Monday, May 18, 2015


Writer/Editor: Marv Wolfman | Penciler: Chuck Patton
Inkers: Mike DeCarlo (#56) & Romeo Tanghal (#57-58)
Letterers: Albert De Guzman (#56-57) & Bob Lappan (#58) | Colorist: Adrienne Roy
* Issue 57 features "multiple choice titles".

The Plot: (issue 56) A more-vicious-than-normal Raven attempts to stop a kidnapping from S.T.A.R. Labs, but fails. Meanwhile, Jericho and his mother return to the United States to be greeted by an apologetic Changeling. Elsewhere, the Fearsome Five (less Doctor Light), employers of the men who raided S.T.A.R., arrive at Tri-State Prison to liberate a prisoner named Jinx. The Titans (Nightwing, Starfire, and Wonder Girl) attempt to stop them but are defeated and the villains escape with their prize. Meanwhile, Cyborg undergoes surgery at S.T.A.R. to replace his metal parts with human-looking plastics.

(issue 57) Cyborg's operation is a success and he begins physical rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Changeling and Jericho are reunited with the the other Titans at Titans' Tower. Elsewhere, the Fearsome Five awaken Jinx but are unable to free their other new ally, Tryon, from S.T.A.R.'s pod. Days pass, during which the Titans train, and then the Five attack S.T.A.R. once more, kidnapping the facility's chief, Dr. Klyburn, along with Cyborg, posing as her assistant. The Titans spend two days searching for the kidnappers while the pair works to open the pod for the Five. They succeed, but Cyborg rigs the pod to explode as it opens. As he and Klyburn run for safety, Cyborg's new plastic parts begin to melt.

(issue 58) Tryon, a.k.a. Neutron, an enemy of Superman's, emerges from his pod and joins the Fearsome Five. They proceed to Manhattan to wreak havoc, but the Titans show up to challenge them. Meanwhile, Cyborg is rushed to S.T.A.R. Labs with Dr. Klyburn, who begins the process of restoring his cybernetic parts. During the battle, Psimon is abducted into outer space by the mysterious Monitor, who announces that the Crisis on Infinite Earths will begin in three months. On Earth, the Titans defeat the Fearsome Five thanks mainly to Jericho's aid. The group later visits the restored Cyborg at S.T.A.R., and then, back at Titans' Tower, inducts Jericho formally into their ranks.

My Thoughts: First order of business: This Chuck Patton is a good artist! I don't think I've ever read anything drawn by this guy, but he has a great handle on facial expressions, fight coreography, and his depictions of the characters are extremely faithful versions of the George Pérez designs.

Second order of business: Last time we looked at an issue cover-dated for thirty years ago this month. Now, again per Mike's Amazing World of Comics, issue 56 was on sale this month thirty years ago. Again, just a cool little something I thought worth noting. Who knew I'd just happen to be writing about some of these issues thirty years to the month later?

And now on to the story: It's... not bad. Moreso than any of the prior post-50 issues, this trilogy really feels like it's just killing time until TALES catches up with the second volume of NEW TEEN TITANS. Which is a shame, because Cyborg's storyline here really deserved better. He's been a mainstay of the Titans for the entire run but, some sub-plots aside, hasn't really had an "A" story devoted to him until this moment. But I can't help feeling this concept would have worked better if it had played out over a longer period, like maybe a year. Set up the plastic polymers, have him undergo the surgery, leave the team, go through physical therapy for several months, maybe even readjust to normal life... and then pull the rug out from under him. It would have been far more engrossing and far more tragic that way. But instead it all just feels rushed.

Speaking of rushing and timelines, in issue 56, Cyborg claims that it's only been about a year since his transformation. This seems to go against Deathstroke's thoughts back in #43 that it had been a "year and a half" since he accepted the H.I.V.E.'s contract against the Titans. However issue 57 immediately contradicts this, with Cyborg now stating that he's been "in pain" for two years. Personally, a year feels better to me at this point than two. Superheroes' lives should be jam-packed with nonstop adventure. Nearly sixty issues covering the span of a year works for me, notwithstanding the occasions where characters or even the omniscient narrator claimed it had been "months" or "weeks" since something in the recent past had happened.

Along that same line, issue 57's artwork also seems to imply that much more time is passing than Wolfman's captions indicate. Overall, according to Wolfman, the issue spans a week. But almost immediately, before Wolfman states that any time has passed -- Patton gives us a two-page spread montage of Cyborg's physical therapy during which his hair is clearly seen to be growing back. Then, at a point which Wolfman identifies as "several days" later, Cyborg has a full head of hair. I'm guessing Patton just misunderstood how much time was to have passed when he drew the issue, or perhaps Wolfman changed his mind after the artwork was complete. In any case, strangely, Cyborg's hair is completely gone again with issue 58.

And speaking of the collaboration between writer and artist, I wonder if Wolfman wrote TEEN TITANS "Marvel Style" or full script? I believe DC was generally a full script outfit, but Wolfman and Pérez were both transplants from Marvel, as was the series' original editor, Len Wein, before Wolfman and Pérez jointly assumed that position (Yes, technically Wolfman and Wein started their careers at DC, but they weren't there long before going to Marvel.) -- so it would not be outside the realm of possibility that this series was produced in the Mighty Marvel Manner rather than the, uh... Drab DC...Design?

In other news, the first part of this trilogy gives us a quick look at Raven. Absent from the series since issue 50, she hasn't even fought alongside her teammates since "The Judas Contract" circa issue #44! Again I remind readers that, technically, her story has already concluded in the pages of THE NEW TEEN TITANS volume 2, but chronologically she's been off the team and mostly out of the picture for a long time.

This is also, for us, the Fearsome Five's swan song. I'm sure they returned to menace the Titans after this point, but they won't pop up in any of the remaining six issues we have to cover. I can't say I'm especially broken up about it. Aside from Dr. Light, who's no longer a member at this point, the group has never done much for me. I kind of think Psimon is a silly name (his real name's Simon, get it??), and I feel like Shimmer's look is not nearly as sexy as I believe we're supposed to see it as and her powers and personality have both felt somewhat ill-defined to me through all of her appearances. Mammoth's costume is very nondescript, but I will say that I like his characterization. Gizmo's pretty cool, though. But really, I just feel like these Titans have much better villains in their rogues gallery at this point, and the Fearsome Five have overstayed their welcome.

And now Wolfman has finished "filling the gap" between TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS #50 and THE NEW TEEN TITANS (vol. 2) #1. Next we'll jump back in time just about a year for the "return" of George Pérez and the fate of Raven.

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