New Teen Titans #22 (August, 1982)
“Ashes to Ashes!”
Writer/Co-Creator – Marv Wolfman
Artist/Co-Creator – George Perez
Embellisher – Romeo Tanghal
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.60
Today we’re going to take a look at a concept that might not have aged all that well… along with one that might be more relevant now than ever before! Check it out…
We open with Robin, Wonder Girl, Raven and Kid Flash all sprawled before Brother Blood. He turns to his followers and demands all but Robin be “taken away”. Ya see, he believes Robin has some valuable information, and is instead delivered to “The Confessor” in order to get it out of him.
We stick with Brother Blood as he has a video-conference with a Senator Hardy. Brother Blood is trying to have the Religion of Blood recognized as a “true” organized religion. While he’s at it, he wants to re-legitimize the home country of the his following, Zandia. There had recently been a change in President for Zandia… and Blood insists that any of the country’s wrongdoings are now behind them… or at least that’s what he wants Hardy to tell his fellow Senators when it comes time to vote. In order to tip the scales even further, Blood decides tonight might be a good time for a televised interview.
Elsewhere, Robin is plopped down before The Confessor… but the Boy Wonder ain’t in a talkin’ mood! Baron Blood isn’t worried… knowing The Confessor’s methods, he’s sure it won’t be long before Robin either talks… or dies.
Meanwhile, back at Titan’s Tower… Cyborg, well… he lifts something heavy. That’s usually what he does in his “off time”, isn’t it? Anyhoo, he’s ticked that he, Gar, and Kori couldn’t take part in the Church of Blood mission… because, ya know… they can’t really pass as human. Vic’s really fired up about this, as Brother Blood cost him his girl Marcy (just last issue). Starfire flies up, and suggests they go anyway. Just then, Raven’s soulself arrives to warn of the danger the Titans are in… and so, it’s time to go.
Back at Blood’s, Robin is being tortured… but still won’t crack. Finally, Brother Blood goes “screw it”, and has Robin tossed into the same dungeon the other Titans are in. It’s a pit, really… and when he hits bottom, he’s shocked to see his teammates…
… and also some gigundus spider horror! Dick manages to dodge the critter long enough to gather his pals… but, that doesn’t really mean much when there’s no way for them to escape!
We rejoin the others on board a the T-Jet as they approach the Church. At the same time, reporter and all-around pain in the ass, Bethany Snow is preparing to interview the Baron. She starts by dropping some knowledge on her viewership… the Religion of Blood isn’t a new religion, but actually a very old one.
The Baron begins by addressing the elephant(s) in the room. First, his too-spooky-by-half name “Baron Blood”. I mean, would you visit a doctor with the last name “Doom”? Don’t answer that. Anyhoo, he explains that blood (the actual fluid) provides life… fair enough. Second, he explains his equally spooky costume… or, actually, he just brushes that off. Whatever. Finally, he gets to his point… he wants Zandia to take its place among the “free nations” of the world, and by linked with Western Democracy.
Just as he’s giving his speech about peace and freedom… the Teen Titans make their usual entrance… bursting through a wall. It’s almost like he’d planned for this to happen. Hmm…
The Titans cause quite the ruckus… which is all being captured live on television! The Baron plays the “persecution” card, while Bethany Snow opines (on-air) that the Titans are provoking the Church of Blood. Gar, of all people, tries to explain that they’re being set up… but, c’mon… who ever listens to him?
Back in the down-below, Robin is still playing tag with the giant spider-beast. Just when it looks like his luck is running out… Raven’s soulself returns to lend a hand… or, more accurately, tell Robin to “arouse” Wally so he can whip up a tornado and get them out of the hole. Now, why didn’t he think of that?
We stick with Raven’s soulself as it confronts Brother Blood. She tries using her… empathic (?) powers to engulf him, only to discover that it’s far too painful to do so! She gives up, but does manage to finagle the controls for the dungeon pit-door-thingie.
By this point, Wally has finally been “aroused”, and the trapped-Titans are freed! And so, the combined Titans take their turns beating the hell out of Brother Blood. Gotta remember, this is all being televised… and it looks like an unprovoked attack… on a church… with a message of peace. No bueno.
Brother Blood finally breaks away, and flees down a hallway (triggering a big ol’ door to drop along the way). Vic does what he always does… and bursts through the wall in order to pursue. Unfortunately, he’s not quick enough… the Baron has boarded a jet!
No bother… Vic engages his hydraulic legs and launches himself at the jet… catching it by the tail…
… which snaps off, sending the jet plummeting into a nearby mountain. Boom. Now it would appear that Brother Blood has not only been attacked… but murdered by the Teen Titans! Remember, cameras are rollin’!
The followers of the Church of Blood immediately forgive the Titans for their trespass (again, cameras are rollin’) and they claim that Brother Blood will rise again. They’ve certainly got Ms. Snow’s vote!
Of course, we know better… and so does Raven. She informs the team that Baron Blood was never on that jet. And indeed he wasn’t! He’s actually safe and sound… elsewhere. He watches Snow’s report, and knows that, after today’s to-do, Zandia and the Church of Blood are a shoe-in for recognition.
We wrap up with… yawn… Blackfire trying to track down her sister. Yawn again.
Now this was excellent.
It’s got this weird tone to it… where, you could see at it as being both subtle… and terribly unsubtle, depending on how you look at it. For a story like this though, it works incredibly well.
I think the main theme here is “spin”. Media manipulation to depict an issue from the most “favorable” side. That’s what we get here with noted Titans-non-fan, Bethany Snow. I mean, she’s taken a story about a guy who calls himself “Brother Blood”… who wears a tunic he likely purchased on clearance at Supervillains ‘Я’ Us… and made him look like the good guy! At the same time, the Titans… heroes, some of whom have been around forever, come off looking like instigators, bullies… and all-around bad folks.
This is a kinda story that is still pretty relevant today. It seems like if whatever group you subscribe to is currently out of power, the media is blamed for framing them in a poor light. It really is a powerful tool in guiding public opinion… which is something that Brother Blood was smart enough to both realize… and utilize. It really is a brilliant move… and one you might not expect to see in a superhero comic from 1982! Again, this was really well done!
The only bits of the issue that sorta dragged were Robin’s do-si-do in the pit with the spider… that really felt like it was only there to eat up a few pages, and of course… the last couple of pages. You might know that I’m not a fan of heroes-in-space (be they X-Men or Titans), so Blackfire is a most unwelcome presence.
Overall though… this one is most definitely worth checking out. If you can put yourself back in ye old 1982, I think you could appreciate just how far ahead of its time this book really was. This bugger’s been collected several times over and is available digitally.