New Teen Titans Omnibus Volume 4 (2019)
Reprints New Teen Titans V2 #10-31, Annuals #1,2, Omega Men #34
Written by Marv Wolfman
Art by Eduardo Barretto, Romeo Tanghal, and John Byrne
In the same way, I want to speed up my read-through of Wonder Woman, I am doing the same with Marv Wolfman’s New Teen Titans. The first half of this omnibus was already reviewed when I read New Teen Titans Volume 10, so I will be skipping over talking about those issues and getting to the new stuff. Like Wonder Woman and Mark Waid’s The Flash, I started reading this run in 2017 and don’t want to wait too long to get through the issues. The sad thing about Wolfman’s Titans compared to Perez’s Wonder Woman, or Waid’s Flash is that Wolfman’s Titans have entered a woeful period.
The first thing you notice about New Teen Titans #16 is that the team has completely fallen apart. Nightwing, Jericho, and Starfire are on her homeworld of Tamaran dealing with Blackfire and an arranged marriage. Cyborg & Changeling are on the hunt for Gar Logan’s adopted dad, Mento, who has become a crazed super-villain. Raven is completely missing in action, and Donna Troy seems to be the only one left in Titans Tower. Throughout Wolfman’s run, you can’t help but notice the similarities and differences between it and Claremont’s X-Men.
The interpersonal soap opera was always handled better by Claremont, and Wolfman is really trying his best. The Tamaranean subplot feels a bit like the Lilandra/Deathbird conflict in X-Men but never feeling entirely as organic. There’s a desperation to make Nightwing and Starfire a parallel to Cyclops & Jean Grey, and that is one element that I think Wolfman will ultimately end up succeeding in, just not in these particular issues. Dick Grayson reads as a moody and irrational brat when he sees Starfire forcibly being married to a prince who will unite kingdoms on the planet. He doesn’t feel sympathetic in the least, but by the end of the collection, this ends up feeling like plot convenience to have Grayson not focused and ending up in the clutches of Brother Blood.
The Cyborg & Changeling story feels unfocused and not planned out well. Mento is just a flat villain until halfway through when Wolfman has the idea to make Mento decide he wants to mimic The Chief and form his own twisted Doom Patrol. That concept is fantastic and feels very much in the vein of the weirdness of Doom Patrol. The resulting group, called The Hybrid as absolutely awful, from character design to characterization. They are totally one-dimensional, and their designs are overly complicated and don’t really evoke the members of Doom Patrol. The storyline is dropped when it becomes crucial for the Brother Blood arc to take over the title. I assume Mento will be revisited because I know he regains his sanity at some point.
One of the most historically important things about these issues is that they feature Wally West’s only appearances between him becoming The Flash in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths and his own title debuting post-Legends. I never really thought of West as The Flash as a member of the Teen Titans, but these episodes show that’s exactly what he was for about half a year. I wonder what fans’ reactions were to seeing this new Flash and how big a deal it was to follow him in the wake of his debut. Wolfman does provide a conclusion to the long-running attraction between West and Raven when she reappears under Brother Blood’s thrall.
Donna Troy forms a temporary group of Titans while she’s the only one left. The roster is composed of The Flash, Hawk, Speedy, Aqualad, and Jason Todd (Robin). There are some really interesting points of note. First, this is Hawk’s first appearance since his brother Dove was killed in Crisis, and his subsequent mental breakdown is part of the story. It doesn’t get resolved in any manner, but it is clear he’s closer to being a Punisher type character than being a hero. Jason Todd hasn’t been rebooted by Jim Starlin yet, so he’s still a bland, plucky Dick Grayson clone. Speedy has one of his most significant developments when he crosses paths with the assassin and his former lover Cheshire. He learns that Cheshire gave birth to his child, Lian, and vows that he will never see her. This development with Speedy becoming a dad would shape him for years to come, and the tone-deaf conclusion of this long arc by James Robinson in the infamous Cry of Justice mini-series stings even harder when you see the roots of how it all began.
This collection does nothing to get me excited about the Titans as a group, unlike earlier volumes when Wolfman had Perez on board as a co-writer. Eduardo Barretto’s art is way too inconsistent, with some pages looking perfect and others falling into totally bland almost amateurish. I stand by the idea that Perez was the magic ingredient that made Titans great. I also think Wolfman has a limited number of plots to pull from and doesn’t know how to progress what he’s set up in new, surprising ways. Being seventy issues deep, I am starting to see so many characters running in place without real advancement. Looking back and thinking about Changeling’s arc with Terra and Raven’s fantastic first-year development, these issues feel lifeless.