Saturday, December 16, 2017

The New Teen Titans #1 (August 1984)

The Teen Titans. First appearing in The Brave and the Bold #54 (July 1964), the original group were essentially a Junior Justice League, comprised of the teenage sidekicks of adult superheroes: The Dick Grayson Robin, the Wally West Kid Flash, Donna Troy Wonder Girl, and the Garth Aqualad. The original Speedy, Roy Harper, is considered an original, event though technically, he isn't.

The incarnation we're going to focus on is considered iconic, THE Teen Titans roster. In 1980, Marv Wolfman and George Perez debuted this new roster, with a teaser in DC Comics Presents #26 (October 1980). Wolfman and Perez sought to create a more character-driven title than many other comics at the time, and it was a huge hit. I have heard that the book helped save DC Comics from bankruptcy. This incarnation has been revisited many times, being the basis of two Teen Titans animated series, and one of the new Titans, Cyborg, was revamped to be a founding member of the Justice League in the New 52 debacle.

This incarnation of the New Teen Titans would make their first proper appearance in, well, The New Teen Titans #1 (November 1980), so you may wonder "Wait, so why did they get another #1 issue four years later?" Well, there's a reason for that. You see, in the early 80s, DC decided to try out a new initiative called "hardcover/softcover". The New Teen Titans, alongside Legion of Super-Heroes and Batman and the Outsiders were the three titles that were used in this initiative. Basically, stories were first published in higher-quality paper that was released to comic book shops, and a year later, those stories would be reprinted in standard format that would go to newsstands. Good thing there was no Internet as we knew it at the time, the spoilers would have been flying.

And with all of that out of the way, let's take a look at The New Teen Titans #1!

The cover is pretty cool. I get vibes of the original NTT #1 cover in it with the character composition and positioning, but there's a nice twist to it with Raven taking up the background and Jericho cowering in the corner. Since she's really the focus of this storyline, it gives the idea that something big is brewing, and Raven is in the center of it. She dominates the cover despite being in the background, if that makes any sense. I love it.

"Shadows in the Dark!"
Writer: Marv Wolfman (alongside George Perez)
Artist: George Perez
Letterer: Todd Klein
Colorist: Adrienne Roy

Our story begins with the Titans looking for Jericho, who is hiding behind a tree. It's a training exercise, and the Titans (Starfire, Beast Boy, Nightwing, Cyborg, and the Donna Troy Wonder Girl) have to find him.

Beast Boy finds Jericho, who is able to make eye contact with him. When Jericho can make eye contact with someone, he can possess them. However, his form of possession is unique. When he possesses someone, the victim does remain conscious, just not in control of their bodies. This allows Beast Boy to warn Nightwing that Jericho's in control when he seemingly attacks him. Starfire is able to get the possessed Beast Boy to back off with a starbolt.

Cyborg and Wonder Girl work together to trap Jericho, using a blast of white noise and her lasso. Jericho jumps from Beast Boy to Starfire. The possessed alien princess blasts Wonder Girl and Beast Boy, then takes to the air.

Cyborg grumbled that Jericho is able to make the others look like such a joke, that the Campfire Girls could beat them up. In a small funny moment, Donna Troy asweres Dick's inquiry if everyone is alright with saying that her rear is black-and-blue, and the ever-flirtatious Beast Boy asks if he can rub in the ointment. Nightwing reminds the other Titans that they can't make eye contact with Jericho. Cyborg volunteers to take on the Jericho-possessed Starfire.

Starfire tries to blast the ex-athlete, but he's able to avoid her starbolt and blast her with some electricity from his finger. Jericho tries to leap to Cyborg's body, but finds...a complication.

Cyborg's human eye is closed, and Jericho's powers don't allow him to possess anything robotic. Cyborg smacks Jericho, and Nightwing is able to tackle the mute metahuman, covering his eyes. Donna binds them up with her lasso. Nightwing considers it a win for the team. Another member of the team shows up.

Raven wants some help. Badly. However, Jericho doesn't hear her and thinks her arrival is part of the training exercise. He tries to possess her, but it doesn't end well. Raven teleports away, leaving Jericho dazed.

The other Titans run over to check on him. Jericho freaks out and starts signing rapidly. Yeah, Jericho is a rather unique character in comics. He cannot speak, so he uses sign language. He's one of the only characters in comics that I know of that uses sign language. He explains he felt a great evil inside of Raven, and wonders why no one tried to help her. Nightwing explains that the others tried, but she always pulled away...and Starfire points out that perhaps they haven't tried hard enough to help her.

The Titans Tower's internal computer systems have found Raven in her room, but she isn't responding to her summons. Donna Troy surmises that perhaps the reason why Raven's pulled away from the others is that she doesn't know how to talk to the others about her issues. Dick decides that the group has to help her, whether she wants it or not. Kory reminds him that if they screw up, it will unleash the demon Trigon, who the Titans have faced in the past.

Jericho offers to speak to her, and Donna convinces Dick to let him, as Raven seemed more comfortable around him. As he leaves, Cyborg notes that he got a brief look at Raven's face...and it had changed.

Jericho goes over to Raven's room. Raven herself is shrouded in darkness, the only light in the room coming from a single candle. Despite this light, Raven's face is still shrouded.

Something bad is going to happen, and Raven knows she can't stop it. This scene really shows her powerlessness to stop it. She is scared, and she fears no one can help her. A dark destiny is ahead for her, and she must play it out. Despite this, the half-demon appears to the Titans. She tells them that she is leaving the Titans tomorrow. The others are shocked, and plead with her to let them help her. Raven refuses, saying that there are "forces churning within her".

The scene then switches to Tamaran, Starfire's homeworld. Her parents, the King and Queen of the world, announce that thanks to the events of the Omega Men's book, Tamaran is now a free world. As such, they have sent a ship to Earth. The reason? Starfire can finally come home.

That night, in Titans Tower, Beast Boy sees Cyborg looking at some old photos of Raven. And he discovers something shocking.

Page 14, panels 4-6

Raven's facial features were changing, and it wasn't just because she was growing up. Her face appeared to be getting more...crone-like, wicked. Like something dark was slowly overcoming her. This sequence is really cool. You see, Marv Wolfman had noticed how George Perez's artwork had evolved and decided to use that as a plot point. It's a really clever idea, and it's used to great effect here, really helping reinforce the idea that Raven has changed.

In Jericho's room, the young metahuman is trying to relax by playing some "Classical Gas" by Mason Williams on his guitar, but his thoughts fly to Raven. He worries about her being alone against whatever demons are haunting her, and decides to go to her room. Knowing she needs help, Joseph Wilson tries to help her the only way he knows how: by using his metahuman power to enter her body. And what he a horrorshow, a mental Grand Guignol.

Man, I bet every horror director on Earth would have killed just to be able to film a movie in Raven's brain. I mean, look at this! Stalagmites made from the skulls of some bizarre creature, and spires made of twisted screaming bodies. Lightning is crashing, and thunder is roaring. Welcome to Raven's mind, Joe Wilson. Welcome to Hell.

In Raven's body, Jericho pushes ahead, wanting to find out why Raven is so anguished and scared. A pair of hands grab at him from the ground of corpses. The hands belong to Arella, Raven's mother. She looks half-dessicated. Zombie!Arella screams that she sacrificed herself for Raven, and she needs to run...but then recognizes Jericho in Raven's body. A voice blasts away Raven's "body", and grants Jericho a view ofthe source.

Yup, Trigon the Terrible himself! He's back, and he wants the world under his red-skinned grip. He tortures Jericho, but Raven is able to save him. Raven's scream echoes throughout the Tower, waking up the other Titans.

The panel there with Dick Grayson and Starfire in bed together, from what I understand, did create some controversy at the time. It was rather unusual for characters in mainstream comics to be depicted in a manner that clearly indicated they were in a sexual relationship, despite the fact that the comic did establish in earlier issues that Dick and Star were an item. Interesting how things change, huh?

Anyway, the Titans find Jericho sprawled out on the bed and Raven missing. The mute metahuman freaks out and signs "Father" over and over again. Dick starts to admonish Joey for entering Raven's mind, but Cyborg points out that Jericho was trying to help...which was more than what the other Titans were doing. Beast Boy surmises that Trigon may already have Raven under his power...and the Titans nearly died the last time he fought them.

Evil laughter erupts throughout the Tower, from everywhere at once. Starfire recognizes the laughter. It's Trigon, mocking the Titans. The story ends with Beast Boy joking about wondering how he was going to spend his summer vacation.

This comics is awesome. It's creepy, kooky, and a great way to set up what could be considered the greatest Teen Titans storyline ever. George Perez shows why he is a GOD among comic book artists with this issue. His depiction of the growing Trigon hell inside of Raven's soul is a thing to behold. Really sells the evil that is Trigon. The training exercise in the beginning brings some humor to the issues, and helps show the characters a bit, like Dick's leadership skills, and Beast Boy's lecherousness. It's a well-written issue that hints at the horrors ahead. The Terror of Trigon is a great story, and I highly recommend it.

Next time, we join the Squadron Supreme as their mini-series, and their Utopia, draws to an end...

No comments:

Post a Comment