Teen Titans (vol.2) #12 (1997)

Teen Titans (vol.2) #12 (September, 1997)
“Then & Now, Part 1 of 4”
Story & Art – Dan Jurgens
Finished Art – George Perez
Flashback Art – Gil Kane & Dick Giordano
Colors – Gregory Wright & Rick Taylor
Separations – Digital Chameleon
Letters – Richard Starkings & Comicraft/LA
Associate Editor – Dana Kurtin
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.95

Going to give a little love to that “other” volume of Teen Titans… ya know, the one that doesn’t get mentioned as often as the others.  I feel like, if any of the Titans books flew under folks’ radar, this is likely the one.

I guess throwing a whole bunch of new characters on a team with a newly-teen-aged Atom might make more eyebrows furrow than raise with interest.

Let’s take a look at a time when the original Titans came a’calling… and also, the original Titans.  Read on, it’ll all make sense.

It’s the middle of the night when we open and Nightwing arrives in Maine.  He’s almost taken unawares by his old teammate Arsenal, however, since this is Nightwing, Roy’s attempt at sneaking up on his old pal is unsuccessful.  They chat briefly about what brings them here… turns out, their old “friend” Mr. Jupiter has been kidnapped.  Ya see, Jupiter called Nightwing about reopening an old case… and when Dick arrived to speak with him, he was gone!  This is also when Dick learned that Jupiter’s now got himself a New New New team of Titans under his wing.

The next would-be sneaky-sneak is Garth.  Of course, you can’t sneak up on Nightwing… so, you probably shouldn’t even try.  Moments later Wally shows up… it’s old home week for the founders!

Dick suggests they wait for Donna before getting down to business… to which, Wally reveals that she’s not in the best place right now.  This is just a little bit after Terry Long was run off the road… with their son Robert in tow.  Dick sheds a single tear before we’re off to the races.

As the Titans reconnect, it’s clear that Nightwing will instantly emerge as team leader.  This kinda gets under Roy’s skin… but, Dick’s got the data to back it up.  He’s already researched the facility they’re about to infiltrate… and has the goods on the area.  Well… mostly… more on that in a bit.

Where they’re going is the Cardy Boarding School… but none of them are exactly sure why.  No sooner does the Flash grab the door handle than a flood of memories overcomes them.

We flash back to a more innocent time, where the Teen Titans (the “founders”, plus Lilith and Mal) were sent by Mr. Jupiter to… check out the Cardy School!  No sooner do they land their Titans-Copter are they surrounded by adoring fans… the students of the Cardy School.  One in particular appears to be their “leader”, a young man named Jarrod.  He promises to fill them in on some recent student disappearances.

While they head inside, Donna takes to the skies… er, trees.  She comes across some nasty gray goop (or, ishy, gooey stuff if you prefer) on a tree branch.  Robin suggests they analyze it later.

Back in the present, the Titans are greeted by a phantom headmaster…’s head.  The head demands they report to class immediately.  Knowing full well they’re walking into a trap, the Titans follow.

And, indeed it is a trap!  The Titans soon find themselves surrounded by the “Cardy Zombie Class of ’68”!  This gives the former Aqualad-now Tempest the perfect opportunity to show off his new powers.  He kicks a conveniently placed sink off the wall… which is conveniently still connected to an active water main… and freezes himself a whole bunch of zombies.

Next stop, the school swimming pool… which stirs up another whole mess of memories of the last time they darkened the doors of the Cardy School.

Starting with Wally West… who finds himself attacked and mocked by Barry Allen.

Then Aqualad… who gets the same treatment from Aquaman.

Ditto Speedy…

And Wonder Chick…

And, finally Robin.  Feels like we’ve read this story a few times by now.

Back in the present, the Titans all confirm experiencing a similar flashback… we’re nearly going full-on Final Fantasy VIII here.  Wally wonders just how much of what’s going on is real… and fears he might actually be wandering around the Cardy School alone… and just imagining he’s with his pals.  That’s a pretty terrifying thought.  Anyhoo, they head back outside… and find their old Titans Copter!

Wally hops inside and finds… get this… the Mad Mod!  Nobody really knows what to make of this… but it turns out that at this point, the Mod was a good guy… helping out (and, naturally, designing outfits for) the new Jupiter-led Teen Titans.

The Mod pleads ignorance… claiming he just “woke up here”.  I mean, dude is tied up in the back of a rickety old helicopter in the middle of Maine, so he’s probably telling the truth.  He reveals that one of Jupiter’s New New Titans, Prysm, has already died… and the rest are missing… which Wally takes as an indictment on how well this new team is being led.  Tempest finds a note on the floor with some coordinates on it.  Nightwing deduces that they are the longitude and latitude for someplace in Wyoming.  I just love how DC uses fake places!  Whattayamean Wyoming’s a real place?

Then… flashback time!  The Teen Titans face off against their mentors at a nearby outcropping of rock.  Speedy gets nyoinked into the drink by a giant tentacle beast… and Garth hops in to save him.  I guess that killed a page.  Anyhoo, what we’re getting at here is… Robin accuses the Justice Leaguers of being phonies… and it turns out, they are!  This has all been an illusion, courtesy of Haze and that “ishy, gooey stuff” Donna found in the trees!

Haze continues to mess with the Titans… having the Joker show up… causing Roy to aim arrows at himself… silly stuff.  He then removes his skull-mask, revealing himself to be… that one kid Jarrod!  Gasp!  Jarrod’s last name?  Jupiter.  Yeah, this kid is Mr. Loren Jupiter’s son!  A son who is jealous of all the attention his father is giving to the Teen Titans.  I mean, I’m sure if Mr. Jupiter knew his son had these powers, he’d probably add him to the team… but that’s neither here nor there.

After pontificatin’ a bit, Jarrod falls off the outcropping and into the drink… yep, he’s dead, folks.  Anyhoo, after this “mission” Mr. Jupiter had Lilith hypnotize the Teen Titans so they’d all forget it ever happened!  Minds-wiped!

Back in the present, the Titans try and process this latest flashback… Dick suggests they remain “on task” and head to Wyoming.  He sends Wally ahead to scout the area and the rest load into the chopper.  Not the Mod though, they tell him to stay behind.  During the flight, Roy, Dick, and Garth have a pretty interesting “quarter-life crisis” type of chat where they recount their regrets… and wonder what the future holds for them.  It was really well done… only makes me wish Dan Jurgens was allowed to do more with the “real” Titans during his tenure.

Meanwhile, in Wyoming… Wally gets clocked in the back of the head.

The Titans arrive just in time to see their latest threats… the old Teen Titans?!

First off… I love the way this whole issue is framed.  It was a great idea to use two different art teams for the two different time periods… it really served to break up the narrative and help “place” us where we needed to be.

Also, I know the term gets bandied about a bunch lately… but, this felt pretty “cinematic” to me as well.  Keep in mind I’m a fella who can’t sit still long enough to watch a movie… but still, I actually “felt” the movement in this one.  Flashbacks hit at just the right times in order to make the issue feel “alive”.

The whole “facing your fears” bit is pretty old hat… whole thing felt like the fourth day of leftovers… you can reheat it as many times as you’d like… but, it’s still gonna taste and feel like rubber in your mouth.  It’s just not as satisfying anymore.  We get the Titans fighting their mentors… again.  The fears they face are some of the broadest around… failure, and not living up to expectations.  I mean, the Haze fella really did his homework… applying fears that 105% of the population has to taunt the Titans.

It’s funny… as I aggressively approach 40, the concept of a “quarter-life crisis” is positively quaint.  What I wouldn’t give to go back to a time where I could actively worry about being in my early twenties!  But… back then, I know for certain I had a whole bunch of “coming of age” crises percolatin’ and brewin’ in my head.  Seeing Dick, Roy, and Garth face those same quandaries is pretty neat.

It especially hits home when you take into consideration that they were essentially the “Junior Justice League”… and at this point, the only Titans to “make it big” is Wally West… and he’s only done so because Barry died!  Hell, let’s look at them on a case-by-case here… poor Roy was Green Arrow’s sidekick forever… and after Ollie died, the JLA chose to replace him with Johnny-come-lately Connor Hawke!  Then there’s Dick… when Batman was out of service with his broken back, Bruce chose John-Paul Valley as his replacement!  Tempest, despite being Aquaman’s longtime partner… he isn’t his son.  Arthur’s got a kid at this point who will likely be the heir apparent.

What we have here is basically a “lost generation” of heroes.  Never going to be able to step into the limelight… while at the same time, no longer the new kids on the block.  They’re just “there” holding up the middle.  It’s some great inner turmoil… and I wish they’d explore it more.

Mr. Jupiter’s mind-wipe… it brings a few emotions to the fore.  We’ll talk about that more as we continue with this story.  What I wanna point out for now is… Lilith was the hypnotizer… so, she never forgot about this affair.  It’s going to be interesting when she is eventually confronted.

Overall… this was quite great.  It adds a pretty big retcon into the original Teen Titans run… but does so in a way that makes narrative sense.  It will also serve this volume going forward… making it feel like the “true” successor to the Teen Titans title.  I’d suggest checking this out… even if the “New New Titans” ain’t your thing.  This issue is available digitally.

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