Monday, June 18, 2018

Titans #13 (2000)


Titans #13 (March, 2000)
"Fallout"
Story - Jay Faerber & Devin Grayson
Penciller - Patrick Zircher
Inkers - Andrew Robinson & Mark Propst
Colorist - Pam Rambo
Letters - Comicraft
Associate Editor - Maureen McTigue
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

Sticking with the Titans for another day... and, wouldja lookit that... it's one'a those covers.  What's that thing I was saying yesterday about Titans books "running in place"?

Times like this I feel like we need a "greatest hits" line of comics, so the ongoing books can actually... ya know, go-on.

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We open in the Titans rarely-used conference room, wherein Nightwing is raking the team over the coals for their poor showing against the H.I.V.E. and... Tartarus.  Tartarus, if you're unaware, is like the anti-Titans.  Every member has a correlating baddie.  Starfire takes exception to Dick's outburst... and has one of her own.  The rest of the Titans just sit and wait for it all to be over.  Well, Roy has somewhere he'd rather be... and that's at the bedside of his... not gonna say "baby-mama"... Cheshire.  To which, Tempest mutters about having his own wife to return to.


At this point, Dick... really acts his name, and goes off on "marriages of convenience"... which, as you might imagine, triggers Starfire something good.  Can't really argue though, it seems like every time the Titans go "off planet" Starfire winds up with another husband.


The rest of the Titans kinda clutch their pearls... as if they'd never seen teammates fight before.  Vic, for no other reason than to remind us what happened nearly twenty-years earlier, mentions Terra... then, he quits the team.  Not so fact, kemosabe... it's not just that you shouldn't quit... it's that you're not allowed to!


Ya see, the whole mishagoss that started this volume of Titans was the JLA/Titans: Technis Imperative miniseries... in which, Vic was the main antagonist!  When the dust settled, the JLA wanted to send Vic to S.T.A.R. Labs... however, Nightwing was able to convince him them (okay okay, it was Batman) to release Cyborg to the Titans.


Amid the tension, Flash runs off to attend a JLA meeting.  This Flash... may or may not be Wally West... or, maybe it's just not "our" Wally West.  Either way, he jets.  Dick asks Jesse Quick to drag his speedster-ass back right away... so he can fire him from the team.


Nightwing then turns his attention to the rest of the group... and suggests they do a little soul-searching.  All of the "established" members walk out.


We pop over to S.T.A.R. Labs where Vic is looking for some answers... hell, at this point, he might be looking for the questions as well!  Either way, he's here to chat up his old friend Sarah (not from the Special School).  Unbeknownst to him, Gar tagged along for the trip... and to try and talk his golden pal off the precipice.


Back at the Tower... Donna Troy's room is bombarded with advice-seeking Titans... which causes her to lash out.  Remember, over the past few years, Donna's lost her fair share of things too.  Her son, her identity... her memories... and now, perhaps her boyfriend Roy.  She boots her teammates out, and suggests they find another listening ear to talk into.


Over at Manhattan General, Roy attempts to sneak in to have a look at Cheshire.  He gets the ol' heavy-ho.  His tagger-alonger is Damage, who witnesses the whole thing.


Then, over to the Titans Island docks... where Tempest sulks.  He is approached by his tagger-alonger, Argent... who tells him there's more than one brunette on the island he can talk to.


Inside the Tower, Nightwing works out his aggression on a heavy bag.  His tagger-alonger is Jesse Quick who... quits the team!  She ain't buyin' all the "we're a family" shim-sham, especially since she doesn't even know Nightwing's civilian identity... nor has she ever seen his face without the mask.


Back in the city, Roy fires an arrow into Cheshire's hospital room... with a note proclaiming his love for her.  That's kinda weird... I didn't think they were ever "in love".  Oh well.


Next stop, the Dockside Diner... where putting the team back together kinda went down.  Argent and Tempest are having some coffee... and are soon joined by Starfire and Donna.  Starfire insists that she brought Donna out to listen to her troubles, but I'm not buyin' it.


They are then joined by Roy and Damage... and they awkwardly sit in silence... until Donna asks where the rest of the team might be.


We close out by finding out where the rest of the team are... and a cry for help from our old friend Lilith Clay!


--

Now, I give this book a hard time every now and again... but, I gotta admit... I'm a sucker for this inter-titans drama.  Of course, much of this will be blamed on the freaking Gargoyle... but, at least for this issue, I think we can just try and enjoy it for what it is.

There's definitely a feeling of "been there, done that" to this book... which, by the second year into a run, should be over with.  I get "playing the hits" when a new volume is starting out... that's the honeymoon period... we want to see "the hits".  But, a riff on New Teen Titans #39... with barely a year's worth of stories under your belt?  I'm sorry... I just don't think this book "earned" that.

The more I revisit some of the post-Marv Titans, the more I see that... while a lotta folks love this property... and a lot of creators want to work on this property... once they've got it, they don't seem to know what to do with it.  And so, we get the "greatest hits".  Don't know what to do?  Break 'em up!  What next?  Throw a "traitor" on the team!

It feels like another property I love, the Fantastic Four.  The past several volumes of that series has been... break 'em up, spend a year bringing them back together... then, cancel the book and start all over again!  I'm not looking for anyone to reinvent the wheel... I mean, we saw whatever the hell the New-52! volume was... but, instead of just rehashing and reheating the past, maybe use the past to build the future.  That's not what we get here.

That said though... I didn't dislike this book one bit.  I felt that the characterization, while extreme in places, really worked.  There is a real feeling of frustration bubbling up here... and it makes your mind wander with all of the possibilities... that is, if you don't know about the Gargoyle.

And, while I still don't feel like this volume "earned" the Perez homage... this team definitely did need a "culling" of sorts.  There were definitely too many Titans... a cast this unwieldy lends to having half the team only appear in the background.  Trimming the fat is a good thing for this book.

I think my only real "ehh" bits here is Roy's devotion to Cheshire.  That doesn't quite sit right with me... also, Vic losing his cool.  I always see Vic as being hot-but-level headed.  I'd figure he'd understand what Dick had done for him... and appreciated it, at least on the level that he's not living the rest of his life hooked up to machines at S.T.A.R. Labs.

The art here is from another of my favorite guys, Patrick Zircher.  While I'm a big fan of Mark Buckingham (whose art opened this volume), I feel like Zircher is a much better fit.  There's really not a bad looking page in this book.

Overall... if you're a sucker for Titanic drama (like I am), you're probably going to dig this.  If you're tired of all'a that... you might wanna give this a pass with the knowledge that "the Gargoyle did it".

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Next Planet Over would only last about another year... news of their shutdown was reported in April, 2001 

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Titans #21 (2000)


Titans #21 (November, 2000)
"The Trial of Cheshire, Part One: The Eva Braun Complex"
Writer - Jay Faerber
Penciller - Paul Pelletier
Inker - Bud LaRosa
Colorist - Gregory Wright
Separations - Heroic Age
Letters - Comicraft
Associate Editor - Maureen McTigue
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

A Deadly New Direction for the Titans?  That usually means there's a traitor in our midst, doesn't it?

--


We open to learn that the Trial of Cheshire is ongoing.  Ya see, she had recently stolen some nukes from the former Soviet Union... and actually used one of 'em n Qurac.  At first I thought this was a bit "on the nose" before realizing that this was a pre-9/11 comic.  At Titans Tower, Roy Harper watches the coverage... but refuses to discuss it with his current "squeeze" Donna Troy.  Nightwing pops his head in to see if he can get Roy to open up... which isn't terribly successful.  We do get a pretty ridiculous line wherein Roy compares himself to Eva Braun though.  Dick implores Roy to talk to Donna.


Speaking of Donna, the next day... she's standing by the dock of the bay... watching Jesse Quick run away.  Moments later, Jesse arrives at her office (she's the CEO of a multi-national corporation, donchaknow), where her mother Libby (Liberty Belle) is waiting for her... with the news that she is going to be getting married!


We shift scenes to a darkened room... only lit by a television screen.  On said screen, Titan Tempest is giving his two-cents on the whole Cheshire thing.  Watching said screen is... perhaps the newest soon to be Titans Traitor, Epsilon!


Back on the island, Roy is taking out his frustrations at the shooting range.  Just then, Tempest arrives... and Roy calls him a traitor for speaking out against Cheshire.  Which, I mean... we know you have a kid together, but... she kinda detonated a nuke.  She's bad news, amigo.


We shift scenes to a little "girls day out" in the park, featuring Argent, Lian Harper, and Lian's babysitter Chanda.  They share some playful banter before... a gaggle of geeks descends on them with the express interest in snagging the little bugger!  That, is... Lian, of course.


Argent sends Chanda and Lian away and tries to hold off the losers until her Titanic back-up can arrive.  Thankfully, it doesn't take long.


And they fight!  Argent tells Roy that... get this, Chanda and Lian ran into the woods... and a couple of the goons followed them.  So, lemme ask this... why in all hells is Argent still fighting them in the park?  Shouldn't she have also ran into the woods to make sure Lian doesn't get 'napped?


While the rest of the Titans keep with the battle in the park, Roy heads through the woods and into a parking lot.  He happens upon one of the baddies trying to use his power of suggestion (I think) to get Lian to come with him.


Then, more fighting... which ends with a barrage of fists from Jesse Quick, and the perfect "plick" of a marble against the lead baddie's dome.


Later at the Tower, the Titans reconnoiter.  We learn that those geeks were hired assassins called "The Hangmen".  Which, as far as bad-guy team names go, is up there with the most mediocre of 'em.  Lian tells them that the Hangmen wanted her mommy (that is, Cheshire) to keep quiet... as in, not testify.  Roy deduces that since the Hangmen were unsuccessful in snatching Lian... their next stop will likely be trying to kill Cheshire.  And, I mean... she nuked a country, right?  Wouldn't that just be addition by subtraction?


We then shift scenes to the Hangmen's HQ where... ohhhhhhh, it's revealed that Chanda was in on it the whole time!  She's taken exception to the use of Lian in the scheme... but, really... what did she expect?  I mean, you're working with assassins... they don't care about innocent kids so long as the check clears.


The mustachioed Hangman informs her that since they failed in their first outing... they've hired a pro.  Any guesses who that might be?  I mean, it's the Titans... and we're gearing up for a "last page reveal"... you guessed it, it's the same guy who's always the last page reveal for the Titans... Deathstroke the Terminator.


--

It was the babysitter!  You never expect the babysitter.  I mean, this is an issue of Titans, so there's always a 50/50 chance someone's gonna be revealed as a turncoat... so, I suppose it wasn't too surprising.  Also unsurprising... that last page reveal!  I mean, really now... if "traitors in our midst" is the top Titans trope, the Deathstroke on the last page reveal has gotta be a close second.

Onto the story...

I've said this before... but, if you're a writer and you ever start a sentence with "Wouldn't it be..." and whether the next word is "cool", "cute", or "funny"... you might wanna just pull the plug right there.  It's almost like Faerber thought up the "Eva Braun" line, found it either hilarious or insightful... and decided to write around it.  You ever see that episode of Friends where Joey wants to buy an encyclopedia so he can keep up with his pals' "smart humor", that's kinda how this rang to me.

So much of this came across forced... while at the same time, so cliche Titans... that it felt as though we were running in place.  Not the most ideal way to kick off a "deadly new direction".  Also, I'm still not clear as to why Roy is so driven to save Cheshire.  It's been awhile since I read this, so I can't say with 100% certainty that she actually was responsible for the nuking.  Though, I'd imagine we'd hear more chatter about "clearing her name" here if that were the case.

Perhaps it's hindsight talking here... considering that we know that this "new direction" will last all of twenty minutes before DC Editorial derails the whole thing in order to bring in those horrid DEO kids, and make them a focus of the book going forward.

There are some good bits here... and, while I wasn't as low on the Devin Grayson run as I know some folks were, I guess this might've been a breath of fresh air for some of the readership.  Less "teen-agery" angst, and more adult "situational drama"... maybe?  I dunno.

I will say... I love Paul Pelletier's work.  Always have... and very likely, always will.  He's one of my favorites, and a fella whose name doesn't come up nearly often enough as being among the "greats".  I'm also a sucker for these late-90's fashions... I mean, Chanda looks like she could be in a Smash Mouth video or something.  There's a lotta fun in this art.

Overall... ya know, despite my misgivings... this wasn't a bad time.  It's still angsty, but it's a different flavor of angst than the Grayson run.  The traitor and Deathstroke reveal... were pretty weak, granted... but, I can't really get mad at it.  It's not perfect... but, it's certainly good enough for a read.  This issue is available digitally.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Young Justice #22 (2000)


Young Justice #22 (August, 2000)
"... the Best Intentions!"
"Father's Day"
"Stakeout"
"Other Interests"
Writers - Todd DeZago, Jay Faerber, Chuck Dixon, & Brian K. Vaughan
Pencillers - Todd Nauck, Coy Turnbull, Patrick Zircher, & Scott Kolins
Inkers - Bud LaRosa, Rodney Ramos, Norm Rapmund, & Dan Panosian
Letterers - Clem Robins, Ken Lopez, & Albert DeGuzman
Colorist - Jason Wright
Separations - Digital Chameleon
Assistant Editor - Maureen McTigue
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

Hey, there's a familiar cover... well, kinda familiar.

It's pretty reminiscent of New Teen Titans #8... "A Day in the Lives"... except here, we have a red robot instead of a red menace!


That Titans issue was a classic.  Does Young Justice have any hopes of living up to it?

Read on...

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We open with the Red Tornado who is having a good hard think on whether or not he should consider himself a "father" to Traya.  He's struggling with the fact that he feels so much like a father... but, technically, isn't.  Just then, his attention is drawn to a playground where children are... well, playing.  He sees a certain group, and they instantly remind him of... well, you know.


He then hears a girl crying.  He approaches her to find out what's up... and she tells him that a boy just hit her.  When Reddy confronts the boy... he explains that he saw that she was all by herself and was just inviting her to play "tag" with the rest of the kids.


We wrap up with a woman who was watching (but, for some reason didn't get involved when she saw a girl crying) tell Reddy that he's a "natural" when it comes to parenting.


Then... an interlude!  Back at the temporary Young Justice HQ in the Poconos, Bart is trying to figure out a way for Superboy to get his powers back.  Ya see, this is on the heels of the "Sins of Youth" event, in which all of the teen heroes swapped ages with the adult heroes... so, say... Superboy became Superman, and vice-versa.  Anyhoo, when Superboy returned to his "real" age, he no longer had powers.  And so, here we have Bart Allen rummaging through his issues of Secret Origins to try and concoct Kon's return to a super-powered state.


Our next vignette features Robin and Nightwing as they stakeout a fella named Billings in Bludhaven.  Robin's having some trouble readjusting to being in his teen-age body after briefly becoming Batman.  He's also struggling with the fact that... being Batman was hard.  Who better to chat up than the original Robin... and short-tenured Batman himself, Dick Grayson?


They continue to chat, and the subject shifts to secret identities.  Ya see, Tim hasn't shared his with his Young Justice teammates... because, with his comes (in theory) the whole Bat-Family.  Dick points out how funny it is that Tim felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of being Batman... however, feels right at home leading an entire superhero team.


Just then, they see their ticket into Billings' house.  Hungry Harry's Deli delivers!  When Billings goes to answer the door, we find out exactly what kind of sandwich he ordered... a knuckle sandwich!  (Yeah, that was pretty bad... I apologize).


Turns out he'd actually ordered cheesesteak fajitas... which, I feel like they were trying to establish as the "tourist food" of Bludhaven.  As they tie the baddie up, Nightwing is convinced that everything will eventually work itself out.


Back to the interlude... Bart has read his comics and has a few ideas on how Kon-El might get his groove back.  First he tops off his Soder Cola with some Super Soldier Serum Syrup... then places a non-radioactive spider atop his sushi rolls.  It's a cute scene.


Our next story features Cassie as she finds out she'd scored the lead in her schools presentation of Our Town.  She's not at all sure how she feels about this... after all, she only tried out so her gal-pal wouldn't have to do it alone.  Said gal-pal then starts getting on her about planning her life.  Wow, that escalated pretty quickly.


Later on, Cassie returns home... and unfortunately for her, it's report card day.  Her mother is furious that her daughter got a B in history... and forbids her from meeting up with her Young Justice friends on school nights until she raises that grade.


She can, however, train with Artemis.  The pair discuss some of Cassie's trepidation when it comes to heroing.  After the age-swap of "Sins of Youth" Cassie knows that she most definitely does want to be a superhero when she grows up... but, what about now?  Maybe she'd like to have a semi-normal teen-age experience... maybe even be in a school play.  Welp, that's not what "Artie" wants to hear... and she dismisses her.


On the ride home, the Sandsmarks happen across a a woman who had just flipped her car and slammed into a pole.  She made it out okay, however, her baby is still struggling in the inferno.  Lucky for her, one of those Sandsmarks is Wonder Girl.  Cassie saves the tot... realizes the kind of difference she can make as a superhero... and the following day, drops out of the play?  Okay.



Our final "interlude" has Bart still trying all sorts of ways to give Kon some (any) powers.  He starts by bathing him in a mixture of chemicals... which, I guess isn't the worst idea considering how several of the speedsters got their powers.


When Kon doesn't immediately exhibit super speed, Bart figures maybe he used the "Plastic Man chemicals" instead... and checks to see if Superboy's appendages have become all stretchy.  No dice there either.


Superboy then pins Bart down and tells him to back off... then we close out with a look at all the rest of the goofy stuff Impulse had snagged in his attempt to make a hero out of Kon.  How did Bart get a hold of a Green Lantern battery?!  And 'Mazing Man's helmet?!


--

Had more fun with this than I expected.  Young Justice is one of those weird books... it was probably in my Top 3 books while it was coming out, but I have such a hard time revisiting it.  Not sure if I just "outgrew" 'em... maybe it reminds me how none of "these" characters really exist anymore... or, maybe it just reminds me that this was half-a-life ago, and I start questioning all of the decisions I've made since then.  Either way... ahem, had a good time with this.

Should we start with the framing/interlude sequence?  These scenes were cute.  Bart acting like you'd imagine Bart would in this sort of situation.  I mean, he's being a complete pain in the ass... but, his heart is definitely in the right place.  He's going to these lengths in order to help his buddy.  Gotta remember that Kon is one of his very few "real" friends... and he probably doesn't wanna lose him as a "running buddy" on the team.

It's also always neat to see those "gallery" panels with oddities like, ya know, 'Mazing Man's helmet (which even makes it to the cover!).  And all the Bart-takes on classic superhero origins was a lot of fun to see.

Let's talk about the Cassie arc first.  I get what they're going for here... but, and I think we've talked about this before... when you bring the idea of superheroes being able to save "everybody", it all kinda starts to fall apart.  Here we have Cassie, who just happened to be in the right place to save that baby from the burning car... which says to her that she needs to be a superhero from this point on... and walk away from her role in the school play.

But... heroes can't be everywhere, right?  I mean, if Cassie had her way, she'd have been across country hanging out (and heroing) with Young Justice on this night... and that baby wouldn't have made it.  So... which is it?  You're never going to be everywhere at once... and if heroes could save everybody... then nothing bad would ever happen.  Not sure what giving up a role in a school play would help.  Again... I get what they're going for... I just think it's a pretty flimsy way to go about it.

Red Tornado's story was... ehh, a bit on the saccharine side.  Another where I "get what they're going for", but still... feels a bit trite.  I mean, for the entire thing to work, we have to allow for the fact that a grown-up woman ignored the cries of a young girl... who, as far as anyone knew, had just been slapped by one of the boys.

And, really... what exactly did Reddy do besides ask "What happened here?"  Is that really being a "natural" father?  I think that's just being an adult, no?

Unsurprisingly, (and ignoring it's non-ending) I felt like the Nightwing and Robin bit was likely the strongest of the issue.  Tim struggling with how much he should let his teammates "in" has been an ongoing thread in Young Justice from the very start.  I appreciate that they understand (and explain) just what a domino-effect giving out his secret identity has the potential to cause.  It really could unravel the entire Bat-Family... which wouldn't be a good thing.

I dig that while Tim and Dick have so many similarities, they're also very different young men.  I loved that Dick was quick to point out the differences between the Teen Titans and Young Justice.  His dismissal of the "Junior Justice League" as perhaps a little "less stable" than his old team was pretty neat... and, also pretty true.

This was a "jam" issue of sorts, with several writers and artists... all of which flowed pretty nicely.  The only artist who really stuck out here was Zircher, as he is far less cartoony than the rest of the team.  Still, great work all around as far as art is concerned.

Overall, yeah... this is worth a peek.  It's not quite on the level of a Scott Lobdell post-crossover X-Men issue, but if you ask me... few things are.  The kids are starting to get their lives back to normal following "Sins of Youth", and it was a pretty good time.  This issue is available digitally.

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