Wednesday, January 28, 2015

THE NEW TEEN TITANS #11 & #12 AND
BEST OF DC (BLUE RIBBON DIGEST) #18

"WHEN TITANS CLASH" | "CLASH OF THE TITANS"
Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez | Inker: Romeo Tanghal
Letterers: John Costanza (#11) & Ben Oda (#12)
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: The Titans travel to Paradise Island, home of the Amazons, in hopes that their "Purple Ray" might save Changeling's life. While Wonder Girl, Starfire, and Raven remain with Changeling, Robin, Cyborg, and Kid Flash depart to search for Changeling's long-missing stepfather, Steve Dayton.

Meanwhile, in the underworld realm of Tartarus, the elder god (or titan) Hyperion awakens and returns to Earth over Paradise Island. Wonder Girl heads out to intercept Hyperion, but he enthralls her and brings her back to Tartarus so he can free his fellow titans, all of whom have been imprisoned with him for 30,000 years, courtesy of Zeus and the second generation of Olympian gods.

Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons, leads a war party into Tartarus, accompanied by Starfire and Raven, to recover Wonder Girl. But Hyperion succeeds in releasing his brethren and when the Amazons arrive, Wonder Girl announces that she's joined the titans. She departs with Hyperion and the others. Then, a mysterious figure appears to aid Hippolyte.

My Thoughts: The hits just keep coming. This is yet another excellent issue, and it doesn't even suffer from any of the logical inconsistencies that have plagued recent installments. I had hopes since issue 7, but now I think it's safe to declare with certainty that THE NEW TEEN TITANS has hit its stride. The characters are consistent, the stories are engrossing, and the continuity and sub-plots are strong enough to hold a reader's interest from issue to issue.

I learned something I didn't know from "When Titans Clash", too -- apparently, in DC's mythology, men can never set foot on Paradise Island, lest all Amazons lose their immortality and powers. I'm unsure if this "rule" carried over into the post-CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS continuity, though I'm pretty sure I've seen the occasional man on post-CRISIS Themyscira in the few Wonder Woman-related comics I've perused.

One last thing, which I've wanted to comment on for a while now, but never got to until now: I know that Starfire is generally considered the breakout "sex symbol" character of the New Titans, and she certainly seems to be one of George Pérez's favorite characters to draw -- but for my money, Pérez's Wonder Girl is far more attractive and generally hotter than his Starfire. There's just something about the black hair and the red leotard that gets me, I think.

The Plot: Athena, goddess of wisdom, appears to Hippolyta and the rest, informing them that there can be no peace with the titans. Meanwhile, the titans and Wonder Girl attack Mount Olympus and overrun the gods, imprisoning them. But Athena leads the Amazons to Olympus as well.

As another fight begins, Wonder Girl shakes off Hyperion's spell while Starfire frees Zeus. Realizing they can't win, the titans surrender. Zeus allows them to return to Tartarus of their own free will, and make their home there.

Later, Wonder Girl leaves Paradise Island to get over her implanted feelings for Hyperion, and goes to Terry Long's apartment. Meanwhile, the Purple Ray restores Changeling to consciousness, but with mysteriously murderous intentions.

My Thoughts: No, I didn't misspell Hippolyta's name above. In part one, she was Hippolyte, and in part two she's Hippolyta. I'm curious whether Wolfman spelled it two different ways in his scripts, or whether perhaps John Costanza and Ben Oda had differing opinions on how to spell the name, and performed their own copy edits. For the record, though I'm pretty sure I've seen Hippolyta more than Hippolyte over the years, my spell-checker recognizes the latter as correct and considers the former a typo.

In other news, this issue's cover touts it as featuring "more pages than ever!" and it carries a price tag of 60 cents, a 10-cent increase over past issues for a whopping two more story pages. Though it's hard to complain too much over that, considering that over the past decade-plus, comics have skyrocketed in cover price with no corresponding page count increase of which to speak.

The conclusion to the Titans vs. titans story is acceptable, and overall this has been a fun diversion from some of the previous, more "grounded" adventures (Trigon notwithstanding). And George Pérez seems to be having a ball with the artwork, turning in fabulously detailed images of Mount Olympus, depicting a battle of the gods with all the majesty that term deserves, and cramming every page with a cast of dozens.

I've read some of Pérez's pre-Titans Marvel work, and while it's easy to see the superstar he would become within those pages, I don't think anyone can argue against the fact that TEEN TITANS is where George Pérez became George Pérez. And it's a treat to watch that evolution happen right now for the first time.

"REUNION"
Writer: Marv Wolfman | Penciler: Carmine Infantino
Embellisher: Romeo Tanghal | Letterer: Ben Oda | Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: Former Teen Titans Speedy and Aqualad return to the fold, recruiting the new Titans to help them bust a Dominican drug smuggling ring.

My Thoughts: Having originally been printed in the smaller digest format, this ten-page tale suffers from some poor artistic reproduction when blown up to Omnibus proportions. And unfortunately, the art isn't the only negative here. The story is extremely simplistic, taking something that seems like it should've been the plot for a full single issue, if not an entire story arc -- recovering addict Speedy coming to the Titans for help against drug smugglers -- and condensing it into a short story with the triple purpose of 1) acting as a commercial for the new Titans, 2) giving us a reunion of the original Titans, and 3) explaining why Speedy and Aqualad haven't joined the new team.

Overall this is a forgettable story, and in a way, it feels like a waste. I would much rather have seen Speedy's and Aqualad's first meeting with their successors in a full-length, Pérez-illustrated issue.

2 comments:

  1. I was quite familiar with the 'No Man' rule in Pre-Crisis continuity, But it was removed after the Perez retcon (along with the 'Wonder-Woman-loses-her-powers-(or-is-duty-bound-not-to-use-them)-if-a-man-binds-her-bracelets-together' weakness). I believe there was one Pre-Crisis story where the rule was broken- a Roy Thomas-Gene Colan story where the male Hercules and Mercury set foot on Paradise Island and enslave the powerless Hippolyta and the Amazons. When Wonder Woman bests them in combat, everything is restored (BTW, this story has WW change her emblem from the eagle to the double 'W').
    The plot about Gods restoring their sovereignty over mankind would find fertile ground in Dan Jurgens' 'The Reigning' storyline in THOR. The ancient myth about Cronus eating his god kids would be put into shocking good use by Jack Pulman in his TV adaptation of I, CLAVDIUS.
    This probably marks Perez's first artistic depiction of the Olympian Gods, whom he will later use in his cast (with design changes) in his WONDER WOMAN retcon. It's interesting Mars doesn't play much a role in this, considering being a major WONDER WOMAN villain (his design here is also different from the redhead-beard with the plumed helmet more common in the Pre-Crisis series).
    It should be noted that Hyperion's love control over Donna has the potential for rape if the two got physical. At any rate, the potential is enough to emotionally upset poor Donna. Starfire and Raven's loyalty to Donna is how the cast of AVENGERS#200 should have behaved to the idea of Ms. Marvel running off with her rapist.
    The plot about Thia's disappearance would happen in a later TITANS story. However, that storyline is probably not in the Omnibuses, so I might as well tell you what happened. Thia escaped a century earlier, saw how civilization had progressed and decided to take part in it, hiding under the guise of a socialite and later a tyrannical 1980s businesswoman. She also sired a child (from a mortal she burned at the time of conception) who would grow up into the Teen Titan Lilith. Finally locating her daughter, Thia kidnapped her and then staged a coup against Olympus (while having some of her fellow Titans killed in Tartarus and capturing the Amazons of Paradise Island). The surviving Titans of Myth, plus the Teen Titans managed to stop her plans. Hyperion, shocked at his sister/wife's evil, destroyed the both of them in flames (Donna, despite her issues over what the God did to her, still found herself feeling a little loss). Lilith and the Titans of Myth were invited to live on Olympus. All this changed with the Crisis.

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    1. Y'know, I have to say that I really love your comments, angmc43! I just kind of write about what I've read without doing much research. I love when you can fill in holes for me. I know so little about pre-CRISIS DC outside of Batman that much of this is brand new information for me.

      "It should be noted that Hyperion's love control over Donna has the potential for rape if the two got physical."

      Given how much implied sex there is in this series, I have to say that as I read this story, once Wonder Girl was hypnotized by Hyperion, I literally turned every page while thinking, "please don't imply they got it on..." I would've been really disappointed in Wolfman and Pérez if that had happened.

      You're right; I don't think the Thia story is in these collections. The books cover the full original Wolfman/Pérez run, including all fill-ins, but then with volume 3, after that run ends, we suddenly find ourselves reading a Wolfman/Pérez exclusive volume, and the action jumps ahead something like fifty issues for Pérez's return to the title and the story where Wonder Girl becomes (ugh) "Troia".

      But as I said originally, my plan is only to read the first full Wolfman/Pérez run, then maybe get to the rest of that stuff at a later date.

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