New Titans #77 (1991)

New Titans #77 (July, 1991)
“Red Star Rising”
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Pencils – Tom Grummett
Inks – Al Vey
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Jonathan Peterson
Cover Price: $1.75

Today we’re going to find out just who was on that doomed rocket that exploded over the Soviet Union.  I wonder who it could be?

Well, with cover-copy like “He’s half-man–half-machine…” and “Robotic Russian Rebirth!”, I haven’t the foggiest idea!

Hey, New Titans… I know this is like thirty-years too late, but… c’mahhhhhn… quit spoiling your big reveals with goofy cover copy!

We open in the U.S.S.R., right where that splody Titans rocket landed.  A Russian man with gaudy boots kvetches about a man named Anatole as he scans the wreckage, before finally coming across… a hand?!  Oh, this Russian is longtime Titans associate, Red Star… but we already kinda knew that.  Back in New York, we can see that Nightwing and the rest did actually manage to escape the Tower before it went boom.

As the T-Jet pulls further away, it becomes clear that Titans Island wasn’t the only thing to go up in flames… it looks like a whole lot of Manhattan’s East Side is also in a really bad way!  On the ground, a pair of plain clothes detectives quarrel about whether or not this is the Titans’ fault.

In the air, Arella expresses shock that Nightwing would leave New York to burn.  This leads to Dick… really kinda losing his cool!  He tries to compare himself to Batman… which, ya know… never a good idea.  He lashes out at Arella, telling her that New York’s going to have to save themselves for once… but begins to apologize before the words even finish leaving his mouth.

We shift back over to the Soviet Union.  Red Star has taken the body to Science City Complex #3 (a helpful editorial caption informs us that Science City Complex #5 was destroyed in, of all things, an ancient issue of Night Force).  Inside, Leonid is trying to convince a Doctor named Piotr to help his injured friend.  It’s made pretty clear here (if you ignore the cover copy, that is) just which Titan he’s talking about.

Time passes, and the Titans land in Skorza… right around the coordinates for the fallen rocket.  They are approached by a local… who Dick attempts to chat up.  Unfortunately, Dick don’t do Russian… so Slade has to take over.

They are guided over to the site of the crash… which has been picked completely clean.  All that remains is a rash of shifted snow… and a few boot-prints.  A security guard wanders over, but Arella tricks him into not seeing them.  Their “tour guide” gets a bit handsy with Phantasm… which is kinda weird, but does illustrate (for the third issue in a row) that there’s nothing under the sheet.  Slade tells Dick that he’s got some contacts in the area, and so they’ll do some digging.  Meanwhile, Pantha has disappeared.

Turns out… she’s just hungry.  Pantha bounds over to a nearby butcher shop, and swipes some assorted meats from the proprietor… there are some sausage links, and the kinda meats you’d find in the walls in Castlevania.  Nightwing accuses her of starting an international incident, and setting U.S./Soviet relations back a quarter century.

Back in the states, Councilperson Alderman is being a cow on the news.  Also, a shadowy fella searches through the wreckage of Titans Tower.  He introduces himself as “Hal Greene” and reports his findings to someone named Jon.

Back in the U.S.S.R., the Titans are approached by some Soviet Officials… one of whom Slade happens to know (he really was the Wolverine of the DC Universe).  He has some compromising information on the guy, and so… blackmails him.  Before we know it, the Titans are headed toward the Science City.

Elsewhere, Jericho does some weird bloodletting ritual.  Okay then.

Dick and the Gang finally arrive at the Science City and reconnoiter with Red Star.  He’s being pretty vague about which Titan it was who crashed there… and Dick grows more impatient by the step.

It’s finally revealed that the troubled Titan was, in fact… Cyborg!  Heyyy, I think we already figured that one out.

As you can see, Vic is more machine than ever at this point… his only “flesh” is part of his face.  The scientists explain everything that went down.  Vic was, by all rational thought… dead.  They managed to find some very subtle and weak brain waves… and decided to try and put him back together again.  Only problem… it left him, in the words of Dick Grayson, “a vegetable”.

Dick’s annoyed… but confident that the folks at S.T.A.R. Labs will be able to re-fix Vic, and make him the half-man/half-machine that he was before.  The Soviets are all “nuh-uh”, because… ya see, Victor is now mostly comprised of Soviet Tech… none of which will be leaving.  This isn’t what the Titans wanted to hear, and when Dick becomes adamant that Vic’s coming home with them… Cyborg engages!

The Titans just can’t seem to catch a break, can they?

Let’s start with my biggest takeaway from this issue… Dick Grayson coming around to the idea that that sometimes things aren’t black and white… sometimes you gotta act in duplicitous ways to make things happen.  We’ve got Dick lashing out at Arella on the T-Jet when she suggests they return to New York and help out.  He realizes that he needs to take care of his own house… and literally, lets New York City… burn.

Later on, he’s cool with Slade blackmailing that Soviet Official.  It looks like he got his dander up a bit over it… but, when he realizes that Deathstroke’s methods worked… he was a little more cool with it.  Pre-Titans Hunt, I don’t think Dick would have let any of this fly.

Then, of course… we’ve got the new-look Vic.  It might’ve been an actual “reveal” if it hadn’t been spoiled on the cover.  Though, really… if they weren’t going to actually “off” a Titan, it could only ever be Vic.

Shifting gears, I can’t remember how long ago I last read this (early-to-mid aughts, I’d assume)… but I don’t recall Jericho doing any weird bloodletting.  I honestly don’t remember where that’s headed… or if it even is heading anywhere.  I guess that’s a good place to be for some “fresh” reactions.

Overall… it’s weird to say, but this was a (relatively speaking) “quieter” chapter of Titans Hunt.  I wouldn’t accuse it of being a “filler” installment, but it’s certainly a lull in the action in order to bridge us to the next beats.

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