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1980: The New Teen Titans and Deathstroke

TeenTitansLogo3The New Teen Titans were legends of their time. Featuring a mix of both old and new character, the book, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn my George Pérez, was critically acclaimed and set the bar for other books coming after. It was one of two giants of the day, the other being Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men over at Marvel.

This book led to Wolfman and Pérez handling of Crisis on Infinite Earths the 50th anniversary megacrossover that reset continuity in the DC Universe. A brilliant book.

You might think that because of the name “New” Teen Titans that there was a Teen Titans that came before. You are very astute. The original Teen Titans were created by Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani 15 years earlier in The Brave and the Bold #60. The original team consisted entirely of sidekicks: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl.

2031889-1937032_dc_comics_new_teen_titans_1A credit to this book is its well-rounded mix of characters. Some legacy characters, some original heroes, half male, half female, and half a black man. Okay so maybe color could have been a little better represented, but of all the characters to come from this book Cyborg has become a fixture in DC lore, with a now founding position in the Justice League and a movie to come, he has had some significant exposure and a lot of that comes from the brilliant handling of his character done in this book.

The New Teen Titans consist of originals Robin (Dick Grayson), Kid Flash (Wally West), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), new characters Cyborg (Vic Stone), Starfire (Princess Koriand’r), the mysterious Raven, and former Doom Patrol member Garfield Logan, who had formerly been Beast Boy and when our series starts is trying to make the change to The Changeling. It doesn’t stick.

So what issues are we looking at? The team made its debut in DC Comics Presents #26 as part of a dream Robin is having. They join as a team in issue 1 and their big bad Deathstroke makes his debut in issue 2. That’s where 1980 ends and where I ended as well.

DC-Comics-Presents-26-1980The dream sequence issue is done well. Robin is responding to a terrorist attack when he gets knocked out and finds himself fighting alongside the new Titans team. They all seem to know him and each other, but he knows nothing. They are protecting a scientist from some goop monster. His ideas for fighting the goop are spoken aloud and heard by the police at the terrorist site and are taken seriously (even though he is unconscious) and are successful there too. When he wakes up he discovers that the scientist he had been protecting in his dream is the same person the terrorist were after. This man is also coincidentally Cyborgs father whom Cyborg is mad at for putting him in “this blasted Cyborg Suit!”

When next we meet in The New Teen Titans #1 Robin is having these same dreams again and again. Raven introduces herself to him and tells him that she has been giving him these dreams so that when they eventually meet he will trust her.

Right.

So in the future if you REALLY want someone to trust you, invade their thoughts at inopportune times.

Got it.

More sketchy recruiting happens and everyone meets together for the first time (minus Starfire) just in time to ward off an alien attack and save Starfire. But not without inadvertently trashing Grant Wilson’s home, a man who had taken Starfire there for safety.

New_Teen_Titans_Vol_1_2In #2 we find out how bad that was, because Grant Wilson has a pretty bad problem with revenge, and connections to an insidious group called H.I.V.E. Not only that but he has aspirations to be just like his hero, Deathstroke – The Terminator! He has H.I.V.E. try to hire Deathstroke to kill the Titans, but Deathstroke says no. So instead they give Grant a heightened version of Deathstrokes powers. The problem is that it’s too much for Grants body and will kill him. Deathstrok knows this and tries to help him because….heres the twist….Deathstroke is Grant’s father, Slade Wilson. Unable to help Grant kill the Titans or stay alive, Deathstroke vows to finish the job himself, later.

Deathstroke actually does become one of the more popular and deadly villains. He’s similar to Batman in strength and fighting prowess, (also he has a butler, Wintergreen) and has ongoing feuds with the Titans, Batman, Green Arrow (See Arrow season 2), The Justice League and others.

deathstroke2We only get a glimpse of who these new characters and there are many questions asked, only a few answered. What happened to Vic that his father put him into the Cyborg Suit? What is up with Raven and where does she keep disappearing to? Where is Koriand’r from? One thing that I both liked and didn’t like about Starfire was that initially she can’t communicate with everyone else. Often, alien language is not referenced even though there is no way that an alien species would know english (I’m looking at you Star Trek) However, they fix the problem by having her kiss Robin, and absorbing our language. She also says that this wasn’t necessary, it was just more fun. In my opinion she is an over sexualized character and this is obviously a hint at a future relationship. I don’t care about that romance crap, just give me some action and intrigue. Also, at one point they say they named her Starfire after her strafer blasts. But this was before she could speak, so who called them Starfire blasts?

In all seriousness I criticize because I love. This really is the beginning of one of the greatest comic runs of all times, and it starts off strong and continues to keep the bar raised. There may be parts that seem cheesy but you can’t jump right to the Dark Knight Returns, it is a gradual process to that adult type of reading but this was a huge stepping stone for comics. Some of the themes in this series are well beyond its time. This wasn’t just a bunch of kids putting on their tights and trying to make a name for themselves. It was young adults dealing with real adult problems, along with not real adult problems.

The art is fantastic as well. I feel that Pérez just gets better with time, his Crisis is great, his Wonder Woman builds on that, and his Avengers is him at the top of his game, some of the best art out there, also some of the stuff that I binge read when I got into comics (so maybe I’m biased), but his briliance is obvious even here. His back grounds, emotions, shadowing, all really well done and bar raising. I would love to see a pencils edition of some of these issue, or Crisis, similar to what they did with Jim Lee and Hush.

It’s hard to say if after Wolfman and Pérez left the book if the Titans was ever written as well again. Jeff Johns had a long run on the title, but his style is a very different writing style and while I can go back and have a great time reading it, it wasn’t to the caliber of what had come before, nor even some of the other amazing things he has done. I also haven’t read the entire thing yet either. Every time I go to a comic store in another city the first thing I check is if they have volume 2, but they always have 1 and/or 3, but never 2. Jeff Lemire has also done an interesting but completely different take on the team in his Teen Titans: Earth One graphic novel. I highly recommend it. I hope there will be a second one as well, but with his exclusive contract with Marvel, I don’t know.

Well, thanks for reading. If you want to check out the issues I just wrote about be sure to check out the New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol 1 or The New Teen Titans Vol 1 TPB!

Images from, http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/scale_large/8/84205/2031889-1937032_dc_comics_new_teen_titans_1.jpg, http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-eFz6Q8hPh1Y/VCZOC-0j5iI/AAAAAAAAEKI/6TkeK0OeQIw/s1600/TeenTitansLogo3.png, http://ifanboy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/DC-Comics-Presents-26-1980.jpg, http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080422221824/marvel_dc/images/b/b8/New_Teen_Titans_Vol_1_2.jpg,

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