of the family business and is being pulled back in. That may not always make for a great outcome, but it does for drama.