Retro Trade Review: New Teen Titans Vol. 6 By Wolfman, Perez & Other For DC Comics

Contains New Teen Titans #35-40, Batman and the Outsiders #5, and Tales of the Teen Titans 41 (October 1983 to April 1984)

Written by Marv Wolfman (#35-41), Mike W. Barr (Batman and the Outsiders #5)

Co-plotted by Mike W. Barr (#37), Marv Wolfman (Batman and the Outsiders #5), George Pérez (#38)

Pencilled by Keith Pollard (#35-36), George Pérez (#37-41), Jim Aparo (Batman and the Outsiders #5)

Inked by Romeo Tanghal (#35-38, 40-41), Jim Aparo (Batman and the Outsiders #5), George Pérez (#39)

Coloured by Adrienne Roy

Spoilers from thirty-six to thirty-seven years ago

I keep working my way through these Titans trades, and with this one, am diving into the most celebrated part of Wolfman and Pérez’s run.  This is the time when Terra is on the team, secretly working for Deathstroke the Terminator, and when the teens seem to be having their most complex interpersonal issues.  I wasn’t that into the earlier volumes, but as I get deeper, I like things more.  Let’s see how that continues to be true.

This book features the following characters:

New Teen Titans

  • Cyborg (Vic Stone; #35-37, 39-41, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Changeling (Gar Logan; #35-37, 39-41, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Raven (#35-37, 39-41, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Wonder Girl (Donna Troy; #36-41, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Kid Flash (Wally West; #36-37, 39, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Terra (Tara Markov; #36-37, 39-41, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Starfire (Koriand’r/Kory Anders; #36-37, 39-41, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Robin (Dick Grayson; #36-41, Batman and the Outsiders #5)

Villains:

  • Mark Wright (Sarah Simms’s ex-fiance; #35)
  • Bethany Snow (reporter; #35, 40-41)
  • The H.I.V.E (Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Elimination; #36)
  • Gizmo (The Fearsome Five; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Shimmer (The Fearsome Five; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Mammoth (The Fearsome Five; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Doctor Light (The Fearsome Five; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Psimon (The Fearsome Five; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Mother Mayhem (#39-41)
  • Deathstroke, the Terminator (Slade Wilson; #39)
  • Brother Blood (#40-41)
  • President Rafael Marko (of Zandia; #40-41)

Guest Stars

  • Thunder (Tavis Williams; #36)
  • Lightning (Gan Williams; #36)
  • Halo (The Outsiders; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Katana (The Outsiders; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Metamorpho (The Outsiders; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Black Lightning (The Outsiders; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Geo-Force (Brion Markov; The Outsiders; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Batman (Bruce Wayne, The Outsiders; #37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Jason Todd (#37)
  • Alfred Pennyworth (#37)

Supporting Characters:

  • Sarah Simms (teacher; #35)
  • Doctor Jace (#37, Batman and the Outsiders #5)
  • Captain Hall (NYPD, #37)
  • Terry Long (Donna’s fiance; #38)
  • Wintergreen (Deathstroke’s assistant; #39)
  • Francis Kane (#39)
  • Steve Dayton (Gar’s adopted step-father; #40)
  • Vernon Quester (Gar’s stepfather’s business manager; #40)

Let’s see what happened in the comics, with some commentary as I go:

  • It looks like George Pérez took a much needed break at the start of the issues that make up this volume, and Keith Pollard (who would have been beginning work on the Vigilante series with Wolfman around the same time) came on to help out for a bit.  Cyborg is helping Changeling with some cleaning around the Titans’ Tower, but of course that turns into them fooling around.  When Vic tosses Gar, in snake form, he doesn’t see Raven, who gets knocked over the railing of their central atrium.  Vic manages to jump past her and catch her, and when asked why she didn’t do anything, Raven establishes that she is afraid of using her powers.  Raven leaves ,and Vic and Gar talk about how she won’t open up.  Gar points out that Vic is still giving Sarah Simms the cold shoulder though.  At the same moment, Sarah is being harassed by Mark, her ex-fiance, who Vic thinks she’s still planning on marrying (having never actually talked to her about it).  A cop walking by can tell something’s wrong, and interrupts.  When Sarah asks the officer if he can walk her home, Mark flips out and grabs the cop’s gun.  He drags Sarah into a sporting goods store, where he shoots the clerk and takes the customers hostage.  As cops gather outside the store, he grabs a rifle to hold them off with, while also talking to Sarah about how they should get married.  As Mark starts firing on the police, Sarah uses the phone to call Titans’ Tower (instead of just running out the back and taking the hostages with her).  Vic shows up almost immediately, and rushes the store.  Mark manages to shoot him in the shoulder (I don’t understand how Vic is supposed to be bulletproof given how much skin he shows.  Sarah asks Mark about the other girl he was supposed to marry, Maddy, and he starts getting a little crazy.  As Vic lies on the pavement outside, Bethany Snow (the news reporter we know works for Brother Blood) tries to interview him.  Having seen him on TV, Raven and Gar turn up, and Raven uses her healing powers on Vic, despite her fears, and then passes out.  Gar sneaks into the store as a spider.  Mark tells Sarah that Maddy is dead, and that it’s his fault for making her go to a party with him.  Gar tries to use his spiderweb to snatch the rifle away, but it doesn’t work, and he has to fight Mark in orangutang form, until it’s clear that Mark is going to shoot some hostages.  Gar leaves.  Raven decides to try next, and teleports into the store.  She tries to use her empathy to calm Mark down, while also trying to heal the clerk he shot.  Vic jumps onto the roof of the store, and starts using his laser finger to cut a hole, while also being hard on himself for never giving Sarah a chance to talk to him.  The cop in charge wants to have his people rush the store, but Gar convinces him to wait.  Vic’s finger is taking a long time to cut through the roof, but as he makes a circle, he’s able to see some of what is happening inside.  Raven talks to Mark about Maddy, and how after she died, he realized that Sarah is the only person who loves him.  Sarah makes it clear that they were really only ever friends (which doesn’t explain why she was engaged to him).  He can hear Vic cutting through the roof, but doesn’t see the hole, and starts to get more agitated.  Mark decides that everything is Sarah’s fault, and turns the gun on her.  Vic rips through the roof and melts Mark’s gun.  He jumps down and confronts Mark, who still has the cop’s pistol.  He admits that Maddy didn’t die, but just left him, and he collapses.  Raven tries to comfort him while Vic and Sarah embrace.  (Is it worth pointing out that Raven could have just teleported him away, or that Gar should have easily been able to deal with him?).
  • The team is at STAR Labs checking up on Thunder and Lightning, the brothers who can’t control their powers, and who believe they need to find their missing father before they can fix themselves.  While the team watches the brothers get experimented on, Raven feels weak, Kid Flash feels like he can’t trust her (which is why he wants to leave the team), and Robin feels like a jerk for having worked with DA Adrian Chase.  The experiment goes wrong, and Thunder and Lightning rampage for a bit, mostly because they don’t know how to turn their powers off.  It takes some fighting to calm everyone down.  Raven wants to try to cure them, even though using her powers puts her at risk of being taken over by Trigon.  Raven asks Wally’s opinion, and he snaps at her, then walks off and cries in Wonder Girl’s arms.  Raven wraps the brothers in her soul-self, and they float in blackness.  At the same time, at some HIVE base, some HIVE people talk to their prisoner, Mr. Williams, who looks like a giant shadowy dragon or something, who is obviously the brother’s father.  He wants to see his sons, but HIVE won’t let him.  He decides to contact them on his own, and somehow is able to grab them inside Raven’s soul.  Her soul-self takes on a strange shape that lashes out at her friends.  She releases the brothers, who explain that their father told them where he is.  Wally stays behind with Raven while the others take off in their jet.  Starfire asks Vic about things with Sarah, and he says he has to decide if he loves her romantically or just as a friend (which, after the way he’s acted, should be clear).  The brothers talk about how their father isn’t who they thought he was.  He was in the American army in Vietnam, but slipped into Cambodia to find a spaceship he left there some six hundred years before.  He forgot about some of his security systems, and got blasted and hurt.  He made his way to the village where he met the brothers’ mother, and fell in love.  Donna asks about the fact that he was six hundred years old, and the brothers explain he’s an alien who was the only survivor of a crash.  As they get closer to their father, the pressure their powers put on them grows.  HIVE have the alien Mr. Williams under control, just as the Titans bust into their base.  The alien, who is a big green one-eyed thing, attacks them, explaining telepathically that he can’t control himself.  The Titans fight, but the alien takes them all down, leaving only Thunder and Lightning standing.  The alien asks that they stop him, so they use their powers on him.  As he dies, he asks that they tell their mother how much he loved her.  The Titans gather around them, as the alien returns to his human form in death (which doesn’t make a lot of sense).  Later, at STAR Labs, we learn that using the alien’s blood, the doctors were able to cure the brothers’ problems, and give them more control over their power.  They decide to go home to see their mother.
  • Gizmo, of the Fearsome Five, flies to the Tri-State Penitentiary.  Inside it, Shimmer is being held in a stasis field that, when Gizmo turns the power off, stops working.  She easily uses her transmutation powers to escape.  Guards rush to check on her brother, Mammoth, who always could escape and does so.  On his way out, he sees Doctor Light, who offers to pay him for a rescue.  They all join up in the yard, where they learn that Psimon has orchestrated this whole thing.  He doesn’t really want to take Light with him, but Light’s powers are what allows them to fly off in a bubble.  Later, they are at their base in New Jersey, trying to figure out what they should do next.  Shimmer sees in the paper that a Doctor Jace is in the US.  Shimmer explains how she and her brother grew up in Australia, where their powers kept them from fitting in.  Doctor Jace, who was famous at the time, used her understanding of genetics to help them.  Psimon threatens Light, and decides they should acquire Jace to help them become more powerful.  The Titans (sans Robin) are meeting in their Tower, and Terra once again asks to learn their identities.  Her bracelet starts buzzing, and when she doesn’t want to explain why, Donna points out that she’s not been straight with them.  She takes off, and we learn from her thoughts that the buzzing means that Doctor Jace is nearby.  She follows the signal, and finds some costumed beings (who we would recognize as Halo, Katana, Metamorpho, and Black Lightning – most of the Outsiders).  She attacks them, and there is a brief fight before Metamorpho traps her.  Raven turns up, as does Kid Flash, but there’s more fighting (even though Wally recognizes Black Lightning, and Metamorpho recognizes Wally).  When the rest of the Titans arrive, Raven shuts the fight down quickly.  Geo-Force returns from scouting the building where the Outsiders were also looking for Doctor Jace, and he is surprised to see his sister, Terra.  They embrace (while Gar wonders about their almost identical costumes, realizing that Tara lied to him).  Metamorpho reminds them they are looking for Jace, and it’s the Titans who recognize that the Fearsome Five must have her.  In Wayne Manor, Dick tries to talk to Bruce Wayne about how their views are different now.  He wants to dissolve his partnership with Batman, at which point young Jason Todd suggests he become Robin.  Alfred interrupts to let them know that the Titans and Outsiders are calling for them (Dick is surprised that Bruce hasn’t shared his identity with his team, despite the fact that he’s doing the same thing to Terra).  At the Five’s spot, Psimon tortures Jace until she agrees to work for him.  At Titans’ Tower, the Titans and the Outsiders, including Batman and Robin, meet to figure things out.  There is obvious tension between Dick and Bruce.  When Captain Hall (of the NYPD) calls in, Dick insists they talk to him.  They’ve found some homeless people who have been half-turned into mud or Earth.  The heroes go to investigate, and Raven, who claims that Trigon has not been trying to influence her lately, uses her powers to reveal that Doctor Jace changed these men.  They continue to investigate at a bar in the Bowery, where Mammoth wrecked the place, and somehow deduce that they need to go to a lab that Psimon once owned on an island near Gotham.  There, the Five are leading a large number of homeless men into a machine.  The Titans and Outsiders attack, and there is some fighting.  Raven finds Jace, who explains what’s up to Batman.  Psimon has some fully-transformed Earth people attack, and then hits a button, calling for Doctor Light to listen to him.  There’s an explosion, and we see the Five in one of Light’s bubbles on a dock.  Psimon brags that he’s killed the heroes, but not his Earth people.
  • The Batman and the Outsiders issue is drawn by Jim Aparo, an artist I didn’t like as a kid, but have really grown to appreciate (I love the way he drapes Batman’s cape over his shoulders).  The two teams sink to the bottom of the river, but Terra starts to pull apart bits of the recently exploded island below them.  She passes out from this effort, but her brother, Geo-Force, figures out what she was doing, and uses his powers to fly that land, with the Titans and Outsiders on it, back to the surface.  Gar plays dead in an effort to get Halo to give him mouth-to-mouth.  Robin is irritated by Batman taking control of the situation, and ordering the two teams to the Outsider’s base in Gotham.  At the Fearsome Five’s spot in Jersey, Doctor Light again tries to order the team around, but Psimon asserts his new authority.  Light is attacked by the mud men Psimon made, and flees.  At the Wayne building, the two teams get to know each other a bit, with Halo showing Raven her room like she’s a six-year old, while Donna showers.  Wally chats with Black Lightning about his reasons for having quit superheroing for a while; after, Kory tells Wally that she doesn’t like how Batman treats Dick.  As the teams plan, Robin listens to police broadcasts from New York, and learns that Doctor Light is still fighting Psimon’s mud men in Central Park.  The heroes arrive (really quickly, given that they were in Gotham) and rescue him.  He fights them too, and weirdly manages to get Halo to turn on them momentarily, before Black Lightning takes him out, and Raven fixes Halo.  The Fearsome Five make their way into the Empire State Building.  Back at Titans’ Tower, Doctor Jace and Vic make a device that, once powered by Kory, can irradiate the heroes so Psimon’s mind powers won’t affect them (yeah, I don’t get that either).  Batman scares Light into talking.  Psimon uses the Empire State Building to broadcast his powers, and he takes control of everyone in New York City.  The heroes have to fight their way through innocent civilians trying to kill them.  Dick disagrees with how Batman wants to deploy the heroes.  The heroes make their way through the three lesser members of the Fearsome Five, and then all the energy casters take on Psimon.  They stop his powers, but he is untouchable somehow (he says it’s because of his telekinesis).  When Halo puts him in a stasis field (I have no idea what her powers are), he freaks out a bit and then goes to sleep, freeing the rest of the city from his influence.  Back at the Tower, they find Doctor Jace knocked out and Doctor Light gone, but he’s left his costume behind, with a note saying he’s quit.  Geo-Force talks to Terra, who is starting to feel conflicted about having to betray the Titans, and doesn’t want her brother involved.  Batman compliments Robin on his leadership, and calls him his former partner, which is what Dick wanted.
  • Dick narrates issue thirty-eight, which answers the question “Who is Donna Troy?” Terry meets Dick to ask his help in figuring out the truths about Donna’s identity.  Dick agrees, and they go to talk to Donna, who recounts once again what she can remember of her early childhood.  She doesn’t have any memories before being rescued from a burning building by Wonder Woman, who took her to Paradise Island.  In this conversation, Dick finally figures out why Donna loves Terry so much.  Dick and Donna return to the building where she was found, which is still standing even though it’s been close to twenty years.  Dick discovers a box in an old coal chute, and in it he discovers a doll that Donna remembers in a vague way.  They go to speak to the widow of the building’s landlord, since at the time of the fire, no one had leased the apartment Donna’s parents were found in.  She’s not much help, but she does admit that her husband was involved in shady things.  Donna is frustrated and wishes they’d never started digging again.  Dick doesn’t want to quit though, and spends time investigating the doll and a piece of fabric that, after he reassembles it, reads “Hello my name is Donna.”  He also finds writing on the doll’s leg, which leads him to a toy store in Newport News Virginia.  He finds “Uncle Max”, the proprietor, who recognizes the doll.  He explains that he repaired toys for an orphanage, and would sign them, but that the orphanage closed fifteen years prior because of a child slavery (!!!) scandal.  Dick researches the orphanage, and begins to search for a woman named Elmira Cassiday.  A former gardener finds Dick at his hotel, and tells him where Ms. Cassiday is.  Dick calls Donna to come with him to the nursing home in Florida where she now lives.  An aide tells them that Ms. Cassiday hasn’t spoken since arriving there, having had her spirit crushed by the slavery thing.  When Dick shows her the doll, she says Donna’s name, and explains that Donna’s biological mother brought her to the orphanage because she was very sick, and didn’t have anyone to look after Donna.  She left her with the doll, which baby Donna never wanted to let go of.  A nice young couple, the Staceys, adopted Donna.  Donna is filled with gratitude to both the old lady and Dick.  The two heroes return to Virginia, and a memory spurs Donna to drive down a certain street.  She recognizes a house, and gets out of the car.  The woman gardening there recognizes her (she is holding the doll), and we learn that Fay Evans, the woman who adopted Donna, is still alive and living with her new husband (Carl Stacey died) and two children.  She explains that she and Carl adopted Donna when they were very young, and after Carl died, Fay didn’t have much money or help.  The corrupt lawyer who ran the child slavery ring convinced her to give Donna up.  Donna remembers being taken by a new couple, who were mean to her, and it was them that were killed in the fire.  Hank Evans welcomes Donna to the family, and Dick leaves them looking over photos that Fay never showed Hank before.  Dick is still wondering about a few things, so he goes, as Robin, to meet with the lawyer, who is now in prison.  There, he learns that the couple who died with Donna weren’t new adoptive parents, but the go-betweens who were going to sell her for 25 grand.  Donna visits her biological mother’s grave, telling her about all of her new families.  Dick gives her the doll, which Uncle Max has fixed up.  Later, Dick, having thought a lot about relationships, gives Kory a call late at night, which to my mind, is more of a booty call than a late night attempt to rekindle their relationship…
  • The Titans attack one of Brother Blood’s outposts, disguised to look like a military base, in Alaska.  They fight their way through his acolytes, who are dressed like soldiers.  Raven senses evil, and teleports through a big door.  Kid Flash follows her, vibrating through it.  Having mopped up the soldiers, the rest of the Titans break through the door, and find themselves in a trap – a cage of lit bars that starts drawing away their powers.  Between Changeling, Starfire, and Cyborg, they are able to overload it, and take down Mother Mayhem and the acolytes with her.  They discover proof of how Brother Blood is interfering in various US elections, supporting certain incumbent candidates.  This is all reported by Terra to Deathstroke, the Terminator, who has access to video taken from Terra’s camera contact lens.  They talk and flirt, and for the first time, we learn that Deathstroke’s name is Slade Wilson.  They suit up and spar, and Deathstroke finds that Terra is a dangerous threat.  She finishes up with him, and returns to Titans’ Tower, where she sees someone taking the flat skiff that non-flying members apparently use to get to the island.  The guy on it is Kid Flash, out of uniform.  He explains to Terra that he’s going to quit the team, and reveals his Wally West identity to her.  Once they are with the whole team, Wally again explains that his powers are slowing down, and that he doesn’t want to be a hero anymore.  Raven wants to know if she has anything to do with his decision, which of course she does.  He gives the team his ring, which contains his costume.  Robin has his own announcement to make.  He tells them that he’s going to stop being Robin, but has to clarify (even for Kory, his supposed girlfriend) that he’s not quitting the team – instead he’s going to figure out a new identity that is not tied to Batman.  He reveals his identity to Terra too, and then starts to undress, until he’s down to the short-sleeved green women’s bathing suit he wears under his costume.  The team fawns over Dick more than they did Wally, which makes him jealous; Slade and Wintergreen watch all of this through Terra’s camera.  A little later, Wally, Dick, and Kory take the skiff back to Manhattan, where Frances Kane is waiting to drive Wally home.  Dick introduces himself to her, and after Wally leaves, tells Kory he’ll miss him.
  • In Zandia, somewhere underground, above a lake of blood and fire, Mother Mayhem (who I guess the Titans just let go last issue?) leads a religious ceremony.  She tells new converts the story of how six hundred years prior, a sinner “embraced” the rites of blood.  As she talks, we see Brother Blood rise from the lake, which has bodies draining blood into it from above.  He talks without really saying anything, and people seem to believe in him.  At Steve Dayton’s mansion, Gar and Tara are being tutored by a teacher Dayton hired, but she finds Gar annoying and quits.  Dayton and Vernon Questor are angry with Gar, and threaten to send him to public school.  As the two Titans fly off together (Terra is riding on Gar’s back, and he’s taken the form of a large bird.  He tries to push Tara on some of her lies, and to make her feel secure that he actually likes her.  They arrive at a TV studio, where the Titans are appearing on Bethany Snow’s TV show, alongside three recently elected senators or congressmen to talk about Brother Blood.  This is weird, because the Titans know that Snow once was part of Blood’s church, and believe she’s betrayed him (we know otherwise), but her involvement with the church is never mentioned.  Blood joins the audience via video, which is even weirder if he is supposed to think that Snow betrayed him, and he quickly wins over the audience with his charisma, while again, saying nothing.  Dick is in the audience, and he’s surprised by the effect that Blood has on them.  Part of Blood’s message is that he is in opposition to the dictator ruling Zandia, and Snow finishes the show by asking if he’s a political or religious leader, and if he provides hope for humanity.  Again, this is all very weird, seeing as the Titans have just recently captured a bunch of heavily armed Blood people in Alaska, and the link between him and some incumbent politicians caused them to lose an election.  Anyway, the team walks down the street feeling badly about how things have gone.  Dick says they can’t prove any of Blood’s crimes (I would think they could).  A week later, Dick, disguised as Joe Walsh, a reporter for a Wyoming TV station, visits the three politicians who lost their seats because of the suggestion that they were working for Blood.  Dick/Joe suggests sending them to Zandia on a “fact-finding mission” before their replacements are sworn in.  They want Bethany Snow to come with them as well (again, it’s weird that Dick would be okay with this).  Soon, they arrive in Zandia where they meet with President Rafael Marko, who wants to prove he’s not a dictator by taking them to meet with his “enemy”, Brother Blood.  They arrive at Blood’s church (the President doesn’t go with them), and are met by Mother Mayhem, who leads them to a service.  Blood’s people realize that Dick/Joe is wearing a disguise.  Back at Titans’ Tower, Donna and Kory receive an alert that means that Dick is in trouble.  They load into the submarine they’ve never used before, and from the East River, start the trip to the Mediterranean (I’m sure the jet would have been quicker).  When they arrive at Zandia, they pilot the sub beneath the island (apparently this is an island that floats?).  Terra uses her powers to shift a tunnel leading right into Blood’s temple.  Raven warns the team, but it seems Blood was expecting them, and knew where they would tunnel to, as he has gas jets all around there.  The team passes out, and when Donna wakes, they are all tied to a big skull thing, hanging over the lake of fire and blood.  Blood talks about how the lake is full of the blood of seven hundred years’ worth of his enemies (it was six hundred before).  He also shows them that Dick, who has gotten rid of his disguise, has betrayed them.  Blood plans to bathe in or drink their blood, and thus absorb their powers.
  • Brother Blood explains again that he’s lowering the captured Titans (but not Dick) into his lake of blood and fire so he can kill them and absorb their powers.  As they descend, Raven sends her soul-self to fight Blood, except he is able to shatter it.  Terra regains control enough to wrap the team in rock, so they can get free.  They break through the rock and attack, but Blood pushes a button on his wrist, and the team is again wrapped up in spikes of stone, separating them from Blood and his audience.  Raven is outside of this, too weak to do anything.  Inside their stone cage, the team is attacked by the giant spider that Dick fought once before.  There are also green tentacles coming from the floor, and a big scorpion.  They defeat all these threats, and when Vic saves Tara, she seems surprised.  Once the threats are defeated, Raven teleports in to join them, warning that Blood seems to be up to something.  Outside the cage, Blood worries that the Titans might have actually been killed.  He opens the chamber, and sees that they are well.  Donna tells him to surrender, but instead, Blood offers to fight the team alone; Donna worries she’s fallen into a trap she can’t see.  Elsewhere in Zandia, the American politicians are shown a poor village, and one of Blood’s acolytes explains that this is because President Marko only helps the rich (which, tbh, shouldn’t offend any American politicians).  Some soldiers show up, assault the acolyte, and arrest the Americans.  The Titans stand in a cathedral-space, trying to figure out what Blood’s game is.  They are attacked by giant robots and tanks, which when hit too hard, explode, sending shrapnel towards Blood’s congregation, who watch from balconies.  Again, Tara wraps the action in a stone chamber (that’s the third time this issue that’s happened).  After they’ve defeated all these toys, they emerge and see Blood challenging them again.  As the team moves to attack him, Vic yells for them to stop – only he can see that Blood is not actually there.  It’s too late, and most of the team is caught in an explosion, and Raven passes out from their pain.  Blood uses his powers to stop Vic from moving.  President Marko declares war on Brother Blood and his church, and has troops moving towards the main church, which appears to please Mother Mayhem.  Shortly, the Titans find themselves attached to a wall in yet another chamber with very high ceilings and low floors.  Now, Blood has them under a gigantic laser cannon, which he wants mind-controlled Dick to activate (by touching the button gently – Wolfman likes to describe how buttons are pressed, I’ve noticed).  As Dick is about to do it, Kory declares her love for him, and he breaks the mind control, smashing the control panel.  Vic gets free and punches Blood.  Dick is hurt but will be fine.  The Zandian forces start firing on the church, and as the walls collapse, Blood attacks the Titans again.  The laser cannon falls on him though, sending him to the bottom of the chamber and crushing him (although Mother Mayhem seems pleased with that).  We see a news broadcast where Bethany Snow reports that President Marko has killed Blood.  The American lawmakers are freed somehow, and Snow reports that countries around the world are offering support to the church, which pleases Mother Mayhem.  On the Titans’ sub, we learn that Raven teleported the team to safety, and that both Dick and Raven believe that Blood manipulated events to turn out in exactly this way.

I’m definitely all in at this point, and find myself enjoying the Titans more and more, as Wolfman and Pérez really figured out how to complement one another’s strengths (especially with the rare issues where Pérez receives a co-plotting credit, and clearly has a lot more freedom in the layout of the issue).  

As a “volume” in a set of trades, this one is perhaps not the best curated, as it contains a bit of a jumble of issues that feed larger storylines.  I thought it was good to see Vic achieve closure on the Sarah Simms issue (and I support early attempts to address “issues”, such as domestic violence, in 80s comics), even if Sarah didn’t appear again in the rest of the book.  I also liked seeing some closure for Thunder and Lightning, even if their story ended up being as weird as their father looked.  

The Batman and the Outsiders crossover was successful, in that it allowed Dick to address some of his issues with Batman, let Terra see her brother again, and probably gave the Outsiders book some attention as it was just starting out.  I’ve never read the Outsiders (except for the Millennium crossover issues), and for the first time, I find myself wondering if I should have given that series a chance.  (I also think it’s weird how, despite strongly disliking Jim Aparo’s art back in the day, seeing it here felt like going home again, at least as far as Batman is concerned.)

After the Outsider’s story, we got the one about Donna’s past.  This story was pretty convoluted, and while the touching aspects of it commanded the most attention, I can’t get over the way that a child slavery ring was just off-handedly accepted by everyone in the story as pretty normal.  I mean, a lawyer tracked down Donna’s adoptive mother to convince her to give the baby up again, for only twenty-five grand.  Even converted into today’s money, that doesn’t seem like a whole lot to steal a child for.  It’s also interesting that Donna Troy’s identity is going to become a question again and again, like Wolfman and Pérez, in asking this original question, have doomed her to forever battle Hawkman for the title of most retconned character in the DC stable.

From the quiet of Donna’s story, we move to a big story involving Brother Blood again (with a bit of a detour to check on Tara’s ongoing betrayal).  I’ll be honest, I just don’t understand Brother Blood.  The guy dresses in skulls, has killed many of his acolytes, has as his main underling a woman named Mother Mayhem, bathes in burning blood, gets implicated in election tampering, and builds crazy high tech churches on an island populated by criminals, and in Massachusetts, but somehow, he’s able to win the trust and adulation of most of America.  How?  And where does he get his giant mutant spiders and scorpions?  

I get it that the early 80s were a time when Satanic cults and child slavery rings were mainstays of the news (even if they rarely or never actually happened), but even with that context, I can’t get around the fact that people would side with Blood over the Titans, even as they vote out politicians that are supposedly working with him.  There are too many contradictions here for me, and also, I don’t come away from any of his appearances with an idea of what he wants or is after.  In my books, he’s lazy villain writing.

This volume shifts a lot more focus to Dick, who abandons his Robin identity without having yet figured out what his new one should be.  Along the way, he ends up exposing himself to anyone who wants to spend some time connecting dots, but whatever.  It’s nice to see Dick become a more important character in the book, and to see him grow up.

Tara interests and irritates me in equal measures.  For a kid who grew up as royalty in a European country, she spends most of her appearances wisecracking like she grew up on Yancy Street.  I like the way Wolfman gives the reader hope that the kindness and friendship of her teammates (particularly Vic and Gar in this volume) might convince her to turn her back on Deathstroke.

By the end of this volume, the New Teen Titans title turned into Tales of the Teen Titans, because a little later on, DC relaunched the title as part of its higher-priced, Baxter-paper line (alongside the Legion of Super-Heroes, DC’s other premier title at that time).  The next volume in this series is the famous Judas Contract storyline, which I’ve been looking forward to reading since I picked up these books.  Is it as good as everyone says?  Next time…

You can check out my Retro Review archives here.

If you’d like to read this trade, follow this link: New Teen Titans Vol. 6

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