The three collections of Teen Titans written by Geoff Johns to this point have had their moments, but haven’t really thrilled in the manner of Johns at his best working on other DC titles. The Future is Now improves on that considerably.

Two troublesome versions of the future occupy half the book. Mark Waid co-writes the opening two chapters which see Superboy sucked to the 30th century, only to return wearing a very familiar costume. The Titans accompany him back to the future, where the writers have found a credible manner to beef up perennial foes of the Legion of Superheroes, the Fatal Five.

Following that team-up the Titans return to the 21st century, but arrive a decade after they left. It’s a very different place, and that’s partly because their older counterparts have taken decisive action to protect mankind. Their self-appointed remit, though crosses lines their younger versions find appalling. This set-up enables several well-handled contrasts, most prominently between the familiar Robin and the gun-carrying Batman he becomes. “It was our responsibility to rebuild the world, to give it a future”, claims Batman, while Robin asks “Why are you trying to convince me becoming Batman is the right thing to do?”

In both these stories Johns delivers what’s been largely absent from his Teen Titans work to this point: tension and neat twists to add to the well-considered characterisation applied from the start. Both are ramped up in the final sequence as this incarnation of the Titans have their first encounter with Doctor Light, considered a joke by the previous team. He’s now more deadly, efficient and callous, but in credible fashion. Unfortunately it’s written in the presumption that readers are aware of other elements of what was then DC continuity, and the script dances around this with what time has rendered oblique statements, with the truth only explicit in the final pages.

The bulk of the art is by Mike McKone, missed in the previous Beast Boys and Girls, delivering his usual admirable storytelling and appealing cast, but Tom Grummett and Ivan Reis supply solid work in McKone’s absence. Sadly, this is McKone’s finale, as Tony Daniel takes over with Life and Death, but before that there’s the small matter of Titans/Outsiders: Insiders.

For those who’d prefer John’s entire Titans run in one bulky hardcover there’s Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Omnibus.