Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Titans #114

24 Hours

Marv Wolfman – Words
Rik Mays – Pictures
Karl Story, Jason Martin, Keith Champagne – Inks
Gina Going – Colors
John Costanza – Letters
Keri Kowalski – Asst. Edits
Pat Garrahy – Edits

This issue isn't available digitally yet, so you have to suffer through pictures from my phone. But even crisp, digital images wouldn't help this art look any better. The cover is by Tom Raney, and nobody is drawn particularly well. Although I do enjoy the concept of everybody walking away against a white background.

Before I get into the story, some explanation is in order. Bart Allen, who's only existed for three months, is about to join one of DC's premier teams. And luckily for us, it is being written by the godfather of the Titans, Marv Wolfman. Wolfman spent 16 years writing Titans comics, rotating the cast around, growing characters up, having them get married, have kids, die, change names and costumes and turn evil and good again. He also created Cyborg, Starfire and Raven, three stars of the current Teen Titans Go! So Bart is in good hands here.

This issue deals with the transition of the Titans. Most of the old members are leaving, and most of the new members haven't joined yet. Out of all the characters on the cover, there are only two of them we need to worry about. The most recognizable one should be the green guy wearing short shorts and shoes that surely were very cool in 1994. He's Garfield Logan, aka Beast Boy. But at this point in the story, he's grown up a bit and changed his name to Changeling. The main guy in the middle is Roy Harper, who began his career as Green Arrow's sidekick, Speedy. He's Arsenal now, leader of the Titans, and even has a daughter he never sees. And don't worry, he won't stay in that terrible costume forever.

Our story details the first 24 hours after the Titans have split up. I'm only going to focus on the characters who will have a major impact on the stories Bart's involved with. First is Changeling, who is immediately captured by Raven and her cronies. That's right, Raven the former Teen Titan, is now evil. She explains that within her reside the souls of the hundred slain children of her demon father, Trigon. To help her demon siblings be reborn, she is implanting them within metahumans like Changeling.

On Talyn, the sixth planet in the Proxima Centauri system, a mysterious force is destroying and killing everything in sight. The natives of Talyn were genetically modified a thousand years ago to have no aggression, so none of them can defend themselves. The Darkstars, an intergalactic peace-keeping corps, tries to protect the world, but they are unable to stop the threat. Jarras Minion, a teenage boy with blue skin and pointy ears, runs to home to tell his mom his siblings have been killed. She puts him in the Omegadrome, a device she built with her husband to help them counter their lack of aggression and defend their planet. The Omegadrome was built for Jarras' father, but since he was away looking for his kids, Jarras' mother put him in the high-tech suit to save him. The Omegadrome does protect Jarras, but he doesn't know how to use it and can only watch helplessly as his entire planet is destroyed.

Arsenal begins his day with a morning jog with President Bill Clinton. Presidents in comics are always interesting to me. Sometimes they're just a generic-looking nameless commander-in-chief, and sometimes they just happen to look a lot like the current president. But in this case, Bill Clinton is undoubtedly the president, and he even mentions his wife, Hillary. Anyway, Clinton assures Arsenal that the Titans will receive government funding and still retain complete independence. So Arsenal spends most of the day signing papers with Titans liaison Sargent Steel, a rather pesky bureaucrat with a metal hand. Arsenal then realizes he should probably put together a team, so he starts calling everyone he knows, including former Teen Titan Wally West. But he gets stuck with the answering machine, since Wally is kind of in the 64th century right now. However, someone else does receive the message.

That red hand is supposed to make us think it's the Flash listening to the message, but as a later issue will reveal, this is actually Bart. However, Bart does not wear gloves that cover his fingers, so this is a bit of a mistake on the creators' part. It is a bit understandable since Bart is such a new character, but I also feel this mistake was intentionally made to create a bit of misdirection.

Anyway, Arsenal spends all day at the Statue of Liberty, trying to persuade heroes to join the new Titans team. The only person who agrees is Changeling, who assures Roy that he's completely fine after his run-in with Raven and not feeling evil at all. A mysterious character named Phantasm then shows up and whisks the heroes away to an adventure in Damage #6. But Bart's not there, so we'll have to wait to see these guys again in Zero Hour.

So that was a very, very quiet debut for Bart in his first appearance outside the Flash series. And although this was a rather slow transition issue, Marv Wolfman did plant some important seeds for future stories in New Titans. Wolfman is in this for the long game, and he's the master of spreading stories over several years. All the stuff with Raven started a long time ago and will keep going until the end of this series. Unfortunately, Wolfman's story suffers with some of the worst art I've seen in a comic book. Rik Mays' work in this issue was simply abysmal. Everybody looked so ugly and horrendous. Not a single page looked halfway decent. Perhaps Mays was rushed on this one, since he needed three inkers, or perhaps he just stopped caring, since he would be replaced on the next issue. Colorist Gina Going also made the same mistakes she made on Flash #94 with Wally's hair. Except this time it was Roy's hair that randomly changed colors on the same page. It's a real shame that such an interesting story had to be presented so poorly.

It's also sad that Comixology hasn't added this issue to its catalogue yet, but having the physical print copy allows me to review the letters and ads. Of course, all the letters in this issue are talking about New Titans #111, which did not have Bart, so I'll only talk about the column written by new editor Pat Garrahy. He seems to take a preemptive defensive stance against complaining fans, assuring them that he misses the good ole days as much as they do, but the new stuff is going to be really great. It's kind of sad for an editor to practically beg the readers to give this series a chance, but it is understandable. Garrahy also announces that Arsenal's new team will include Mirage, Changeling, Damage, Impulse, Green Lantern, Donna Troy Darkstar and Terra. The new creative team will be writer Marv Wolfman, penciller Stephan J.B. Jones, inkers Hector Collazo and Harry Candelario and colorist Gina Going. Garrahy also pays tribute to Murray Boltinoff, a DC editor from 1943 to 1988, who died March 6, 1994 at age 83.

This is an inside cover house ad, which often were black-and-white in the '90s to save money. It's promoting the upcoming Zero Month, and to my surprise, it features Impulse quite prominently right in front next to Batman. I guess he quickly gained favor at DC and among the fans to be used in ads like this.

Next we have Star Trek trading cards, which features the USS Enterprise in the background of the Mona Lisa and the tagline: With a stroke of the brush, a generation gap is crossed.

An ongoing monthly by Milestone called Xombi. He took one step beyond and he can't step back.

Green Arrow #81–90: Cross Roads by Jim Aparo, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, Doug Moench, Kevin Dooley and Gerry Fernandez. Out of Seattle and in your face!

The trade paperback Star Trek: Tests of Courage. A new ship. A new captain. A new danger.

A DC subscription form. DC delivers action and excitement every month! If you wanted to rip this page out of your comic, you could fill out a form on Batman's cape and order 12 issues of New Titans for $19.40, which isn't a bad deal, since a single issue cost $1.95 at the time.

A DC Universe page that advertises San Diego Comic-Con and makes some goofy predictions for Zero Hour. The best one, and most accurate, is naming Mike Carlin the main villain.

Flash by Waid, Wieringo and Marzan. Everything else is just roadkill!

Natural Born Killers. A bold new film that takes a look at a country seduced by fame, obsessed by crime and consumed by the media. Starring Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr. (before he became Iron Man) and Tommy Lee Jones (before he became Two-Face).

Next time we'll begin Zero Hour. It was a five-issue mini-series in the summer of 1994. Much to the frustration of many databases, the issues cleverly were numbered in reverse, starting with #4 and ending with #0. Bart does not appear in #4, so we'll skip to #3 and catch up when we get there.

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