When you have a comic book title that has a big mystery such as the identity of a major character and you finally reveal the answer to that mystery, you are then faced with an almost unbearable burden–following it up. In some cases, it goes well and that reveal becomes another notch in the belt of a classic creative team. Most of the time, however, it marks the beginning of the end. Though it is not entirely the creative team’s fault, Team Titans definitely falls into the latter, as it only lasted four more issues after the revelation that Monarch was the mysterious team leader.
Now, from what I understand, Jeff Jensen and Phil Jiminez had taken on a flagging title and wound up being forced into a corner by DC editorial by way of Zero Hour: Crisis in Time, a “This Changes Everything” type of crossover that had a lead-up of a few months in some of DC’s titles, especially those that starred the Legion of Super-Heroes or had crazy continuity problems, such as Hawkman. Team Titans joined that group of titles because since the book was on the chopping block, the teamers were going to be playing a part in Zero Hour and the story that runs from issue 21-23 winds up being a crossover lead-in with the series’ final issue being an actual Zero Hour crossover.
The story that was told, which set up the Teamers as unknowingly working for Monarch and that included character changes like increased aggression from characters like Kilowatt, a darker and more mysterious attitude from Prester Jon, and an actual physical transformation of Carrie Levine, a.k.a. Redwing as she morphed from a girl with wings into an actual man-bird beast renamed Warhawk. But before we even were to get to that point, we had to sever the most important connection that the Team Titans had to its parent title, and that is Donna Troy.
If you remember, Donna was the entire reason Team Titans existed: they had traveled back in time to kill her, but instead wound up fighting Lord Chaos in our present day and after defeating the once and future tyrant, took up residence on Donna and Terry Long’s farm in New Jersey with the former Titan being their “den mother” of sorts. But the only problem with superheroes taking up residence in a farmhouse is that too often, farmhouses can’t sustain the same type of property damage that a building shaped like a giant “T” on an island in the middle of the East River can sustain. After repeated attacks by supervillains and random elementals, Terry decides that he has had enough and leaves with Robert, their son. Donna, lost and wanting a better sense of identity back, travels with Wonder Woman to New Chronos, where they plead with the Titans of Myth for her powers. It is to no avail, and what’s worse is that when she returns to Earth she finds out that Terry is staying at his ex-wife’s house. Soon enough, they will be divorced and Donna will find herself a member of the Darkstars.
Meanwhile, getting on to the stars of the book and Redwing’s aforementioned transformation, the Teamers have now been asked to work for the United States government and their first mission is to Quarac where they discover Chimera (who was created in the Bloodlines crossover from Team Titans Annual #1) is fighting mutants and monsters who were once Quaraci citizens changed by the fallout from Cheshire’s nuclear attack in Deathstroke: The Terminator. The aggression they begin to show–and Carrie’s mutation–is supposed to be a way of gearing them up to be Monarch’s sleeper agents, as at the time he was believed to have some sort of connection to Zero Hour, perhaps as a villain. This becomes more apparent in the series’ final issue, #24, which is a Zero Hour crossover that has the Teamers helping to calm the populace when time goes completely wonky and Monarch watches from afar, commenting via inner monologue that he has maninpulated the events of their lives perfectly and that they will now go on to fulfill the ultimate role he has been prepping them for since the day he created them.
So, according to that final issue, everything that had happened since New Titans Annual #7 was his doing. He’d created all of the Team Titans and “sent” them to our reality, so that when the time came, he had an army. It makes a little sense, especially considering that the supervillain content in Zero Hour is a bit minimal, and since he literally could control them he wouldn’t have to put up with incompetent or traitorous supervillain allies.
But generating 600 teen heroes out of thin air? That seemed a little far-fetched. No matter, however, because once Harris and I read the last page of Team Titans #20, we wrote a timeline that we sent to DC along with our usual letter to the editor. I don’t remember all of the details, but it was basically that if editorial had allowed an alternate timeline or at least an alternate future to exist, if you went starting from the end of Armageddon 2001, and Lord Chaos actually came to be, Monarch (Hank Hall, who was a former Titan) could have set himself up as the team’s leader because Chaos was in the way of his own plans for world domination. So, he gathered together these teens and would have had them either submit or die once he overthrew Lord Chaos (it didn’t hurt that Chaos’s shock troops seem to have uniforms similar to Monarch’s). From what I recall, it was a pretty elaborate timeline and it never did see publication, but we did get a mention in the last issue’s lettercolumn:
We’d like to offer kudos to Tom Panarese and Harris Stein of Sayville, New York, for their timeline explaining all those paradoxes from Armageddon 2001 to Zero Hour. If we gave away awards, you’d probablyget one. But we don’t, so you don’t.
The next issue box was kind of fun, too, as it showed that maybe at least on the surface that the creative team had a good sense of humor even in the face of having all of this come to an end:
NEXT ISSUE: It’s finally here–the comics epic that Titans fans have been clamoring for for years! Duela Dent is back–and she’s going to take full advantage of this pesky ZERO HOUR bsuiness (and the Time Commander’s hourglass) to transform the entire island of Manhattan into a zany copy of the world she remembers–a world of Star Wars, the Brady Bunch, and land sharks; of Village People, Donna Summer, and bell bottoms; of the Super Friends, Big Sheels, the Sex Pistos, and Afro Puffs–a world of the ’70s aplenty: disco is back and so is that queen of funk–the HARELQUIN!
(giggle–just a little ZERO HOUR humor there, folks. Take care! See you in the funny papers!)
As an interesting epilogue to my coverage of Team Titans, when I wrote the last entry on the first part of Jensen and Jiminez’s run and mentioned both of them in the tweet, they were kind enough to both reply:
@tompanarese Thanks! Writing Team Titans w @Philjimeneznyc was great fun… and great learning experience re: the folly of “master plans.”
@EWDocJensen @tompanarese Jeff learned his lessons well. I, on the other hand…. #hopespringseternal
I have to say that it made this old letterhack feel good.
Next Up: Zero Hour