Tuesday, November 13, 2018

New Titans #84 (1992)


New Titans #82 (March, 1992)
"The Jericho Gambit, Part Three: Endings... and Beginnings!"
Writer - Marv Wolfman
Pencils - Tom Grummett
Inks - Al Vey
Letters - John Costanza
Colors - Adrienne Roy
Editor - Jonathan Peterson
Cover Price: $1.75

It wouldn't feel right starting any bit of business today without first paying a bit of tribute to Stan Lee.  I'm not going to try and make this all about me... but, this one's going to be a toughie.

We lost Steve Ditko some months back... which hurt.  The thing with Stan though, is Stan always felt like family, know what I mean?  He was just always there... and I don't think I ever thought there would be a time when he wasn't.  I mean, we all know the realities of life... but, sometimes we choose not to pay them too much mind.

I hate to think of a comics industry that was never guided by his hand... heck, I'm not sure there still would be a comics industry if not for his hand.  Ya know, at the risk of blabbering on, I'll tie it off here.

Rest in Peace... Rest in Power... Thank you, Stan.


Now, for today's piece... we're finally wrapping up Titans Hunt.  You know what that means... we're also going to be adding it to our Collected Editions Page!


So, if you've missed any of our deep-dives on Titans Hunt, you'll be able to check 'em out there (in order, even!).

--


We pick up right where we left off yesterday.  Deathstroke has just run his son through with a sword in attempt to stop his corruption at the hands of the Trigon-afflicted souls of Azarath.  Ya got all that?  As the Titans look on, shocked... they are even more surprised to find, standing in the place of Phantasm... Danny Chase!  *gasp*  Also, it would seem that Dick was in on the Phanto-ruse.


Slade slumps down and cradles his son's body... when it suddenly turns to dust in his hands.  The Azarathian Souls are angry... and since their host body is no more, they turn their sights to the Titans!  And so, before long we have Gar, Starfire, Raven, Mal, Bumblebee, and that other Dial-H kid (Christopher King) staring down our heroes!


We focus on Danny and Arella who are facing off with a full-blown demonic Raven... who's just about to lose control, and she thinks she likes it! Raven lets fly with a terrific blast, which nearly kills young Master Chase.


She then fires a blast at her mother, Arella... which she is surprised to find is ineffective.  Ya see, that's because Arella's body carries the soul of Azar herself... the former pacifist spiritual leader of Azarath.  To give herself a boost, Raven summons all of the Azarathian souls from the other Titans, and into herself.


With Raven fully "darkened", Danny and Arella have the idea to head inside her to confront her soul-self.  Just then, the rest of the Titans find themselves surrounded by... Wildebeests!  Betcha forgot about them... I know I did!


Inside, Raven just absolutely unleashes on poor Danny... leaving half of his body very badly burned.  That's when Arella has the idea of all ideas... it's time for the Care Bear Stareᵀᴹ... which totally does the trick, because... c'mon, it always does!


Outside, there's a huge burst of energy... and it looks like a portal opens.  From the portal, the (now cleansed) souls of Azarath are summoned out.


With everything falling apart, the Titans attempt to make their way back to the dimensional door... which, gotta say, gives Tom Grummett one heck of an opportunity to draw some really cool stuff!  Steve Dayton is holding the door open.  Hmm... okay, I gotta ask... where the hell is Terry?  Could'a sworn he came with.


Back inside the Wildebeest Lab, the Phantasm suit stirs back to life... and believes the hows and whys may lie with that former-frankfurter/former-cotton candy/current (dare I say) Baby Wildebeest.


The Titans in total make their way back to the real world... and in a flash, all the Azarathian stuff is sucked back through the portal where it belongs.  There's no time to reflect because... well, we're out of pages!


--

Annnnnd, that's that.

We end with... an issue long fight, more or less.  I'm not quite sure how I feel about that... everything feels rather crammed.  As a fake-ass synopsizer, it's a dream... I just get to say "they fought" rather than calling the blow-by-blow action.

I wanna start by jumping all the way to the ending... like the very last page.  I know I've harped on (and on) about how poorly paced I found Titans Hunt throughout... but, this really feels like a case of just "running out of pages".  I think back to all of the wasted pages we read through during this run... how much repetitive exposition... how many cutaways to the Team Titans... friggin' Pariah recapping Crisis on Infinite Earths #7... so many wasted pages... but, as we draw to a conclusion, there's suddenly no more pages left!

I get "leaving 'em wanting more", but here's the thing... I'm not left wanting more... the only reason I'd want the next issue is to get through it in order to put this entire thing behind us.

Now, yeah... I'm being pretty negative... but that's not to say there wasn't a good story here, because there was.  Perhaps if Titans Hunt started in New Titans #71 and culminated in a giant-sized #75 (or Annual #7), we'd have a super-tight story, that didn't feel like a chore more often than not.  Could you imagine if The Judas Contract (the "event") was dragged out for over a year?  Dark Phoenix Saga?  I mean, there's only so long even the most gifted of writers are going to be able to hold a reader's attention.  For example, 95% of people checking out this post have already stopped reading by now!

I can't believe I'm saying this... but, if I had to choose between Titans Hunt and Total Chaos... it's Total Chaos, all day, every day.  I'll give them credit for trying to update (and un-stagnate) the Titans... but, this story arc circled the drain for a few months too long.  Dump about half of it... pull out from the "event" tie-ins... and we might have a story I'd wholeheartedly recommend.  As it stands, I could only recommend as an important part of "Titans History", because it actually does alter the team moving forward.  As a story?  There are far better.

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Letters Page:


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Monday, November 12, 2018

New Titans #83 (1992)


New Titans #83 (February, 1992)
"The Jericho Gambit, Part Two: A Thousand Souls!"
Writer - Marv Wolfman
Pencils - Tom Grummett
Inks - Al Vey
Letters - John Costanza
Colors - Adrienne Roy
Editor - Jonathan Peterson
Cover Price: $1.75

A few weeks ago, I started one of them Instagram thingies.  Been sharing silly panels and my daily offerings there... I'm even starting to learn that hashtags do!

The thing about that though... when you start typing a hashtag, Instagram will make some suggestions... so, when you're typing something like... say... N-E-W-T-I-... or, worse yet N-E-W-T-E-E-N-T-I-... the suggestions you get are a liiiiiiittle dicey!

Gotta remain vigilant... otherwise I'm bound to attract (and disappoint) a whole 'nother kind of audience.

--


We open with the team's arrival in Azarath.  Arella helpfully tells us that the big shiny phosphorescent technodrome doesn't actually belong here.  Yeah, thanks, lady.  From here, Phantasm tries to tell the Titans something... but Deathstroke stops him, claiming this isn't the "right time".  Pantha then leads the charge creeping up on some Sentry Beests.


Inside, Jericho retrieves Nightwing from Cell-3.  He informs him that the Titans have arrived to save him, and he thinks the right thing to do would be to "greet" them.  The OG-Beast lashes out at the new boss... and is reduced to cinder.  Ah, the classics never go out of style!


Back outside, the team has been broken up into groups.  Deathstroke and Phantasm have a chat... oddly enough, it's like the exact opposite chat they had at the open.  Slade asks why he hasn't "come clean" about who he really is.  Didn't Slade tell him it wasn't the "right time" like two pages ago?  Anyhoo, Slade still insists that this Jericho ain't Joe... which, I guess ya gotta hold on to whatever hope you can!


We jump to the "other" team... who take out a bushel of beasts before finding themselves standing right before that "transference machine".  Easy peasy.


Donna pounds on some Beests, while Red Star attends to Nightwing, who has been hung from a pair of pillars of sorts.  Dick asks Leonid to get him as far away from the machinery as possible.


We rejoin Slade and Phantasm in the Wildebeest Labs.  That little optical-frankfurter thing from yesterday now looks kind of like a poof of cotton candy.  They can only admire it for a moment before they are attacked by still more Beests.  Phantasm takes the brunt of their blasts... and demands Deathstroke leave him behind and join the others.


Speaking of the others, as Red Star pulls Nightwing away from the machines... it's revealed that -CONTACT- Nightwing was actually Jericho!


Deathstroke arrives just in time to get kayoed by his boy.  Jericho lambastes him for allowing those creeps to cut into his vocal chords when he was a child.  He chains Slade up to a pair of pillars... perhaps the same ones he hung Nightwing from, though, I suppose it doesn't really matter.  Back in the Lab, a very human-looking hand emerges from underneath Phantasm's sheet.


We get another page or so of smack-talk from Joe to Slade... before he finally reveals who/what he really is.  Dig this... Jericho is actually... Azarath!  Don't worry, I'll explain... not that it'll make a heckuva lot of sense... but, I'll do my best.


Okay... back during the opening arc of New Teen Titans (vol.2)... that's the Baxter one (reprinted in Tales of the Teen Titans a year later)... the Titans fought against Trigon, right?  Okay.  During that brouhaha, the souls of Azarath decided to drop their vow of pacifism all merged to take the fight to Trigon the Terrible.  In so doing, these souls would become tainted by Trigon's essence.  Still with me?  Okay, from here... they had to find a physical form before they dissipated to nothingness.  They realized that the mutant boy, Joe Wilson would be their perfect vessel.


Only now, after remaining dormant all this time... they've nearly used Joey all up... and so, they need another, more permanent, vessel.  Hence: the tranference... and why Azarath-as-Jericho didn't have any use for people like Dick Grayson nor Vic Stone.  Ya follow?


Jericho commands his creepy old man sidekick to throw a switch (didn't that already happen like six months ago?).  Just then, Slade begs his son to fight the Azarathian soul horde... and for a brief moment, it looks like he does!


It is, unfortunately, fleeting... and the horde is able to regain control.  By this point, Slade has snapped the chains that bound him and he rushes over to his son... but finds a different kind of Jericho, who swats him away with ease.


The bodies of the Titans begin to float from the transference machine... and Jericho shocks them with a sort of dark energy.


That creepy old man goes to throw the switch... again... only to get run through be Deathstroke's blade.  You'd almost assume Jericho would have disarmed him while he hung there, right?


As he head to the end, Joey shows more signs of fighting through the Azarian control... he begs his father to stop him by any means necessary... he also tells Slade that he loves him... always has, and always will.


And then...


--

Yesterday, I mentioned that old saying "Too little, too late"... today's old chestnut is going to be "From famine to feast... and back again".  We go from all these issues where barely anything happens to move the story forward... to this, where every last bean (minus Phantasm) gets spilled!  Talk about hot and cold storytelling!

So, whatta we get here?  Well... pretty much everything we could've wanted to, expositionally speaking.  We learn that Joey was indeed under the control of others... which, more or less clears his name (if only future writers actually read this, and realized it wasn't actually Jericho as the big bad).

It also ties together this entire volume of New (Teen) Titans up to this point.  I mean, we're referencing a nearly-decade old story here... that's pretty crazy when you think about it!  First: that their continuity actually amassed ten-whole years without being rebooted twice... Second: that they expected readers to remember the opening arc of the book... and it would seem, a lot of them actually did!  It was one hell of an "info-dump"... which, given the erratic pacing of this arc, was probably the best we could've hoped for.

This was as good a payoff as you could hope for given the circumstances.  I mean, clearly Marv was done with Jericho... but, he doesn't go full-Terra on him.  If you recall from our numerous discussions of The Judas Contract, Terra was always meant to turn on the team... and die.  I don't think Jericho was created (during that very same Judas Contract) with his expiry ticket already punched.

I guess if you're writing a story with an emphasis on "shaking up" a long-running (and arguably stagnant) team book... Jericho is probably the best one to use as cannon fodder.  My main takeaway is probably more Vic-based... because, taking Cyborg's personality away seems much more Earth-shattering than having Jericho run through with a sword... but still, the creative team here wasn't messing around.  Changes were demanded... and changes were made.

I'd say, if you only read bits and pieces from Titans Hunt... this book should definitely be one of them.  I'm not sure the cover copy delivers on the "most shocking last page in Titans history"... but, it's definitely up there!

We'll close out today with a look at Jericho's first on-panel appearance back in Tales of the Teen Titans #43 (June, 1984)... and his final one (for now).  If you can, have a big bowl of buttered popcorn today in his memory.

Joseph "Jericho" Wilson
March 15, 1984 - December 17, 1991
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Letters Page (featuring a doozy of a missive from Leah Adezio):


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Sunday, November 11, 2018

New Titans #82 (1992)


New Titans #82 (January, 1992)
"The Jericho Gambit, Part One: The Saviors!"
Writer - Marv Wolfman
Pencils - Tom Grummett
Inks - Al Vey
Letters - John Costanza
Colors - Adrienne Roy
Editor - Jonathan Peterson
Cover Price: $1.75

Holy smokes... are we actually getting another actual chapter of Titans Hunt?!  Looks like it!  Also, from the cover copy, it looks like we're in for a big reveal!

Don't get your hopes up...

--


Remember a hundred years ago when Jericho flipped that switch?  Well, as we open here... it's finally flipped!  Joe has Nightwing look on as the "transference" begins... only, Dick busts out of his bindings and goes on the offensive, socking every Beest that gets in his way.  At this point, Jericho overwhelms him with that weird... lion thing he's been emitting from his body.


He tells Dick that he doesn't need him anymore... and tells him that he'd only let him live this long out of respect.  He commands Wildebeest Number Ninety-One (probably my third or fourth favorite Beest) to toss Dick into Cell-3.  Ninety-One furrows his brow (I assume... he is wearing that ghastly mask) and reminds Jericho that Cell-3 is already occupied.  No matter... toss 'em in anyway.


Gotta say, looks like Ninety-One is one of Joey's favorites too... the last few Beests to question the boss had to be swept into a dustbin!  Anyhoo... we next join Nightwing inside Cell-3, where we learn that his new cellmate is... the Original Wildebeest!


We rejoin Jericho as he chats up one of his scientists.  They admire a critter that looks kinda like the "hot dog" when you touch the tips of your index-fingers together in right front of your eyes.  You know what I'm talking about?  If not, give it a try... here's a visual aid (and link if you click the pic):


And here's the little beastie... see what I mean?  Anyhoo, Jericho suggests that this thing might be their final hope... and wonders what they'll all look like inside it.


We jump back to... I'd say Lilith's place, but it kinda feels like nobody wants to remember that last issue happened.  I know I sure don't!  Pantha talks a bit of spoo about Cyborg being useless... to which, Phantasm (of all people) chimes in about how Vic's their "friend"... a faux pas that Pantha latches onto with the quickness, after all... isn't Phantasm a "new guy"?  Hmm...


From here we get... are ya kidding me... expositional catch-up!  Arella retells the story of what went down at her Jackson Hole ranch.  Something that could've been summed up in a half-page is given four!  The only "new" information we get is that Arella recognized Jericho's "lion emittance" as a soul-self.


As the Good Guys continue to tell each other stories, it's Terry Long (of all people) who suggests... why don't we take a peek at Jericho's apartment?  Well, no duh... why is it, we have a room with Slade Wilson in it... and Terry Freaking Long is the one keeping us on point?!


Before they can leave, however... Donna Troy returns from War of the GodzzZZZzzzzZz.  Terry gives her the "I thought you were dead"... to which she explains, "I got better".  Watch out, Wolverine... Donna Troy is coming for your banter!  Also, your haircut.


The Titans arrive at Jericho's pad... just as Dagon (of the Team Titans) is admiring that recent painting of Joey's... which we saw happen 119 days ago.  So, when exactly did the War of the Gods chapter happen?  Was that just a collective fever dream?  It almost had to have been... I mean, Pariah and Terry Long sharing panel-space?  That couldn't possibly have really happened, right?  Anyhoo, Dagon bugs out just before they enter... and Red Star starts taking pictures of everything in the place.


Back in Cell-3, the OG Wildebeest tells Dick the story of the Society.  They wanted to keep their goals nebulous... and only be seen one at a time to throw off any notion that they were actually a "society".  Then... Jericho came.


Joe Wilson immediately took over the Wildebeest Society... and when the OG-Beest realized what his goals were, he got himself tossed in Cell-3.  Dick tries to affix a date to Joe's "turn"... but has trouble when he realizes that the way Joey was abducted (all them issues back) was non-violent, and could very easily have been an "put on" to give him an alibi.


We rejoin the Titans as they sift through Red Star's photos.  They think it odd that all of Jericho's paintings are of buildings... when he used to only draw beautiful portraits.  They put their heads together... and come up with bupkis.  Then it's Pantha (of all people... again) who figures it all out.


She suggests that, since the paintings are all from "above"... that Jericho might've just been painting what he saw.  Sooo... if they can deduce which buildings were painted... and from which angle, ipso facto, they ought to be able to find where he's been hanging out!


So, after a day's tour of the City... the gang is able to deduce Joey's vantage point while he was painting.  They head to the location, and find Joey...'s easel.  Oh well, at least they're on the right track.


Deathstroke finds a secret passage attached to the room... and they head inside.  They wander deeper and deeper into the darkness before coming up on a door... which they open.  Behind it is... oh c'mon... Azarath??!?!?!


--

I'm sure everyone's familiar with the saying "too little, too late", no?

Here we are, four months (119 Days) after the last actual chapter of Titans Hunt hit the shelves... and what we get, is kind of a let down.  I know I've droned on (and on) about the pacing of this story... I must sound like a broken record by now, but... c'mon... did we really need to spend four pages revisiting Jackson Hole?  Did Donna's return from War of the Gods really require a full-page?  Did we need to see the Good Guys spend page after page trying and figure out what Joey's paintings meant?!  I mean... just not enough happens here.  It's the very definition of too little... too late.

As for what we did get... Deathstroke is completely off his game for the first 2/3 of the book.  I get that his son is kind of the king of the whole magilla... but, I'd expect Slade Wilson on his worst day to have a better tactical mind than Terry Long or Pantha on their best.  Oh well, whattayagonnado?

Let's talk about that cover.  It makes a pretty bold promise, doesn't it?  Makes you think that maybe... just maybe... Jericho has someone that he answers to, right?  "The Secret Revealed!" "I'm the TRUE Wildebeest Leader!"  I mean, those statements definitely send a message.  And... while they aren't technically untrue, the reveal is horribly deflating.  Really, what do any of us care about the OG-Beest?!  Did that do anything for anybody?

And that ending... oy... Azarath.  If there's anything I dislike more than Titans in Space stories... it's Titans in Azarath stories.  It's been so long since I've read this, I'd totally forgotten that Azarath figured into it.  What a rude awakening that was!

Overall... can't really recommend this... or tell ya to avoid it.  I'm sure the recaps were useful back in 1991/1992... since this chapter took so damn long to come out... but all of those wasted pages feel kind of like a slap in the face.  I'd have to assume the Titans faithful of '91 were foaming at the mouth to get their hands on this... I'd love to know what their "takeaway" was after reading it!  If you have any stories to tell, please share 'em!

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Letters Page:


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