The New Teen Titans Volume 5
Reprints The New Teen Titans V1 #28-34, Annual 2
Written by Marv Wolfman & George Perez
Art by George Perez
Everything is boiling over for the Titans. It starts with the arrival of Terra, an earth shaping teen girl who is in some serious trouble. Changeling feels empathy for her and offers and helping hand to get the girl out of from under the thumb of some nasty people. The fallout from the Titans’ Zandia trip hits home when the Brotherhood of Evil arrives in New York seeking revenge. Robin is feeling growing pains as Batman takes on a new ward, Jason Todd. Wally West discovers that every time he uses his powers as Kid Flash, he’s in profound pain. Cyborg’s love interest Sarah appears to be already taken which reinforces his feelings of being a freak. Raven is struggling against growing darkness inside her. All-in-all there are clouds forming overhead which point towards darker days for these youthful heroes.
Reflecting you can see how much iconography was being established by Wolfman & Perez at this time, and the comics often read like post-Crisis books in terms of characterization. They were following a more Marvel comics, soap-operatic formula and trying to tie together elements they created. The Brotherhood of Evil is at odds with the Church of Blood, both enemies of the Titans. Terra’s insidious reveal near the end of the collection feels very much like a Marvel character turn. Even Robin’s identity crisis, teaming up with Adrian Chase to “take the law into their hands” rings of something you might see in a particularly angsty Spider-Man arc. These are only eight issues, but the plot density is astounding. If we compare this to the modern Titans title by Dan Abnett, the plot moves at a snail’s pace with six issues to cover what happens in two or three here. It’s not Abnett’s fault as this has become the industry standard since the late 1990s. The decompressed stories don’t offer more character development or plot complexity just a lot of redundant content and running in place.
I was unaware of how often Frances Kane aka Magenta appeared during this run. I had only ever read her first appearance and subsequent return in Mark Waid’s run on The Flash. She and Wally West had a very prolific relationship more off the page than in Titans, but Wolfman and Perez do a good job making it feel developed. I was reminded of background romances like Angel & Trish Tilby or Nightcrawler & Amanda Sefton in the X-books. These relationships give flavor to the world and make you feel like each issue is a glimpse into a living world that goes on between releases. You have Speedy showing up and the debut of Cheshire which will lead to a significant turning point in his life. Aqualad stops by when villain Trident turns up dead.
Dick Grayson aka Robin probably has the most interesting character arc in this volume than any of the other Titans. I haven’t seen a story about Grayson this compelling in a while (I still have Tom King’s Grayson to catch up on). For as static as the DC Universe was at this point, there is so much dynamism, and darkness in the choices Grayson makes, and I almost felt this arc was a little too rushed. If something had to be a little more decompressed I’d choose our hero’s side missions with Adrian Chase and focuses more on the internal conflict Grayson was feeling. I think playing him off his teammates could have been interesting, really concentrate on Grayson hiding these violent outbursts as his sense of self crumbles. This story also made me want to pick up Marv Wolfman’s Vigilante spin-off because Adrian Chase is an interesting twist on The Punisher archetype.
More than anything, Volume 5 is all about planting the seeds of change. Terra joining the team will eventually have huge ramifications on the entire history of the Titans. Robin and Wally are both headed down paths of transformation, both of which Wolfman and Perez will oversee in the Titans and book and elsewhere. Deathstroke gets a little more development, and we are guaranteed that he is going to be a thorn in the side of the heroes for a long time to come. Overall, we’re entering what many consider to be the golden age of the Teen Titans and it’ll be exciting to see what happens next.