Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I, Rek, have done a comic review and I thought, since it’s 80s week, that I would express my love for this era of comics with one of my favorite runs of all time. If you couldn’t read the title, it is of course Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s The New Teen Titans (1980). Of course, covering a million amazing stories is super difficult and I chose to just stick with the first volume for this review. You can find it on Amazon for $19.99 as a paperback.
Let’s get on with the review, shall we!
I just realized that this isn’t much of a review. Perhaps I should have called it a “Rek’s Rant” or something else because I am very biased on this series. For a quick explanation as to why…
Young Rek goes off on an adventure to help his grandmother grab a few things from his Uncle’s house and discovers a collection of comic books. On the wall is a colorful volume of the New Teen Titans. (Not this one. I can’t quite remember which one, but I remember the cover was similar to Volume 10 and I think Deathstroke killed Jericho or something) Anyways, I ‘borrowed’ the book for some time and that was my first introduction to comic books and the REAL Titans.
End Story Time.
It is one of the greatest runs in the history of comics because it has left such a mark on DC comics history and is so loved by fans today. I felt like it deserved some limelight during SeppinRek’s 80s week.
It is impossible to sum up this run in a single post let alone the first five volumes. I only hope that I will be able to do justice in discussing this first volume because there is so much going on across every issue that Wolfman and Perez string you along to keep readers involved.
The first volume of the New Teen Titans revitalizes the group created by writer Bob Haney and artist Bruno Premiani in 1964 and ages them up into DC’s Bronze Age. Minus Roy and Garth who only pop up as extras in later stories…
With that said, this volume introduces this new lineup in DC Comics Presents #26 by throwing readers right into the action with the introduction of Raven who manipulates the team into bringing them together to stop a greater evil revealed later to be Trigon.
Robin, Wonder Girl, and Kid Flash meet Cyborg, Changeling, and Raven who uses her empathic abilities to bring their team together. As a way to reintroduce the team, this sort of becomes the standard for the handful of future Titans teams. Three from the original team, Changeling (Beast Boy) who had left Doom Patrol to become a television star, and then two or three new characters. In this case, Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire. This keeps the nostalgia of that sidekick team from the past while also introducing new characters for writers to play with and interact with these pre-established characters. It creates this refreshing pull back into the title.
The reason I am mentioning this is because a lot of future Titans writers try this same method to minimal success. The reason being the chemistry between these characters which is just visible in Wolfman’s writing and Perez’s art.
The lineup is excellent and each character has their own problems, struggles, or just a situation in their life that requires them to reach out and talk to the other members of their team. Robin is the first member reintroduced and his situation in life is ebbing on a moment of massive change as we see Dick Grayson searching out his own identity and place outside of Gotham. There is this major theme across all of the Titans characters in which we see them coming-of-age or on the brink of change. Which is what makes this story amazing and fitting for this team that has only been associated with sidekicks. Later in this volume, Dick even butts heads with Batman when the Caped Crusader and the Justice League of America jump into an ongoing situation with the Titans helping Raven. You can see how Dick is on track to becoming Nightwing and, more importantly, how his stubbornness and training situates him in the leader position of the group. One could argue that it mirrors Batman’s controlling nature, especially when the Justice League unravels. However, Dick doesn’t lead the team much in this first volume as he doesn’t feel quite ready. That will change when he puts on the Nightwing persona after meeting Deathstroke and Vigilante (Two characters similarly wanting to hand out their own justice and oppose the Batman).
Wonder Girl, Donna Troy, also plays a special role in the formation of this team since her character is, arguably, the heart of every Titans group. There is a level of comfort for the older members when they see Donna because she is such a trustworthy person in the DC Universe at this point. She is the glue to the team and she’s always been the one who listens to every member’s issues while also dealing with her own life outside of the Titans as a photographer in a relationship with a history professor, Terry Long…. I don’t really care for Terry so much and their dynamic is a bit bizarre to read in the present day. Yet, there is no question that she is the person who keeps the team together.
This is a bit of short lived one, but Kid Flash was originally with the New Teen Titans. Wally West has no trouble following his friends, Donna and Dick, into this adventure. Yet, again a weird device that is explained later, he has been manipulated by Raven into having false feelings for her as to help solidify his assistance in stopping Trigon from destroying Earth… It makes sense that Wally left soon after that was revealed. That and Wally’s heart condition.
Cyborg was basically George Perez’s pet project and creates for some of the best scenes in this comic series. A young African American man at odds with world and his own appearance. His struggle is so deep in the writing and the art that it is so resonant and a painful cry for help. And then he finds a kind of solace with this team, becoming a hero and even a symbol to others. Honestly, Vic’s character is a reason alone to read this run!
On the other side, Starfire was more of a Marv Wolfman creation with the warrior princess from another planet swooping in after being sent into slavery and then saved by the Titans group in their first named issue. Kory is disconnected from the group’s chatter for an issue and a half and only by kissing Robin (Yes, that was how it worked. Don’t question it) was she able to gain the insight to human dialect. This instantly situates the two closer together and their relationship pulls Robin away from Batman and Kory away from Tamaran. She is sort of this outsider with a care-free attitude and who doesn’t mind taking lives to protect her friends and this almost ditzy character type is really useful in pushing characters together.
Gar, Changeling, was an intriguing choice to bring into the team dynamic. He had previous run-ins with the Titans as a part of the Doom Patrol and had since turned into a kind of professional actor with teenage angst and a stepfather he hated. It took a while for me to warm up to Changeling since his main role for a while was to bring some humor to the intense dialogue and action in the book. Yet, I do believe his story develops more around Judas Contract and the moments where his Stepfather, Mento, loses control. There is this excellent issue after Judas Contract where he goes to a diner and meets Deathstroke and the two just sit there drinking coffee together and mourn Tara’s death.
I’ll come back to this dynamic later
Lastly, there is the introduction of Raven, Rachel Roth, who adds a dramatic flare and mystery to this story as certain Titans are intent on helping her and the others try to figure out what her game is. There is a lot going on with Raven in these first few volumes. She is found out to be manipulating the emotions of the team and loses their trust for a time. Her father is slowly corrupting her morally and physically as her character’s appearance also evolves across the narrative. There is also this strange relationship between her and Wally that she wants to be real to feel more connected to the team, but is absolutely shattered. Largely her role in this story is to get the Titans to defeat or trap her father or get the heroes who can do it.
I will also come back to this later
As you can see, these characters have a lot going on in their own time while also being metaphorically tied at the waist to each other in the way that they find peace and safety in their own company. The lineup of characters each have their own stories and histories that distinguish them, but this team has a way of making them friends of each other and solidify themselves as a team more than some superhero teams before them. Honestly, the team works spectacularly together and this brings me back to the topic of what makes them stand out on the page.
Yes, the action and teamwork makes for exciting fights against the Fearsome Five or Doctor Light or whoever else. But it’s the moments in between the action that really matter. The comic series highlights the team’s downtime, whether they relax by Gar Logan’s pool on a hot summer day or when Vic goes off to help some of Detroit’s handicapped children play baseball or football. In these scenes, the reader sees these characters as real people and, more importantly, young adults (Gar’s technically still a teenager I believe) sort of drifting around while they discover who they want to be in life. Vic’s struggle with his appearance, Dick’s breaking free from Batman’s shadow and moral questions of right and wrong, even Raven’s battle with her father’s corruption all take priority even in these small moments where they just hang out as friends. It’s not in this volume, but I remember an issue where the team just goes camping for the hell of it. Of course, I think it gets ruined by a supervillain, perhaps Deathstroke the Terminator, but it still reminds us how human they are and the reader is able to connect to them.
I’m going to briefly mention the Day in the Lives issue, but it is one of the best in this volume and perhaps even the series. You’ve got Kory getting a job as a model at Donna’s workplace, The Silver Fox Advertising Agency. Raven attempting to be a hero even though leaving her corporeal form makes her vulnerable to Trigon’s corruption. Gar dealing with his stepfather’s absence from Dayton Industries and Vic helping out his community and Wally having dinner with his parents… There is so much going on in this one issue demonstrating their individual struggles while also emphasizing why they need each other and how this team is built on friendship instead of Raven’s manipulation.
I’d like to quickly move on to the structure of this series because I do believe that it is significant to discuss in this review. There are so many avenues opened up to Wolfman and Perez in this first volume that, as an author, I find incredibly creative. Raven is one of the first characters who leads us into more of the mystical side of DC or a kind of cosmic horror in the ways of Trigon and Temple Azaroth. Starfire sets up a intergalactic adventure into Tamaran, a planet with an ongoing civil war and almost fantasy-lite kingdom issues. You’ve got Hive and Vic, Robin’s connection to the Batman, Donna Troy and Themyscira or the Temple of Gods, and even Gar with the remains of the Doom Patrol! There are so many different directions and stories to explore that it verges on overwhelming. Yet, it flows beautifully on the page and each threat stays ready in the back of the reader’s mind as they help each other with their moral dilemmas.
The art in this volume is also amazing with probably the most memorable design of the Teen Titans cast. As Wolfman once stated, “to say his designs were absolutely spot-on perfect would be to diminish his accomplishment.” They’re all individual, expressive, colorful, and exactly how I picture the Titans whenever I think of the team.
I know that this is less of a review and more of my ranting at a book club as to why everyone should read The New Teen Titans. It’s 80s week on SeppinRek and I knew that I wanted to do something special and write about a comic that was important to me. The New Teen Titans was my first introduction to comics and it has always had a special place in my heart because I grew up with the characters. They weren’t like Superman or Batman fighting criminals and saving the world ten times over. They were just some teenagers that had grown up together and were struggling finding their voice and identity. This is the heart of the series and why I love reading this run. Also why Nightwing and Deathstroke are on my list of top ten favorite characters as well. That’s besides the point. Wolfman and Perez just created this tightly knit team of friends and then focused on creating a superhero comic.
(How good is the story? Does it stand up to others?)
(Does it tell the story? Does it work well with the character?)
(Does this story need to be told? Is it helping the Character?)
(Is the character represented well? Does the writer understand the character?)
Total: 19.6 / 20
Until next time…