Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Titans #1 (1999)


Titans #1 (March, 1997)
"That Strange Buzzing Sound"
Writer - Devin Grayson
Penciller - Mark Buckingham
Inker - Wade Von Grawbadger
Colorist - Gregory Wright
Letterer - Comicraft
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

They say you can't go home again... and I do apologize for starting with such a cliche line.  But it's true, they say it.

I've done the whole "going home again thing" once or twice since I've hit adulthood, and found it an overwhelmingly disappointing experience.  Can't speak for everybody, o' course... but, for me... visiting my old New York stomping grounds after spending a significant time in Phoenix... there was just not all that much left there for me.

What was perhaps the most depressing was the realization that everybody just went on with their lives in my absence.  I'd almost convinced myself that I'd just stuck'em all in a cupboard to wait for my return.  That, of course, is ridiculous... and reality slapped me in the face like I owed it money.

I said all of that so that I may say this... The New (Teen) Titans were, for so many comics fans of the 80's (and early 90's)... home.  As fans, we followed them through the mouth of hell, into cults, on hunts... faced a judas in their midst, births, deaths, marriage, divorce... even Total Chaos!  They were a family... they were our family.

Around the turn of the century it was decided to take these characters... many of whom were placed in that figurative "cupboard", and try to bring the Titans faithful... home.  Can Titans fans every truly go home again?  Let's find out...

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We open on Titans Island and a group of Titans new and old are in the midst of a full-scale battle with a small army of bee-themed supervillains.  This is occurring 14 hours after the team re-forms.


We flash back to a few days prior and find the original Teen Titans all crammed in a booth at the Dockside Diner.  After a bit of snappy small talk Wally addresses the elephant in the room.  (Following the events of JLA/Titans: The Technis Imperative) should the Titans be re-formed.  Dick instantly says no, claiming it would welcome many of their former enemies and threats back into existence as well... which sounds like a cop-out, Dick... even your pals are calling you out on it!


Speaking of threats... we switch scenes to a man talking on his awesome Nokia phone, as a hooded figure behind him shouts orders to enlist an army.  His name is Damien Darhk and he's standing on a hex-themed floor... hmm...


Back at the restaurant, Wally pulls Dick aside and tells him that Dick himself needs the Titans to be back more than anybody.  If not for the Titans, he'll rapidly become more and more like Batman... and that would be the worst thing in the world.  Dick relents, and decides 'what the hell?'... the two bet a tenner on which one of them will last the longest on this iteration of the team.


We shift scenes again to a fouled up bank holdup across town.  A bunch of really lame geeks try to rob a bank using a vial of some viscous green liquid.  It works about as well as you'd imagine.  They get cold feet, start addressing each other by their real names... you get the picture.


Back at the restaurant, the Old Titans decide that their team is going to be focused on the future... and as such, each member should draft a "second" into the fold.  Tempest picks... Cyborg.  This is a new-look Vic Stone, a golden malleable version... a version I never dug all that much.  Vic was also the cause of all the troubles in that recent JLA/Titans story, but is back to his old self... kinda.


Donna picks Argent.  Argent was a member of the Teen Titans team that was run by the... teenage Atom... yep, Ray Palmer as a teenager.  This was a relatively short-lived run, but I remember sorta-kinda liking it.  I guess Argent was the standout, as I always struggle to remember the names of her teammates.


Wally chooses Jesse Quick.  Another scarlet speedster... perhaps Wallace is getting ready to forfeit that ten-bucks to Dick already!


Roy picks Damage.  Damage is kind of the 90's version of the Human Bomb... and was a member of the Titans during the very end of the Marv Wolfman run.  Roy feels he didn't treat the boy quite right during their first association... and sees this as his opportunity to make things right.


Dick's pick's up last... and he chooses Starfire.  He also reveals that Starfire's back in his life, at least somewhat.  They're not romantically involved... she's just crashing on his couch for a bit.  Sure, buddy.


Back at the bank, the foulups are... just standing there... one of them is crying, when our old buddy Darhk enters the scene and offers them something of a salvation... kinda.


Back at the restaurant, the team is discussing financing their endeavor... and for some reason, Roy summons his inner Guy Gardner and tosses his soda in Garth's face.  That was kind of uncalled for... I didn't think Roy was ever that big a jackass.  


Anyhoo, Garth returns with a literal treasure chest full of gold, jewels, and... dinnerware, with which they will fund their rebuild.  The team is so thankful, they don't even help the poor guy carry the damn thing out!


We return to the present, and watch as the Titans oversee construction of their new digs.  Titans new, old, and otherwise all share pleasantries... which are soon interrupted by the sound of bees buzzing... ruh roh, they hired Buzz Construction for the job... don't they know they're a subsidiary of H.I.V.E.???

Sure y'are Maynard...
Titans Together... we're out!


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There's something about this issue... I've been torn on it since the first time I'd read it all them years ago.  There's a lot here to like, yet at the same time... it all feels just a bit off.

I mentioned during my overlong and over-precious preamble that the Titans are a family... and we kinda get that here... but at the same time, not.  It feels to me like the characters are in the "on" position... like, the patter is too snappy, and the gang is more interested in keeping up with each other's one-liners than actually saying anything of import... anything real.

These relationships rang oddly shallow.  It was almost as though I was reading a skewed superheroic episode of Friends... but, from the later seasons where the characters became more caricatures.  I'm sitting here, and it's like "Roy's bullying Garth... that's so Roy!"

Even with all that having been said, I cannot help but smile each time I read this.  While a bit shallow... seeing the Titans huddled into a booth at a restaurant gives me such a feeling of comfort.  Hard to explain, really... but it just does.  It's like getting an episode of your favorite television show after the series finale.  You don't need to worry about affecting the overall narrative... it's just fan-service... and let's face it, I think much of this series was predicated on the stuff.  That's okay though, I can dig it.

The picks for Junior-Titans (my term, not theirs) were a bit weird.  Cyborg and Starfire as Titan-seconds?  C'mon... they've got more Titan-hours under their belts than Tempest or Speedy... gimme a break.  I like the all-inclusive take on the other Titans-in-Training, however.  Argent, Damage, and Jesse Quick are all pretty good characters that deserve their spots.

Devin Grayson's dialogue is quite good (and will continue to be) when it isn't bing-bang-boom snark-exchanges, and Mark Buckingham turns in his usual high level of quality (though I don't like his Donna).  I do love that while this issue has two-covers... they're both included with the book!  No goofy variant garbage!  One is your "main" cover, and when you open it up you're greeted by the "other" cover.  Good show!

The "other" cover
Overall, I think any Titans fan should check this one out... the series that follows is a bit peak-n-valley insofar as quality is concerned, if you ask me.  It feels as though there was some pretty heavy editorial interference throughout this entire series, as plots are quickly dropped, and at one point in the later run the Titans are almost relegated to background characters in favor of a group of kids from the D.E.O.  Those, I think you can safely skip...

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