Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tales of the Teen Titans #50 (1985)


Tales of the Teen Titans #50 (February, 1985)
"We Are Gathered Here Today......."
Writer/Co-Plotter/Editor - Marv Wolfman
Penciller/Co-Plotter/Editor - George Perez
Embellishers - Mike DeCarlo & Dick Giordano
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Special Thanks - Carol Flynn
Cover Price: $1.25

Well, yesterday we saw Terry Long at his worst... I could say he's always "the worst", but the poor fella's unceremonious demise was the lowest of the low.  Today we're going to celebrate him at his best... his wedding to Donna Troy!

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We open on Paradise Island... the Temple of Athena to be specific.  Inside Hippolyta has been praying for several days by this point.  I'd make a snarky remark that she was praying for something unpleasant to happen to Terry Long, but today's not the time for that.  Speaking of Mr. Long, we shift to the palatial Dayton Estate where his wedding ceremony is scheduled to occur that very same day.


Beast Boy has been tasked with catering the event, and is dutifully directing traffic.  Steve Dayton's butler, Questor is somewhat skeptical as to whether or not young Gar is up to the job.  His fears are only compounded when he sees the green lad greet one of the scheduled entertainers... Bonzo the Clown!  The Q-Man attempts to intervene, but Gar informs him that the man in the big shows is there to entertain the fifteen children who will be attending!  Maybe our boy is capable of pulling this off after all!


With the Clown outta the way, several other vendors begin ganging up on Gar.  Questor offers to step in for a bit so Beast Boy can take himself a shower.  As Logan leaves, Questor expresses disappointment in the way the vendors are conducting themselves... It's nice to see him proud of (and sticking up for) Gar.


We shift scenes to the home of Adeline and Joe Wilson.  Mom wakes up, and goes to wake up her son... only to find that he's been awake quite some time.  Joey has spent the night working on Donna and Terry's wedding gift... a painted portrait of the happy couple!  Adeline presses Joey to allow her to set up a gallery showing for his work... but he doesn't feel he's ready just yet.


We shift again... this time to Raven, and she'zZzzzZzzZzzz *snort* oops, sorry about that, dozed off... she's in that Azar dimension... and I'm very bored.

Yeah, c'mon Azar... give us a break here...

Next Titan we check in on is our pal Vic.  He's headed toward the wedding with his date, Sarah from the Special School.  He is worried that he will stand out, given his appearance.  She insists that he's got nothing to worry about.


Back at Dayton's, a very tackily-dressed Gar relieves Questor of his duties.  The butler heads in to check on Mr. Dayton... who is having a pretty rough time of it these days.  The former Mento has something of an addiction to his old helmet.  Questor reminds Steve that he'd made a promise to Logan.  More on that later.


Next stop, the bridesmaids' room, where some familiar faces are getting all dolled up.  Of note, we've got Starfire and Lilith... and every time I read this scene, I remember that Terra was supposed to be part of it.  The ladies are chatting, and our old friend caveboy Gnarrk gets name-dropped!


They also mention that Donna is engaging in some "girl talk" with her sister... Wonder Woman!  Seems as though Donna's got a belly full'a butterflies... which, I would attribute to nausea having to live with Terry Long for the rest of her life (okay, okay...).  Diana asks a few of the key "wedding day" questions, and between them they conclude that she's making the right choice.


Moments later, Dick Grayson checks in with the bridal party... and finally in on Donna herself.  This is a wonderful little scene, where we see how much Dick and Donna love each other.  It's really an amazing few panels.


We shift to the courtyard, where the ceremony is just about to begin.  Terry is chatting with his family and posing for pictures.  It isn't long before the music starts to play.


As the bridal party begins making their way down the aisle, we see some familiar faces... including the creators of the book!  Hey, even Elmira from the orphanage Donna stayed up showed up.  It's nice to see she's still talkative.  Finally at the alter, Dick gives Donna away.


The ceremony proper begins, and the couple read their vows.  This two-page piece is particularly well done!  And so, Terry Long and Donna Troy become man and wife.

 

After the ceremony, Gar runs heads out to see that the reception gets off to the right start.  Questor notices some suspicious rippling in the pool, and heads over to shoo whoever might be loitering outta the water.  He's surprised to find Garth and Tula... the aqua-teens (no, not those)... and, yeah... they're naked.


At the reception, Gar is emceeing and introducing the bridal party.  Once Terry and Donna are announced, the music for their first dance begins... it's Annie's Song by John Denver, by the way.


Before long, the dance floor fills up... giving us the perfect opportunity for some cameos!  We've got former Titans, Mal "Guardian" "Herald" "Hornblower" "Vox" Duncan and his wife Karen, Clark Kent and... Lana Lang... oh yeah, almost forgot this was pre-Crisis where Clark and Lana were a "thing"... also, we've got Sting?  How about that, eh?  I thought it might'a been John Constantine!  Anyhoo, while this is going on, Vic is surprised that nobody seems to notice that he's mostly machine.  Maybe Special School Sarah was right...


While Lilith chats with the Duncans, she gets an eerie feeling... at that very same moment, Questor feels a similar sensation coming from one of the "secondary" rooms.  Elsewhere Roy and Wally are discussing how there're so few originals left in their "club".


We shift to Dick Grayson leaning over the balcony... he is soon joined by Bruce Wayne!  Bruce notices that Dick's preoccupied, and inquires what's up.  This is during the time where Bruce was trying to adopt Jason Todd... and Dick feels a bit strange because Bruce never tried adopting him.  Sounds reasonable.  The two work it all out, and it... like much of this issue... is quite touching.  They end by toasting to both the Titans and the Outsiders.


Elsewhere, Vic is thinking on how nobody has mentioned that he's... ya know, a cyborg.  He grows suspicious and heads over to Beast Boy.  Here we learn that Gar asked Mento to don the terrible helmet to shield the way Vic really appears!  Guess that was the favor... anyhoo, Vic becomes enraged and stomps away.


Ready for more cameos?  Cuz we got some!  Donna and Terry meet up with Hank and Don Hall, the original Hawk and Dove!  Elsewhere, Dick Grayson runs into his old friend... Duela Dent!  Wouldn't recognize her, as she's put on a few... Dick also realizes that she's far too old to be Two Face's daughter.  She's all "duh"... but refuses to elaborate.


Back at the pool, several former Titans discuss "bringing the band back together"... that is, Titans West.  Aqualad, Aquagirl, Golden Eagle and (the Golden Age) Bat-Girl, think on it... before realizing that some things are best left in the past.


Back to the balcony, and now it's Gar having himself a sulk.  It isn't long before he's joined by a repentant Cyborg.  Vic apologizes for overreacting, and the pals shake and make up.


Inside, Jericho is rocking out with the Waldos... and I dunno why I think that's so funny.  Donna and Terry are looking on, however are pulled away... to that secondary room, where Questor and Lilith felt those bad vibes.  They enter to find... Hippolyta!  She is there to bless their union.


Time passes, and the day grows to its conclusion.  After cutting the cake and the ceremonial tossing of the bouquet and garter belt, the guests begin to file out.  The Titans remain and present Gar with a "Master Caterer" medal.  Gar's old girlfriend, Jillian gives him a peck on the cheek to boot!.


Before we leave... I gotta mention that we get a look at the guest book.  Several familiar names fill it... mostly, creative team members and their families.  Of particular interest, some Titans super-fans were also included... such as one, Rob Liffield.  Misspelling aside, yeah... it's that Rob Liefeld!  Apparently, he was asked to send in a photo so he could be included as a guest... but he took too long to mail one to George Perez.  Whoops... what could'a been.

It's Rob Liffield, Maaaaaaaaaaaan!

We wrap up with the Longs, Donna and Terry taking off on one of Steve Dayton's private jets... and it's heavily implied their both about to join the Mile-High Club.  Guess they can't all end on a high note!


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Now, what can I say about one of my favorite issues of all time?  Had a wonderful time with this.  I've read this story so many times, and it's always a pleasure.  It's so well done that even its Terry-centric nature isn't a hindrance to my enjoyment.  I also gotta mention that this is one of those books where I notice something new each time I read it.  

This read-through made me notice the page where Terry and Donna are reading their vows... with each row of panels, they grow closer together... until the bottom where they share a single panel.  Such amazing subtle symbolism to illustrate two becoming one.  Though, as I often do, I'll concede that I can be a bit dense... and this may have been completely obvious to everyone but me.

I think this issue has several "themes", family and togetherness among them.  The one that stands out to me though, it that of maturation.  We can start with Donna and Terry themselves.  They are entering into a new phase of life... Donna is now not just a new wife... but a step-mother to Terry's daughter Jennifer.  This is perhaps less so in Terry... as it is, this is his second "go round" with the vows.

For the other Titans, let's start with our Master of Ceremonies... Garfield Logan.  He accepted the responsibility of catering this entire humongous event... and did so with gusto!  Why, even ol' Questor appeared to be beaming with pride for the boy.  Everything went swimmingly... and he even made special accommodations for his teammates.  Speaking of which... Victor.  He had to overcome his fear of how folks would receive his extraordinary appearance.  While Gar made it so nobody could tell... Vic didn't know that, and so he actually took the risk... and put himself in an uncomfortable situation to ensure he was there for his friend.

The old Titans West characters, in deciding to let the past remain behind them, showed a great deal of maturity.  One would assume that these (still quite young) adults might find comfort being part of a familiar team.  It may also give them a reason for being.  Understanding that a part of one's life is behind them is something most (young and otherwise) adults struggle with.  It might have been a throwaway scene... and I might be (as I do) thinking way too hard on this, but I appreciated its inclusion.

Dick's scenes here are brief... but powerful.  Let's start with his bit with Donna.  We can see an intrinsic... almost, I dunno... primal (?) love between them.  It's not romantic, but something stronger... something permanent.  Perez's ridiculously amazing art really punctuated this scene... the pride in Dick's eyes, Donna's lip quivering... man, what an awesome page!  Later, we get a scene between Dick and Bruce that... to be honest, I'm surprised didn't happen in the pages of Batman.  I guess it just goes to show what a tremendously huge book Titans was at the time.  Another great bit... and answered questions that I am sure were on the minds of many'a fan during this era.  Why would Bruce adopt Jason and not Dick?

The cameos were a great treat.  Even after all my rereads, I was still surprised to see Duela Dent!  I can't recall if her nebulous parentage was ever followed up on... but this was a neat little nod to longtime readers.

The only problem I had with this issue, and this is going to sound stupid... is the one-page with Raven.  Not that it wasn't well rendered, it's just so often I open an issue of Titans... and there's Raven... knelt atop a craggy outcrop of rocks, with purple and red lightning-filled skies behind her... and it's never interesting (at least not to me).  I really could've done without this here.  But, hell... if out of a 40 page book, I've only got a problem with one... I think we're doing pretty good.

Overall though... an amazing issue.  Wonderful writing and drop-dead gorgeous art.  This is truly a celebration of the Titans... New and Original Recipe.  The fact that the ceremony wasn't interrupted is another feather in its cap.  Gotta consider that releasing a book back in the mid-1980's, with zero action... that's a somewhat risky proposition, right?  Especially an extra-sized extra-priced issue like this one.  Then again, maybe Jericho wielding an ax is all the action this book needs!


If you haven't read this one... I'd strongly recommend you do.  Even if you only know the Titans from their current Rebirth incarnations, this is still something you should read.  If you have read this... I'd encourage you to read it again.  This is definitely part of my "comics comfort food" diet, and is one that I read (at least) annually.  This has been collected, most recently in the Who is Donna Troy? trade paperback.  That's a book you just can't go wrong with... it includes another one of my favorites, the titular Who is Donna Troy? from New Teen Titans #38.  It has also been made available digitally.  Also, like so many DC books from the 1980's... this can be found pretty easily in my favorite format (the single-issue) in the cheap-o (and relatively cheap-o) bins.  Do yourself a favor and give it a look!

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wonder Woman (vol.2) #121 (1997)


Wonder Woman (vol.2) #121 (May, 1997)
"Stone May Grow"
Writer/Artist - John Byrne
Colorist - Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor - Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor - Paul Kupperberg
Cover Price: $1.95

How curious... just a random issue of Wonder Woman from the late 1990's.  I wonder why we might be discussing this book...

Well, to explain why... I will write this as though it's a line item in an Wizard Magazine's price guide:

                   Terry Long: appears (dies)

Yup... today we're shuffling our old friend off this mortal coil... in a random issue of Wonder Woman.  Hell, I've made my indifference-slash-dislike for this character well known, but even I think he deserves better... well, we'll go further in depth after the spoilery synopsis.  Let's see just how well we do reading an unfamiliar era of Wonder Woman, with absolutely nothing in the way of context!

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We open with Randu Singh doing some astral plane mojojojo to follow up on a mental message Diana had received regarding the death of her mother, Hippolyta.  Singh is most certain that a young woman did indeed make contact.  Speaking of which, that woman is named Angelica Wallis... and is no stranger to psychic flashes.  These, however, are different... these are controllable.  We see that she is in the same hospital as Hippolyta, who lies in the Intensive Care Unit... and has been turned completely to stone!


Wonder Woman and the gang, including a very young Cassie Sandsmark and Jason Blood, head to the roof of the latter's apartment building.  Diana attempts to summon her invisible jet so she and Singh might seek out this astral interloper, but only produces a coagulous mess.  I should mention that she currently has a badly injured right arm/hand.


Diana has no choice but to request the aid from a Harold Campion... the Champion!  It seems her current entourage is less than comfortable with this idea, and suggest she reach out to the Justice League instead.  She declines.  Champion arrives and immediately agrees to aid Diana in her travels.  Jason Blood grabs Randu Singh and asks that he keep Mr. Campion at arm's reach... as he fears there's much more to him than meets the eye.  And, we soon learn that he is wise to think that.  The gang leaves, and a Satyr all but confirms that the master has a "true nature" not yet seen by Wondy.


In the panels that follow, Diana arrives at the Wallis' doorstep.  That was a mighty quick trip... especially with the vague directions Randu provided.


Next we get the first of two interludes.  This one has Artemis receiving some intel by a Nathaniel (who I wouldn't recognize if he delivered a pizza to my house).  The information involves Etrigan the Demon.  Artemis promises to do what she must.


We rejoin Diana as she enters her Mother's hospital room.  She grows ever weaker (and whiter!) the closer she gets to her.  She concludes that they must return to Paradise Island, lest they both become completely stone.


They board Campion's airliner, and head toward Themyscira.  Along the way, Diana faints.  Ol' Hank carries her to a bed... and reveals (at least to us, Di is on dream-street) that he came to Gateway City in order to coerce her into falling in love with him... this would somehow grant him vengeance against Hippolyta... okay.  Anyhoo, he claims it is he who fell in love at this juncture.  He feeds Diana some of Dionysus' wine as the craft descends on the island.


We shift to the second of our interludes... and ladies and gents, this be our main event.  The reason why I'm discussing this issue.  We see Terry Long, and his children Jennifer and Robert driving along a New England road in the midst of a terrible storm.  He becomes distracted by the high-beams of an oncoming truck, and veers off to the side... where he winds up driving off a cliff!  Upon impact, his mid-sized sedan goes boom.  Hmmph... that was underwhelming, wuddn't it?


Back on Paradise Island, Diana and company head into the square.  What they find there is of great distress to Wonder Woman... everyone she knew and loved on the island has been turned into statues!


Diana goes deeper... until she comes across a body who hasn't completely transitioned into crag.  It's a blind Amazon named Eudia.  She reveals that Champion is in fact Heracles... the son of Zeus!  Hmm, well... that makes certain New-52! revelations a bit icky, right?


Diana is furious... and proceeds to beat on her would-be lover... different-timeline lover... until she begins to come apart, like literally.  Her body parts just begin to shatter upon impact!


Until all that's left is a pile of shards and a leotard.  Obviously, we are... [to be continued].


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Well... I'm gonna start with what made me pick this issue up... the death of Terry Long.  Ya ever dislike someone for such a long time that when you actually stop to think about why you dislike them... you just can't figure out why?  Well, make no bones about it, I'm not becoming a Terry Long fan here... but I'm starting to realize that my initial reaction to seeing him in a given comic is far less "Grrr!" and more "Oh brother... it's him".

The dude's not fun... he kills the joy of most scenes he takes part in... If I were in charge of the Crisis, I'd have had the Anti-Monitor snuff him out as though he were a cigarette in an ashtray... but even I gotta say, he deserved a better exit.

While we're at it... he deserved his own exit.  Perishing alongside his children makes his death seem far less important.  He cannot (and would not) be mourned as a man... just one of the victims of an accident.  Whether we like it or not, he was a supporting character in one of the biggest books of the 1980's.

Seems his death was something of a throwaway... and, honestly an unnecessary one.  Terry was already divorced from Donna by this point, and could have just disappeared into the world.  Not sure why Byrne felt the need to draw such a dramatic line under the Longs.

Well... not much left to say about Terry (for today), so I'll end this bit with our first... and last look at Terry Long.  Abyssinia, you creepy bastard.

Terrence Arthur Long
March 5, 1981 - March 26, 1997
Forever in Our Hearts

For the actual Wonder Woman story... it was interesting.  Can't say that I was captivated by it or anything, but it was a decent enough read.  I dig the idea of Wonder Woman, a hero born of clay... returning to a clay-like form.  The issue was perhaps a bit on the talky side... but whattayagonnado?  

I've noticed that folks point to this era as when Byrne's art quality was deteriorating somewhat.  Unfortunately, I think I'd have to agree.  The art here is a bit on the rough side... almost feeling rushed.  The lack of backgrounds in many of the panels also lends to that.

Overall... I'm not sure I'd recommend this one, unless you just really gotta see/own the death of Terry Long (like I did).  If you do wanna check this out, it has been made available digitally.

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