Sunday, October 24, 2004

Gods' Gifts To Women: New Teen Titans #s 10-12

The plot of New Teen Titans #10 is straightforward, dealing with Deathstroke's theft of the Promethium plans, but it takes a little bit to get going.

Following an introductory scene with Deathstroke, his assistant Wintergreen, and a visiting scientist ("Dr. Benson Honeywell," har har), we skip ahead "several days" to the theft of a nuclear weapon from an aircraft carrier. Abruptly ("before you start asking too many questions," the narration says), it's page 4 and we're back with Changeling, on the trail of the Promethium documents. Cyborg's question about a family portrait leads Gar to recall his origin and early days with the Doom Patrol.

It's a bit of DC history which, for the most part, John Byrne has just erased. Gar Logan's parents were biologists, and while exploring Africa, Gar contracted a rare disease called Sakutia. Instead of killing him, it colored him green and gave him the power to turn into any animal (which would also be green -- and in the early days, have a shock of green human hair. Perez since lost the green human hair bit, but restored it for the flashbacks in this issue). At age 10, his parents died in an accident. At age 11, the DP's Niles Caulder found Gar. Ultimately, the DP's Rita "Elasti-Girl" Farr married Steve "Mento" Dayton, and they adopted Gar.

However, the Brotherhood of Evil took over the small town of Codsville, ME (population 14) and threatened to destroy it unless the DP surrendered themselves. The Brotherhood killed the Doom Patrol (except for Gar and Dayton, who weren't there), but the town was saved. As it turned out, Cliff "Robotman" Steele did survive, and Steve Dayton's now out looking for the rest of the Patrol.

Following a message from Cliff -- whose brain is in a robot body, but you knew that already -- Gar explains to Vic that he hadn't talked with Cliff in a while because he didn't want to be reminded about the DP's death. However, his friendship with Vic inspired him to get back in touch with Cliff. I know I keep mentioning the nuances and subtleties of Cyborg's character, but here's another example of the organic ways in which these characters are becoming intertwined. They have gone beyond superficial sniping and smart-aleckry (if that's a word) and are becoming real friends.

Back to the plot. Over a couple of transitory pages, Sarah Simms is kidnapped and terrorists (including "Boris Battinov," ho ho) slip silently into America.

Next is an extended fight between Starfire and Deathstroke, which Deathstroke wins. Starfire alludes to not having to hold back against Deathstroke, but when he pulls the old "drop a building on some bystanders" routine, she stays behind to save the innocents and lets him escape. A couple of pages later, during the debriefing at Titans' Tower, we learn that Deathstroke planted a hidden speaker on Starfire. He reveals that he's kidnapped Sarah and the Titans can save her by surrendering themselves to him at the Grand Canyon. There he plans to demonstrate the power of Promethium on the Titans.

Cyborg explodes with rage, but Raven calms him. Gar is fired up too, seeing this as just like what happened to the Doom Patrol.

"Eighteen hours" later, the Titans' T-Jet lands at the Grand Canyon. The hostage exchange is made, and Deathstroke strolls into a cavernous auditorium (which I didn't know the Grand Canyon had, but I've never been there) to conduct the auction. As the assembled nogoodniks watch, a bomber drops the warhead on the unconscious Titans. Deathstroke notes that their deaths will satisfy his contract with The H.I.V.E. Once the smoke clears (literally), Deathstroke opens the bidding, but the H.I.V.E. representatives electrocute everybody else and offer him their accumulated gold so that the H.I.V.E. won't have to pay anything. Deathstroke shoots the two H.I.V.E.'rs instead.

Just then, the Titans appear. Since Deathstroke asks, Robin explains how they defused the warhead (the stolen nuke from the aircraft carrier) and faked the explosion. Once Robin figured out that the plans were for something which hadn't yet been perfected, he deduced that Deathstroke's men stole the nuke from the carrier. Speaking of said men, Deathstroke orders his hired army to attack the Titans.

Perez doesn't spend much time on the Bond-film-like fight between mercenaries and Titans, focusing instead on Changeling's lone pursuit of Deathstroke. While the Titans mop up the 500 mercenaries, Deathstroke kills Changeling. To Be Continued....

Issue #11 finds the T-Jet streaking into the Bermuda Triangle, location of Paradise Island. There the female Titans (males can't set foot on the island without robbing the Amazons of their powers and immortality) will watch as Changeling is healed with the magical Purple Ray. (He won't set foot on the island, because he'll be on a hospital bed.) We say farewell to the guys, headed for Africa on the trail of Robotman.

Changeling's comatose body (he was put in suspended animation) is Purple Ray-ed, but the beam's solar collectors are mysteriously sapped. Wonder Girl flies off to investigate. She discovers that the Greek Titan Hyperion, re-energizing himself with the sun's rays, is the cause. Hyperion and his fellow Titans have been imprisoned in Tartarus, underneath Paradise Island, since their children the Greek Gods overthrew them lo, those millennia ago. Wonder Girl tries to stop him, but nothing doing. He causes her to fall in love with him, and I have to say without any salacity that Perez draws orgiastic women pretty effectively. (As we'll see, Donna's seduction has deeper consequences.)

Raven ("Donna is in trouble") and Starfire ("Trouble? It looks to me like they're in love!") confront Hyperion and are rebuffed. Hyperion takes Donna into Tartarus, where they defend themselves against (and end up killing) the Old Titans' guards, three Cyclopes.

On the island, Queen Hippolyta, now in battle armor, rallies the Amazons. Underneath, Hyperion tells Donna the familiar children-kill-their-parents stories of Greek mythology. As the Old Titans took over from their parents, so the OTs' children, the Greek pantheon, imprisoned them. Thus, once again a couple of familiar themes return for this story: the parent/child conflict (inverted here, with Bad Children), and the Absent Relative. This issue's absent relative is Hyperion's wife Thia, seen ultimately in one of the first post-Perez storylines.

Honestly, the rest of the issue, and most of issue #12, is a big fight between the Old Titans (led by Cronus) and the Greek pantheon (assisted by the Amazons, Raven, and Starfire). I always dread reading these issues, because it's a lot of trying to keep up with who's fighting whom and which god is which. Despite Perez's distinctive designs and skill with action sequences, it's still a big jumble. (A quick note: Obviously this story was all undone by Perez's 1986 renovations to Wonder Woman. However, while he changed the Greek pantheon's look -- to make it clear these weren't the pre-Crisis gods -- he kept the Old Titans' designs the same.)

This is not to say I didn't discover something new in the reading. While I knew that Marv Wolfman was an admitted Star Trek fan, I never quite put together that issues #11 and 12 were basically "Who Mourns For Adonais?" until now. In that episode, the Greek god Apollo traps the Enterprise and says he'll give the crew all kinds of luxurious living if they worship him. He is especially smitten with the beautiful Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas, and magicks up a fancy dress for her. Hyperion does the same things with Donna, right down to the new dress. The goddess Athena even gets a speech right out of the James T. Kirk repertoire:

Yes, there would be peace and tranquility, but mankind's will would be destroyed. Your new golden age would bring beauty, but at what cost? The answer, Cronus -- is man's freedom! They have a divine right to be free, not to bend to your thinking, Titan. If they want peace, that is their right. If they are foolish enough to demand blood, that too should be theirs to decide.

Starfire also gets in on the oratorical action, encouraging the Titans to "[f]ight to make [Tartarus] the paradise you seek" like it was Ceti Alpha VI. The whole thing ends up with everyone going back to their appropriate stations in life, and the parents acknowledging that their children must supplant them.

Donna is at the center of all this, naturally, and she gets a couple of good moments which help redeem these issues. She refuses to fight Queen Hippolyta, her adopted mother, thereby setting her apart from the other Bad Parent storylines; and when she returns home, she runs to the arms of Terry Long. That last bit helped ground the larger storyline in the book's character-driven roots. In other words, the past couple of issues weren't an outgrowth of subplots, but they helped reinforce those subplots. When the book returned to the guys, on the trail of Robotman, the subplots likewise came back in force.

Next: The Brotherhood of Evil!

2 comments:

Scott said...

Teen Titans #10 was the first Teen Titans I bought and read (though admittedly if was for the free Captain Carrot preview). I was hooked after that. It still ranks as one of my favorite covers: the Titans at the center of a giant bulls-eye nervously looking up.

Tom Bondurant said...

That is a cool cover. ("The TERMINATOR is back -- and BOY is he MAD!") Simple and to the point.