Teen Titans #21 (May-June, 1969)
“Citadel of Fear”
Writer/Penciller – Neal Adams
Inks – Nick Cardy
Letters – John Costanza
Cover Price: $0.12
Today we’re heading back to the… I think it was still the Silver Age… to take a look at an early team-up of the Teen Titans and Hawk & Dove… with art and words by Neal Adams!
It’s sure to be a banger!
We open with the combined forces of the Teen Titans and Hawk & Dove… tripping over one another while trying to catch a mustachioed gentleman who is fleeing into a teleporter. The Titans blame the Birds, and vice versa… so, we get some young hero on young hero action.
Speedy nails Dove with a psychedelic arrow, which causes him to lumber back into a stack of boxes… which look to be about to tumble atop Wonder Chick!
Hawk rushes in and nyoinks her out of danger… an act that sorta begins defusing the situation. They aren’t all pals or anything, but there is an uneasy alliance taking shape. The teen-agers head over to that teleportation machine, and note that it has two settings… which means, it’d be in their best interests to split into two teams to track the baddie. Hawk, who is still carrying Donna, decides that them two plus Dove will be one team, leaving Roy, Dick and Wally as the other.
We follow the Birds and the (Wonder) Chick first… they are transported to Istanbul (not Constan… nope, not gonna do it!). They beat up a pair of guards, much to Dove’s dismay. Meanwhile, in Berlin… a pair of shadowy men look on via monitors.
As the teens soldier on, they happen to wander into… a trap! One’a those rooms where the walls start closing in. That kinda thing always freaked me out… asamattafact, as a kid I was convinced that this would be one of the two ways I might die… the other was quicksand. Anyhoo, after the walls close in a sufficient amount, the remaining space is filled with knockout gas.
While they doze, we pop over and check in with the Boys… who have been transported to Berlin. They walk along some underground train tracks, fearful that they’re entering a trap… because, ya know, they are. The shadowy men launch their second deadly threat… and from the looks of it, they’re using a bunch of those automatic tennis servers to do so!
Well, it’s actually a locomotive stuffed with armed fellas… the bullets still look like tennis balls though. I dunno, maybe it’s NERF. The Boys git ta steppin’ until they get far enough away for Wally to whup up a hurricane with his arms.
The Titans board the train and are able to disarm, and eventually wipe the floor with, the bad guys. The train keeps barreling forward until… it stops! Then, a pair of glass panels close them in… could this be the real trap?!
Well, of course it is… don’t be ridiculous! The locomotive transforms into a giant spider and takes out the trio with ease! Holy Crippled Cockroaches, indeed!
As the bad guys collect Robin and Kid Flash (but not Speedy), we rejoin the Birds and Donna, who are locked in a prison, hands bound. Hank and Donna repeatedly slam themselves into the prison door in hopes of breaking free… while Dove sits off to the side. He suggests they just give a tug on their cuffs… since they’re made of a fibrous plastic, they oughta be able to stretch.
Oh, and those plastic cuffs? Also combustible… which is, ya know, helpful. They press the cuffs into a crack in the wall, and with a spark created by Donna clanking her bracelets together, they ignite… blowing a nice-sized hole out of the wall and assuring the teen-agers’ freedom. The trio saunters back over to the teleportation machine, and heads to Berlin.
Before we know it, they’re standing right before that giant spider, maaaan… and they see that Speedy is pinned underneath it. Hawk and Dove rush in and free him from the heft of the mechanical beast.
The foursome decides to press on. Of course, they come to a fork in the road… which causes them to have to split up again. Hawk chooses Donna to accompany him, which doesn’t sit well with Roy… and so, he punches Hank in the face. Dove intervenes and gets everyone to settle their respective tea kettles before things get uglier.
Turns out this was all a moot point, as the forked paths lead to the very same place. Guess we had an extra page or two that needed filling. The no-longer shadowy man is freaking out, and sends his agents in to take out the teens.
We then learn that the jolly gentleman is being controlled by… aliens from Dimension X! Say it ain’t so. The alien leader knows that the game is up, and orders the fella to pull the self-destruct switch in order to cut his losses.
Hawk and Dove are able to stop him before he does… and when Roy and Donna try questioning him, he falls into a deep trance of “selective hypnosis”.
Roy calls out to Hawk for some assistance finding Robin and Kid Flash, however… Hawk and Dove’s powers are starting to wear off, changing them back to Hank and Don Hall. They rush back through the teleporter rather than be seen in their civilian identities.
Speedy blames himself… believing that the Birds ran off because he socked Hawk in the face… like three times. He then lashes out at the hypnotized jolly gentleman… but, ya know, he’s hypnotized, so he doesn’t get anywhere. We wrap up by learning that Robin and Flasher are being held captive by… well, duh, that alien guy.
Well, this was a weird one, wasn’t it?
Having not read Teen Titans #20, I’m not sure whether or not this was picking up directly from there… but, ya know… it is the Silver Age, so there’s also a pretty good possibility that this was just the way a new story started.
Not sure what the threat of the Aliens of Dimension X might be… but, I mean, no good could come from a place called “Dimension X”, right?
Thought the interpersonal conflict between the Titans and the Birds was pretty well done… Hawk is still a blowhard jerk, and Dove is still so wimpy you wanna smack ‘im… so, I was definitely cool with Roy giving them both a few punches.
I thought it was cool that Hawk had an instant attraction to Donna. What I wasn’t prepared for was how it seemed like that attraction might just be mutual. I was expecting an “Unhand me, you ape” and instead we get her sorta making goo-goo eyes.
Not much else to this story. A lot of spectacular art, but as a story, it was just okay. Full of Silver-Age trappings… I mean, how many times are we going to need to “split up” already? How many times are the heroes gonna fly off the handle and just throw punches? Not saying I didn’t enjoy all’a that, but it’s kinda formulaic. Though, it fairness… I’m saying all this one year shy of a half-century after this book hit the newsstands.
This being a Silver Ager, it didn’t have creator credits listed. I had to check some of my usual online research haunts to fill’em in. I also checked DC Digital to see if it was available there. It is! What I also learned there is that this issue was retroactively “age rated” as “12+ Only”… the hell is this nonsense?!
For some context, a recent issue of Teen Titans (one in which Beast Boy claims his dinner gave him a “mouthgasm”) is also rated “12+ Only”. What the hell, DC? This is dumb… and you need to fix your rating system.
Overall… worth a read (for any and all ages). “Twelve Plus Only” my be-hind.