Sunday, March 1, 2015
THE NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS VOL. 1 - 3
But where I'm concerned, it seems there almost always has to be a negative. In the case of these books, that comes in the form of the binding. These books feature glued, rather than sewn binding. Marvel has been utilizing sewn binding the vast majority of their hardcovers for years now, but DC has yet to catch on. And when you're dealing with books this thick, glued binding can be a real detriment to the reading experience. The pages don't separate apart at the gutters, leading to occasional loss of artwork and/or text, especially as the series progresses and Pérez begins experimenting with full-bleed artwork. And of course, any two-page spread suffers due to the glued binding as well.
As far as content: I must first provide the caveat that I'm not an expert on DC by any means. There could be some key issues missing here, but as far as I can tell, the first volume seems absolutely complete, including the new Titans' first appearance in DC COMICS PRESENTS, the TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS limited series, and even a short story from a DC digest comic.
That said, the second volume begins to get weird. It's mostly complete, with over twenty more issues of the main series, as well as a couple annuals and even a crossover issue with BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS by Mike Barr and Jim Aparo. However, this volume is inexplicably missing issue 38 of NEW TEEN TITANS. There is no reason provided for the missing issue, but for some reason it shows up as the very first chapter in volume 3. I've seen it speculated that, as this issue was previously included in a trade paperback containing other issues from volume 3, DC chose to shuffle it there to keep the TPB contents complete. This seems an odd decision, since the idea of Omnibus, one would think, would be to read the entire series in publication order. Nonetheless, since issue 38 is in volume 3 and not missing entirely, I don't find this too big of a deal.
But then we get to that third volume and everything goes nuts. (And bear with me, because this clusterfudge was covered extensively when the book came out in 2013) Issue 38 excepted, the first two volumes in the series covered the regular NEW TEEN TITANS series, including issues penciled by artists other than Pérez, and even that BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS issue which, while a direct crossover, does not have either Wolfman or Pérez listed in its credits except in the capacity of "Co-Plotter". Which is to be expected, right? I mean, it is the second half of a two-part story, after all. But suddenly, as of the third volume, THE NEW TEEN TITANS OMNIBUS becomes exclusively a book featuring the work of Wolfman and Pérez together on the Titans, with no other creators acknowledged... sort of.
It starts off fine, covering issues 45 - 50 of NEW TEEN TITANS (renamed to TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS as of last volume). Then the weirdness begins to set in. As I understand it, back in the eighties, DC decided to launch a new NEW TEEN TITANS series exclusively through comic shops, however the stories in that book would eventually be released to the newsstand in TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS months later. So, in order to give NEW TEEN TITANS enough time to accumulate a backlog of content for TALES, TALES printed new stories by Wolfman and other artists alongside the first several issues of NTT containing issues by Wolfman and Pérez. The eight issues of TALES would take place before the concurrently published early issues of NTT. However, those eight issues are missing from volume 3.
Now this isn't a big deal on its own, and technically the publication order is correct. The book simply jumps from TALES 50 to NTT 1, skipping the concurrent TALES issues to go straight into the next Wolfman/Pérez storyline. There are issues missing, but chronologically nothing is really amiss insomuch as a reader would not feel like they had missed something. It's after the early NTT issues that things go to heck. Pérez left TEEN TITANS around this time, then returned a few years later for a short run. So the Omnibus skips all the Pérez-free issues and then picks up years later with NEW TITANS (renamed from the comic shop exclusive NEW TEEN TITANS) #50 -- in other words, it's a jump of forty-some odd issues to pick up with Pérez's return.
And that's not the end of the weirdness, either: among those later NEW TITANS issues are three chapters of "A Lonely Place of Dying", a Titans crossover with the era's BATMAN, also written by Wolfman. But, completely ignoring the precedent set by the inclusion of a BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS issue in volume 2, DC has decided not to include the two BATMAN chapters of "A Lonely Place...", even though, unlike the OUTSIDERS issue, these chapters actually are written by Wolfman (and co-plotted by Pérez)!
So volume 3 is basically just a big mess, content-wise. Most, if not all, of the missing issues are available through DC in digital format, so someone looking to plug holes has that option. And DC has begun a trade paperback series of THE NEW TEEN TITANS, which one might hope would rectify the Omnibus errors -- but at rate of eight issues per volume and one volume a year, it'll be a long time -- even longer than the original publication schedule -- before these books catch up with those missing issues. But really, the option to plug holes is beside the point. To my knowledge, DC never advertised this Omnibus series as including only the Wolfman/Pérez TEEN TITANS. Indeed, the earlier volumes seemed to indicate the opposite, containing stories by Wolfman without Pérez and even that telltale B&TO issue.
If I had to guess, I would speculate that perhaps, for some reason -- monetarily or otherwise -- DC decided these books weren't worth their trouble, or figured only Pérez would sell, and so the decision was made to quickly and sloppily wrap up the Wolfman/Pérez run in volume 3, and call it a day.
However -- and maybe I'm part of the problem -- for me, the Wolfman/Pérez run -- the first run, those initial fifty-plus issues -- is really the only NEW TEEN TITANS content I have much interest in. That could change as I go on to read these books, but for now, flawed though volume 3 may be, I have what I wanted going in. I'll probably pick up those missing eight issues between TALES #50 and NEW TEEN TITANS #1, just so the hole is filled, but I don't think I'll go hunting for anything beyond that.
So, for the casual reader, these three books are probably just fine. They're beautiful packages, containing a wealth of material, and the binding, while annoying, is not a huge problem. But for the hardcore Teen Titans fan who wants the entire run beyond only those issues illustrated by George Pérez, there are definitely some bones to be picked with volume 3.
Volume 1 (out of print) | Volume 2 | Volume 3
DC has also begun to collect THE NEW TEEN TITANS in trade paperback format. The first volume is available from Amazon as well, and contains issue 1 - 8.