Saturday, August 2, 2014

The New Titans Annual #11

After Year One

Marv Wolfman Writer
Greg Land Pencils
Keith Champagne, Mike Sellers and Will Blyberg Inks
Albert DeGuzman Letters
Chi Colors
Keri Kowalski Asst. Editor
Pat Garrahy Editor

The cover by Land and Sellers shows all the Titans together — Green Lantern, Mirage, Minion, Impulse, Supergirl, Damage, Terra, Arsenal and Darkstar. After suffering through two issues with some of the worst art of the '90s, it's great to have a competent artist again. It is a little odd to not be able to see through Impulse's goggles — he looks a bit like a bug — but all in all this is a very solid cover.

Our story begins some time after the Crimelord-Syndicate War, and Terra and Mirage have taken a vacation to Niagara Falls. Mirage is still feeling down after losing her baby a couple of weeks ago, and the experience has brought up the old questions she's had about her and Terra's existence. They were the only members of the Team Titans who didn't disappear after Zero Hour. Suddenly, the two heroes are chased by a flying silver sphere. As they rush back to the Titans headquarters, they call ahead, and Bart answers. They ask him where Arsenal is, Bart says he's in the john, then hangs up, not waiting to hear what else they had to say.

Bart then occupies himself by playing a very fancy virtual reality video game that may have been provided by the Darkstars. But even this high-tech equipment is too slow for Bart, who complains that direct mind-link transmissions haven't been invented yet — that way the images would be able to move as fast as Bart could think. Terra and Mirage then come crashing in with the sphere hot on their tails. They accidentally destroy Bart's game, and the resulting explosion attracts the attention of the rest of the Titans. Damage blames the explosion on Bart and his "stupid V-R game," saying he warned him not to hook it up to the surround sound. Bart answers with, "As if. Exploding boy." Which, I guess, means the Impulse-Damage friendship is officially over now.

Mirage then brings everyone's attention to the silver sphere, and Bart sheepishly admits he forgot to tell everyone that Mirage and Terra called about two hours ago. I'm not sure why they didn't try to call a second time after Bart hung up on them, but I guess they were quite scared of the sphere. But it turns out the sphere isn't dangerous at all. Bart recognizes it as an old-fashioned holo-projector. And despite the objections from everyone else, Bart turns it on.

Turns out, Bart was right, and the holo-projector contains a message from the Time Trapper to Miriam Delgado and Tara Markov (which are the unoriginal secret identity names of Mirage and Terra, respectively). Anyway, the Time Trapper begins to explain the complicated connections of the Team Titans to the events in Zero Hour. He says the villain Extant opened a multiverse of alternate realities, selected an army of pawns, and pulled several heroes from this timeline to place into a faulty timeline in order to program them to execute his commands when the time was right. The Time Trapper intervened here, and was able to give Mirage and Terra the means to break Extant's programming, which is why they didn't join the other Team Titans in attacking everybody during Zero Hour.

The Time Trapper then goes into more detail about Mirage's past, telling her she was always a meta-human, using her powers of illusion to survive on the streets of Brazil. For some reason, Bart then demands a clarification of her powers, even though he's already been on several missions with her. Mirage explains that if she actually morphed, she'd always be the same mass, but with simple illusions, she's able to change her size and voice. And for some reason, she feels compelled to illustrate this point by turning into a copy of Impulse. I guess this kind of stuff was thrown in her just in case some kids decided to start reading the New Titans with Annual #11.

While Miri is thrilled to learn that she really is from this timeline, and all the other Team Titans came from other realities that don't exist anymore, Tara is furious to discover that she was basically a slave of the Time Trapper. And before the pre-recorded holo-message can get to Tara's origin, she grabs a laser rifle that's conveniently hanging on the wall next to her, and destroys the holo-projector. Tara then throws a fit like the whiney teenage girl she is and storms out of the room.

Even though Terra has clearly left the building, Donna Troy begins to tell her how important memories are, even unpleasant ones, such as the time Donna lost the custody of her child. Her ex-husband, Terry, made the argument that Donna's life as a Darkstar was too dangerous for a child. Crimelord then sent a henchwoman named Pierce to disrupt the proceedings, which convinced the judge to side with Terry. All the Titans feel bad for Donna, especially Bart, who runs to Wally West's house in Keystone City to look at a rare photograph of his parents.

As far as I know, Bart has never actually met his mom and dad — Meloni and Don. It is likely his grandma, Iris, brought this picture back with them on their journey from the 30th century. It is a little odd that Bart keeps the photo in Wally's house, but I guess he forgot to take it with him to Alabama — it is likely that Bart packed very hastily.

Anyway, the sad, emotional angst carries over to Jarras Minion, who, as always, is missing his entire planet and having a hard time fitting in on Earth. So Donna decides to take him under her wing for the day. She gives him a universal translator and some of Bart's clothes, which includes a black T-shirt with a skull on it and the words: "Rebel without a clue." Jarras doesn't quite care for this outfit, so Donna takes him shopping. Meanwhile, Kyle Rayner visits the grave of his dead girlfriend. It was her birthday, so he brought her roses.

We then return to Bart, who's on his way back from Kansas, when he runs into Supergirl, presumably on her way to visit the Kents in Smallville. Since everyone is in an introspective mood, Bart and Supergirl talk about how they like being in the Titans. Supergirl says she prefers the team over spending time with Lex Luthor, who once worked in connection with Crimelord to provide Arsenal with a rigged suit and weapons. Arsenal's purple suit nearly killed him during a fight with Crimelord's goons, but Supergirl saved him. She wanted to ask if she could join the Titans, but was too embarrassed. A few weeks later, during the Forever Evil story line, Arsenal finally asked her to join the team.

Bart admits that he didn't wait to be asked to join. We are treated to a flashback of Bart intercepting Arsenal's message meant for Wally. Bart's wearing the full-fingered gloves that he's never worn before or since, and oddly, we see that Wally was hiding in the next room the whole team, listening, and approving of Bart's decision to join the Titans. I always thought this occurred while Wally was battling Abracadabra in the 64th century. Nevertheless, Bart wasn't able to catch up with the Titans until after Zero Hour, at which point Arsenal says, "Bart, Wally told me you might be interested in joining our new team of Titans." This is another odd statement, since Wally disappeared during Zero Hour, and wouldn't have had the chance to talk to Roy about Bart's place on the Titans. Plus, I was under the impression that Wally and Roy weren't on friendly terms at this time, and I know for sure that Wally didn't know Bart was spending time with the Titans until Bart told him.

Continuity errors aside, Bart challenges Supergirl to a race back to the headquarters, with the loser buying pizza. Bart gets off to a quick start, but then he begins to worry about hurting Supergirl's feelings, so he takes a quick break in Putnam County. He then entertains a daydream of him eating pizza with Supergirl, and he makes several strange faces that completely baffle me. Luckily, the confusing art ends quickly enough for Impulse to stop a nearby bank robbery. Fans of The Andy Griffith Show will recognize Andy Griffith, Barney Fife and Aunt Bee in the background. As Bart runs away from the scene, he says, "I've always wanted to do that." This is another perplexing line for me, since Bart has already stopped at least once bank robbery with the Flash family, in addition to serving on several more exciting missions with the Titans and others. I'm beginning to think Marv Wolfman wasn't reading the Flash at this time.

Bart finally catches up with Supergirl at the Titans headquarters, and for some reason, he tells her he forgot about the race and went and hung out with Max Mercury for a while. I'm thoroughly confused by everything here, so let's hurry up and end this. Bart makes Arsenal tell everybody the story of how Supergirl saved his life, then they all eventually go home, with Bart saying he's going to have dinner with his grandma.

This issue wasn't nearly as good as it could have been. The main goal seemed to be to answer all the leftover, lingering questions from Zero Hour and to show some scenes Wolfman didn't have time to get to previously. However, some of the continuity problems were answered in the most convoluted way possible. And I didn't even get into all the Terra stuff, since I don't understand it, and I know for a fact it was a major point of contention between Wolfman and DC. I was also upset that so much time was spent explaining such a worthless detail as Arsenal's need to get a new suit. But the worst of it (for the purposes of this blog) was the contradictions with Impulse. I can justify some of them, but not all of them. Wally West was not involved in Bart's decision to join the Titans, and Wolfman and Garrahy should have known that.

I also have mixed feelings on Greg Land's art. He is a talented, competent artist, but he occasionally makes some confusing choices. Of course, a lot of that could be blamed on Wolfman's script, which had Terra storm out of the Titans headquarters about two or three times. But Wolfman can't be blamed for Land's inability to draw normal human emotions. Where's Salvador Larroca when you need him?

Well, there aren't any letters to the editor or any new ads, so I'll finish my review for this disappointing — but not awful — issue. Next time, we'll do something fun, with Impulse #3.

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