Monday, February 16, 2015

THE NEW TEEN TITANS #19 & 20

"THE LIGHT FANTASTIC!" | "DEAR MOM AND DAD"
Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez | Embellisher: Romeo Tanghal
Letterers: John Costanza (#19) & Ben Oda (#20) | Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: Cyborg watches Sarah Simms in the park with her students, while thinking that she's better off without him. But unbeknownst to Cyborg, Sarah misses him quite a bit.

Meanwhile, in prison, Dr. Light learns that the Riddler stole five million dollars and decides to one-up the Prince of Puzzles. Light escapes and heads for the New York Museum to steal some ancient artifacts from an exhibit dedicated to Vishnu. But the exhibit is curated by Carter Hall, a.k.a. Hawkman, who thwarts Light's plan.

However, Light inadvertently awakens three statues from the exhibit with his powers, and they make a beeline to kill him. Light flees for Titans' Tower to request aid from his enemies and soon a huge fight breaks out. Eventually Hawkman realizes how Light awakened the statues, and Starfire duplicates his power to render them inert once more.

Light is sent back to prison, where he learns that the Riddler was caught by Batman, and decides the day wasn't so bad after all. Meanwhile, Sarah arrives at the apartment of Wonder Girl's boyfriend, Terry Long, pleading for his help.

My Thoughts: Geez, Wolfman and Pérez are on a roll. These single-issue adventures are really the way to go. We get some angst this issue from Cyborg and Raven as well, who wishes for a more normal life, but otherwise this is a fun (and funny) story. Perennial loser Dr. Light returns, having apparently been incarcerated by the Atom since his last appearance in NEW TEEN TITANS, and a comedy or errors ensues.

The artwork is great here, too. It's winter in New York, and Pérez coats the city with a blanket of snow, and provides a gentle snowfall to accompany the issue's action. Hawkman, a character I know very little about, looks pretty nifty too, and Dr. Light has this inherent goofiness about him that I love (for whatever reason, thanks to Pérez's visuals and Wolfman's script, I find myself "hearing" Light's dialogue in the voice of the Monarch from TV's THE VENTURE BROTHERS).

Side note: I've never read Brad Meltzer's IDENTITY CRISIS, but I've heard enough about it, secondhand, over the years that I have disliked it for a long time. Retroactively turning a long-established supervillain into a rapist is a terrible idea under any circumstances. But now, reading these issues and seeing that Dr. Light was sort of a goofball "lovable loser" of a villain in the old days, the development seems a million times worse. I have no idea what Meltzer was thinking, but every time Light pops up in these stories, even as I chuckle at his antics, there's a little voice in the back of my head telling me that around this time frame, he's going to (if he hasn't already) force himself on the Elongated Man's wife. Meltzer's awful idea fifteen years in the future has tainted these past tales forever.

Anyway -- by my count, Wolfman and Pérez are on a streak of four strong issues in a row, possibly their longest such run to date. And with next issue looking to be another character piece, the consecutive run shows no sign of breaking yet.

The Plot: By way of a letter to his parents, Kid Flash describes the Titans' recent encounter with the Disruptor, a teenage villain with a costume that allows him to disrupt and/or cancel out the Titans' powers. The Disruptor is after the Titans to help his father, "Brains" Beldon, gain a seat on the H.I.V.E.'s ruling council. But the Titans defeat the Disruptor and he goes to prison, leaving Beldon no closer to his goal.

My Thoughts: Two issues after devolving Kid flash into a one-dimensional caricature, Marv Wolfman turns him into a real person once more, as he composes a thoughtful letter to his parents, contrasting his life with those of his fellow Titans (and the Disruptor as well). It seems that when those filthy Commies aren't involved, Kid Flash is actually a very sensitive young man. Who knew?

Throughout the story, we get glimpses into the other Titans' issues. Robin has been spending more time with Batman lately and feels somewhat inferior as a result. I have always wanted to read the Batman comics of the early eighties, written for long stretches by Gerry Conway and then Doug Moench, but DC has yet to collect them in chronological reading order. If they ever get there I'll be first in line for the collected editions, but until then I'll just have to take Robin at his word.

Besides Robin's developing complex, we also learn that Cyborg is still avoiding Sarah Simms even after she told Terry Long that she needed to see him. Raven still has father issues, comparing the Disruptor's relationship with "Brains" to her own with Trigon. Starfire finds herself missing her home planet of Tamaran and her younger brother. And Wonder Girl becomes depressed thanks to a surprise birthday party for Cyborg, which reminds her that she has no idea of her parentage or where she came from -- a plot point which hasn't been touched upon since a brief scene way back in issue 1.

Speaking of Wonder Girl, it's confirmed in this story that she is 19 years old, and it's reiterated that Terry is 29 and divorced. Terry even calls Wonder Girl and Cyborg "kids" in jest, which does not do much to help his case as Wonder Girl's paramour. I would argue that when dating a teenager a decade younger than oneself, overtly calling attention to that fact is probably not a good idea.

Overall, "Dear Mom and Dad" isn't the best of the Titans' character-driven stories to date, but it does serve to provide some spotlight on the insecurities of nearly every Titan, including the normally infallible Robin, so it's certainly a worthy entry into the Wolfman/Pérez canon.
NEW TEEN TITANS #20 also contains a short story, in the vein of those old Lee/Kirby FANTASTIC FOUR backups, called "A Titanic Tale of Titans' Tomfoolery" -- in which Marv Wolfman and George Pérez are sucked to the Titans' Earth by a mad scientist and rescued by the Titans. The story is all right, if not especially funny. But Pérez's artwork is great. I had no idea he could handle broad comedy as well as superheroics, but the proof is right here.

"A Titanic Tale..." Also features appearances by Len Wein, Romeo Tanghal, Adrienne Roy, and a few unnamed others who are clearly renditions of real people. Wein is shown with a peculiar fondness for a stuffed animal, which instantly reminded me of his rescuing a stuffed bear from the trash in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #48. I guess he was/is a stuffed toy collector in real life...?

Note: After THE NEW TEEN TITANS #20, the next four issues collected in the Omnibus are TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS #1 - 4. This mini-series was published concurrently with NTT issues 20 - 23, so I'll be covering all four installments in order before moving on to NEW TEEN TITANS #21.

4 comments:

  1. Well, from what I gathered, Light's rape was pre-NTT. In IDENTITY CRISIS, (Kid) Flash mentions his recollections of Light as the idiot goofball. The JLA correct him that he was once a formidable nasty before those encounters. After the assault, the JLA had Zatanna perform some mystical brain surgery on Light to keep him from ever doing such a horrible thing again, altering his mind/personality into the lovable loser portrayed in NTT.
    I believe Robin's Batman comments were a response. Several letters showed that readers noted a discrepancy in the Teen Wonder in several comics. NTT had Robin as the skilled and formidable leader/detective/hero in his own right, while his guest appearances in DETECTIVE COMICS and BATMAN dumb-down Robin as a novice who, in deduction and action, still had a lot to learn. I suppose that Dick could handle things better on his own, but whenever he was in the company of his mentor/father-figure, he felt self-conscious enough to falter.

    OT, I must tell you that I am avoiding the Internet on the 40 days of Lent. Aside from business, my only Internet use will be on the next couple of Sundays, which are 'free days' not included with the 40. I wish to continue commenting on your NTT Monday/Wednesday reviews, so only expect my comments to surface on Sunday (and I do hope you respond).

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    1. Thanks for checking in! I must admit, I wondered where you were after my past couple posts. But I'm well familiar with Lent, so I understand. I will definitely respond whenever you comment, though I usually don't get to weekend comments until Monday.

      Interesting that Meltzer apparently used IDENTITY CRISIS to provide a retroactive reason for Light's change in character. I didn't realize that Wolfman and Pérez took him so far astray from his normal characterization. I still think the rape angle is an awful, awful way to "fix" it, though.

      Given the conflicting versions of the character, I wonder if there was a tug-of-war for Robin between Wolfman and Conway at this time? I've always assumed the Nightwing transition was done to give Dick Grayson to the Titans full-time, but it never occurred to me that the idea could have been born from enmity between the Batman writer and the Titans writer.

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  2. I don't think there was any emotional conflict between the two writers. But they had conflicting visions for the Teen Wonder. Conway wanted to recapture the fun, youthful Robin and his close partnership with Batman from the old days. Wolfman wanted Robin to progress to a serious independent adult. Conway intended to restore the Dynamic Duo with Robin permanently full-time, while Wolfman wanted to keep Robin leading the Titans. Eventually, Wolfman made a compromise: He keeps Dick while Conway gets a new Robin.

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    1. I suppose that makes sense. Just speaking for myself, I don't find the youthful, inexperienced Robin all that interesting. I don't mind him, but I prefer him to live in the past, seen mainly via flashback. Give me seasoned, college-age Robin any day!

      At any rate, I find it funny that Conway left the Batman comics before actually putting Jason Todd in the Robin costume. Unless I'm mistaken, it was Doug Moench who actually did that...?

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