Wednesday, February 11, 2015


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

The Plot: At Blue Valley College, Wally West meets up with his childhood friend, Francis Kane, and accompanies her to her home to study. But there, Francis's mother is engaged in a seance to contact her late husband and son, Francis's father and brother. During the seance Francis is seemingly possessed and household items go flying everywhere.

Following the chaos, a week later, Wally recruits Raven to inspect Francis. The group interrupts another seance and Francis is possessed once more. Two more weeks pass during which Francis is studied by doctors in Blue Valley. When they learn nothing and another apparent possession takes place, the Titans bring Francis to Titans' Tower in New York.

There, yet another possession incident occurs. But Cyborg, having noticed that everything telekinetically moved by Francis was made of metal, deduces that she has a surplus of magnetic waves in her brain. With the aid of S.T.A.R. Labs, Cyborg lowers Francis's magnetic brainwave activity to normal, and the possessions finally stop for good.

Later, Francis bids farewell to Kid Flash, who she has deduced is actually Wally. She tells him she thinks she's falling in love with him, then departs. Meanwhile, in another dimension, the villainous Dr. Polaris laments that his attempt to take control of Francis and return himself to reality has failed.

My Thoughts: Of all the new Titans, Kid Flash has seen the least amount of spotlight time thus far, and his only sub-plots have been about moping over whether he loves Raven and moping over whether he wants to be a superhero. Honestly, he's come off as a bit of a sad sack up to this point. On the plus side, during the recent fight with Madame Rouge, he seemed to decide that he would remain an active Titan... but still, there hasn't been all that much to him.

So it's nice to see the guy get an issue dedicated to him. We meet one of his childhood friends, we see the lengths he'll go to in order to help her, he gains a confidante who knows of his dual identity, and a possible wrench is thrown into his situation with Raven as Francis reveals that she thinks she's falling for him (after already stating that she used to have a crush on him). All in all, this is a nice done-in-one adventure.

Other notes: Starfire sits this story out, recovering from the death of her love, Franklin Crandall, last issue. As Changeling was out of town last month, we haven't seen the full contingent of Titans together since issue 15. Also, we get a nice look at Cyborg's intellectual side here as, while the other Titans flail helplessly, simply reacting to Francis's "possessions", he figures out what's really going on and saves the day.

Lastly -- I'm pretty sure, given that it's my grandmother's name, that the feminine spelling is "Frances" rather than "Francis", which I usually only see attached to men.

The Plot: Following the death of his son at American hands, a Russian bureaucrat named Slavik sends his secretary, Maladi Malanova, to the United States, secretly infecting her with a plague so that she will spread it around New York City. But the Russians get wind of Slavik's plot and send their super-agent, the original Starfire, to the U.S. to find and stop her.

The Titans learn of Starfire's presence and go after him. Eventually he explains the full situation, then flees to find Maladi. The Titans track both of them to the Cloisters, where Starfire intends to kill the terminal Maladi. But the Titans stop him and the group takes Maladi to the hospital, where she passes away in peace.

As he departs, Starfire reveals that Maladi was his fiancée, and that today, the day she died, was the day they were to be married.

My Thoughts: Dating back to the first issue of NEW TEEN TITANS, it seems that nearly every issue has been one installment of a multi-part story, or at the very least, a chapter in a string of strongly serialized events. Now, since the Titans' return from Zandia following issue 15, every story has been done-in-one, and I find that I'm enjoying these tales more than the serialized ones -- which is odd, since I usually prefer my comics to be exactly the opposite, strongly serialized soap operas.

Perhaps in this case, I'm enjoying the single-issue tales more since Wolfman and Pérez have a whopping 27 story pages to work with each month. That's more than enough space to tell a typical comic story, and expanding an adventure into two 27-pagers almost feels like overkill.

But in any case, "A Pretty Girl is Like a-- Maladi!" is just the right length and contains just the right amount of pathos without veering into the realm of the melodramatic. I honestly didn't see the twist ending on the way, either, even though the story went out of its way multiple times to tell us that Maladi was engaged. I just figured Wolfman was going for extra sympathy, but tying Maladi in with her would-be killer, who the Titans view as heartless but who actually wants to show mercy to his fiancée, is a great idea.

There's one bit with which I have to take issue, though, and that's the ham-fisted political message Wolfman inserts into the story. Throughout the proceedings, Kid Flash is seen to utterly despise the Soviet Union, and to strongly dislike and mistrust Starfire simply because of his allegiance. Meanwhile, all the other Titans are willing to give the Russians a fair shake. When Kid Flash is finally called out on this, he explains simply that he's a "Midwestern conservative" while the rest of the group are all liberals. And that's that.

...Really? Apparently there's one Titan who's politically conservative, and that automatically makes him a knee-jerk reactionary while the entire rest of the group is open-minded because they're enlightened liberals? That's all there is to it? I mean, I realize the primary audience for this series is kids, but isn't this just a bit too oversimplified?

What makes this especially frustrating is that all the Titans are pretty well fleshed out and nicely nuanced by now. Wolfman does an excellent job of making them feel like real people. And that just makes this piece of characterization even more ridiculous. As soon as politics come into a story, Kid Flash becomes an unlikable, overexaggerated cartoon character. I appreciate that Wolfman is attempting to work some level of discourse into the story, but this is so "paint by numbers" that it hurts. I've read comic stories by left-wingers and comic stories by right-wingers, and I've never seen anyone paint the "other side" as so painfully one-dimensional as this.

Wolfman has trained me to expect better of him by this point, and what he gives us here in his portrayal of Kid Flash is just disappointing.

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