Monday, February 9, 2015

THE NEW TEEN TITANS #16

"STARFIRE UNLEASHED!"
Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez | Embellisher: Romeo Tanghal
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: A month has passed since the Titans' return from Zandia. Changeling is on vacation with his stepfather and Robotman, while Starfire has begun dating a young man named Franklin Crandall. On Raven's first day of school at Manhattan University, while Cyborg pines over Sarah Simms, Crandall tells Starfire that he loves her. Meanwhile, a model, working for the advertising agency that employs photographer Donna Troy, is kidnapped. Some sleuthing by Robin locates the missing model and the Titans rescue her.

Later, Crandall, who has been hired by a H.I.V.E. agent to get close to Starfire, refuses to spring the H.I.V.E.'s trap, and is shot for his betrayal. The Titans find Crandall mortally wounded in his apartment, and with his dying breath he reveals the location of the H.I.V.E. operative. Starfire goes to kill him, but Wonder Girl stops her. In the chaos, the H.I.V.E. agent escapes.

Later, the H.I.V.E. council lectures their rogue agent against working alone, then executes him. Robin and Wonder Girl deduce that Crandall was working for the H.I.V.E., but choose not to tell Starfire.

My Thoughts: Though Wolfman and Pérez work in a "B" plot about the missing model and toss in an appearance by the H.I.V.E., this is really just a character/sub-plot issue along the lines of #8's "A Day In The Lives". And while not quite as strong as that installment, we do get some nice looks at most of the Titans. Changeling is gone entirely and Kid Flash and Cyborg only have brief moments to moon over Raven and Sarah, respectively, but the development is strong for Robin, Wonder Girl, Raven, and especially Starfire.

Raven's story is her own, beginning school, preaching pacifism, and getting harassed by a couple of campus jocks. I'm unsure why, of all the Titans, it was decided to send Raven to college. I guess there's a nice "fish out of water" element to this idea, but I have trouble seeing an endgame for this particular thread. I suppose it could simply be something Wolfman and Pérez wanted to try for the heck of it, but I hope they have at least one plotline planned to come out of this development.

The other three, Robin, Wonder Girl, and Starfire, have their storylines entwined. We learn that Wonder Girl and Starfire are roommates, and that Starfire -- real name Kori'and'r -- is going by "Kory Anders" on Earth. She doesn't understand why the other Titans insist that she keep her identity a secret, and truthfully, neither do I. She has golden skin and huge hair down to her heels. Y'know, just like Starfire of the Teen Titans. Even in the world of suspension of disbelief, where Superman can slick his hair back and wear a pair of glasses to conceal his face, this makes absolutely no logical sense. But Wolfman and Pérez at least seem to realize this, as the H.I.V.E. is well aware that Kory Anders is in fact Starfire.

Anyway, Starfire is the main character of this tale and we see, for more or less the first time, her Tamaranian heritage in action. She has spoken many times of being a warrior and of how her people are ruled by their emotions. And she's cut loose in battle on occasion before. But now she's falling in love with a guy in less than a month, ready to spend her life with him even -- and when he's killed she is more than ready to take lethal action to avenge him. It's only Wonder Girl stepping between Starfire and her prey, informing her that as long as she lives on Earth she must abide by human laws, that stops the alien princess's rampage.

And along for the ride through all this is Robin. If I haven't made it clear yet, I should confess that I'm a fan of Dick Grayson, especially as a seasoned Robin. Robin here is sure of himself, out of Batman's shadow. He goes into detective mode immediately when Donna's model turns up missing; dusting for prints like it's second nature and solving the kidnapping within a matter of hours. This is the Robin I like to read about; the guy with more experience than all the other Titans; the guy who's been fighting crime since he was twelve years old.

Curiously, there's a bit at the start of this issue which took me by surprise. Robin and Starfire have clearly shared a mutual attraction, including some minor flirtations, throughout these early NEW TEEN TITANS issues. And as such, while he plays it off as no big deal, Robin is clearly somewhat distraught over Starfire's new beau. But the thing that threw me was, near the beginning of the issue, a flashback which seemed to indicate that Robin and Starfire have already casually "hooked up" a few times. As friends with benefits, if you will.

Case in point:
There was nothing whatsoever in any of the previous issues which indicated they were anything more than teammates, but from my perspective, there's no other way to read this scene. I know Robin and Starfire are destined to become possibly the premier superhero couple of the eighties. It's really interesting watching things develop between them early on like this. But never in a million years would I have imagined that their relationship started out with the couple as casual sex-buddies!

3 comments:

  1. They really ran with her being Coriander from planet Tamarind in the Vegan system?

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    1. They did indeed. Wolfman even mentions this in the Omnibus' introduction. He says he loves puns, and all the Tamaranians' names are such. Her sister, a military commander, is Komand'r. And her father, a weakling who can't make up his mind, is Myand'r (meander).

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  2. Claremont, you can consider Shi'ar captain K'rk forgiven.

    Kallark for Gladiator's real name I have always found ingenious anyway, and take immense mirth of Byrne getting to draw Superman only afterwards.

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