I have to admit that I was a little hesitant about getting back to writing these posts about the Titans. Part of this had to do with my being a little burned out on Titans and Titans-related comics as I’ve been working my way through all of the Dick Grayson-related stuff over at Taking Flight, and that’s why I took a bit of a break from all of them for a little while. Part of it, however, had to do with whether or not I wanted to reread comics that are notorious for being representative of the nadir of the 1990s. But I have soldiered on and am going to take a look at the first two story arcs over the course of the next few weeks as a way to get this back on track to its eventual conclusion.
The New Titans limped into Zero Hour having gone through a few disastrous storylines that were most known for their rather disastrous artwork and with a new editor at the helm (and a refreshing change in the art style) went through a lineup overhaul. Gone were the characters introduced in the Titans Hunt era and now we had a new team: Arsenal, Damage, Changeling, Terra, Mirage, Donna Troy (now a Darkstar), and Impulse, a team that seemed more or less “given to” writer Marv Wolfman instead of having naturally come together (and he has confirmed as much in interviews about this time) and that never really seemed to gel.
I am trying pretty hard to remember what I was into around this time. I know that Harris and I were still writing the occasional letter to the book, even if we had given up our crusade to kill Donna Troy, but I also know that I was interested in other titles, plus I had a lot going on outside of comics being that the first post-Zero Hour issues hit the stands at the beginning of my senior year of high school. But putting my personal life at the time aside, I can see that Titans was sort of lower on the priority list at the time. A glance at Mike’s Amazing World shows that I was reading the following in October 1994: Batman/Detective Comics (Prodigal had started), Damage (a series I intend to re-collect, re-read and do either an episode or a post about), Deathstroke: The Hunted (which I’ll cover soon), Flash (Waid and Weiringo doing amazing work), Legion of Super-Heroes/Legionnaires (at the beginning of the reboot, which I enjoyed), R.E.B.E.L.S. ’94 (Don’t ask), Robin (natch), Spawn (collected this until about #60, don’t remember much about anything in it), and Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi (soon after, I’d lose track of the EU). I’m sure Batman was high on this list, as was Flash (I also had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern book and the Superman titles), and looking at some of the other stuff being offered at the time I was missing out on some stuff (Starman, for one) but really not much. 1994-1995 were kind of nightmare years in the comics industry and I know that between being a senior and starting college, I really would be kind of going through the motions with a lot of my comics collecting until around the time Kingdom Come came out and I started to get back into things.
Anyway, while the Titans weren’t #1 on my list, they weren’t at the bottom and the comics still got read; moreover, at the time I thought they were good, or at least good enough for me to want to keep reading. That, and there were a few questions that were still lingering after the Team Titans said goodbye and most of the team quit, mainly about when the team was going to actually take on Raven and what would happen to Changeling since he can’t seem to change into anything but monsters.
Both of these are addressed more or less right away within the first couple of issues of the post-Zero Hour Titans. Changeling would finally stop fighting whatever Raven had put inside him with that kiss in New Titans #114 and turn on his teammates, seemingly killing all of them one by one and demon monologuing his way through New Titans #115 in demon form as he remembers how he took all of them out while we get a hint at a villain for the next issue as well as two potential future members. Of course, the Titans don’t all die because Gar doesn’t get to Impulse (or Impulse isn’t around when Gar captures all of his teammates) and Bart frees all of them so that they can fight back. Gar pulls an end of Fright Night and pretends to be still sort of in control of his mind, only to capture them in some sort of grotesque creation.
Now, if that weren’t enough of a challenge, we have the return of Psimon, whom had not been seen since the page of Crisis on Infinite Earths #10 wherein Brainiac literally blew his brains out, and who now had the power to destroy worlds, including that of an alien child named Jarras Minion (an alien child with a ’90s haircut and an earring, no less). But destroying worlds was not his primary objective; revenge against the Teen Titans. He found his back to Earth by following Kyle Rayner home after his battle with Hal Jordan post-Zero Hour (which led to the destruction of Oa) and in Green Lantern #57 (which starts out by having Kyle stand over the grave of his girlfriend Alex, who had been shoved into a refrigerator a few issues earlier), he possesses the new GL.
Kyle finds the Titans locked in battle with Changeling, takes Gar out and then turns on the Titans at the end of the issue and starts attacking them in New Titans #116, where we see that Mirage is hurtling toward Earth from the escape pod in the Titans’ satellite (after nearly getting killed up there by Changeling in the last issue) and will be saved by Donna Troy, and that Psimon is also attacking his old Fearsome Five teammates. As a possessed Green Lantern attacks our heroes with pompous speeches and ring constructs, he turns Shimmer into glass and shatters her, lobotomizes Mammoth, and shrinks Gizmo to a subatomic nothing.
Donna and Miri eventually arrive at Titans HQ to fight Green Lantern but neither fares well, as the Psimon-possessed hero is too powerful. But the good guys eventually win when Psimon attempts to get Kyle to kill Donna but our hero resists because he cannot bring himself to actually kill someone. So that sets up a huge fight between the Titans and Psimon in New Titans #117, where he has already taken all of them down except for Mirage, who mysteriously is immune to his psionic blasts and we get the feeling that it might have something to do with her unborn child.
Mirage gets away and Psimon takes the time to torture each of the Titans, showing them their darkest fears, kind of the same way Raven did all the way back at the beginning of the baxter series. This gives Mirage enough time to imitate the villain and attack him with blasts similar to his own. Psimon, of course, isn’t having it and is about to take everyone out when Jarras Minion attacks in the war machine known as the Omegadrome, which we saw him put on a few issues ago right around the time his planet was destroyed by Psimon. Then, we get the type of regrouping by the heroes, who eventually win the day. Kyle sort of becomes a member of the team and Jarras, conflicted over the fact that he wants to kill Psimon, takes off for space. Don’t worry, we’ll see him again.
It’s supposed to be the first storyline, the one that “establishes” the new team and gets the final few members to come to the table (though there will be one more we’ll meet in the next storyline) and it … well, it’s not horrible. Yes, some of the costumes are atrocious, although I’ll take Arsenal’s shoulder pads, pouches, and guns over the blue and purple ensemble he’d been wearing since “The Darkening;” and yes, it did seem that some of the characters, like Damage, were shoehorned into the group. But at least here over the course of three comics we got one betrayal, a villain, and a fight, which was not what we were getting a couple of years earlier when Baby Wildebeest would take up an entire issue or where we would have Starfire screaming about how Raven was haunting her.
Unfortunately, whatever strength these few issues would have wouldn’t last for very long, and that would happen almost right away.
Next Up: Raven returns in a storyline called “Forever Evil.”