Teen Titans: Future State has brought Red X into the DC Universe for the first time, and a familiar face has already hidden behind his mask.
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Future State: Teen Titans #1 by Tim Sheridan, Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona, Alejandro Sanchez, and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
The Teen Titans have a long and storied history full of triumphs and tragedies. And in one of the future timelines of DC’s Future State event, it looks like one of the Titan’s greatest tragedies compelled a major Titans leader to take on a new identity at some point.
Much like his animated Teen Titans counterpart did, Future State: Teen Titans reveals that Dick Grayson created the Red X persona for more covert operations. And now, that fact may be coming back to bite them.
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In Future State: Teen Titans #1, the Red X identity was reintroduced to fans as an old memory from Dick Grayson’s past. Having been gifted the mask at a birthday party, Dick seemed to fondly remember his time as the dark vigilante. However, the fact that none of his closest friends seemed to be the one who sent it hinted at a greater meaning behind the discarded persona. Indeed, it seemed strange considering how much grief that identity caused Robin on the television show that introduced it.
In the Teen Titans cartoon, Red X’s first real appearance was Robin’s first true foray into a darker side of crime fighting. Desperate to find Slade (Deathstroke), Robin created a criminal identity to use to get close to the criminal mastermind. His plan almost succeeded, but his friends and Slade discovered the truth and made Robin realize how close he had come to crossing a line he never intended to go near. But while the comics have yet to reveal if a similar sequence of events played out int he mainstream DC Universe.
Following the destruction of Titans Academy, Nightwing remembers one of his proteges, who had taken the Red X identity to protect a fellow student who he believed the Titans were trying to kill. Whatever conflict or secrets had been revealed to him made it clear that he would never trust the Titans again. He even called out Nightwing, who was trying to defuse the situation. The new Red X claimed that his story about the origins of the costume were a pack of lies and that only he understood the real meaning behind the mask as he was imprisoned in the team’s compound.
This mirrors a later storyline from the Teen Titans show, where an unidentified criminal stole the Red X suit and all of its equipment. It created a strange bond between him and Robin as this Red X seemed to be far more efficient than Robin ever was. But the difference here is that Robin had no idea who was behind the mask. In the comics, Nightwing clearly knows who is wearing his former costume, having been a former student of his.
While that identity is hidden from readers, a jaded, weary Nightwing releases the young Red X from custody and sets out on a dark mission with him, having taken Deathstroke’s mask for himself.
In both comics and the cartoon, Dick Grayson was only briefly Red X, and he admitted the role was never suited to him. And yet when someone else claimed it, Grayson begrudgingly accepted it in both media, perhaps taking it as proof that Red X was a mistake.
In Future State, Nightwing maintains that Red X was not a mistake, but rather a message he’d rather forget: that the Teen Titans were dead, in a metaphorical sense more than a literal one. Red X existed because the Teen Titans weren’t doing their job effectively, a sentiment echoed by the show. Ultimately, Nightwing took up the mask to handle things his way, just as his former student is doing now. But whether or not this Red X will develop the same rapport with Dick Grayson as his animated counterpart did remains to be seen.
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