The New Teen Titans Volume 9
Reprints The New Teen Titans (2nd series) #1-9
Written by Marv Wolfman
Art by George Perez, Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez, Romeo Tanghal, and Dan Jurgens
After a prolonged absence, Raven returns, but this time possessed by her dark father, Trigon. Before the Titans can truly react, Trigon has transformed New York City into a hellish kingdom for himself. To stop the mad demonic being and bring Raven back into her right mind it will take the return of Kid Flash and Lilith. Even with the defeat of Trigon the Titans still face peril when Lilith is revealed to have origins that tie her to the Titans of Myth. The team is led on an adventure into the vast, mythic realms where they will find a new member for the team and bring an era of this comic series to a close.
This is the last big hurrah of the Wolfman/Perez Titans collaboration. In 1985 they would partner on Crisis on Infinite Earths, but this would be the final great Titans tale of their tenure (Perez would return for a brief run about four years later, but it wasn’t the same). And boy, does it show! The artwork on five-part Trigon story is stunning, some of the best of Perez’s career. Part of the jump in quality is due to a shift in individual books that DC Comics was rolling out at the time. In the mid-80s they decided to market some of their books as “direct market,” meaning they wouldn’t be sold on newsstands but in specialty stores like hobby shops and burgeoning comic book shop. These books had a higher cost per issue, but the paper and printing quality were increased to justify this. These issues of Titans were reprinted the following month in the pages of Tales of the Teen Titans on regular newsprint and could be found in your local grocery store. This was a great way to make sure everyone still got their Titans book, and Batman and the Outsiders did a similar double print method, but for other series like Omega Men they only got sold in the direct market. It should come as no surprise that books which didn’t have a way to get in the hands of the masses via commonly visited stores and shops saw lower sales numbers and thus were canceled more quickly.
One of the first things I noticed about these issues of the Titans is the lack of a gutter around the pages, the image bleeds right to the edge, and it gives a sense of grandeur. This is the big-budget Titans fans were excited to get finally. The coloring is bolder, and the inking is sharp. It also feels like Perez is playing around with his layouts a little more, hence the splash page opener without a gutter. The scope of everything happening, and there is a lot, had to have been so exciting back in 1984 when these comics debuted. In the opening issues, we get a grand sweep, establishing the team (Nightwing having just debuted a month before), Raven’s existential crisis and her relationship with Jericho, Tamaran’s mission to retrieve Starfire from Earth, and the looming threat of Trigon. Wolfman and Perez do a great job setting the table and then deliver an excellent, engrossing story that could only have happened after years of building and fleshing out these characters.
After issue 5, Perez is gone, and we get fill-in pencils from Dan Jurgens, who would go on to helm the Superman title in the 1990s and author the infamous death of that character. As someone who consumed a LOT of Jurgens’ Superman as a kid, I would never have recognized this art as his. Jurgens is finding his style, and you can see the lack of maturity in the stiffness of the characters. I can see shades of Perez and maybe a little Carmine Infantino in there.
Then Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez would take up pencils on the book for the story centered around Lilith. This whole story fell very flat for me because it turns the Titans into passive observers. Lilith is a member of the 1960s iteration of the team who appears to have been brought on to fill the mystic/magic spot Raven held until her subplot about Trigon took over. Lilith doesn’t have the character development for me to care about her and when the story is all about the revelation of who she is it feels like a cheap play on the Wonder Girl identity dilemma. Except, I enjoy reading Wonder Girl stories and have no investment in Lilith. It becomes clear that Wolfman is having trouble getting out of the rut of the world he and Perez built. The HIVE/Deathstroke arc came to its logical conclusion, Trigon was dealt with, and now we have returned to the Titans of Myth content. This is where you continue to see the connection between the Titans and X-Men over at Marvel. Chris Claremont, while not hitting nearly creative cliff as Wolfman did, was also not writing what are the most significant issues of Uncanny X-Men. Both writers had a habit of weaving out lots of subplots for an extended period and not always closing up them. What I can say in favor of Claremont is that he never sidelined his core team to focus on characters that weren’t going to stick around in some fashion.
There’s one more volume to go in this marathon of The New Teen Titans, and it won’t get much better. In the next review, Wolfman will be working multiple books including Crisis, and we’ll see how they affected his output on this main title.