Teen Titans (vol.3) #62 (October, 2008)
“Who is Wonderdog?”
Writer – Sean McKeever
Pencils – Eddy Barrows
Inks – Ruy Jose
Colors – Rod Reis
Letters – Sal Cipriano
Editors – Adam Schlagman & Dan DiDio
Cover Price: $2.99
Today we’re going to discuss an issue of Teen Titans from my unemployment-fueled “blackout” period. I was still tangentially following reviews, and I recall this issue in particular getting a whole lotta critical guff… to the point where I wasn’t sure if I’d worry about being a “completist” after reclaiming gainful employment.
Luckily, or unluckily… one of the larger comic chains in the Phoenix area began liquidating just as I got back to work, making my “filling in holes” tour cost quite a bit less than it would’ve otherwise. So, for under a buck a pop… I figured “What’s the harm?” and got up to date on several titles… including Teen Titans (vol.3).
Now, when folks talk about the post-Johns Titans, you’ll see several words pop up… dark, dismal, gross… most of ’em bad. Let’s see if this one lives down to the hype.
We open with Wendy and Marvin… yeah, that Wendy and Marvin, making their rounds of Titans Tower. By this point our Super Friends have become caretakers for the Teen Titans… it was a pretty strange time. Anyhoo, as they awkwardly walk through the Tower’s Memorial Room, they discuss their futures. Feeling as though they have been relegated to being babysitters, the kids decide they want something more out of life. Their discussion is interrupted by the arrival of a large (and friendly) dog!
They head inside and try to feed the cute beast, but he doesn’t appear to be hungry. Kid Devil and Blue Beetle offer him some (raw?) bacon… but, no dice. While they talk, Miss Martian enters… and tying a towel/cape around the pup’s neck, suggests they name him “Wonderdog”.
Jaime notices that M’gann is… white? Not that he wants to get “racial” or anything. She focuses for a moment and regains her green pallor. They chat about running into twisted versions of their future selves in an earlier adventure… including a very evil Miss Martian. She says everything’s cool, before shape-shifting into a canine form to chat up Wonderdog. Wendy and Marvin become almost physically ill from the saccharine scene…
… and so, they continue their rounds… this time checking in with a returning Cyborg. They chat him up, and try to convince him to make his return permanent. Vic laughs, and suggests that they must feel like “glorified custodians”… though Wendy’s not so sure about the “glorified” part. Cyborg tells them they’re doing a great job, and (foreshadowing!) that they have their whole lives ahead of them.
We follow our pair through the residence hall, where we become privy to a chat between Wonder Girl and Robin… and boy, is Tim on edge! Ya see, Batman’s missing… and his dead girlfriend (Spoiler Alert: It’s Spoiler, err…) has returned! Also, the Titans are quite the motley crew… down to five members, and not quite the picks of the litter.
Did I say five members? Welllll, it’s right now that M’gann decides to announce that she’s leaving the team. Welp.
We jump ahead to night… and it’s a stormy one. We rejoin Wendy as she is trying to track down the Titans’ new pet. After shouting “Wonderdog!” like a fool for several minutes, she realizes that… duh, he probably doesn’t even know that’s his name! She runs into Kid Devil who… makes sure to tell her how much the Titans appreciate everything she and Marvin have done for them… comparing them to older siblings… family! Wow, it really feels like we’re building to something, doesn’t it?
Kid Devil breaks away, heading off to a nighttime training session with the team, and Wendy continues on… heading into Marvin’s room, where she finds…
… Marvin has been eaten by Wonderdog! Well, that got dark pretty quickly! Wendy beats a hasty retreat, and locks herself in an elevator. It’s really like a horror movie, the scene is quite well done. Wonderdog hurls himself at the elevator door, and Wendy tries to make a distress call to the training Titans… but, the speakers look to be on the fritz, so much for Wendy and Marvin being all that great in their Tower-Caretaker roles.
Wendy pries herself out of the elevator, only to find herself face to face with the giant beast (who in a nice touch, is still wearing his “cape”). It’s pretty academic from here… though, if I recall correctly, she doesn’t get eaten… just really messed up.
After a job well done, Wonderdog reverts to his more Scooby-look, and flies off Titans Island… right to his master, whoever this guy is. It’s King Lycus, by the way… not that we’d know that!
Okay, okay… I get why folks would hate this issue, I really do. At its core it’s a subversion of an innocent and cartoony concept for nothing more than shock value. I suppose it can be looked at as kinda lazy, and playing off (and perverting) nostalgia. This really only affects folks who would know who-or-what a “Wonderdog” is in the first place… otherwise, the impact might fall flat.
When I heard that Wendy and Marvin were being added to the mainstream DC Universe, I thought it was pretty cool… just because I appreciate everything being “part” of something. I don’t have nostalgic “warm fuzzies” about Super Friends, as that was a fair bit before my time, but still appreciate its place in DC lore.
Now, to properly discuss the criticism of the gore in this issue, we need to put it in context. Reading this issue in a vacuum… sure, it’s kinda gross… a bit extreme, but it serves to introduce a new superpowered baddie for the Titans to overcome, so it’s forgivable.
When we look at the post-Johns/pre-Krul Teen Titans as a whole, however, we find that this isn’t really an “out of the ordinary” issue… Titans were dropping like flies! There’s actually an issue that bears a cover with a Titans-themed casket on it (I’ll include it below), with the copy “Another Titan Dies!”, that’s how bad it got! Titans readers were trained to believe that the team members were disposable… rendering them, and their (often gory) deaths meaningless!
Now… it’s not entirely fair to judge this issue on that basis… so, let’s pop it into a vacuum.
As a story? I mentioned it during the synopsis, but it felt so much like a classic horror flick. The lead-up was full of foreboding language, informing the reader how important Wendy and Marvin are to the Titans. We get very measured lines, Cyborg telling them that they have “their whole lives ahead of them”… which, lemme tell ya… if you ever find yourself in a dangerous environment, and someone tells you that? Run… because things are about to get ugly.
The scene of Wendy discovering Marvin’s half-eaten body and fleeing the Wonderbeast was quite well done (for what it was). Like I said, I had very little affinity for Wendy, Marvin, or Wonderdog… so, I didn’t have perhaps the guttural reaction many longer-time fans did. I just saw this as a “evil in our midst” sorta scene. There’s a great deal of tension in this scene… and, really, the issue as a whole. I find that I really can’t get mad at it. Sure, it’s a bit more extreme than I want from my Titans… but, it wasn’t nearly as gross as I feared it would be.
So often, critics use a single image from a book to inform on their position… for this issue, it’s usually Marvin’s death scene. Just like that Rise and Fall of Arsenal series, and the dead cat… this has become what the issue “is”. While that’s certainly “the big scene”, there’s more to it than that. This issue is as much (if not more) an homage to horror films as it is a Titans story.
Is it worth your time? Well… I dunno. I suppose that depends on your Super Friends mileage. If you always hated Wendy and Marvin… yeah, you might dig this more than others. If you loved’em and hate the idea of the “Wonderdog” concept being perverted, you may not. If you are looking for a Teen Titans-centric story… well, you’re barking (pun!) up the wrong tree here. They’re more background noise than anything.