The New Teen Titans Volume 3
Written by Marv Wolfman & George Perez
Art by George Perez, Romeo Tanghal, Dick Giordano, Brett Breeding, and Pablo Marcos
Collects The New Teen Titans V1 #17 – 20 & Tales of the New Teen Titans V1 #1-4
This third entry into the classic New Teen Titans series is a bit of pause from the non-stop story arcs of the previous two. Here we have four standalone stories and a mini-series that has the Titans on vacation with four members recounting stories of their early days including origins. The first story is an introduction of the tragic superheroine Magenta and serves as a Kid Flash spotlight. The second story is the return of the Silver Age Starfire, a Soviet superhero. The third tale brings Hawkman in for guest spot as Dr. Light breaks from prison after his encounter with the Titans back in Volume 1. The fourth story is a “Day in the Life” piece from the POV of Kid Flash as he writes a letter home to his parents.
If there was any throughline in issues 17-20, it was a definite focus on Kid Flash. He is the pivotal connection to Magenta, he has the central conflict with the Russian Starfire, and it’s his letter that frames issue 20. It is fascinating to go back and read Wally West Kid Flash stories outside the context of his career as the Flash. In 1985, Barry Allen, the previous Flash died and his sidekick Wally took up the mantle. The first Flash story I ever read was William Messner-Loebs story from around 1990 with Wally about five years into the role. So growing up Wally was the Flash to me, not Barry. He is definitely a character who has been through severe editorial changes, and this version is somewhat tabula rasa. It seems like Wolfman was creating his personality as it went with some takes that have changed considerably since.
In issue 18, “A Pretty Girl Is Like A – Maladi,” Wally and Russian Starfire have an almost immediate conflict. This is attributed to Wally’s personal politics and anti-Soviet sentiments. As he remarks to the rest of the Titans near the end of the tale:
“Maybe because I knew our politics were always different. Look, I don’t put you down for being liberals. Why attack me for being a Mid-Western conservative?”
I would never have taken Wally as a conservative from any of his Flash-era stories. His character was a pretty freewheeling ladies man with a very progressive bent. But I guess that speaks to the lack of character depth he came to the mantle of the Flash with. In reality, most of the sidekicks that populated that first era of the Teen Titans (Wonder Girl, Aqualad, Speedy) just attempted to copy the Batman-Robin formula. Not much work was put into making them individuals. Instead, they were only kid versions of their mentors.
There’s another weird take on Wally that is a little more subtle. In issue 17, “The Possessing of Frances Kane,” he attends a seance being held by his classmate Frances Kane’s mother. While sitting there, he has a thought bubble where he alludes to how this whole situation is ludicrous and “will help me in my abnormal psych class.” This is coming from the character who still has lingering feelings for Raven who he witnessed go to battle with her demon father Trigon across dimensions. He even seeks out Raven’s help when Mrs. Kane succeeds in summoning a violent force. You would think a character who has personally experienced a multitude of supernatural phenomena would be more open-minded about it.
The Tales of the New Teen Titans mini-series was a pleasant surprise. Other than Raven, the other newbies, Cyborg and Starfire had received very light origins, almost passing mentions. All three plus Changeling get the focus here, and most of the stories provide a lot more depth. The best looking issue is Cyborg’s with Brett Breeding’s inks on top of Perez’s pencils. There is such a substantial use of light and shadow, the whole issue has a lot of texture to it. I was reminded of how complementary Breeding’s inks are when paired with the right penciler, particularly his work with Dan Jurgens on the Superman titles in the 1990s. Raven’s issue felt like a recap of a lot of story from the first volume. Changeling’s story was relatively inconsequential. Starfire’s is likely the most important going forward as it set up the relationship between her and her sister Blackfire. That link will be the central conflict of the next volume and shape her character going forward.