New Teen Titans (vol.2) #20 (1986)

New Teen Titans (vol.2) #20 (May, 1986)
“Past Imperfect”
Writer/Editor – Marv Wolfman
Penciller – Eduardo Barreto
Embellisher – Romeo Tanghal
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Cover Price: $1.50

Today we’re going to pick up on an issue we’d covered quite a long time ago.  Actually a lot further back in “the long ago” than I’d even realized!  That piece is actually notable for being the one where I decided to begin including letters pages to the blog!  So, how ’bout that?

Anyhoo, we left off with the Titans splitting up, leaving Donna no choice but to “call in the reserves” when Kind Faraday offers them a gig.  The team we’re left with is an odd mix of old and post-Crisis new.  Let’s get right into it.

We open in South Africa, where Cheshire has been hired to, well, do what she does.  She enters Kwazulu’s Black African League and murders their Director, Robert Zembo.  She also plants some dirty money in his pocket, and scatters some clues around the office to link the South African Black Government to the Soviets.  This would certainly effect the perception of the Black Government among the citizenry.  It should come as no surprise that she’d been hired to do this by… a Secretary from the White Government.  Even though she just committed murder and linked an entire movement with “the enemy”, she acts as though she’s above this fella.  I kinda get where they’re going with this… but, it kinda falls flat.  After accepting payment, Cheshire heads to a pay phone and throws the Secretary under the bus for the whole thing.

She returns back to a hut and rejoins an old man named Ch’ang.  She tells him that they’re done here… and next, they’re off to Switzerland.  Ch’ang calls her Jade… which really ticks her off.  She’s only to be called that when she’s a) out of costume, and b) holding her… child?!

Switching scenes, we head to Titans Tower… where Donna is letting the new/old team know what’s going on.  Hawk doesn’t care what’s going on… so long as he can punch some “Commies”.  With as over-the-top as Hawk will be depicted in this issue, I can’t help but get the feeling Marv’s getting some frustrations out.  Wally sees this as his first “real” opportunity to live up to Barry Allen’s legacy.  Aqualad just broods.  Jason Todd is psyched to be there… and finally, Roy wonders just why Faraday chose the Titans… and not, say, the Justice League for this mission.

That mission?  Making sure the upcoming United States/Soviet Union peace summit goes off without a hitch.  The reason the Titans were chosen?  Soviet radicals hired an “outsider” to throw a wrench in the peace talks… that outsider: Cheshire.

After some… more goofy dialogue from Hawk, we’re in the T-Jet and headed for Switzerland.  Donna’s at the controls, but her head is anywhere but “in” this.  She’s so distracted by all of the Titans drama that she… very nearly, flies right into the World Trade Center.  We’ll… just leave that alone.

Donna owns her near-miss, and doesn’t make any excuses.  The rest of the flight goes off without a hitch, and several hours later they arrive in beautiful Zermatt, Switzerland (seriously, if you’re unfamiliar with this place – like I am/was – Google it, it’s pretty breathtaking).  Wally gives the place the once-over, and Roy fires a recon-arrow into the sky.  So far, the coast is clear… though, Donna is certain that Cheshire is there, and also… that Cheshire is aware of the Titans’ presence.

The team checks into a hotel, and begins to make their plans for the following day.  Donna can’t shake the feeling that she’s assembled a “broken” team.  Hawk’s a loon, Garth is emotionally-comatose, Jason is a child.  Her mind then wanders to how everything “fell apart” with the New Titans… and how, at this point, it’s as though everyone has gone their own way.

Before the gang decides to hit their respective pillows, we can see that explosives have been set up outside their window.  Garth, having a keener sense of hearing, is able to pick up on this.  He alerts the team, and Wally rushes out to confront the threat… and, wouldn’tcha know it… it’s Cheshire!

Wally is able to take down a few of her men, however, is struck in the shoulder by one of her heat-seeking mini-missiles.  Cheshire then calls for her men to evacuate the area before the bomb goes off.

Luckily, the Titans seemed to have heard that warning as well!

Then… it’s fightin’ time!  Hawk is absolutely ruthless in his pounding of Cheshire’s men.  He even steals one of their guns, and threatens to use it on them!  Donna catches this from the corner of her eye, and puts a stop to it.  This distraction proves to be enough for Cheshire to get away.

Donna and Hank begin to fight… Donna explains that under absolutely no circumstances are they to “intentionally murder”.  Hawk ain’t diggin’ that, so he starts throwing fists.  Donna, being Wonder Girl, catches said fists… and proceeds to slam Hawk into a nearby tree… and she presses… and presses… and presses, until Robin pulls her off.  It’s a good thing too, as she very nearly caved Hawk’s chest in!

Donna then turns to Jason and… quits as team leader!  She assigns him the spot, after all… this is Robin’s group anyway.  Worth noting, this is post-Crisis, but Jason Todd is still very much a “golly, gee” superhero at this point.  Hasn’t been completely post-Crisisified just yet.

After standing stunned for a sec, Robin rushes back over to Donna and accuses her of engaging in a bit of ol’ fashioned transference.  She isn’t looking at Jason as Jason… all she can see is a Robin costume.  She’s transferred all of Dick Grayson’s attributes, skills, and experiences onto this poor kid… and is expecting him to act in kind.  Donna falls to her knees in the snow, and starts to cry.  She apologizes… and reclaims the “reins” of the team.

Elsewhere, Cheshire kneels by the fallen Wally and Roy.  She’s thankful they’re still alive, and insists they stay that way… for now… and, for reasons we’ll get to.  Wally begins to stir… and she tells him to pass along the message “Cheshire Remembers”… before kayoing him with a kick.

We jump ahead to the following morning.  The Titans are licking their wounds over coffee… and discussing their plans for the day.  Hawk acts like a cartoon character… still.  I feel like he and Guy Gardner could’ve started a support-group for characters that writers used as strawman caricatures back in the 1980’s.

Due to the injuries he’d suffered, Donna insists that Wally stay behind.  He doesn’t dig the idea… but he gets it.  Next stop for the rest of the team, is a tram heading toward the Matterhorn.

After reaching their destination, they rendezvous with King Faraday.  He explains just how high the stakes are… which, I mean… is kinda like “dropping the knowledge” that water is wet.  I’m sure we’ve all worked with or for a person just like this.

Speedy and Robin head back inside the cable-car, in attempt to escape the cold.  They share a brief conversation, where Jay engages in some armchair psychology/detectiving before… Cheshire zooms in!

We wrap up with Cheshire facing off with Roy.  As she holds him at gunpoint, she reveals that they’d once shared a passionate night together… and, not only that… Roy is the father of her child!  Well, if that doesn’t just shout “cliffhanger”, I don’t know what does!

Kind of a weird issue, no?

There was definitely this underlying… I dunno… discomfort (?) about this one.  It felt like we never had the opportunity to “settle in” with the team… which, I’d imagine, was the intention.  I gotta say, looking at these issues… ones I’d read more times than I can count… with an “analytical” eye, is rather a challenge.  I’m so used to just bullet-training through these issues, just one after the other, that I don’t often get the opportunity to reflect… and, thus, don’t really take the time to appreciate all of the disparate “moving parts” some of these issues have.

Let’s bring in a bit of context here for our team… the Crisis did quite a number on most of them!  Aqualad is depicted as emotionally detached/numb… due to the death of his girlfriend Tula who died in Crisis on Infinite Earths #9 (December, 1985).  Hawk is shown as being even less “balanced” than usual… which is saying something.  This very well might be due to the loss of his “cooler half”, his brother Don “Dove” Hall died in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (March, 1986).  Wally is already in “Saint Barry” mode, and is trying to live up to his mentor/predecessor.  Barry, of course, died in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (November, 1985).

Jason Todd is a bit of a wild card here.  It’s hard to really reconcile his behavior and demeanor here, as this is post-Crisis… however, his post-Crisis origin wouldn’t be established until a year after this issue hit, in Batman #408 (June, 1987).  He’s still very much a Dick Grayson-lite, “golly gee” sorta kid here.  I suppose it’s easy enough to write it off as either a) he was starstruck being with the Teen Titans, or b) he’s just putting on an act… perhaps even feeding into Donna’s transference.  Seems like the kinda thing a jerk might do, right?

Let’s talk about Cheshire.  I gotta say, that whole do-si-do at the start, didn’t really work for me.  When she turned in the white secretary, I’m not sure if our takeaway was supposed to be in the vein of “no honor among thieves”… or, that Jade has this weird sense of honor.  Either way, I mean… she killed that one dude!  You can’t really claim the “high ground” when, you took the money… and, you were the one actually pressing the knife into someone’s back.  I feel like I get what Marv was going for here… just thought it was a dumb way to go about it.

Another character where… I get what Marv was going for, was Hawk.  Now, I get it, Hank Hall has been sort of a punching bag for writers ever since Ditko left.  All of their social and political frustrations are put in this guy, that at some point he actually ceases to be a character.  Halfway through this issue, I resorted to just skimming Hank’s dialogue, because I knew it wasn’t going to be anything important… just ranting.  He’s only here to be the antithesis to the Titans’ tolerance.  Not sure it was necessary… even in being the “problem child” who tested Donna… because nobody else on the team even came close to taking his side.  Everybody just dismissed him as a loon… not that I could blame them… but, still.

The only reason I’m okay with his presence was that it facilitated that scene where Donna very nearly caved his chest in.  This entire issue has been a very strong look at Donna Troy… her self-doubt, her feelings of guilt… it was all very well done.  That scene where she almost killed Hawk though, that was some really excellent stuff.  I feel like we’ve all been, at one point or another, so angry… or frustrated, that the only reaction we’re capable of is… bursting into tears.  This really emphasizes how at “wits end” Donna is.  She’s trying to stay cool under pressure… but, just can’t!  It’s a very human reaction, and I’m glad they “went there”.

We get just enough King Faraday here to remind us that he’s that jerk boss we’ve all had who states the most obvious thing as though it’s the most unique concept ever thought up by a human brain.  Fair enough… he didn’t overstay his welcome… though, the two or three panels we do get of him are more than enough.

Overall… a weird issue.  Not one of the greatest, but far from the worst.  It’s horribly dated, of course, with its Cold War intrigue (and even that near-miss with the Twin Towers)… but, certainly worth checking out.  Our main takeaway (with hindsight, of course) is the revelation that Roy and Jade share a child.  I gotta plead ignorance here, I’m not sure this is still “a thing” in our current day continuity.  I feel like it’s the sort of thing that “sometimes is/sometimes isn’t”.  This issue has been collected, and is available digitally.

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