Tales of the Teen Titans #45 (August, 1984)
“Old Times, Old Friends”
Co-Creators/Co-Editors – Marv Wolfman & George Perez
Finishes – Mike DeCarlo
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Cover Price: $0.75
Here’s a fun one… what could be more terrifying than… Terry Long’s Bachelor Party?!
Worth noting, this issue doesn’t have a story title… “Old Times, Old Friends” was added later for a collected edition. I’m nothing if not completionist, so I’m gonna include it.
We open with Aqualad arriving at Titans Tower, with a rapidly declining Tula in his arms. They’re both having a heckuva time breathing… and are in desperate need of some fresh water. They take an endless elevator ride down to the Titans’ pool, however collapse before making it into the drink.
We shift scenes to a shady arms deal goin’ down at some old warehouse. Gar has taken the form of a wildcat and is looking on from above. After the deal is done, he pounces! There’s something different about young Garfield today, we’ll get into that shortly.
The baddies decide to flee… and I can’t say that I blame them, especially after Gar shifts into a porcupine and nestles in one of their… uh, “pusses”. Yee. Unfortunately for the would-be smugglers, they run right smack into Cyborg!
Gar then takes the form of an elephant… and charges at the lead baddie. Despite his pleas, Gar just keeps pushing… crushing the fella… even crying as he does so. Vic rushes in to pull Changeling off… and remind him that Titans don’t kill.
Then, we get a pretty amazing scene. Gar just unleashes all of his frustrations on Vic. We’re in the shadow of The Judas Contract at this point… Terra just died. Gar, having been smitten with the traitor, would’ve loved to have someone to talk to about his feelings after the dust settled. Turns out, none of his Titanic pals were around for him. Not even his supposed “best pal”, Vic Stone! Vic gives some halfhearted excuse about being “too busy” because his grandparents were coming for a visit… which sounds so lame. Gar give the ol’ “I know where I stand” line, and flies off. Loved this page!
Speaking of Vic’ grandparents, they’ve just now arrived to Vic’s ramshackle apartment. These codgers are a hoot. Love the way they’re depicted here. Anyhoo, Vic ain’t home… so, Maude picks the lock with her “lucky” hatpin. Before Vic heads home he tries calling Gar at Dayton’s via a payphone… not sure why he didn’t just call from home, but whattayagonnado? He’s informed by Jeeves that Master Logan hasn’t checked in yet. We can see that there is a guest at Dayton’s with a heavy English accent.
Then… we’re off to Terry Long’s Bachelor Party… and it’s a rather packed house! I mean, (best man and brother) Barry Long does it up right! Seems everyone besides Dick Grayson and Terry himself are three sheets to the wind even before the giant stripper-filled cake is rolled in!
During the strippery festivities, Dick scoots off to sit by himself. He is soon joined by Terry, who gives him his “guide to ogling”… it’s basically “it’s okay to look”, a motto he surely carries with him into the classroom. Ya know, I poke fun at Terry’s creepiness quite a bit (perhaps too much), but I rather enjoyed this scene. I like the idea of Terry and Dick becoming friends. Maybe I’m just a sucker for soap-opera.
Meanwhile at Paradise Island, Donna is having a sorta-kinda Bachelorette Party… which is more like her trying to get permission to marry from Queen Hippolyta… and in so doing, relinquish her powers. She’s asked if she “loves” Terry… a question she… sidesteps. I’m not sure what it is, she never seems to plainly say “I love him”. Weird. Anyhoo, Hippolyta gives the thumbs up… but doesn’t take her powers from her. In fact, she is presented with a new pair of bracelets from her sister Wonder Woman, showing that she is of “two worlds” and “welcome in both”.
Over at Manhattan College, Raven is heading home from class. She’s chatted up by some dude named Steven… who tells her that he feels great when he’s in her presence. Ya see, Raven might unwittingly be using her empathic powers here… something she is aware might be a possibility… so, she tries to keep her distance. She’s picked up by Joey… and they share a moment of “mutual kindness” on the ride home. Raven is summoned to Titans Tower by someone she never expected to hear from again… she bugs out, leaving behind a book on sign language, which fills Joe’s heart with happiness.
Back at the Tower, we see that she was summoned by… former sorta-squeeze, Wally West. He (and new squeeze, Fran) found Aqualad and Tula dryin’ out on the ground. Right now though, they’re in a special tank, and Nightwing is trying to get them rehydrated.
Next, we get another great little exchange. Wally wants to know why nobody told her that Terra died! He’s upset that he couldn’t attend her funeral… after all, she sorta took his “spot” on the team! The Titans are keeping her turncoatedness hush-hush here… and their reasons for doing so, are up for debate, I suppose… we’ll talk more about that later. Kory changes the subject back to the Aqua-teens.
Dick deduces that there is a strange chemical in the lungs of the Aquas… and is repeatedly flushing it out of their systems. After a few tries, the Aquas begin to stir. Once they’re outta the tank, they share their story. Turns out, they were swimmin’ outside of the hustle and bustle of Atlantis… and were in the proximity (and wake) of a terrific explosion!
They were then attacked by the… yawn… H.I.V.E. Before the scuffle, however, Tula realized that she can no longer breathe! The Aqua-teens hitched a ride on a pair of whales to get as far away as possible.
At this point, Dick’s heard enough. He’s all “suit up, Titans… even you, Wally!”, to which, Wally says “nope”. It’s okay though, Jericho will come along on this adventure… despite not officially being a Titan just yet.
We wrap up with Wally and Fran leaving Titans Island… and learning that any time Wally uses his powers, he is left in terrible pain. He refuses to tell the Titans about that, because he sees it as “his problem”. Meanwhile, the team has loaded into the T-Sub, and is headed for the… yawn… H.I.V.E.!
Okay, shocker… I loved this! This kind of issue has the perfect… to me… “formula” for making comics. In only 23 pages, we bring several subplots up to speed, and introduce a threat. Everything feels like it’s building to something… and actual “pay off”, and not just a neat ‘n tidy six-issue trade paperback.
Let’s take a look here… using our mutant ability of hindsight.
We’ve got Gar dealing with his emotions… a plot that will bubble along until, one of my personal favorite issues… and perhaps part of the reason this blog exists, Tales of the Teen Titans #55.
Vic’s grandparents showing up… which will lead to a pivotal Cyborg story arc in the pages of Tales of… before it becomes a reprints-only mag.
The Terry and Donna Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties… which are obviously leading up to the milestone Tales of the Teen Titans #50.
There’s Raven trying to get a better grip on her powers… Joey working his way onto the team… Wally’s speed-induced maladies… that English-accent visiting Dayton’s. I mean, all of this… and we haven’t even touched on the actual cover story yet! I hate using the word “perfect” to describe, well anything…. but this is the format I love my comics in. Probably why so much of my fandom is informed by New Teen Titans and X-Men comics.
Now, let’s dig a bit deeper.
I wanna start with… Terra. It could be argued that the Titans are keeping her death “virtuous” in order to protect her family and legacy. Seems silly to keep Wally in the dark about this, but, we’ll get to that. Part of me feels like they’re keeping this all “mum” because it… I dunno, makes them look bad for allowing a traitor into their midst. Early on in the issue, Vic more or less says just that:
“None of us wanted to talk about Tara. We were all so naive. We believed her because why shouldn’t we believe?”
Sure, the Judas Contract changed the dynamic of the Titans… it affected their worldview and forced them to “grow up” a bit. I gotta say, I love the idea of each Titan dealing with the reveal… but not sharing their feelings with each other. It’s more powerful this way… it’s just a festering ball of doubt and regret… which none of them are equipped to put into words.
I like the idea of Wally being this strange outsider among his friends. That feels very real to me. Right after High School… like literally, two days after graduation, my family moved across country from New York to Arizona.
I didn’t get back “home” until about a year later… and, it was at that point that the realization hit me… people’s lives actually go on without me! What nerve, right? It was a tremendously tough pill for me to swallow. I didn’t have the emotional intelligence or maturity to realize that my friends wouldn’t just slip and fall into molten amber awaiting my return.
Wally’s reaction to seeing his old friends is similar to the way I felt: “Wanna hear something funny? I felt like a stranger. I’m gone three months and the whole group’s different. They sure didn’t waste any time replacing me.” Definitely a tough pill to swallow… and the kind of uneasiness I still have sometimes, even all these years later.
The pre-Wedding scenes were pretty great, despite my allergy to T. Arthur Long. I said it during the synopsis, but I really dig the idea that Terry and Dick would become pals. I found it a bit funny that he was the only Titan present, but considering the other two fellas are A) green, and B) mostly machine, I guess I understand. There was something about that panel, where Terry and Dick are laughing (included above). For whatever reason, that one panel really drove home what a family these folks have become.
It’s funny… if I were to have a single complaint about this issue… it’s the cover story! H.I.V.E. is tremendously dull to me… always has been, probably always will be. The idea that the Titans are headed back into battle with them… does nothing for me. Aqualad and Tula… ehhhh, they’ve just never really been that big of a part of “my era” of Titans, so, I can pretty much take them or leave them.
Overall though… despite my boredom with H.I.V.E., this was a wonderful issue. I find it interesting that this came out around the same time as New Teen Titans (vol.2) #1 (the Baxter Series), and, if you ask me, is head and shoulders above that one in enjoyability. As mentioned above, this issue has been collected… it is also available digitally.
Baxterrific Letters Page: