Saturday, March 17, 2018

Teen Titans #28

Legacy Part Two: Impure Thoughts

Guest Writer Gail Simone
Guest Artist Rob Liefeld
Guest Colorist Matt Yackey
Letters Comicraft
Assistant Editor Jeanine Schaefer
Editor Joan Hilty

Our cover is another ugly example of Rob Liefeld's work. Kid Flash and Wonder Girl have the exact same expression on their face, and Robin, Hawk, Dove and Cyborg all share another expression. Everyone's gloves are ridiculously big, nobody really has a neck to speak of, and all feet are carefully hidden. And what's going on with Hawk's butt? It's like her body has been completely snapped in half. Not to mention Kestrel's elbow somehow sliding right through her nonexistent neck. The more I look at it, the worse it gets.

Our story picks up with Kestrel somehow stealing Raven's soul self, followed by a hasty retreat to his inter-dimension hideout with his two female followers, Aja and Christina. Raven is in bad shape, and nobody quite knows how to help her. Kid Flash scours the area and finds a few fragments of Raven's soul self, but that doesn't seem to help. Beast Boy blames himself for cracking jokes instead of going after Kestrel, and I'm still wondering why Kid Flash didn't reach him last issue.

Robin melodramatically announces he'll go after Kestrel alone, but Cyborg says all the Titans will go after him. He tells Hawk and Dove they got Kestrel's target wrong, and he offers to let them fly back to Georgetown with the T-jet. But Hawk and Dove insist on staying and helping save Raven. So Cyborg has Wonder Girl put Raven in the T-jet's sick bay and tells her to call Starfire to look after her, while they journey to Kestrel's base through one of the portals he inadvertently left open at the tower.

We see Kestrel sitting on a throne, holding Raven's soul self with a special leash. Aja and Christina are at his side, little more than mindless slaves at this point. Kestrel is excited to use Raven's soul self to become a Lord of Chaos ... somehow ... but first he dispatches his girls to battle the Teen Titans.

Our heroes enter the portal and Kid Flash offers to scout ahead, but Cyborg tells him to stay with the group, saying this isn't Metropolis (which is an odd thing to say, since Cyborg should know that Bart doesn't and hasn't ever lived in Metropolis). Cyborg blasts down a door, which leads into a decaying whale's carcass. Beast Boy finds a mirror that shows him as a big fat guy, which is apparently his greatest fear, but it actually just makes him laugh. Dove is more worried about the disgusting black liquid they're standing in, and Christina calls it misery juice — distilled from the tears of innocents.

Everybody starts fighting Kestrel's girls. Aja has weird glowing globe-things that Kid Flash takes away from her, and that seems to negate her powers. In the chaos of the fight, Robin slips away to confront Kestrel personally. Kestrel wonders aloud how Robin's mentor will feel after burying another sidekick, and he conjures an image of Tim's father, Jack Drake. Jack says the last thing he remembers is being killed by a boomerang, and he urges Tim to go home, take off his costume and never wear it again. Robin can't tell if that's his real dad or not, but he decides to ignore him and attack Kestrel directly.

Wonder Girl starts beating Christina to a pulp, but Christina begs her to stop and offers to make a deal. Our heroes soon join Robin in the fight against Kestrel. Beast Boy turns into a Tyrannosaurus rex and makes a Jurassic joke. Hawk gets in a good hit, but Kestrel manages to slice off Cyborg's leg, knock down Wonder Girl and grab Bart's neck, threatening to blind him. Robin and Dove hit Kestrel with a combined attack, and Robin manages to strike a nerve cluster on Kestrel's neck that will prevent him from moving his arms for a day or two.

With Kestrel essentially paralyzed, Christina uses his own claws against him, slicing open his chest. Wonder Girl and Dove restrain the psychotic Christina, who laughs hysterically as Kestrel dies. Cyborg frees Raven's soul self and everybody goes home. Starfire tells them Raven's fine, but wants to be left alone. Bart makes her swear that Raven's going to be OK, and Starfire gives him her word. Cyborg invites Robin to another round of bowling, but Tim says he'll spend the rest of Father's Day with Bruce and Alfred. And our issue ends with Cassie checking on Raven. Even though she initially wanted to be alone, Raven does accept her company.

I'm so glad this is over. Besides the terrible art, this was a lackluster story that really didn't go anywhere. What was the point of bringing in Hawk and Dove if you're not going to have them do anything? They didn't even get to tell us anything about Kestrel. Cyborg and Robin inexplicably knew more about him than those two. And to make matters worse, this was a story dealing with the vague abstractness of Raven's soul self, other dimensions and Lords of Chaos. I don't like any of those things, and I didn't like anything about this two-part filler arc.

Next time, we'll start preparing for Infinite Crisis with Supergirl #2.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Teen Titans #27

Legacy Part One

Guest Writer Gail Simone
Guest Artist Rob Liefeld
Guest Colorist Matt Yackey
Letters Comicraft
Assistant Editor Jeanine Schaefer
Editor Joan Hilty

Our cover is by Rob Liefeld and I do not like it at all. Liefeld is one of my least favorite artists, and this cover is a good example why. Everything seems scrunched and strained and the proportions feel wonky. All the characters look like they're in pain, and I almost feel like I'm in pain by looking at them drawn this way. Normally I'd be upset that Kid Flash didn't make the cover, but in this case, I'm grateful to have Liefeld draw Bart as little as possible.

Our story begins with the Teen Titans heading out for a relaxing day of bowling. But first, they must deal with a group of amateur super villains, who have taken a few hostages on the top of a skyscraper. Midway through the fight, we cut to a strange scene in another dimension, where a man in a purple cloak is given a glowing cube by three large entities he addresses as the Lords of Chaos.

As the fight winds down, Wonder Girl tosses the bad guys' heavy-hitter, a big fat guy named Grouse, off the roof. Cyborg worries that Grouse won't survive such a fall, so Wonder Girl calls in Kid Flash, who catches the villain with a whirlwind, saying he's got it "old-school" and asks if they have any other huge guys for him to juggle. Cassie tells "Speedy-Pants" to stop showing off.

The Teen Titans hand off the wannabe crooks to a Commissioner Farrel, who apparently has a police force armed with inhibitor technology to negate the villains' superpowers. Even so, Cyborg offers to escort the criminals to prison, but the commissioner feels it's best the police take it from here, considering recent alleged metahuman events. As the bad guys are led past the TV cameras, they shout out a Happy Father's Day message. They were all rich, spoiled kids, who only staged this stunt to get their dads' attention. This is particularly painful to Robin, as this is his first Father's Day since his dad was killed, which is why the team is now going bowling.

Our heroes head to the subbasement rec room of Titans Tower, which includes a bowling alley, to try to have a relaxing afternoon while still wearing their full superhero uniforms (except for Beast Boy, who is wearing an obnoxious bowling shirt). Bart is having so much success with an overhand technique that Robin asks if he could miss for once. Bart concedes he could, but he won't. Robin thanks Cyborg for making the holiday enjoyable, and Vic responds with a speech about how they're all basically orphans, running down everybody's parental situation, noting that Kid Flash's mom is stuck in the future.

We then find out what happened to our purple friend with the Lords of Chaos. He's now a large mass of muscle, dressed in a purple version of the Hawk and Dove uniforms, and calls himself Kestrel. He attacks the armored truck transporting the lame villains from earlier, and kills the armed guards. But before he frees the four the villains, he tells them only two will survive. So the two girls kill the two boys and join Kestrel.

In Georgetown, Washington, D.C., Hawk and Dove see the news report of Kestrel's attack on the news, so they call up Cyborg, who's watching the same report. Cyborg says he'll fly out from San Francisco all the way across the country to pick up Hawk and Dove to take them to San Francisco to battle Kestrel. As they fly back to California in the T-jet, Robin and Cyborg reveal they somehow know a whole lot more about Kestrel than Hawk and Dove do, even though he's their villain. He draws his powers from the same source as Hawk and Dove, plus he can switch bodies and use his claws to slice through anything, including dimensions. And Kestrel can also smell Hawk and Dove's powers, which is mainly why Cyborg wanted to pick up Hawk and Dove. But he's worried Titans Tower won't be strong enough to protect them, so he asks Wonder Girl to call the JLA and Outsiders to act as a second line of defense just in case.

But when our heroes return to the tower, they see a big chunk of the building has been blown apart. And waiting for our heroes are Kestrel and his two female teammates. Cyborg vows that Kestrel will never get Hawk and Dove as long as the Titans are alive, and he orders his team to attack. Kid Flash calls dibs on the "Bird Guy."

But even though Kid Flash can run at the speed of light, he never makes it over to Kestrel, who gives a long-winded speech about how he wants to ascend to become a Lord of Chaos himself, and to do that, he needs Raven, not Hawk and Dove. So our issue ends with everybody standing by helplessly as Kestrel grabs and somehow ... absorbs? ... Raven.

I hated this comic. Geoff Johns was likely busy with Infinite Crisis, and Tony S. Daniel drew the Secret Files & Origins issue instead, so that left us with a guest creative team. No offense to Gail Simone, but it didn't seem like she had a full handle on these characters. For example, where's Speedy? Isn't she a full member of the team now? And how come Robin knew everything, literally everything about Kestrel? If he's had previous encounters with being of chaos, then it would have been nice for him to say so. As such, it felt unnatural and awkward. I also can't help but draw comparisons to the Teen Titans/Legion crossover that also involved a villain that can cut through anything, including dimensions, and attacked the tower.

Of course, my biggest complaint with this issue is the art. Liefeld's drawings rarely look good. He struggles with necks and feet. He only has so many facial expressions he keeps recycling. All women are hyper-sexualized. His backgrounds range from bland to nonexistent. And the fight scenes are dull and unremarkable. So many times he just doesn't draw all the people in the fight, so I was often left wondering where Beast Boy or Kid Flash was. That was especially bad at the end, when Kid Flash said he'd go after Kestrel, but then was nowhere to be seen on the last three pages of the comic. When Bart says he'll go after someone, we should see him at least attempting to hit that person in the very next panel. He can run pretty fast, after all.

Next: Impure thoughts.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Flash #225

Rogue War Conclusion

Geoff Johns – Writer
Howard Porter – Penciller
Livesay – Inker
Rob Leigh – Letterer
James Sinclair – Colorist
Michael Wright – Assoc. Editor
Joey Cavalieri – Editor

Our cover by Howard Porter shows the Flash running straight at us, in front of his symbol, in front of almost every Rogue imaginable. This story is still called Rogue War, but it became primarily a Reverse-Flash conflict about three issues ago. As such, most of these Rogues have nothing to do with this issue. But it is a good representation of Geoff Johns' run on the title, which concludes this issue. Mark Waid built up the Flash family, but Johns built up Wally's rogues gallery. This is a pretty decent cover. I'm glad Porter drew each Rogue's neck and shoulders. It's not uncommon for a comic book to display a similar image, but only draw the characters' heads, which I think always looks horribly unnatural. The only thing I don't like about this cover is Wally's face. He looks like a 5-year-old pouting at a birthday party.

Our story picks up with Hunter Zolomon forcing Wally to repeatedly re-watch his wife, Linda, have a miscarriage. Eobard Thawne is at the controls of the Cosmic Treadmill, making all this possible, when Barry Allen suddenly shows up alongside them on his own treadmill. Barry saves Wally, then grabs Thawne and takes him back to the time from whence he came.

Wally is left to battle Hunter, who decides to kill Linda before his past-self can give her a miscarriage by snapping his fingers at super-speed. But as Hunter and Wally race toward this traumatic scene, Wally pushes the present Hunter in-between the past Hunter and Linda, causing him to absorb the brunt of the blow from the super-speed snap. The present Hunter tries to escape on the Cosmic Treadmill, but since he's not connected to the Speed Force, he's unable to control the machine and disappears in a flash of pink light, with Wally hanging on to a piece of the treadmill.

Back in the present, Bart and Jay wonder where Wally went, as they can only sit around and watch dumbfounded as Mirror Master takes away all the Rogues involved in the recent war. Wally suddenly arrives with the piece of the treadmill he was holding onto, and he tells Bart and Jay he has a headache, but is otherwise fine. Pied Piper shows up and tells Wally that Linda has been taken to the hospital.

Everybody rushes over to Keystone General Hospital in their civilian clothes, and Ashley Zolomon tells Wally the doctors believe the wounds Linda sustained from Zoom's attack have reopened. Wally holds Linda's hand, and for a moment, it seems like she's going to die. But then there's a big rumbling, Linda sits up and starts screaming. To the doctors' horror, they witness Linda live through a full nine-month pregnancy in just a few seconds. Jay and Bart watch from the window as Linda gives birth to healthy twins — a boy and a girl.

The next evening, Ashley stays late at the Keystone City precinct to update some files. On the Flash's file, she writes "Unknown" for his real name. On the file for Captain Boomerang II, aka Owen Harkness, she lists his mother as Meloni Thawne. (Don't ask me how she knows this.) The Rogues all decide to go check out the mysterious society that ties in to Infinite Crisis, and Wally and Linda happily take home their healthy infants. We then end with a splash page to celebrate the conclusion of Geoff Johns' work, complete with a note to Howard, Scott, Angel, Alberto and Joey "for the ride of a lifetime."

Toward the end of Mark Waid's run, he teased us with a Wally wedding, then yanked it away, only to actually give it to us in the end. Johns did the same thing with Wally and Linda having twins. Except it kind of feels like he cheated to actually give us these twins. I mean, if Wally changed the past to prevent the miscarriage, then he'd come back to a new reality where Linda had carried and delivered the twins like normal, right? I don't see the point of having her go through nine months of pregnancy in a few seconds. That would destroy her body, possibly killing her and the babies. Maybe I'm thinking too much about this.

Personally, I'm glad to see the Johns run come to an end. While he did do some fun stuff with Wally's rogues gallery, the police department and Iron Heights Prison, all that stuff came at the expense of the Flash family Waid had built up so much. Particularly Bart. Johns had little to no respect for Impulse, and even only used Kid Flash when it was absolutely necessary. After Bart's own title got canceled, you'd think Johns would have wanted to provide the occasional update on the character for all his fans. You know, show us a little bit of Bart's life with the Garricks or remind us that the super villain Rival has stolen Max Mercury's body and a time machine. Was it too much of me to ask for that?

Sadly, I know the future, and it isn't too pretty for The Flash. Instead of following the Waid and Johns runs with another legendary run, we're going to watch Infinite Crisis take this series through a long, winding path of confusion, complications and disappointment. But hey, we will get to see more Bart along the way, so ... yay?

Next time, we'll wrap up October 2005 with Teen Titans #27.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files & Origins 2005

I Am Donna Troy

Adam Beechen Story
Darryl Banks Pencils
Sean Parsons Inks
Sno Cone Colors
Nick J Napolitano Letterer

Cover art by Tony S. Daniel and Marlo Alquiza, color by Chris Blythe. Now that Donna Troy is back (mostly) it's time for another Secret Files & Origins issue to update everybody on the new status quo. This is the second Secret Files issue for the Teen Titans and Outsiders, but instead of calling it issue #2, DC chose to just use the year 2005 to distinguish it. The cover features Donna, front and center, with everybody else standing around somberly behind her. I'm not sure why everyone is so serious. These Secret Files covers also usually included a few text blurbs teasing the various contents inside, but this time, DC merely listed almost every single person who worked on this issue. And in this case, it is true that the creators themselves are more interesting than the actual content here.

Our opening story picks up where we left Donna Troy — the sole inhabitant of the tiny world New Cronus and possessor of the Harbinger Orb, which can basically show her anything and everything. The orb has given Donna a startling vision of the upcoming crisis, so she is slowly steering New Cronus back to Earth to warn the others. This is a very slow and long trip, even thought the Teen Titans, Outsiders and Wonder Woman were all able to travel there very quickly. Anyway, as distressed as Donna is, she chooses to spend her time reviewing the key moments from her oh-so-confusing life. (I'd imagine she needs to do this on a regular basis to keep everything straight.)

After briefly looking at her time spent with the original Teen Titans, Donna spends some time on her death at the hands of a Superman robot, and the subsequent formation of the new Outsiders and Teen Titans.

Donna feels guilty about dragging her friends back into another crisis, but she presses forward anyway. Slowly, but surely. (Seriously, though! Is there no faster way for Donna to warn everyone about Infinite Crisis!)

The main story is a sprawling adventure that apparently happened two months ago involving half the Teen Titans and half the Outsiders. But Kid Flash was not included, nor did he receive a profile page in this issue. But he did make a very brief appearance in one of the other side stories.


Nunzio Defilippis & Christina Weir – Writers
Todd Nauck – Penciller
Ray Snyder – Inker
SnoCone – Colorist
Nick J. Napolitano – Letterer

This story takes place in San Francisco two weeks ago. Cassie has invited her old friend Cissie over to discuss the recent revelation that her father is Zeus. Cassie says she told Conner about this, and to her dismay, Conner believes Cassie's mom and Wonder Woman made the right call in concealing the truth from her. Now Cassie worries that if she tells the rest of the Titans, they'll treat her differently. Cissie sagely points out that Cassie is crazy to think this, saying that this new doesn't change anything.

As they argue in a park across the bay from Titans Tower, the girls stumble upon the super villains Multiplex and Hyena, plotting an ill-conceived attack on the tower to prove to the Society that they're more than C-listers. Cissie offers to help Cassie take down the ambitious villains, but Wonder Girl reminds her that Arrowette is retired, so she vows to handle this alone.

Wonder Girl quickly knocks out Hyena with a single punch, but Multiplex, and his ability to create duplicates of himself, is a different story. Cissie rushes in to help, but Wonder Girl flies her away. Cassie then manages to wrap her lasso around all the Multiplex clones and electrocutes them until only the original is left unconscious.

As the police head over to pick up the villains, Cassie asks Cissie if she wants to come with her to tell the Titans about her dad, but Cissie declines. She says the Titans are Cassie's family. Cissie says she's already provided all the emotional support Cassie needed, and she offers to get something to eat with her after her big talk. So Cassie flies over to the tower and tells them all they need to talk. But Robin says Conner has something he needs to tell them first. And coming down the stairs behind all our heroes is the bald, brainwashed Superboy.

Todd Nauck is back! Well, sort of. But I'll gladly take what I can get from him. Unfortunately, this story does not fit in at all with what happened in Teen Titans. Geoff Johns clearly didn't know Zeus was Wonder Girl's father. Otherwise things would have played out very differently. And as great as it was to see Cissie again, I don't like how she kept trying to break her solemn vow of no longer being a superhero, or how she refused to see the other Titans. Cissie doesn't want to say hi to Bart, Tim and Conner?

Between Nauck and Daniel, this Secret Files issue had better art than usual. Unfortunately, the stories were more forgettable than usual. Of course, I'm mainly saying that because Bart Allen only stood around silently in the background of two panels. But I really didn't like Donna's complete lack of urgency with the impending crisis, and the revisionist history with Cassie and Cissie. Well, guess I should stop whining and check out some advertisements, since I do happen to have the physical copy of this comic.

Gotta have longer lasting. Juicy Fruit chewing gum.

One Piece: Grand Battle for PlayStation 2, Game Cube and Game Boy Advance.

The girl of steel is back. Supergirl.

Instant messaging. Bic pens.

DICE: DNA Integrated Cybernetic Enterprises for PlayStation 2.

GameRiot video game expo and competition.

Has the stupidity of life got you down! It's time to get MAD magazine.

Back at full power! Green Lantern Corps Recharge. Written by Wizard Top Ten Creator Geoff Johns & Comics Legend Dave Gibbons.

Dew Action Sports Tour.

Superman/Shazam! First Thunder.

Even in your most embarrassing moments, never be afraid to show your face. OXY.

For the hero in all of us. Milk's 9 essential nutrients give me the strength and energy I need to fight the forces of evil. Not drinking milk? Now that would be a crime. got milk? With Christian Bale as Batman in Batman Begins.

Next time, we'll wrap up the Geoff Johns era on The Flash.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Gotham Central #34

Dead Robin Part Two of Four

Ed Brusker & Greg Rucka Writers
Kano Penciller
Stefano Gaudiano Inker
Clem Robins Letterer
Lee Loughridge Colorist
Nachie Castro Assoc. Editor
Matt Idelson Editor

Our cover by Sean Phillips shows Kid Flash, Cyborg and Wonder Girl standing in a police lineup. This is slightly misleading, as none of them (or any of the other Teen Titans, for that matter) are actual suspects in any crime. But as we'll soon see, they will be interviewed by the Gotham City police. Gotham Central is a more realistic comic, focusing on the ordinary police officers who happen to live in a world of superheroes and villains. As such, anytime a hero or villain shows up, they stand out like a sore thumb. They're bright, colorful, larger-than-life, and most of all, odd. This cover does a good job of showing that. (I do think 6 feet is a little short for Cyborg, but 5'6" feels right for Bart at this age.)

Our story picks up on the heels of the murder of a young man dressed as Robin. The picture of the deceased teen was plastered all over the newspapers, and the parents of the victim even held a press conference, saying they believe their son actually was Robin and was lying about his after-school activities of gymnastics and acting. To try to get to the bottom of this, Captain Maggie Sawyer has called in the Teen Titans, who have graciously complied.

Vic says that both he and Gar have guardian status for the minors on the team and is even willing to provide the paperwork for it. (I guess that explains why Cyborg never bothered telling Jay Garrick about Bart's injuries. He technically is also Bart's guardian.) Raven says this isn't necessary, insisting that Robin is alive and well. But since the Teen Titans won't reveal Robin's secret identity, Sawyer proceeds with the interviews, splitting the heroes up into groups of two.

Kid Flash is with Beast Boy, Wonder Girl with Cyborg and Speedy with Raven. They all tell essentially the same story. The last time they saw Robin was when he left Titans Tower on Sunday night. They suspect he went to Bl├╝dhaven, but they're not exactly sure where he's living now, simply saying Robin has had a rough year. Raven quickly grows impatient, saying they could solve this crime for the police in 10 minutes if they'd let them. But the police refuse. Even the late-arriving, head-turning Starfire is unable to persuade them.

Word spreads that the Teen Titans were at police headquarters, and a swarm of reporters soon surrounds the building. No one is sure why Superboy is missing, while others are on the lookout for the Outsiders, noting Starfire's presence. Eventually, our heroes depart from the roof, and things begin to settle down. Later that night, the real Robin visits a secretary in the department and asks her to tell the others that he wasn't killed. She points out that the cops would much rather hear that from Robin himself, but he won't budge on Batman's strict secrecy rules. After he leaves, another dead teen dressed as Robin is discovered.

Gotham Central is one of my favorite comic book series of all time. The stories were intelligent, well-written and cast the world of superheroes in a different light. Likewise, the art was different from your standard DC book, but it was always well-done and beautiful in its own way. And it really makes you appreciate the incredible abilities of these heroes that we often take for granted. Like Robin jumping off a roof. You wouldn't think twice about that in Teen Titans, but in Gotham Central, that is a breath-taking moment.

This issue highlights the fundamental difference between police officers and superheroes. Both sides have the same goals at the end of the day, but they approach them from almost opposite sides. Superheroes live in the world of masks, secret identities and largely working outside the law. The police are unable and unwilling to do what superheroes do, holding themselves to the high standards of law, order and due process. Maggie Sawyer only had the best of intentions by bringing the Teen Titans in, but it was ultimately pointless. Sawyer had no way to verify the Titans' story, and the GCPD was incapable of bending the rules to have the Titans solve the murder for them. There's a reason why we never see the Titans work with the police in San Francisco.

Next time, we'll take a quick look at the second Secret Files & Origins issue for the Teen Titans and Outsiders.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

DC Special: The Return of Donna Troy #4

Our cover by Phil Jimenez shows Donna Troy heroically leading the Teen Titans and Outsiders into battle. Right beside her is Wonder Woman, who has been inexplicably absent this entire story. And don't let this cover fool you. Diana will make an appearance in this issue, but not until well after the battle at hand is finished. But other than that complaint (and the six Beast Boys for some reason), this is a pretty decent cover, announcing to the world that Donna Troy is back, once and for all.

Our story begins with Donna Troy and her superhero friends leading the forces of Minosyss against the titan gods and their army of thousands. The first three pages of my digital copy are silent, and I only point this out because it doesn't feel like an intentional choice. It looks like room was left on the art for text bubbles, and characters' mouth are open like they're talking and pointing at each other. And when they do start talking on page 4, it feels like we're jumping into the middle of the conversation.

Anyway, Donna flies ahead of the other to take on the titan gods directly. Her "husband" Coeus is torn up by this, but Donna merely tells him she wants a divorce after this war is over. Nightwing loses  track of Donna with his binoculars, so he has Raven start searching for her, while the rest of them engage the ground troops. But Cyborg is horrified to see the mass of opposing forces goes two miles deep. Arsenal breaks ranks to go look for Donna on the back of a horse-like creature, and Raven is attacked psychically by the titan god Crius. Nightwing sees Raven fall and has Kid Flash save her, while Cassie nearly falls into a trance, saying being in the presence of the titan gods feels like looking into a mirror.

Donna is easily overpowered by the titan gods and knocked unconscious. Our heroes on the ground are having an equally tough time, especially when the ocean-based titan gods create a massive tsunami that drowns most of the natives. Cassie eventually makes her way to Coeus, wraps her lasso around him, and tells him they don't need the sun-eater. Coeus admits the sun-eater was never their goal — they just needed Donna. And sure enough, we see Hyperion and his wife, Thia, taking off away from the battle with Donna in tow.

Arsenal follows them underground to the sun-eater factory, which you think our heroes would have made a priority to protect. Coeus begs Cassie to release him, saying he needs to ask Donna for her forgiveness before the titan gods' plan is enacted. The fighting on the planet's surface grows worse, with Nightwing noting that there aren't many Minosyssans left to protect. Kid Flash passionately cries out at the ocean titan, demanding to know why they have to kill all these people.

At the factory, Hyperion explains to Donna that they don't care about the sun-eater, but are actually more interested in the device built to teleport the sun-eater to any targeted galaxy — the nexus point. Hyperion says this nexus point can take them outside of the universe, to what was once the multiverse (before Crisis on Infinite Earths), and Donna is the key to operating this device. To help Donna understand fully, Hyperion restores all of her memories from all of her thousand previous lifetimes on the different worlds of the now extinct multiverse.

In a dense two-page spread, Donna narrates her entire history in perhaps the most clear way possible. On Earth-1, she was an orphaned infant, saved from a burning building by Wonder Woman and raised on Paradise Island to become Wonder Girl. But on Earth-7, Donna was saved by the Anti-Monitor and raised to become his harbinger of doom, Dark Angel. When the multiverse was collapsed into one world in the fight against the Anti-Monitor, Donna's very nature was altered in a most complicated manner. As she explains, "This new universe didn't quite know what to do with some of the more complicated holdovers from the multiverse. So it improvised." Substitute the word "universe" for "DC creators" and you get exactly what happened.

In this new universe, Donna was created as Diana's twin sister from a magic mirror. But Dark Angel managed to escape the compression of worlds and subjected Donna to an endless cycle of torture. Eventually, Donna was reincarnated as an orphaned infant once again, but this time, she was saved by Rhea, the queen of the titans of myth. Rhea knew that Donna was the sum total of all her past lives — Donna Troy, Wonder Girl, Troia, Darkstar, Dark Angel and even Harbinger. This makes Donna a unique connection to every universe that had ever existed, and the only being capable of sending the titan gods to a new universe.

Once Donna understands this truth, Hyperion summons all the titan gods to him, putting an abrupt and stunning end to the war. Coeus congratulates Donna on saving them all, but she asks if all the death was necessary for this. Coeus regretfully explains that the titan gods derive their power from the worship or fear of mortal beings, and they staged this interplanetary war to gain as much power as possible before journeying to a new universe. Donna tearfully asks Coeus how long he knew she was the key to this plan, and Coeus says that Rhea died before she could tell the titan gods the truth about Donna. They didn't realize she was the one until she was killed by the Superman robot back in Graduation Day. The titan gods "called out" to Donna's soul, and she responded and was reborn. Thia interjects, saying Donna's memories of her past lives impeded their mission, which was why they tampered with her mind. Hyperion is impatient, though, and he commands Donna to open the stargate.

Donna complies, creating a large portal of light that the titan gods excitedly leap through, salivating at the planets and galaxies they will control. Coeus asks Donna to join them, but she refuses. One of the titans manages to stick his head back out of the portal long enough to warn Coeus, Hyperion and Thia not to enter. Donna had tricked them, opening the portal to Tartarus, a place of eternal torment designed for the vilest of deities. Hyperion orders Donna to bring the titan gods back, but she says she knows they will never stop conquering and killing, which is why they deserve eternal punishment.

Hyperion and Thia attack Donna, prompting Arsenal to leap out of the shadows in a foolish, yet valiant attempt to save his former girlfriend. But while Arsenal fails to damage the titan gods, he does manage to turn the heart of one of them — Coeus. Inspired by Roy's love and willingness to sacrifice himself, Coeus turns on Hyperion and Thia by unleashing the sun-eater on them. Since they are living embodiments of the sun, this monster is one of the few creatures in existence that can harm them. The sun-eater begins consuming Hyperion and Thia, who try to escape through the portal, but have their bodies torn to pieces instead.

All this fighting causes the cavern to begin to collapse. Coeus willingly journeys to Tartarus, vowing to make sure the other titan gods never leave. Wonder Girl and Athyns fly down to save Donna and Arsenal, as the landslide becomes the perfect prison for the sun-eater, which is unable to penetrate the unique ore of Minosyss (which is why it became the site of the sun-eater factory in the first place).

Donna kisses Roy, embraces Cassie and reunites with all our heroes. Beast Boy comments on the sexiness of the two Wonder Girls in a stupid Jar-Jar Binks voice. Bart is the only one who calls Gar out on his inappropriate timing. Donna remembers how she always thought Bart was immature, but now she sees him as the new heart of the Teen Titans. The remaining soldiers of the titans' army surrender to the Minosyssans and vow to help them make sure the sun-eater never escapes, working under the leadership of Athyns. The travelsphere then takes the Teen Titans and Outsiders back to Earth, but Donna chooses to remain behind. To my surprise, nobody even asks her to consider coming home with them.

Donna returns to New Cronus, the now abandoned home of the titan gods. Wonder Woman visits Donna here and presents her with a glowing red sphere from the priestesses of Themyscira. Donna instantly recognizes it as Harbinger's History of the Universe Orb, realizing it is now her destiny to be the keeper of all these mysteries and knowledge. After Diana leaves, Donna activates the orb and tells it to show her everything. She watches the past, the creation of the multiverse and the ensuing crisis. She watches the present and the future, but the future horrifies her. Donna finally understands why the titan gods were so desperate to leave this universe. Donna realizes this impending catastrophe is going to be too big and she needs help.

Well, I think that actually makes sense now. It's still convoluted, but I think I understand the basics of who Donna Troy is. Even more importantly, I understand now how her history became so complicated. The creators at DC just couldn't decide what to do with her and kept making things more complicated. What Phil Jimenez did here feels almost like salvaging the character — turning her weakness into a strength. But is this new position ideal for Donna Troy? Basically removed from everyone and everything, watching the history of existence unfold around her? Seems like a waste of her skills and strength.

As a whole, this story was a grand, sweeping epic. It was a little frustrating working through it, though, as so much crucial information was withheld until the very end. All this fighting was caused by the titan gods' fear of the upcoming Infinite Crisis. But we didn't find that out until literally the last page. And to learn that truth, we had to learn about five other things first, with each bit of essential information pointlessly being delayed as long as possible. Like the sun-eater factory. Kid Flash saw it, but we the readers didn't. He then went back and told the others about it, but we didn't hear what he said. We had to wait like four or five pages before we finally knew what Bart knew. And that's how it went with everything in this story.

The pacing was also problematic. So much of the first three issues felt like scenes were being unnecessarily prolonged and drawn out. Fights that could have and should have been resolved quicker were stretched out. We were given scene after scene of the titan gods sitting around saying the exact same things over and over again. And when we get to the final issue, we suddenly have too much to do and not enough room to do it. The climax with the sun-eater and Hyperion was almost entirely relegated to caption boxes, as the art simply didn't have enough pages to actually show what was happening. And I still can't believe we didn't get a scene of the heroes saying goodbye to Donna and/or asking her to come home with them. They were quickly pushed away so the precious amount of limited space left could be devoted to setting up Donna's role as Harbinger. She didn't even have time to say more than two words to Wonder Woman.

I actually really liked Bart's arc in this story. He forged a strong bond with these aliens, and it strongly effected him to see them senselessly being slaughtered. This was a great way to show that not only has Bart matured, but he really is the heart of the Teen Titans.

Next time, we're going to take a break from the world of Donna Troy and tackle something completely different with Gotham Central #34.

Monday, February 26, 2018

DC Special: The Return of Donna Troy #3

Our cover by Phil Jimenez shows the brainwashed Donna Troy pinning down and trying to strangle Wonder Girl with her own lasso. It's actually a rather frightening image. If Cassie hadn't managed to get her left hand around the lasso on her neck, she probably would be dead. This cover also draws attention to Cassie's star-shaped belly ring, which was also present last issue, but I totally missed it. Cassie hasn't had this ring in any issues of Teen Titans yet, and I actually think it's a ridiculously stupid accessary to her superhero uniform. Setting aside the impracticality of charging into battle wearing a belly shirt, putting such a large piece of jewelry on her belly button is sure to get caught on something — strength of Zeus or not.

Our story begins with several of the titan gods celebrating Donna Troy being freed from her cage, even though they had warned Coeus not to interfere. Hyperion is especially excited, exclaiming that Troia will now destroy her former companions and lead the titan gods into their new existence beyond this universe. And sure enough, the second Donna is free, she immediately attacks Athyns. Kid Flash panics and turns to Cyborg, just as he has been doing all day. Cyborg tries to tell Bart to get behind him, but he's hit hard by Donna, as well.

Donna quickly knocks down Jade before taking on Starfire. Nightwing notes that she's going for their strongest members first, and Raven says they need to reach her mind, but she hesitates for some reason. (I will never understand the powers and limitations of Raven.) Cassie recognizes Donna's moves as a lethal Amazon attack pattern, and she begs Raven to stop her before she kills Starfire. Several native aliens begin to grab Bart's attention and Raven tells him to follow the aliens, saying she senses they have the secret to ending Donna's madness.

One of the titan gods, Mnemosyne, begins to have doubts about killing these heroes, who actually have helped them in the past. But she's shot down by Crius. Nightwing tells Cassie that with Athyns and Cyborg down, she's the only one strong enough to stop Donna, but Cassie's still reluctant to fight her. Arsenal fires seven arrows at Donna, but she catches them all and throws six of them back at Roy. The seventh arrow was actually Shift in disguise, and he immediately wraps himself around Donna's arm. Cassie blocks five of the arrows from hitting Roy, but one of them does land in his shoulder.

Shift blinds Donna with a blast of phosphorus, which gives Jade enough time to create some metal bands around Donna. At Cyborg's urging, Cassie wraps her lasso around Donna, but she immediately breaks free of both the lasso and Jade's construct. Cassie charges in for a direct attack, saying the Donna she knows would never act this way. But Troia insists that the Donna Cassie knew was merely a figment of her imagination.

Meanwhile, Bart is led to an underground cavern and shown something very shocking. Raven and Athyns have followed Bart down there (instead of trying to get into Donna's head), and Bart says they need to hurry back and tell the others. Cassie's fight with Donna becomes even more intense, and Cassie again tries to show her old friend the photo of them with Wonder Woman. But it has no effect. Bart, Athyns and Raven return to the battle, and Nightwing orders Raven to enter Donna's head, which she finally — finally! — does.

Raven forces Donna to see the truth of all the suffering she has caused by waging this war on Minosyss, while Bart and Athyns fill in the rest on what they saw. Nightwing has everyone create a tunnel to the underground cavern, and after Raven becomes ... exhausted? ... after entering Donna's mind, Cassie shoves Donna down the tunnel. Everyone follows them to the cavern, which contains a lot of ominous machinery. With her senses restored to her, Donna recognizes the machinery as a sun-eater factory. And to her horror, she remembers the truth — the titan gods aren't trying to destroy the sun-eater factory, but seek to use it.

Now that Donna is back to normal, everybody can lick their wounds, tend to the struggling Minosyssans and prepare to battle the titan gods and their army. As Donna checks on Cassie, we learn something that has not been mentioned in Teen Titans yet — Cassie is the daughter of Zeus. But we don't have time to dwell on what that means, as Cyborg has detected thousands of shocktroopers heading straight toward them. As our heroes set up defenses for the Minosyssans, Donna is impressed by how Kid Flash has connected so well with the younger Minosyssans, and Wonder Girl's resolve to stop the carnage around her.

As the battle edges even closer, Nightwing naturally falls into the leadership role. Kid Flash tells him these people are scared, and he asks if Donna is ready. But first, Donna and Athyns must attend to the funeral of their "sister" Sparta, who had also been brainwashed by the titan gods and was killed at the beginning of this war. Donna vows to avenge Sparta's death and bring the titan gods to justice. Right on cue, the titan gods themselves descend to Minosyss, leading their army of thousands. To the dismay of Coeus, his beloved Troia has flown up to meet them in battle.

The story is starting to come together. We have a clear villain with a clear purpose, so I can focus on that. I'm still really hazy on the nature of these titan gods and exactly how they brought Donna back to life, but that's not really important now. I saw what a sun-eater can do back in Final Night, and I'm excited for an upcoming battle to keep this machine out of the hands of insane, devious deities. The path to get to this point, however, was a bit of a chore. As fun as the fight against Donna was, it felt stretched out, especially considering how Raven might have been able to end it before it even began. Right? I mean, why didn't she just enter Donna's mind right from the start, before Donna was even freed from her cage? I don't know. Raven is even more mysterious to me than Donna Troy is, so I'm pretty helpless here.

But I do know Bart Allen. And I found it interesting that he has bonded with these aliens. As I said last time, Bart really doesn't have any friends with him on this adventure, leading him to want to spend more time with these people. And even though all our heroes are moved by the plight of the Minosyssans, Bart seems to be the hardest hit. He and Cassie have the least amount of experience dealing with actual war, but Cassie is completely wrapped up with the business of Donna, leaving Bart alone to wonder how these supposedly benevolent beings could be responsible for such a tragedy.

Next time, we'll conclude this four-part special.