Contains DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #1-8 (October 1980 to June 1981)
Written by Marv Wolfman
Pencilled by George Pérez (DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #1-4, 6-8), Curt Swan (New Teen Titans #5)
Inked by Dick Giordano (DC Comics Presents #26), Romeo Tanghal (New Teen Titans #1-2, 4-5, 7-8), Frank Chiaramonte (New Teen Titans #3), Pablo Marcos (#6)
Coloured by Adrienne Roy (DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #1-5, 8), Jerry Serpe (New Teen Titans #6), John Drake (New Teen Titans #7)
Spoilers from thirty-nine to forty years ago
I’ve never read Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s classic New Teen Titans run. I think I’ve sampled issues over the years, but back in the day, when these comics first came out, I wasn’t reading a lot of DC books, and later on, when I started to read more widely, this series never appealed to me, and Pérez had moved on. I didn’t really learn to appreciate Pérez’s art until he started to draw Wonder Woman, but didn’t love his work until he was on The Avengers with Kurt Buiek in the late 90s. Also, I’ve almost always found Wolfman to be a slightly boring writer. Beyond that, I was never that interested in the characters, and have always pointed to Jericho and Nightwing (in that order) as having two of the worst costumes in comics history.
So why am I reading this now? There’s a few reasons for that. One, like I said, I gained respect for Pérez’s art, and have always wanted to go back and trace its evolution. Also, as I’ve gotten older, and as comics have gotten both more complicated, and less attached to their history, I’ve become more interested in the type of storytelling that was done back in the day. The third reason is that, just as I was starting to think about acquiring these comics, I came across a stack of these trades (Vol.2 to 9) for just $5 each. And, now, during the lockdown, I’ve read all the other trades I own, so it seems like a good time for this, even though I’m still deep into my Legion of Super-Heroes reread.
There was a time when this series rivalled the X-Men for respect and popularity, and as a kid, that didn’t make sense to me. I wonder how I’m going to feel about it now…
Let’s find out how it is.
This book features the following characters:
New Teen Titans
- Robin (Dick Grayson; DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #1-8)
- Wonder Girl (Donna Troy; DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #1-8)
- Changeling (Gar Logan; DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #1-8)
- Cyborg (Vic Stone; DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #1-8)
- Starfire (Koriand’r; DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #1-8)
- Kid Flash (Wally West; DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #1-8)
- Raven (DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #1-8)
- Gordanians (New Teen Titans #1)
- The Ravager (Grant Wilson; New Teen Titans #1-2)
- Deathstroke, the Terminator (New Teen Titans #2)
- The H.I.V.E (Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Elimination; New Teen Titans #2)
- Robot pharmaceutical thieves (New Teen Titans #2)
- Trigon (New Teen Titans #2-6)
- Mammoth (The Fearsome Five; New Teen Titans #3-4, 7)
- Shimmer (The Fearsome Five; New Teen Titans #3-4. 7)
- Doctor Light (The Fearsome Five; New Teen Titans #3-4, 7)
- Psimon (The Fearsome Five; New Teen Titans #3-5, 7)
- Gizmo (The Fearsome Five; New Teen Titans #3-4, 7)
- Goronn (New Teen Titans #5)
- Puppeteer (New Teen Titans #8)
- Batman (Bruce Wayne, Justice League of America; New Teen Titans #1, 4)
- Zatanna (Justice League of America; New Teen Titans #4)
- Green Lantern (Hal Jordan; Justice League of America; New Teen Titans #4)
- Hawkman (Katar Hol; Justice League of America; New Teen Titans #4)
- The Atom (Ray Palmer; Justice League of America; New Teen Titans #4)
- Wonder Woman (Diana; Justice League of America; New Teen Titans #4)
- Professor Silas Stone (Vic’s father; DC Comics Presents #26, New Teen Titans #2-3, 7)
- Carol Sladky (New Teen Titans #1-2)
- Wintergreen (Deathstroke’s assistant; New Teen Titans #2)
- Arella (Raven’s mother; New Teen Titans #4-6)
- Terry Long (Donna’s boyfriend; New Teen Titans #8)
- Vernon Quester (Gar’s stepfather’s business manager; New Teen Titans #8)
- Sarah Simms (teacher; New Teen Titans #8)
- Rudolph West (Wally’s dad; New Teen Titans #8)
- Mary West (Wally’s mom; New Teen Titans #8)
Let’s see what happened in the comics, with some commentary as I go:
- The series opened with a sixteen page preview story in DC Comics Presents #26, which has an annoying star pattern border around each page. Robin is outside STAR Labs, where some terrorists have taken a scientist hostage, demanding that their compatriots are released from prison within an hour. Robin moves to enter the building, but suddenly finds himself outside of Titans Tower, with Wonder Girl. He’s confused, especially since the Titans had disbanded, but she brings him inside. He sees Changeling, who he keeps calling by his old codename, Beast Boy. Cyborg and Starfire join them, and Robin continues to claim that he doesn’t know either of them. Kid Flash joins them, as does Raven (who Robin also doesn’t know). She warns them that a scientist has opened a portal to another dimension, and some kind of entity has come through. The team follows her suggestion, and heads out to deal with it. They find a big blobby thing (it makes me think of The Stuff), and start to try to corral it. It absorbs Raven’s astral being, which puts her body at risk. Robin feels dizzy, and finds himself back with the cop from before, who claims he tackled him to save him from getting shot. Robin’s back in the situation with the terrorists, and he’s a little confused (as am I reading this). He heads into STAR Labs to deal with the terrorists, and instead finds The Stuff. The other Titans are back, and they try to fight the being again, until it disappears. Raven gets herself back together, and the team enters into STAR Labs, where the entity attacks them again (this is getting tedious for a story that’s so short). Talking to the professor that brought the creature there gives Robin the idea to pump all the oxygen out of the lab. Starfire, who doesn’t need to breathe, stays inside to keep the thing under control. As the oxygen leaves, Starfire is able to blast the thing back through the rip in space. Things are calm, but Cyborg is angry with the Professor, who it turns out is his father, and the reason he’s a cyborg now, instead of dead. Robin suddenly finds himself back with the cops, where apparently he suggested they asphyxiate the terrorists. He’s confused, not knowing what’s happened, but as he walks home, we see that Raven is watching him, and talking to herself about what lies in his future. I do not think we are off to a good start here, people…
- So the series actually debuts with an epilogue, somehow, that I think is meant to be a prologue. An orangish alien woman named Koriand’r escapes from a slave vessel run by the Gordanians, a lizard-species. She gets onto a star-slider, and escapes the main ship, which fires on her. She tries to hide behind a moon, but the Gordanians blow it up, signaling to her that she is of high value to her. She ‘star-slides’ away. Dick Grayson sleeps in his room at the Wayne Foundation room in mid-town Gotham. He dreams of the fight he had with the Titans against the creature from another dimension, and wakes up confused. Raven appears in his room, and explains that she needs his help. While he changes from his pajamas to his Robin uniform, she has him call Wally West, who has retired as Kid Flash. Raven then tells him he needs to find Wonder Girl, and Dick doesn’t question this; instead, he rushes off Bruce Wayne, who is lounging with a pipe and book. On the street, he sees Raven’s astral form, and follows it. Wonder Girl is in the apartment building where Wonder Woman found her as a child, rescuing her from the fire that killed her parents. She reflects on growing up on Paradise Island, and is then surprised by the appearance of Robin and Changeling, who no longer wants to be called Beast Boy. They start to explain about Raven when Kid Flash comes rushing in, in uniform. Everyone seems to be accepting of the fact that a girl they’ve never met before wants them to be a team, so they head off together. In Newark City, Vic Stone is upset that his high school coach won’t let him return to sports, given that he’s now a cyborg. Raven appears to him, telling him he should join her, just as everyone else turns up (I’m not sure how they all got to New Jersey). Raven tells them that their final team member is on her way, and that they need to go find her. We see that the Gordanians have attacked New York, near the UN building, and the team joins to fight against them. Raven finds time to explain how her body and astral self can’t be separated for more than five minutes, or horrible things happen. At the same time, Koriand’r is being looked after by a guy named Grant, who brought her to his ex-girlfriend Carol’s place. Carol’s still upset about Grant sleeping around on her, and no one seems too focused on the fact that Korand’r isn’t human. Gordanians watch through the skylight, but then Raven appears in the room, the Gordanians attack, and Kid Flash somehow knows to come help. The aliens open a portal into space, and Kid Flash and Cyborg get sucked through, except that Vic is able to hold on to the floor of the apartment. The aliens get away, with Koriand’r, who is unconscious. Changeling helps pull Kid Flash back, but it’s Wonder Girl who is finally able to save them with her golden lasso. The portal closes, and Grant is angry that the apartment is wrecked, but Carol says she’s fine with it, and reminds him it’s her place. One of the Gordanians reports to his leader that they have Koriand’r prisoner again, but Raven teleports the Titans there, and they manage to free her. Cyborg gives Changeling some advice in taking something apart inside the alien ship, and he does this. They all jump out of the ship (it’s not that high) and it explodes. The Gordanian leader decides to give up and they leave. Raven tells the team that this is not the reason she assembled them, and they all seem fine with that still (throughout, there’s this weird thing where it seems like Kid Flash is under Raven’s control, in his level of devotion to her). As the Titans talk, Grant Wilson listens, having brought some of his friends from HIVE with him. This first issue was almost as awkward as the preview, and as gathering the team issues go, it’s actually pretty bad, as the team just gathers at Raven’s word. I’m assuming she’s using her powers on them or something…
- Deathstroke, the Terminator (I always wondered why he had two names) stands before a group of robed members of The H.I.V.E., who want him to destroy the Teen Titans. He wants to get paid in advance, and when they refuse, he starts to walk away. They have automated guns open fire on him, which he is able to dodge; when he goes to grab the men, they all disappear. Deathstroke leaves, and we learn that the HIVE guys were recording him on multiple levels, so they can duplicate his powers. Grant is at the place where Carol is staying, trying to get her to come back to him. He ends up grabbing her, and is surprised when he gets blasted across the room. It seems Carol is staying with Donna Troy and Koriand’r, who is the one that fired on Grant. Grant storms off, spouting threats. Kid Flash rushes into the room, telling Donna and Starfire (what they’ve started calling Koriand’r) to come with him. They join up with Robin, Changeling, and Cyborg by some docks where guys in pink suits are stealing boxes of pharmaceuticals. They wade in and start fighting them, and when Donna sends one flying into a wall, they discover that the guys are robots. Starfire starts blasting at them, although Robin wants her to keep at least one intact. He tackles her to stop her from firing, but it’s too late. Starfire gives him a long passionate kiss, and suddenly can speak English, having absorbed it from physical contact with Robin. Cyborg fishes one of the robots out of the river (it’s a good thing he has a towing winch on his arm). Robin wants to take the robot to STAR Labs so Vic’s father can look it over, but this makes Vic angry, although he agrees. We see that Deathstroke is watching the Titans; he calls home and speaks to his assistant, Wintergreen, who tells him that HIVE stands for Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Elimination. We see that Grant is in a HIVE facility, where he is about to undergo a procedure to make him like Deathstroke. Raven is in a hell dimension or something, and is upset that the being she’s gone to speak to rejects her. Kid Flash runs back to his college, where he finds Raven lying on his bed. When he tries to comfort her, she flees. Wally wonders if she did something to him that made him so eager to become a Titan. Dick and Gar are hanging out at the massive mansion that Gar’s step-dad owns in the Hamptons. Donna explains to Koriand’r why she needs to wear clothes, although the bikinis she and Donna put on barely qualify (it’s not like Gar or Dick are wearing much more, this being the end of the Speedo era). Wally joins them all at the pool. Cyborg, meanwhile, is with his father at STAR Labs, where he learns that his dad can’t tell him anything about the pink robot. Vic gets angry, and is suddenly attacked by someone calling himself The Ravager. It’s Grant, with enhanced abilities, and they start to fight. Vic’s sonic cannon knocks Grant down, but Deathstroke comes and grabs him away, leaving a disruptor on Vic’s back. The other Titans continue to hang out around the pool, chatting about secret identities, when Vic joins them. At Deathstroke’s, he and Wintergreen watch over Grant. When he wakes, Grant recognizes Deathstroke, having been told about him by his father. Deathstroke tells him that his new abilities are using up his body’s own energy, and could kill him. Ravager leaves, and Deathstroke prepares to follow. Ravager turns up at Gar’s mansion, but the Titans (without Raven) are waiting for him. Deathstroke turns up too, as HIVE intended. Everyone starts fighting, which goes on until Ravager is overcome by dizziness. Deathstroke goes to him, just as Raven appears. She states that Grant is dying, and wants Deathstroke to take him away. We see that Grant has aged a great deal, when he asks if the Titans are dead. Raven shows him an illusion of the dead Titans, as Grant dies. Deathstroke seems upset, and walks away with Grant’s body. The next day, Grant is already interred in the ground, and Carol stands over his grave, not realizing that Deathstroke, out of uniform, and Wintergreen are watching her. We learn that Grant is Deathstroke’s son, and the HIVE people are happy to know that now Deathstroke will go kill the Titans (although I have no idea why HIVE cares about them, and it feels even more forced than Grant’s dislike of the team).
- Most of the team (not Cyborg or Raven) are hanging out at Donna’s place, which is a very nice apartment in uptown Manhattan (even though last issue she lived near Columbus Circle). Everyone is impressed with Donna’s place, and Koriand’r feels like she’s at home for the first time in a long time. Two figures wearing purple robes enter a place they were invited to by transmuting the door into water vapor. Once they’re inside, guns emerge from the walls and start shooting at them. The man, Mammoth, wrecks the guns, and he and his sister, Shimmer, enter the next room, where they find Doctor Light waiting for them. He’s with Psimon and Gizmo, and tells them that he wants to form a team called The Fearsome Five, with the purpose of destroying the New Teen Titans (because of course). Koriand’r tells the others the backstory, and how she was a princess on the planet Tamaran. She explains how The Citadel invaded, using the Gordanians as their soldiers. In order to gain peace, King Myand’r gave them Koriand’r as a slave, which is what she was for six years. Raven appears suddenly, and claims there is an emergency. Robin insists she answer some questions, and Kid Flash hits him. The Fearsome Five discuss the Titans, and why they should want to destroy them. Psimon lets everyone know that the Titans are about to attack, which is what happens as they burst through a skylight. They fight for a bit, and the Five do surprisingly well. Shimmer surrounds our heroes in ether, and as they start to pass out, Raven disappears. For some reason, the Five all leave, and Light can’t explain why, although the narrator tells us that Psimon is behind it. Raven has gone to that Hell dimension again, where she yells at Trigon, who appears as a pentagram with eyes. Raven promises that when they meet again, it will be in battle, and teleports away again. Elsewhere, Professor Stone goes to visit Vic in the apartment he’s rented. Victor wants nothing to do with him, and kicks him out. Victor notices an invitation in an envelope; it asks him to come to the opening of Titans’ Tower. The next day (I guess everyone recovered from being gassed), Changeling turns up on an island in the East River, where a big t-shaped tower has been built. He wanders around it, feeling sorry for himself for having a messed up family, and then discovers that the other Titans (not Raven) are all hanging out there too. No one knows who built the tower for them, and Gar is weirdly rude to Vic. Raven turns up, and tells them the tower doesn’t matter, they have a mission. Robin presses her for answers again, and she explains that she trained in the Temple Azarath, where she learned about Trigon the Terrible. She saw a vision of him sending demons to defeat the Justice League of America, and eventually crush the world. She also saw a vision of the Fearsome Five, and figures they want the Titans to fight the Justice League (this is getting confusing). Raven believes the Titans should go fight the JLA, but I don’t get why. At the Fearsome Five’s other base in New Jersey, Psimon makes his move, and explains that he has been manipulating things. He apparently only got his powers yesterday (which would be the same day he joined the Five), when he broke through a dimensional barrier (he was a scientist) and was contacted by Trigon the Terrible, and given his powers and his see-through head. Psimon contacts the Titans and tells them to come fight. The team wants to go fight, but Raven doesn’t agree. Kid Flash stays with her, while the others head out to fight. They attack the Fearsome Five on a boat, and again, the Five take them down. Gizmo blows off Cyborg’s arm, and then puts some shackles on Starfire. Psimon uses his telekinesis to wrap the cord from a green lamp around Wonder Girl (good thing for him there was a lamp on the deck of this freighter). Robin had been knocked into the river, and as he climbs out, Mammoth knocks him out. Raven tells Kid Flash what’s happening, and he goes rushing to his friends just to get knocked around by Mammoth. Wolfman and Pérez suddenly remember Changeling should be in this issue, so he has Psimon put him to sleep. Mammoth takes down both Starfire and Kid Flash, and this time the Five don’t run away, but instead listen to Psimon talk about how it all went according to his plans (although I don’t see how defeating them before would have changed that). Raven flies over in her astral form, and comes to the decision that her next step is to go to the JLA’s satellite.
- Issue four opens with Zatanna addressing the Justice League of America (Batman, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Hawkman, Atom, and Wonder Woman), and I guess teleporting them to a different dimension (that’s not made clear), where there are “evil emanations” coming from. They see some old guys dressed like Odin, and feel they should stop their mystic ceremony. The old guys attack them, and then Raven appears, trying to get GL to stop the attack. He tells her that he can’t let her interfere, and the JLA continues to attack while Raven runs off for help. The old guys, claiming their mission is important, blasts the JLA, and tells Raven to hurry. Raven returns to Temple Azarath, where she was raised, and goes to see Arella, who I guess is in charge there. Arella tells her that she should not have returned to Azarath. Raven explains that she needs help against Trigon, and we learn that Arella is her mother. Arella refuses to help her, and sends her away. Raven finds herself in Titans’ Tower, where the rest of the team is waiting, still trying to figure out who built the place for them. Raven is surprised to see that the team got away from the Fearsome Five, and that Cyborg’s hand is fixed. We see that Psimon and the rest of the Five are watching this, through an omni-scope they installed in Vic’s hand (even though the image shows him from a distance). Doctor Light is still unhappy at being usurped by Psimon, but Psimon threatens him (it seems he’s very powerful). Light agrees to work with him until they’ve destroyed the Justice League (I guess they aren’t after the Titans so much anymore), but tells the others that after that’s done, they’re going to take him down. The Titans keep talking, and Raven explains that she brought the team together because of Trigon, who is a demon that took over an entire dimension. Now he wants to come to Earth, and because of the Justice League, it will be easier for him. Robin tells the team it’s time to destroy the League (which doesn’t make a lot of sense), and they rush off, leaving Raven behind. She realizes that the Fearsome Five are controlling the team’s minds. She doesn’t know that she’s being watched, over a camera, by the shadowy figure who built their Tower. The Justice League is on their satellite, trying to figure out what they should do next. Hawkman tells them that some guests are coming through the teleportation tube, and they are happy to see Kid Flash, Robin, and Wonder Girl. The kids attack them, and Robin gets to the transporter, bringing through Changeling, Starfire, and Cyborg, who continue the fight. Robin takes down GL using only his cape, but when he starts to fight Batman, it becomes apparent to the Caped Crusader that his sidekick is under mind control. Cyborg takes Batman down while Changeling wraps up Zatanna as a snake. Atom gets into Wonder Girl’s ear and knocks her off balance. Eventually Zatanna gets free of Gar, just as Raven appears and tries to explain to Zatanna that the team is being mind controlled, but then herself suggests the JLA needs to die. It’s a ruse though, as she shows the Titans the incinerated bodies of the League, the same way she showed Ravager the dead Titans. She transports the Titans to the same dimension where those Odin-looking dudes are still working their ceremony, which is meant to stop Trigon from crossing into this dimension. Trigon, appearing as eyes in a pentagram, tries to stop them, and then the JLA shows up again, and Zatanna contains the Titans. Things get confusing, as the League fights the old dudes, and the Titans get loose and attack the JLA again. Everything has taken too long, and now Trigon is free, but doesn’t come through the portal. Instead, he says he’s going to send someone or something called Goronn to wreck the Earth. Everyone gets knocked out, and when they wake up, the two teams start to talk. There’s tension between Robin and Batman, as Dick blames the League for causing the Odin guys to fail. We learn that Raven tried to work with the League first, and Zatanna turned her away because of the “evil within her”. Zatanna also reveals that Raven made Kid Flash fall in love with her, and Raven admits that it’s true. Both teams walk away from her, in opposite directions (which is weird, because how will the Titans get home without Raven or Zatanna’s help?). Raven cries.
- Issue four was drawn by Curt Swan. The team walks away from Raven, who then argues with Trigon, who is appearing in the sky again. She decides to return to the Temple Azareth to get help to stop Trigon, but his servant Goronn appears and grabs her; she sends her soul-self for help. The Titans find themselves in Titans Tower again, and they are confused. Kid Flash is upset that Raven used him, but his feelings are mixed. Starfire defends Raven, and people get annoyed with Gar’s bad jokes. Raven’s soul-self appears, and lets them know that she’s in trouble. Everyone but Cyborg and Kid Flash join Robin in going to her. Vic and Wally talk a bit, and then Wally decides that he should be helping too. Cyborg decides to help too, I guess, and we get another glimpse of the shadowy benefactor who gave the team the Tower. I guess Raven’s fighting in Manhattan, and not in another dimension, because that’s where the team finds her and Goronn. They fight, and Raven insists that teamwork is the only answer. They manage to bring Goronn, a big monster, down, but they don’t get much of a break before Trigon blasts them all from the sky. He brings his body into our dimension, and we see he’s a big red guy with four eyes and tiny reindeer antlers. We also learn that he’s Raven’s father. Psimon comes flying in, and Trigon, annoyed that he plotted against him, disintegrates him or something, and then kills Goronn. Somehow, all of the Titans find themselves in the Tower again (how much of a trope has this become already?). Raven starts to explain herself. She is an empath, and she gave up her home in Temple Azareth to help save the Earth from Trigon. She went to the Justice League first, as we know, but they rejected her, which is why she formed the Titans. An alarm goes off, because Trigon is on the move. Raven heads to Temple Azareth while the rest of the team goes after Trigon. They don’t do that well fighting him, and then Raven returns for a few seconds before returning to Azareth again. There, her mother tells her that the council has decided to not help her. Trigon also shows up in the temple, and confronts Arella, his former wife. Raven decides to break more temple rules, and brings the Titans there. There’s a lot of dialogue and narration that doesn’t seem that important, as Trigon continues to make the Titans look like amateurs. Soon, only Robin, Raven, Arella, and a bunch of monks are left standing. Raven realizes that Trigon doesn’t want to hurt her, and in a bid to save her friends and her homeworld, offers to come with him if he leaves. She departs with Trigon, and now Wally realizes that he loves her.
- Trigon returns home to his dimension with Raven, where people cheer for him. When a small child makes a comment about him looking like a monster, he starts to torture the child. Raven steps in to take the child’s pain, after which Trigon kills the kid to make a point. He enters his palace, and demands that a planet be destroyed because they want some freedom. He tells Raven that he’s going to do the same to Earth, which is against his promise to Raven. In the Temple Azareth, the rest of the Titans stand around. The priests or monks don’t understand why Arella is upset, and the team advocates for going to save Raven. There’s a lot of talk about the temple’s beliefs, and then Arella explains how she was a troubled youth who fell in with a Satanic cult. Ultimately, she agreed to be a sacrifice to Satan (seriously), and was taken by him to be his wife. It turns out Satan was actually Trigon, and their relationship was kind of toxic, until he abandoned her back on Earth. Her cult destroyed, she tried to build a life, and was eventually contacted by the Azareth people, and brought to the temple, where she gave birth to Raven, raising her in their peaceful ways, despite her having the taint of her father. The team is still adamant that they go rescue her, and finally, the head priest or monk offers the use of a dimensional doorway to Trigon’s realm. Arella decides to go with them, even though it means she can never return to the temple. They all wander through this strange interdimensional horizontal staircase, until they arrive on Trigon’s world. Kid Flash does some recon, and is surprised by Trigon’s giant dog. I’m not sure how fast Wally is at this time, as the team is right behind him. They start fighting Trigon again, while Arella tracks down Raven. Trigon confronts his daughter and ex-wife, while the Titans are chained up. Raven frees Robin, Trigon talks, and Gar starts fighting the big dog. The rest of the team figure they have to work together to get rid of Trigon, and they manage to push him into a dimensional vortex. At the last second, Arella jumps in too, so as to keep him from ever returning. Raven is sad that her mother is gone, and Wally comforts her.
- The Titans return to New York, where most of the team treats Raven with kindness, but Cyborg says he may never be able to trust her. She starts to explain her actual powers, that she can feel and withdraw someone’s pain, and create illusions, and move her astral self, but before she starts to explain her teleporting, Wally interrupts to say that he needs some time to think about things, and leaves the team. In New Jersey, Doctor Light finds out that Psimon is still alive, only in another dimension. At first, Light refuses to help him return, but then changes his mind after he promises loyalty. There’s something that Psimon needs to get back home, so the rest of the Fearsome Five head to Titans’ Tower, where that device is (that’s convenient). The shadowy figure in the Tower worries he’ll be discovered. The Titans return to the Tower and find it broken into. Raven teleports in to look around, and is attacked by some of Doctor Light’s light beams. As she collapses, she sends her astral self to warn the others. Cyborg wants to go charging in, but Robin and Wonder Girl stop him, and when they see that there is a trap in the door, they bust through a wall instead. They find Raven, who has once again been knocked out and then left to recover, and Vic finds the blueprints for the Tower (because according to the blueprints, generators and blueprints are on the main floor). Gizmo and Light torture the secret guy. Raven and Vic search, and get attacked by Gizmo. Raven heals Vic when he’s hurt, and now he likes her. Gossamer makes Robin fall off a staircase, but Gar kicks her in the head. Mammoth fights Kory and Donna, knocking them both out because they called him stupid. Gizmo wraps Dick in metal bands and drops him in the pool, but Kory saves him (even though we just saw her get knocked out). Vic punches Gizmo, Robin doesn’t drown, and everyone gets knocked down by Psimon, who is back. Dr. Light has Vic’s dad as a hostage, and everyone realizes it was him that built the Tower, which infuriates Vic. Psimon gets most of the team to allow the Five to leave, but Donna lassos Light, and Kory blasts Psimon. There is more fighting, until only Light is left. Robin uses some sleight of hand and some sleep gas capsules to knock him out. Vic still doesn’t want to talk to his dad, but a little later, Robin asks Dr. Stone to explain the tower. Vic is still angry, but Raven convinces him to hear his dad out. Dr. Stone explains how he and his wife made a mistake in opening a doorway to another dimension (it was Vic’s mom who pushed a button when she shouldn’t have), causing a being to cross over and kill Vic’s mom. It attacked Vic, who came in at that time, and hurt him badly before Dr. Stone could get rid of it. Seeing Vic so injured, Stone used his cybernetic skills (because most specialists in cybernetics also know how to open dimensional doorways in their own homes) to turn him into Cyborg. Dr. Stone explains that he is dying from radiation poisoning, and suddenly Vic has a change of heart. They spend the next few months together in a happy montage of father/son bonding (including picnics and playing baseball) before Dr. Stone gets weaker and dies, with Vic by his side.
- Kory flies through Manhattan, enjoying her time on Earth. She goes to meet Donna, who is apparently a young fashion photographer, shooting pictures of topless jeans models. Her client is a ridiculously uncomfortable stereotype of an Italian man, who disagrees with Donna that the model, who is clearly sleeping with him, is not that good. When Kory walks in, the Italian goes crazy for her. Donna takes Kory out to lunch, and introduces her to Terry Long, her very old (and 80s schmaltzy) boyfriend. Robin says goodbye to Raven at Titans’ Tower, heading off to his new job at a circus. Raven decides to use her soul self to explore Manhattan University, since she has a lot to learn about the world. Her soul self finds its way to a hostage taking at the University, and flies around trying to gather the bombs that the terrorists have planted. She can only be separated from her body for five minutes, and it doesn’t look like she’ll be able to finish in time. She manages to dump the bombs in the river before they explode, but doesn’t make it back in time, which dooms her to “terrors beyond human comprehension”. An older man takes his grandson to a toy store, because he received a notice that the child is entitled to a free marionette. The child is happy with what he’s received; in some secret lair, another puppet tell’s his “master” that this is the third puppet they’ve placed with a businessman. Gar is at Vic’s place, trying to convince him to move into his father’s house instead of staying in a dump. Vic wants to stay and learn to be his own man. Gar receives a call from Vernon Questor, his step-father’s business manager, who somehow knew he’d be at Vic’s place. Questor needs to see Gar immediately because two members of Dayton Industries’s board have been killed, so he goes to leave, but has to chase off would-be car thieves first. Vic heads over to see Marcy, his old girlfriend, but she doesn’t want to see him now that he’s a cyborg. Feeling sorry for himself, he wanders through a park and gets hit in the head by a baseball. When he returns it to a child, the kid notices his hand and responds positively. It turns out he also has a prosthetic hand, and all the kids he’s playing with are missing limbs as well. Their teacher, Sarah Simms, introduces herself, and Vic decides to spend time playing with the kids. Raven’s soul goes through some mystical journey of pain and fear. Wally is at home with his parents, trying to decide what he should do with his life. He never wanted to be a hero, and would prefer to be a university student, but his parents leave him to make his own decisions, and even let him carve the turkey his mother cooked, which is proof that he is now a man. Raven fights her way back to her body, realizing that she always thought that was impossible because the people at the Temple Azareth would have just accepted their fate. Donna takes pictures of Kory, and we learn that Terry is divorced, and knows about Donna’s superhero life (if not, perhaps, her age). Donna and Terry leave for the night, and Kory changes into her Starfire outfit (in view of the public) and goes flying around some more. She ends up saving a kid from a runaway horse and buggy. We return to the old guy and his grandson, where after putting the kid to bed, the man is surprised to see the puppet come out of his room and shoot the guy, who also works for Dayton Industries.
Well, I’m a little worried about having taken on this project now. I don’t think I enjoyed this book very much at all. I have problems with the plotting, the characters, and the structure of the team, and while I felt things got a little better towards the end, I’m not sure that my worries are alleviated at all (and I have like 8 or 9 more volumes sitting on my shelf to get through).
This team is put together by Raven to fight off Trigon, but she is so manipulative and underhanded, that I’m surprised the team continues to exist after that threat is expunged. Then, while the team is floundering around, trying to figure out what to do about the threat Raven doesn’t tell them about, they get swept up into a plan to destroy the Justice League, who after having taken care of the surface of that problem, decides that their work is done, leaving their former sidekicks to their own devices. At the same time, we have HIVE, a new villainous organization, decide that they need to destroy the Teen Titans, for no good reason, all while Deathstroke decides he hates them because his son didn’t like them and got himself killed over it. I also completely missed the reason why the Fearsome Five were after the Titans, unless it was all about Psion being manipulated by Trigon.
A big part of the problem is that I can’t quite get through Marv Wolfman’s lengthy prose boxes. I know that was the style at the time, but I’ve always felt that Wolfman’s writing tended towards the dull, but I can’t make my way through any narrative box involving Raven. I am pretty sure I hate Raven, but I’ll come back to that.
One probably unintended recurring feature of this book is the number of time villains knock out someone on the team, and then leave them, or somehow teleport them back home. It gets tiresome.
Now might be a good time to talk about the characters.
Robin – This is an interesting era in Robin’s career; he’s trying to strike out on his own, but his entire identity is closely tied to Batman. Also, he’s kind of a boring character, and is given comparatively little to do in this book.
Wonder Girl – Donna, by contrast, seems to have a lot more going on, in terms of holding the team together and showing leadership and effectiveness in the field. Little is done with her as an individual character until the last issue in this volume, when it’s revealed that she’s dating a much older divorced man (I’m sure I’m going to have more to say about this in later volumes).
Kid Flash – Wally is the last of the sidekick characters, and he feels off throughout this book. We’re never given a clear look at why he has feelings for Raven, so it makes sense later when we learn that she manipulated him. He does very little in this first volume, except get angry with Robin.
Changeling – I don’t know much about Gar’s history as Beast Boy prior to his rebrand here, but his relationship with the other Titans feels more forced than his cheesy one-liners. He’s incredibly rich (Donna has a nice place, but his mansion is incredible), but seems lonely. He didn’t do much in this book either.
Starfire – Kory is an interesting addition to the DCU, and Wolfman handles her well. We get to see Earth through her naive eyes, and also get to enjoy her lack of shame. It’s hard to buy that she’s so kind after the life she led, as a slave to an alien race, but that’s what makes her interesting.
Cyborg – Vic is the other character that’s made the most interesting in this book. He starts the volume as very angry, but after going through the forced closure montage with his dying father, he starts to grow as a character and a person, and becomes a lot more likeable. I still don’t buy that his father is a master cyberneticist who also knows how to open dimensional portals, and is able to build Titans’ Tower in secret in a matter of weeks, but it’s early 80s comic logic.
Raven – I hate Raven. First, she’s the all-knowing character who manipulates the team into existence, and then she’s a coward who keeps appearing and disappearing during fights. She doesn’t come off as a very empowered young woman, and her inner conflict with her pacifist teachings comes across as facile and irritating. Her power set is never made very clear (how can her soul carry bombs?), and in most panels, she’s just standing in place with her arms up in the air.
Part of the reason why I decided to get all of these trades is that I wanted to appreciate George Pérez’s evolution as an artist. This is definitely early Pérez, and for much of the book, I wouldn’t immediately recognize it as his work. Raven is distinct throughout, but most of the time, this looks like standard 80s DC house art. The difference is in the layouts, which often make use of the long narrow panels that I’ve come to recognize as a hallmark of his work. The art in this book is good, but I think it’s going to be cool watching him grow into his distinct style.
Part of the problem with Pérez is his sense of design, but at this point, his designs (like for Deathstroke and Starfire) are pretty iconic. Cyborg is unfortunate in all sorts of ways (I don’t know why he’s wearing a speedo when a pair of pants would go a long way towards hiding his artificial legs), but it’s the 80s.
I have some hope that things will improve in the next volume. I don’t see yet why this became DC’s most popular book, rivalling the X-Men at the height of their popularity, but I’m prepared to put in some more time to watch things develop.
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Tags: DC Comics, New Teen Titans, Retro Reviews