Thursday, September 13, 2018

New Teen Titans (vol.2) #1 (1984)


New Teen Titans (vol.2) #1 (August, 1984)
"Shadows in the Dark!"
Co-Creators/Co-Editors - Marv Wolfman & George Perez
Letterer - Todd Klein
Colors - Adrienne Roy
Cover Price: $1.25

Yesterday, I made a statement that I didn't feel great about after hitting "Publish".  I said that the Tales of the Teen Titans "newsstand" series was a more enjoyable read than the earliest issues of New Teen Titans (vol.2 - "Baxter").

I mean, any time I reflect on it, those were my actual feelings.  However, it's been so dang long since I gave the early Baxter issues a look, that I kinda feel like I could "back it up".  And so, today... we're gonna hop right in to the first issue of that Direct Market only series!

That's what we do here... test our preconceptions... and see if they still hold true!

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We open in the Danger Roo... er, outside Titans Tower, where the team is running through some training exercises.  Nightwing leads the team as they try and hunt down their newest member, Jericho!  This proves to be a bit more tricky than anyone expected... considering Jericho could, with nothing more than eye-contact, body-hop and take control of any of them.  And he does just that, starting with Gar!


From here, the Titans shift their focus, and try to figure out a way to expel Joey from Gar.  Cyborg blasts him with a "zillion" decibels... but that doesn't quite work... all it does is annoy poor Master Logan.  Donna manages to snag Changeling with her lasso... and as Starfire goes in for the catch -- CONTACT -- Joey jumps from Gar to Kory!


It comes down to Cyborg... who, wisely closes his one actual eye, making "contact" impossible.  He blasts Starfire with enough voltage to "stun" her... causing Joey to be ejected.  Vic then biffs Joey in the chin.



Nightwing hops onto Joey's back, piggyback-style... and Donna wraps them both up with her lasso.  It looks like it's all over but the cryin' at this point... but then... Raven shows up!  As is usual with her, she's got some dire news... and is in need of aid.  Joey uses this opportunity to -- CONTACT -- hop into Raven's body!  This doesn't go all that well.


Raven vanishes, leaving Jericho a quivering mess.  He begins signing at an unfollowable pace.  When he finally gets his wits back about him, he reveals to the team that he felt a great evil inside of her.  He wants to help her... which leads the Titans to ask themselves why they hadn't tried reaching out to her of late.


After heading inside, the Titans recount what just occurred.  Jericho volunteers to go to Raven's room for a chat... and after a little hemming and hawing, Dick agrees.  As Joey leaves the room, Vic suggests that Raven's appearance might be changing.  More on that in a bit.


First, we'll follow Jericho.  Inside Raven's darkened room, she speaks... kinda in riddles about her "destiny".  I mean, we all know this is Trigon stuff, right?  It's always Trigon stuff with Raven.  She refuses to leave the room without her hood, which kinda backs up Vic's deduction that she's beginning to look different.


After the chat, Raven appears in the Titans meeting room... and quits the team!  She doesn't want the team to feel responsible for her anymore.  She feels as though she's been more of a hindrance and a liability of late.  I tell ya what, she's often a hindrance to my enjoyment of an issue!  Anyhoo, her plan is... staying the night at the Tower, and leaving in the morning.  The team protests... but, it's no use.


For something completely different... and potentially even more boring than Raven... we shift scenes to Vegan Space, and Tamaran.  We learn that thanks to the Omega Men, the war is over.  Peace will reign, and it's now safe for Princess Koriand'r to return home.  Now, I love subplots... but not that kinda subplot.


Back at the Tower, Gar walks in on Vic while he's screening some old video.  Gar giddily asks if it's porn... but, no dice... Vic is actually looking at old Titans footage, footage featuring Raven in particular.  Here we see the progression of Raven's appearance.  Starting with her softer look early on... to a more severe look... to her current almost sinister appearance!


Elsewhere in the Tower, Jericho sits awake... trying to practice his guitar, however cannot shake his worry over his soon-to-be-departing teammate.  He decides to take the situation into his own hands, and visits Raven while she sleeps.  What's kinda neat is that he actually "suits up" in his complicated Jericho attire before leaving his room.


Then -- CONTACT -- sorta, I think.  Maybe Raven sleeps with her eyes open... maybe Joey just pried one open before hopping.  I dunno.


Next stop for Jericho... yawn... the craggy cliffs of Azar.  He looks on as Raven is tortured by visions of her mother, and the shouting of... well, duh... Trigon.


Trigon even notices Joey's presence... and figures, "what the hay", and begins torturing him a bit for good measure.


The Titans are awakened by one whopper of a scream... Dick suggests that it wasn't even human in origin.  The team rushes into Raven's room, only to find Joey.  Raven, has vanished.  Joey frantically signs the word "father".


Joey finally regains his composure and explains the whole thing.  Dick meekly lectures him about entering Raven's body... but Vic reels him in.  The Titans now know what they're up against... however, before they can take the fight to Trigon... they're going to have to find Raven!


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Now, I've never claimed to be the sharpest bulb in the shed... and it's almost embarrassing for me to admit this, but... I never realized that these stories, which would be reprinted for the newsstand in Tales of the Teen Titans about a year later, actually also take place (about a year?) later.

Today's Trigonny issue would go on to appear on newsstands in Tales of the Teen Titans #60 (December, 1985).

Yesterday we discussed Tales of the Teen Titans #45, which had the same cover date as this issue (August, 1984), however, was clearly taking place immediately after The Judas Contract.  Gar was still all torn up, and Joey wasn't yet an official member of the team.  Here, Gar's back to normal, and Joey has a portrait in the meeting room.  I can't believe I never noticed this before... it only makes me wonder... in what order do I usually reread these things?!

Oh well... I suppose that's just something for me to pull my hair out about later... let's get to the story!

It's pretty good!  Not sure it was the best choice to launch a new series, but for those already familiar with the team... it's not bad at all!  I guess we kinda have to put ourselves back in 1984 to fully appreciate this sort of thing.  If you were to venture into a comics specialty store back then, and buy this issue, chances are... you were there for this issue, and would already be familiar with everything going on... and good to go.

I think that sort of thing is lost on us these days.  We kinda thumb our noses at "New Number 1's" that don't give a proper introduction to the characters and concepts... given their ubiquity, I suppose that might just be fatigue.  That, and getting increasingly tired of being told that "current year" publishers are making efforts to reach the fabled "new" reader... by feeding them the same convoluted stuff that confuses even the most tenured of readers.  But, least there's a #1!  That'll put somebody's kid through college, right?

Okay, okay, enough of that.  Let's look at this, not as a #1... but as any ol' story.  The opening, is almost Claremontian in it's format.  I couldn't even hazard a guess at how many issues of Uncanny X-Men start in the Danger Room (probably far less than I'm imagining... but, lemme tell ya, it felt pretty often).  This gives us the opportunity to see the Titans in action without having to deal with an actual threat.  Good stuff!

Now, Raven bores me to tears... but... I gotta say, I love the idea of Vic checking through some old footage to verify his hunch.  I gotta wonder if readers of the day had picked up on Raven's appearance becoming more sinister over time.  Or if, just like with the Titans, it was so gradual that nobody paid it any mind?  Really great subtle storytelling here.  This was given rather a long time to "breathe", and the payoff here is pretty wonderful.  A great big "A-ha" moment we can all share.

Another thing that bores me to tears... Tamaran.  I don't care to see Starfire get married several times, or turned into a slave several times.  Have no use for Blackfire... or any of the bug-eyed golden folks on that planet.  One thing I can recall about my Titans re-reads... I skip the Titans-in-Space issues!  Still, I'm a fan of subplots being peppered though me comics... so, I'm kinda conflicted!

Now before we cut out, let's talk Joey.  It's weird... the Titans seem to find him a warm and comfortable presence, right?  Well, even as just a lowly reader, I kinda feel the same way about him!  There is a sort of serenity when he's on panel... like, I dunno... hopefulness.  I find his addition to the team to be a good one... really dig him being around.  I feel like his powers might be a bit too convenient at times, but overall, he's a net-positive for the Titans.

Overall for the issue... it's good!  Personally, I'm not into the Trigon and Azar stuff, but even with that said, we get some really good interaction between the Titans here... now, it's not quite as soapy (I swear, I type "soupy" first every time) as it's newsstand counterpart, but definitely worth checking out.  It's been reprinted a bunch, and is available digitally.

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(Not the) Letters Page:


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