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

Letters Page (featuring a doozy of a missive from Leah Adezio):

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