Monday, March 9, 2015


Co-Creators: Marv Wolfman & George Pérez | Embellisher: Romeo Tanghal
Letterers: Ben Oda (#26) & Todd Klein (#27) | Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Len Wein

The Plot: (issue 26) The Titans return to Earth, and Robin admits to Starfire that he loves her. Weeks pass as the group members resume their lives. Meanwhile, around the country, several teenagers run away from home under varying circumstances. Then, one night while out for a date, Dick Grayson and "Cory Anders" (Starfire) witness a young junkie accost District Attorney Adrian Chase for money before retreating and getting run down by a truck.

Elsewhere, Changeling is on monitor duty when he picks up an incident at the Statue of Liberty and moves to investigate. There he fights a girl named Terra, babbling about an assignment from "them" to destroy the statue. Before Changeling can capture her, Terra escapes.

Later, Raven -- back in college -- befriends a young street walker and takes her to Cyborg for help. The duo then brings the girl to a runaway shelter where they bump into D.A. Chase. He recruits the Titans to investigate the local end of an international drug ring which plans to use runaways to transport their narcotics through the city. The Titans agree to help and return to Cyborg's apartment, where they find a young man bleeding on the carpet.

(issue 27) Raven heals the wounded teen, Paul, who explains that his brother was the one run over days earlier. Overexerting her powers to save Paul's life once again brings Raven's dark side to the fore, but she reins it in.

Later, the Titans bring Paul to the runaway shelter, where they meet up with Roy "Speedy" Harper, still working for a drug elimination task force, and ordered to work with the group by D.A. Chase. Paul knows where the drugs will be passed on to the runaways, and Raven pulls the information from his uncooperative mind.

At Titans' Tower, Roy changes into costume, then the group heads for the waterfront. There a skirmish breaks out between the Titans and the drug cartel, and while the heroes have the upper hand, a thirteen year-old boy is killed by a stray bullet. The Titans win and the criminals are arrested, but around the country, kids continue to run away from home.

My Thoughts: "Socially relevant" stories are usually a tricky proposition, more often than not coming across as ham-fisted and/or preachy. Fortunately, Wolfman and Pérez manage to mostly avoid this trap. "Runaways" certainly has its moments of preachiness -- something hard to avoid entirely in these sorts of tales -- but it's never overdone and the message comes through without being hammered into the reader's skull. Going into this two-parter I was prepared to dislike it due to my aversion from these sorts of stories, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked it. Wolfman and Pérez have made a nice return to form following the somewhat disappointing outer space saga.

In other events, now that the Titans are back on Earth, the sub-plots have picked back up. Robin and Starfire are now an official couple, which I knew would happen eventually. I'm a little surprised it took Wolfman over two years to make it official, though! That's a nice slow burn build-up that I wasn't expecting.

We also see the introduction of Terra, who will step into the spotlight officially next issue, in a brief three-page sequence starring Changeling -- his only real action in the "Runaways" story, as he and Kid Flash both sit the main action out. Terra will have an interesting storyline among the Titans, which we'll cover as it happens, but I have to note that, having read the finale of her tale in the "Judas Contract" storyline years ago, I find myself wishing that my trade had included her earlier appearances as well, to better set up her role there. But, again -- more on that when we get to it.

It's nice to see Speedy back in action, too. He and Aqualad popped up together in that DC DIGEST story, then we saw Aqualad again a couple issues back before the Titans went into space -- but he had no interest in fighting alongside his former team. Speedy, on the other hand, jumps right into the fray and makes a welcome addition to the team. My main exposure to Speedy is the version seen in Cartoon Network's YOUNG JUSTICE cartoon of a few years back, where he was played much the same way -- an ex-member who occasionally returns to work with his old friends. I hope to see more of this going forward, as I find Speedy a pretty fun character.

Lastly, it's pointed out more than once that D.A. Chase feels hamstrung by the laws he upholds, and wishes he could work outside the government bureaucracy; even hinting to cyborg after the big fight that he should have killed a gunman he had only wounded. Ordinarily, I would have no idea where this plot point is headed, but Wolfman spoiled it for me in the introduction to the Omnibus. So I'm aware that Chase will eventually become a masked Vigilante; I just don't know when or under what circumstances.

So, following their less-than-stellar (pun very much intended) space saga, Wolfman and Pérez have returned the Titans the types of stories they handle best -- sub-plot laden, down-to-Earth adventures. Busting drug cartels may be just a little lower in magnitude than the threats they normally face -- other than Robin, of course -- but this works as a nice contrast to the space storyline and really serves to show why that adventure just didn't work so well.


  1. This storyline made a big wave at the time. Wolfman and Perez appeared in several TV news, and it inspired a Keebler-endorsed TV anti-drug commercial of the Titans, as well as the publication of a special three-part comic book series (by Wolfman with Perez doing the first issue) given to schools to educate kids about drugs. These stories had most of the Titans & Speedy join up with a pseudo-Robin called the Protector (Since Keebler was TPTB behind this storyline, and Robin was tied to Nabisco, the former were unable to use the character) to help kids deal with the consequences of drug addiction. I found it interesting that although this story deals with teenage death (the cover of the first story is a UXM#136 Pieta-esque scene of Speedy carrying a dead child), they had to cover up Starfire's bustier...
    Having Speedy guest-star was appropriate, considering his own groundbreaking drug addiction storyline in the Neil/Adams GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW run (Speedy, feeling neglected by his mentor, turns to drugs. GA practically disowns the sidekick, disavowing any responsibility for his problem, leaving GL and Black Canary to help him cold turkey). That story ended with Speedy (while punching his mentor) pledging to help addicts like himself.
    This story is pretty shocking stuff for mainstream comics at the time: drugs, teenagers getting killed, teenage pregnancy (I could see Raven relating to the poor girl; her own mother was in a similar situation), the word 'slut', etc.
    Who is the ex-squeeze Robin is talking about? Lori Elton, his girlfriend from his Hudson University time (they broke up around the time he quit college). Batgirl (whom he knew as Barbara Gordon). Dala, Vampiri sister of the Monk, who recently (in the Gene Colan Bat-run) seduced Dick into becoming a Vampiri (and helped the Monk Vampiri-ize Batman as well). Fortunately, this being a Voodoo-curse rather than an actual undead Vampire curse, the Dynamic Duo were able to get cured.
    Note that Wonder Girl's lasso has lost its shimmer. From then on, it appears to be a regular rope.
    I'm rather uneasy about Paul's happy reunion. Didn't his brother run away because his parents abused him?

    1. I've heard about that series with the Protector. So strange. You'd think Keebler and Nabisco could've worked something out in the interest of The Children.

      I have a trade of the O'Neil/Adams GL/GA series, which has been on my shelf for a few years now. Someday I'm going to read it! And someday I want to read all those Conway Batman comics, too...

      I didn't catch that at the end regarding Paul and his family, but I think you're right. Maybe his parents are going to turn over a new leaf? The repetition, showing new kids running off and stating that the cycle never ends, was kind of a downer too, though definitely realistic.

      Funny you mention Wonder Girl's lasso just now. I did not, at the time, really register that it had stopped shimmering. But just last week I read an issue from later in the run where she explicitly says "My lasso may not be magic like Wonder Woman's..." and I thought, "What? When did this happen??" I wonder what the reasoning was behind the change?