new teen titans

New Team, Old Foes (My Life as a Teen Titan, Part Thirty-Three)

New Titans 115I 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.   (more…)

Plagues, Monsters, and Jokers (My Life as a Teen Titan, Part Thirty-One)

New Titans 63So sometimes there are storylines that are so huge that the issues that come after it are a bit lackluster. It’s kind of like a hangover–that there’s a letdown after a huge event.  After The Judas Contract, there was a series of stories that seemed a bit rushed as well as phoned in (with the exception of the Donna Troy-Terry Long wedding issue) mainly because Wolfman and Perez were working on two books at the same time as well as Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Perez would leave the book soon after, but then returned with issue 50 of New Titans and drew the Who is Wonder Girl? storyline as well as several subsequent issues before slowly going off pencils (handing them off to Tom Grummett) and then going off co-plotting after a while as well.  At the time, he was also working with Wolfman on the Games graphic novel, but this would mark a time when George Perez was more or less burning out and wound up leaving both DC and Marvel for a good deal of the early 1990s.  Wolfman would,  of course, fly solo on New Titans until the title was cancelled in the mid-1990s.

“A Lonely Place of Dying” was one of the biggest and best-selling Titans storylines of its time, mainly because of the tie-in to Batman, who was DC’s hottest property in 1989-1990 due to the Tim Burton film.  Plus, this storyline featured Robin, who had been killed off a year or so earlier.  So, you’d think that the boost in sales to New Titans would have been enough to keep that book going for a while.  However, that wasn’t the case and I think part of it is due to the storylines that came afterward because the title was near cancellation as it headed toward issue 71, but was saved by Jon Peterson, who had been made editor by his former boss, Mike Carlin.

I’m not going to go into great detail as to what happened between issues #62 and #69 of New Titans.  They are issues that I own and my favorite of the bunch is #65 because of the scenes between Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, which I felt really contributed to the latter’s character.  In fact, the next parts of “Taking Flight” will take a look at Tim’s final steps toward becoming Robin.  They are issues that I consider to be placeholders at best.  The art is gorgeous–Tom Grummett took over full pencils on the title and he was a great replacement for Perez.  In fact, with all due respect to Eduardo Barretto, who did a wonderful job as penciller for years, Grummett is my second-favorite Titans artist, even though the latter part of his tenure was a little sketchy (no pun intended) due to rushed deadlines, fill-in artists, and his own jobs on Adventures of Superman (and later Superboy) and Robin.  But the stories were pedestrian at best. (more…)

Terminus! (My Life as a Teen Titan, Part Twenty-Three)

The last panel that the late Eduard Barretto ever drew for the New Teen Titans was of Victor Stone kissing the woman who was now the love of his life, Sarah Charles, as they entered a new phase of their relationship at the end of New Teen Titans #49.  So I guess it’s wholly appropriate that by the time we finally got around to resolving the Cyborg storyline, it’s Sarah Charles who has been watching over him and trying to help restore his mind, even going so far as to head to Russia for him back in New Titans #94-96, which was one of the stronger post-Total Chaos stories that rightfully featured two of the Titans’ strongest members.

Unfortunately, the storyline that sends this particular strong member off is one of the weakest in the latter part of Marv Wolfman’s run, and one of the lowlights during the post-New Titans #100/pre-Zero Hour period (I’d call it the Bill Jaaska era, but most of the issues featured here actually aren’t drawn by Jaaska).  Entitled “Terminus: The Final Fate of Cyborg,” the story builds on what was established at the beginning of “The Darkening” with the apparent return of Rita Farr and villains that were not really villains but weird beings of light, and then goes bi-weekly for issues #104-107 in order to wrap everything up in a timely manner.

But the story really begins in New Titans #102, where Sarah Charles is trying to restore Vic and brings in the Team Titans’ ethereal computer guy, Prester Jon (my second-least-favorite Team Titan, something I’ll get more into next time) to try to interface with him, kind of in the same way that the Justice League used to use The Atom to go waaaayyyy down to somewhere small.  Meanwhile, Pantha digs deeper into whether or not Dayton Industries had something to do with her origin,  Dick and Kory are having their issues and Gar fights a monster called Sinn while he also fights against what seems to be indulging the fact that he can only seem to transform into monsters.  At the end of the issue, Sinn is revealed to be an agent of Raven, who is also manipulating Councilman Quirk, the replacement for Liz Alderman–which begs me to ask, if she was going to ruin the Titans’ public image all along, why remove Liz Alderman from the picture?

But we will leave Gar and Raven, as well as Dick and Kory for another month and turn our attention solely to Cyborg, as Prester Jon spends most of issue #103 inside Cyborg trying to find Vic Stone.  He runs into a fair bit of trouble, even getting attacked at one point while the fake Doom Patrol members from “The Darkening” show up and reveal themselves to be denizens of a planet called Technis and that they need Cyborg in order to survive.  The next issue box promises two issues per month and a “hot newcomer” named George Napolitano on pencils, which at the time was promising.  If you read the letters column from this time (when there was one), you’ll see that there were quite a number of readers who really loved Bill Jaaska’s pencils and DC was clearly making an effort to show all of us doubters out there that he was a good penciller.  The problem was that I couldn’t stand him and when I saw that someone else was taking on the art for a couple of months, I was actually excited and I think that Harris and I actually wrote a letter to the editor complimenting the art.

Re-reading it nearly two decades later, one of the biggest problems with Terminus is that the art completely takes away from what could have probably been a halfway decent story.  In fact, just as with many bad runs of art on any comic book, it becomes hard to “see” the story unless you take the time to read closely.  And the story itself is … well, it’ll seem familiar after a while. (more…)