Sunday, December 31, 2017

Teen Titans #11

Raven Rising

Written by Geoff Johns
Pencilled by Mike McKone
Inked by Marlo Alquiza
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Comicraft
Associate Editor Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor Eddie Berganza

Our cover by Mike McKone and Lary Stucker shows a rather random collection of people being "sucked into" Raven. I'm not sure why he chose Robin, Beast Boy, Deathstroke and Ravager for this cover. Nor am I sure I can adequately explain what's going on in this cover or in the story. Raven is just too ... out there ... for me.

Our story begins at 2:35 a.m. on Saturday in the Church of Blood, which is somewhere underneath the Redwood Forest. Robin and Starfire have fallen into a deep cavern, and even though Starfire was clearly knocked out last issue, she's perfectly fine now. They find themselves standing on a bunch of bones, and inches away from Deathstroke and Ravager, who have a gun and sword drawn on our heroes. But they're both more creeped out by Rose's insanity than they are worried about their safety.

Deathstroke then offers them a deal. He'll let Starfire and Robin live, and he'll help them find their way back upstairs to help Cyborg and the others, if they let him and Ravager walk away with Raven. Robin immediately rejects this deal, but Deathstroke says they're stuck in the middle of a maze, but he has the layout. Even though you'd think Starfire should be able to simply fly back up the hole she fell down, she agrees to Deathstroke's deal, telling Robin that the Teen Titans need their help more than Raven does.

Back at the cathedral, everyone is still battling the massive army of cultists. Kid Flash gives Superboy a tourniquet because Brother Blood apparently ruptured an artery. Brother Blood then idiotically tries to bite Cyborg, but ends up hitting one of his metallic parts. Beast Boy, still a raven chanting "Raven belongs to Brother Blood," flies up to Raven. But when he comes into her presence, he returns to normal. Cyborg sees this and tells Gar to get Raven out of the cave now, while he handles the fanatics. So Beast Boy turns into an orangutan and starts carrying Raven away.

Deathstroke and Ravager are meanwhile leading Robin and Starfire upstairs. Robin is furious with Starfire for being so willing to turn her back on her friend. He admits that he warned the others to be prepared to take down Raven, but they didn't agree with him. Now Robin believes they were right, and he doesn't want to give up on anyone. He tries to attack Deathstroke, but Ravager stops him, saying she has a limited form of precognitive vision, which enables her to see Robin's every move before he makes it. She also calls Robin cute, but not as cute as Kid Flash.

Deathstroke leads them through a door, saying he's discovered why the Church of Blood has spent years trying to bring Raven into their cult. In the room is a book from 1301 A.D., which reveals the church worships Trigon and believes the eighth generation of their high priest will wed the daughter of Trigon. And on that day, Trigon's army will cleanse the Earth of those without faith. So, Deathstroke argues, he'll be saving the world when he kills Raven.

Beast Boy suffered a nasty cut while taking Raven out of the chapel, so he has to set her down in a quiet hallway and rest for a minute. He notices Raven's jewel is missing from her forehead, which he knows to be a bad thing. Raven then wakes up and heals Gar's wound and explains that Brother Blood's hold on her weakens with distance. She apologizes for the way she contacted the Titans, saying she reached out and her subconscious took over. Beast Boy suggests she open up her cloak and teleport the whole team back to the Titans Tower, but she says she's too weak right now without her jewel, or chakra.

Raven admits she's scared, angry, worried and ashamed by all of this. As Beast Boy comforts her, Brother Blood rises from a random pool of blood. He apparently defeated Cyborg, Kid Flash, Superboy and Wonder Girl off panel, and now has them all imprisoned in blood somehow. Sebastian tells Raven he loves her and asks her to come back to him, but she refuses. The room quickly fills up with the never-ending supply of cultists, and Brother Blood orders his followers to complete his wedding ceremony on the surface with the rising sun. Beast Boy transforms into a cougar, but he's unable to fight off more than a couple of people.

Suddenly, Robin throws a batarang into Brother Blood's bone crown, telling the 13-year-old he really needs a spanking. As Robin battles Sebastian, Starfire starts taking out the cultists and Deathstroke and Ravager grab Raven. Robin knocks Brother Blood back into the pool of blood, and Starfire surprises everyone by turning on Deathstroke. He says he thought they had a deal, and Starfire admits she lied, which impresses Robin. Brother Blood then orders Raven to take everyone away, and, against her will, Raven sucks in Starfire, Kid Flash, Beast Boy, Robin, Deathstroke and Ravager.

They all find themselves on floating rocks in a cold space of swirling galaxies and stars. Deathstroke confirms that his deal with Starfire is officially off, then prepares to attack her. But he's stopped by the appearance of his son, Jericho, who vows to punish all of them.

I have no idea what's going on. As I've said before, I do not get Raven. She accidentally turned San Francisco Bay to blood and summoned the giant skeleton of Trigon by trying to ask for help? Does her power know any limits? But what actually makes me most angry is how Brother Blood defeated Cyborg, Wonder Girl, Superboy and Kid Flash off panel. Yeah, Brother Blood has Superboy's powers. That still shouldn't be enough to take on those four heroes. Yeah, Brother Blood has a hundred devoted followers fighting for him. But they're just ordinary people, right? Why were they ever an issue for our heroes? If Bart Allen can read an entire library in 20 minutes, then he surely can tie up a hundred people in a couple of seconds. I don't get it. But hey, at least it looks like we'll finally resolve that Jericho plot line.

Next time, we'll resume our battle with Gog in Action Comics #816.

The Flash #210


Geoff Johns – Writer
Howard Porter – Penciller
Livesay – Inker
Pat Brosseau – Letterer
James Sinclair – Colorist & Separator
Harvey Richards – Asst. Editor
Joey Cavalieri – Editor

Our cover by Michael Turner beautifully shows Wally and some of the Rogues that have been giving him a lot of trouble lately. Wally's arm and shoulder does look a little too beefy for a runner like him, but I do like how the light hits his back and blends seamlessly into Zoom (preparing to snap his fingers, naturally). I think Turner could have squeezed in one or two more villains here. Regardless, this is another great cover by him.

Now that Wally and the rest of the world remember that he's the Flash, he's spending some time reconnecting with old friends. Today, he's with Nightwing and the Teen Titans at the tower in San Francisco. Everyone's gathered around the statue of the founding members, listening to Wally tell them about the first time he met Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. He then excuses himself to head to his job, and Cyborg and Beast Boy are shocked that Wally is working. Vic thinks he's a track coach, Gar suggests a pizza delivery man, but Robin correctly deduces that Wally is a mechanic for the Keystone Police Department. Wally is impressed by Tim's brains and how he's not motivated by grief like Dick is, noting that Bart has surrounded himself with the right people.

But the second Bart tries to pull Wally aside to tell him something important, Wally brushes him off and spends the next ten minutes talking to Dick. Seriously, Wally, you and Bart both have super speed. You could have an hours-long conversation in two seconds. Why do you have to be such a jerk to Bart?

Anyway, the issue continues without Bart, but there are some things of note. Hunter Zolomon is still frozen in time, but his ex-wife has become sympathetic toward his predicament and vows to free him. The original Trickster is working for the FBI and training Pied Piper and Heat Wave to go after the Rogues. And the issue ends with Nightwing and Flash teaming up to stop the Penguin, before sneaking into the new Flash Museum to recreate their youthful escapade of sneaking into the Batcave. Turns out, this new museum also severely lacks in security, as Gorilla Grodd has also easily broke in.

I really don't have anything to say about this issue. It's kind of annoying that Johns is teasing us with this "very important" thing Bart and Jay have to tell Wally. But if it really was important, they would have told him by now. As I've said before, Johns loves to plant seeds.

Next time, we'll return to Brother Blood fight in Teen Titans #11.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Action Comics #815

Superman vs. Gog: End Times

Chuck Austen Writer
Ivan Reis Penciller
Marc Campos Inker
Guy Major Colors
Comicraft Letters
Tom Palmer Jr. Associate Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster

This month's cover by ... Arthur Adams, color by Guy Major. This cover shows a new villain, Gog, who is reminiscent of Magog from Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, although he is a different person. The cover promises a tale guest-starring the Teen Titans, but what we see is what we get: Wonder Girl, Superboy and Kid Flash. And no one else. It is a decent cover, but I think Reis could have made it even better.

Our story begins with Superboy giving Wonder Girl and Kid Flash casually walking down the street in Smallville. Apparently Superman believes Doomsday is targeting the town and has asked these heroes to patrol the city, while he works his day job in Metropolis. With no immediate trouble in the area, Bart quickly becomes bored. He says that the Imperiex War slashed the defense budget, closing the nearby military base, which has diminished Smallville's population, leaving behind only the farmers. He complains that Smallville sucks, but Cassie thinks it's cute. Conner's happy to see she likes his new hometown, but Bart insists she'd die of boredom in an hour. He then calls Superman a hick for coming from a place like this.

Bart's complaining is interrupted by a massive blast, caused by the arrival of Gog. Kid Flash and Wonder Girl are flung aside, and Superboy immediately calls out to Superman. Gog grabs Superboy's throat, and is actually pleased to learn that Superman is on his way. Of course, that doesn't stop him from beating up Superboy as much as he can until the Man of Steel arrives. He tosses Superboy through a building and prepares to impale him with his trident, but is stopped at the last second by Superman.

Kid Flash and Wonder Girl finally catch up with Superboy, and Gog punches Superman right over to them. Superman tells Superboy he looks like hell, to which Conner cheesily exclaims that people tell him he looks just like Superman. Superman says they're just being nice, then he orders Kid Flash to see if any of the bystanders need medical attention. Bart's already done that, so Superman tells him and Wonder Girl to now get everyone to safety just in case he can't lure Gog away from the city. Bart agrees, calling Superman "sir," which prompts Conner to remind him of his "hick" comment. Bart says that Superman is a "cool and intense hick" and he runs off with Wonder Girl.

Superman tells Conner to go to the Kents' house to recover, but he refuses. Kid Flash and Wonder Girl quickly return after helping all the civilians and gleefully watch the fight, calling it "wicked." Superman tells them to stop rubber-necking and get away, so they comply. Superman then takes control of the fight, and almost has Gog beat, until he shoves his trident into Superman's gut.

Ivan Reis' art was a welcome relief after all the Teen Titans issues I've been reviewing. It's big, explosive and exciting. Unfortunately, the artwork was the only aspect of this issue I liked. It was incredibly disappointing to see Superboy, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash reduced to a mere fan club. Literally, all they did this issue was stand around and talk about how awesome Superman was. I don't know why they were included in this story at all.

To recap: Superman had reason to believe that Doomsday — the all-powerful monster that killed him — was going to attack Smallville. So instead of contacting every superhero he knows to watch out for this threat, Superman calls in just three members of the Teen Titans to walk the streets of Smallville, while Clark Kent deals with mundane office drama at the Daily Planet. I don't get this logic. And, when a villain did show up, the Teen Titans weren't allowed to even throw a punch at the menace. Superboy got beat up a little bit, and Kid Flash and Wonder Girl "helped people" off panel. And where does Bart get off on mocking Smallville? He grew up in Manchester, Alabama, which can't be much bigger than this place.

At this point in the reviews, almost all of my comics are digital only. But this is one of the rare physical comics I own, so we get to check out the ads for the first time in a long while.

Hey! Where's the cream filling? Twinkies.

New Lego X-Pod. What will you make?

I test myself by testing others. Kaijudo Duel Masters trading card game.

When there's trouble you know who to call. Teen Titans toys. (Based on the Cartoon Network series, not the comics.)

Prepare foolish humans! Invader Zim DVD release.

Return of Dr. Sloth. Neopets trading card game.

Are your Minis pretty or swampy? Shrek-themed M&Ms Minis.

Play big. Magic: The Gathering.

Rind the clues and relp me rolve the rystery! Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed toys at Burger King.

Heads up! Jetix on Toon Disney.

Courage might fail you. Friends won't. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance, Game Cube, Xbox and PC CD-Rom.

GameRiot powered by Xbox.

Throw cards, not punches. Draw cards, not swords. Duel Masters: Sempai Legends on Game Boy Advance.

Bubble Tape Rule the Rides contest. Grand prize a trip to Six Flags.

Their odor is unstoppable. And their mission is downright foul! Zombie Butts from Uranus!

Tip: Grow more fingers! With 25 new Postoken rewards and 5 new games, you'll have your hands full!

Free Justice League Adventures comic book through Sour Punch Straws.

Next time, Wally West will pay the Teen Titans a visit in The Flash #210.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Teen Titans #10

Raven Rising

Written by Geoff Johns
Pencilled by Mike McKone
Inked by Marlo Alquiza
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Comicraft
Associate Editor Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor Eddie Berganza
Special thanks to Norm Rapmund

This is a rather creepy cover by Mike McKone, but once again, the execution diminishes the intended effect. Showing the Teen Titans in a pool of blood at Brother Blood's feet is a really cool idea. The problem is the blood doesn't look realistic. It's almost as if our characters have been frozen in carbonite like Han Solo. The blood is too flat and the edges on the characters' faces and bodies is too crisp.

Our story begins at Titans Tower in San Francisco at 6:06 p.m. on Friday (which is odd, because last issue began at 9:30 p.m. on Friday; I mean, why bother being hyper-precise with the time if you're going to ignore it?). Starfire has mostly cleaned up her garden after Krypto's rampage and notices a bunch of birds flying out over the bay. She follows them and watches the water turn to blood. Suddenly, a huge swarm of black ravens come crashing through one of the tower's windows (they sure do go through a lot of windows here).

Superboy initially believes that the ravens flying out of Krypto's mouth was a result of him eating one of Starfire's alien plants. Cyborg checks the dog, noting he's fine, but unconscious. Starfire returns to the tower to tell them about the blood, and suddenly an enormous skeleton rises from the bay, saying, "Raven belongs to Brother Blood." Starfire recognizes it as the skeleton of Trigon, and Cyborg realizes this must be Raven's way of trying to contact them.

Back at the hospital, Beast Boy is still a raven, repeating the line: "Raven belongs to Brother Blood." Wonder Girl gets her lasso around Beast Boy to keep him from flying away with all the other birds, while Kid Flash takes all the psychic patients into a different room. He notes the black shadows that had previously surrounded them is gone, which must be a good thing. But some of the shadows now surround Robin, who randomly starts shouting about how he hates lying to his father. He rants about how neither Bart nor Cassie feel the pain of being dishonest to a parent, and he comes to the conclusion that he hates Batman.

The shadows swirl around Bart, as well, and he tells Robin he has it worse. His dad is dead and his mom left him a thousand years in the past. Bart says his mom must have considered him a problem child to abandon him like that. Cassie also become afflicted by this wave of hatred, saying that her dad abandoned her and her mom. But Cassie's rant is stopped by the reflection of Ares in the window, urging her to stay strong. The three teens are suddenly electrocuted somehow, which brings them back to their senses. Bart says it felt like someone was in his head or heart, and Cassie wonders why she was talking about her dad. Robin theorizes that happened because Raven hates her dad.

Back at the tower, Cyborg, Starfire and Superboy battle the skeleton of Trigon, with Superboy delivering the final blow with a blast of his heat vision. Krypto wakes up and tackles Conner in celebration, while Starfire and Cyborg discuss what is happening. Starfire believes they had already destroyed all the darkness within Raven, but Vic believes everyone still has a dark side, no matter what.

The rest of our heroes return to the tower, with Cassie flying Robin and holding Beast Boy on a leash, while Bart runs below. Bart tells everyone about Beast Boy's condition and repeated message. Superboy repeats the information Cyborg had recently learned, that Brother Blood is now an arms dealer instead of a "religious weirdo." But Bart tells him that the Daily Planet reported last Tuesday that Brother Blood's corpse washed up on a beach in Oregon (Bart now reads every paper every morning). All Cyborg can gather from this information is that someone new is now leading the Church of Blood. Robin asks if the church has always targeted Raven, but Vic isn't sure.

Beast Boy is no reduced to merely cawing like a raven, and Starfire notes how odd it is that Gar is not staring at her chest. Cassie elbows Conner in the stomach when she catches him staring at Starfire, and Bart laughs at him. Cyborg then suggests they find out where all the birds are flying to, so they let Beast Boy off his leash and take off over the bloody bay. Superboy carries Robin (after stashing Krypto in Starfire's room), Starfire carries Cyborg, and poor Bart is forced to run across the blood, which prompts him to begin quoting from the book of Revelation.

Bart responds to Conner's query that, according to Revelation, water turning to blood is the second event for Armageddon, with the first being loathsome sores. Superboy interprets that as acne, and tells Bart not to take everything he reads literally. Bart asks for a better explanation as to why he's running across blood. Robin asks them all to gather close to him, away from Starfire and Cyborg. He whispers to them that they should be prepared to take down Raven if things go bad. Bart and Cassie prefer to take the optimistic approach with Raven, and Conner warns them to not let Starfire hear them discussing this.

We then cut to Sebastian, who is fawning over the chained and bleeding Raven. His mother warns him that something is wrong with Raven and he needs to stop this. Sebastian says he'll continue with the ceremony and will fulfill prophecy by making Raven his bride. His mother continues to protest, saying she's not actually his mother and that he'll destroy them all. Sebastian leaps on her, kills her and bites off her nose, saying that with her flesh and blood consumed, she will live on inside him. He then chooses a different follower to be his new mother.

Our team then reaches the birds' destination — a random cave in the woods. Wonder Girl puts Beast Boy back on his leash, and Superboy and Kid Flash both forget about their Super-Cycle and spaceship in asking for a Titans Jet or Bat-Copter. Conner then urges Bart to scout out the cave for them, but Bart forgets he can vibrate through objects and says he can't go running in the dark or he'll crash into a wall. So Starfire leads the way, and nobody notices that Deathstroke and Ravager are secretly following them.

Once inside the cave, Beast Boy resumes telling everyone that Raven belongs to Brother Blood. Superboy asks Wonder Girl to give Gar a light shock of lightning to return him to his senses, but Cassie says she can't control the voltage. Bart asks how the lasso works, and Cassie says lightning strikes when she gets angry. Bart points out that the lasso is teaching Cassie how to be angry, and she really doesn't have a good answer for this.

Robin and Cyborg spot five figures in red cloaks heading toward a room, and Robin forgets how to count in suggesting that the five of them (there's six of them) take out those five figures, steal their cloaks and slip in unnoticed. Cyborg likes the plan and orders the Teen Titans to charge ahead. But they're too slow, as the door suddenly open, revealing a large, cathedral-like room filled with dozens of cultists. Brother Blood was just about to marry Raven, and he orders his followers to attack the intruders.

Superboy mocks Brother Blood for being a 12-year-old, so Sebastian corrects him, saying he'll turn 14 next month. Brother Blood then manages to bite Superboy's arm, which gives him Superboy's powers. And his first action with this newfound strength is to pound the ground really hard, causing a small cave-in. Starfire is hit in the head and knocked out, while she and Robin fall down into a dark cavern, where Deathstroke and Ravager just happen to be.

I don't like demons. Or magic. Or any of that kind of stuff. I didn't even like it when Peter David veered in that direction during Young Justice. But I do like the Teen Titans having a villain their age. (Yeah, an almost-14-year-old should be too young for them, but Johns basically writes them at that age, anyway.) I also think it's kind of neat that Brother Blood can gain heroes' powers by biting them. That works for me, for whatever reason. I am a little frustrated that we know so little about this Sebastian kid. Apparently he was introduced during the Outsiders, when the previous Brother Blood, his father, was killed. If these two series had a connection like this, then why didn't they do a crossover? Or better yet, why didn't they use this Brother Blood storyline as the Graduation Day event that forged these new teams?

As for our heroes, I am very frustrated that Wonder Girl is clearly wielding a cursed weapon and nobody cares. And, in general, I am sick and tired of everyone's whiny angst. But I did find Bart's "angry" comments interesting. Although what he said about his mom technically wasn't true, it does make sense that a small part of him, deep down inside, would think that his mom must consider him a problem child to have abandoned him.

Geoff Johns is also playing an interesting game with Bart Allen. The problem with speedsters — especially in a team setting — is that they are basically invincible unless you can find a good enough weakness to slow them down. Bart's weaknesses were his impulsive nature and lack of experience. Now he has sworn off that impulsive personality and suddenly gained a photographic memory, which he used to memorize every significant work of Western literature in the 20th century and read every single newspaper every day. I'll admit, I am envious of the ability to read everything. But the problem is now there is no reason for Bart to be caught off guard by anything. Or even to make a single mistake. He knows everything and is fast enough to do anything. So since Johns gave Bart a new ability, he has to take away previously established abilities to try to balance him out. Dropping Bart's "scouts" was a good idea, but ignoring his ability to vibrate through objects is a travesty. That was established on Day One. So Bart should never worry about running into a wall — especially know that he's insufferably smart.

Next time, we'll begin comics with a July 2004 publication date, starting with Action Comics #815.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Teen Titans #9

First Blood

Written by Geoff Johns
Pencilled by Mike McKone
Inked by Marlo Alquiza & Norm Rapmund
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Comicraft
Assoc. Editor Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor Eddie Berganza

I think Mike McKone is getting better with his covers. I'm still not a fan of the faces he's drawn, and Beast Boy and Wonder Girl look more like they're making out than cowering in fear, but beyond that, this is a pretty good cover. Kid Flash going on a joy ride reminds me of the early days of Impulse with Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos. But this time, he's driving a Batmobile, while outracing a bleak black-and-white world filled with swarming ravens. I prefer covers that show us what the inside story is about, as opposed to the many collages McKone has done for this series.

Our story begins in a dark cavern filled with blood, smoke and a bunch of people dressed in red cloaks. Raven, shaved bald, is chained to a wall. She's approached by a young man named Sebastian, who has pasty white skin and a ... dragon skull? ... on his head. Sebastian's mother tells him that despite Raven's baptism and rebirth, the influence of Trigon is still on her. Sebastian threatens to remove his mother's tongue and says that Raven's flesh will save the world. He tells Raven to stop running and he bites off the gem on her forehead. This causes quite a bit of blood, and Sebastian says the taste of Raven's blood makes his powers grow.

We then return to San Francisco at 9:30 p.m. on Friday. After learning about the history of Raven, Beast Boy has taken Robin, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash out on a mission. But Bart wasn't paying attention to the debriefing and has to ask everybody what they're doing.

Bart explains that he was busy thinking about Dostoevsky while Cyborg explained the mission, so Beast Boy asks why he even bothered following them out there. Bart says Wonder Girl always knows what she's doing, so if she goes, he goes, too. Perhaps encouraged by this flattery, Cassie explains to Bart that two hours ago every fortune teller on Haight Street suffered some kind of seizure and went into a coma. They were all taken to St. Luke's, where Doctor Rovin, who oversaw Bart's knee surgery, contacted Cyborg. And now the Teen Titans are investigating, believing this has to do with Raven.

Bart then complains about Beast Boy's choice to transform into a rat, citing all the different diseases rats carry. Cassie suggests they have Bart run them all over to the hospital one at a time, but Robin says it'll be easier to drive over together. Instead of bringing back the forgotten Super-Cycle, Robin opens a secret garage to reveal his own Batmobile. Apparently Batman has given Robin a "batarang budget" that is large enough to include shipping a Batmobile to San Francisco.

Bart geeks out over all the car's features, including a blue button that Robin tells him to never push. He asks Robin if he can drive, saying that even though he doesn't have his learner's permit, he has driven before and read over 200 books about cars. Beast Boy tells Robin to let Bart drive, just to shut him up, so they all pile in.

The Batmobile is soon airborne and going 110 miles per hour, which Bart feels is too slow. He gets the car back on the ground, but it promptly flips over and skids to a halt on its roof. Conveniently, our heroes ended up right in front of St. Luke's General Hospital, although upside down. Beast Boy turns into a cobra and threatens to bite Bart's jugular. Cassie blames Gar for letting Bart drive, and Bart says Beast Boy was the one who pushed the blue button. Suddenly, Batman's voice comes over the intercom, asking Robin why one of his Batmobiles is in San Francisco and why all its systems are off line.

Superboy, meanwhile, is back in the tower doing his homework. I don't know why he bothered traveling to San Francisco if he had so much homework, but whatever. He's struggling with a 2,000-word essay on the history of religious wars and he considers asking Bart to write it for him. Krypto shows up, begging for Conner's attention. Conner is too slow to respond, so the super dog blasts through his window and out into the garden. Conner follows, but is unable to prevent the dog from tearing up Starfire's garden, which makes her pretty upset.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Ravager and Deathstroke are finally getting some information from the red-cloaked people. Apparently they people who took Raven want to strengthen the bloodline that's always passed from father to son. Together, they will cleanse the Earth of all non-believers and Brother Blood will take his rightful place. Deathstroke lectures Ravager for killing their witnesses too quickly, saying they still could have learned more from them. He also reminds her of their mission — to kill Raven to make sure Jericho doesn't come back.

Back at the tower, Superboy chases Krypto back inside and follows the dog down to Cyborg's room, where Vic has taken himself apart piece by piece for cleaning and maintenance. This freaks Conner out, but Cyborg explains the process in great detail and puts himself back together. Krypto suddenly starts barking like crazy, and a bunch of ravens fly out of his mouth.

At the hospital, Dr. Rovin leads our heroes down the hall, explaining that he wants to keep this quiet to avoid the attention of the D.E.O. or other people. Kid Flash asks if there's anything out of the ordinary with the patients' vital signs, and Dr. Rovin says their vitals are fine. The odd thing is that all of the fortune tellers are floating several inches above their beds and are surrounded by a black shadow in the shape of a Raven.

The patients' eyes all open and glow purple once the Teen Titans enter the room and they address the Titans in unison. The shadows leave the fortune tellers and converge into one swirling cloud. A voice calls out for help amidst the cloud, which descends on Beast Boy and enters his mouth. There's an explosion, everyone is knocked out, and Beast Boy turns into a raven, saying, "The Raven belongs to Brother Blood."

It seems like Geoff Johns made a concerted effort to including more humor in this issue. Problem is, none of this humor appealed to me. Superboy getting yelled at by Starfire and Cyborg for not taking care of his dog. Robin getting yelled at by Batman for stealing a Batmobile. Kid Flash recklessly crashing said Batmobile. This isn't funny. This is just teenagers being irresponsible and laughing off the consequences. True, some humor would be welcome to cut through the heaping pile of angst this series is loaded with, but these jokes feel rather jarring being put right next to this creepy story of Brother Blood and Raven.

Next: Teen Titans #10

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Flash #208

The Red Carpet

Geoff Johns Writer
Howard Porter Penciller
Livesay Inker
Rob Leigh Letterer
James Sinclair Colorist & Separator
Joey Cavalieri Editor
Harvey Richards Asst. Editor

Our cover is by Michael Turner, who still draws Bart as Kid Flash better than anyone else. I really enjoy the closeups of Bart, Wally and Jay, although Jay does look a bit too angry. Like he is downright furious at Wally for something. But Bart is optimistic and hopeful, and overall looks great. I don't quite get the vast gray background, and I don't think we needed a smaller shot of the speedsters running. They all look a bit too chunky in that pose. I would have just made the closeups bigger to fill the whole cover.

When we last left The Flash, Wally had made a deal with the Spectre to have the world forget that he was the Flash. This spell also included himself, so Wally spent the past few issues remembering his secret identity. Now he's back as the Flash, but he hasn't told any of his colleagues yet. That all changes today when Wally is battling Abra Kadabra, Trickster and Tar Pit.

Bart and Jay show up in the nick of time, and Jay pulls Wally out of Tar Pit's sticky clutches, while Bart battles Trickster once again. Bart babbles on about Newton's first law of physics and Wally has a very revealing thought: "For a while I wasn't sure 'Impulse' would be a real part of the Flash legacy. I stand corrected."

Jay tells Wally it's good to see him on the streets again, but Wally worries about the damage he's causing with his fights. Bart jokes that Wally should see his room, and Wally surprises Bart by saying it's good to hear his voice. Abra Kadabra then summons a giant that begins destroying Keystone High School, which puts a smile on Bart's face. Jay vows to rebuild the school so Bart can continue attending his classes, but Bart points out that's unnecessary since he's already memorized an entire library. Jay says that cramming isn't the same as understanding. Trying to make small talk, Wally admits to Bart that he didn't like school that much, either.

The speedsters tie up the giants, then begin punching Abra Kadabra before he can cast another spell. The magician from the future hastily retreats, taking his giants with him. Wally then decides that now is a good time to reveal his secret identity to Jay and Bart, but they say they knew all along and were waiting for Wally to figure it out on his own.

Before they can elaborate on this, the three heroes are surrounded by an adoring crowd of people seeking autographs. One of them, Dexter Miles, pulls the speedster away to show them the rebuilt Flash Museum. We get to see tons of statues of old villains, including the Reverse-Flash, Savitar, Lady Savitar, Zoom and Rival. But the best part is room devoted to Bart Allen, centered around a large statue of Impulse batting Inertia. It also includes Michael Turner's alternate cover of Teen Titans #1, which has to be a painting, since Raven isn't anywhere close to joining the team yet.

As the speedsters tour the museum, Jay explains to Wally that the Spectre conveniently appeared to him, Bart and Iris to tell them what Wally had done and that he would eventually regain his memories. Wally sadly confesses to Jay that Linda has left him, being naturally upset at having her memories taken away against her will. Suddenly, Wally is teleported up to the JLA Watchtower, where the entire Justice League is angrily demanding that he explain himself. Bart and Jay wonder where Wally went, and Bart says they need to tell Wally about Grandma. Jay says they will in due time, and they take off.

As I said last time, I'm not going to complain about the continuity errors. Geoff Johns' timeline just doesn't line up, and I'll leave it at that. In any case, it was kind of nice to see Wally awkwardly try to start a fresh relationship with Bart. But I sincerely believe that Johns was speaking for himself when he had Wally say he thought Impulse shouldn't be a part of the Flash legacy. But now that Bart is Kid Flash, both Wally and Johns accept him. I find this incredibly frustrating, since I thought Impulse brought in a unique personality that fit in beautifully with the Flash family. And now that personality has been lost.

One thing Johns does like doing is pitting Kid Flash against the Trickster. I don't know how Trickster got back out on the streets so soon (see my continuity complaints), but I do like this matchup. This newer Trickster is about Bart's age, and his wild personality is a natural fit for Bart. Even Peter David chose to have Impulse battle Trickster in Young Justice. I wish Bart still had his own series, because Axel Walker would have been a wonderful recurring villain there.

Next time: Teen Titans #9.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Teen Titans #8

Family Lost

Written by Geoff Johns
Pencilled by Tom Grummett
Inked by Kevin Conrad
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Comicraft
Associate Editor Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor Eddie Berganza

This is actually my favorite Mike McKone cover so far. Simple, straight-forward and to the point. None of these weird gimmicks that try to cram in too many characters in odd, unusual ways. Just a solid shot of Raven in front of a fiery explosion that compliments the Teen Titans fireball logo. Unfortunately, this cover implies that Raven will make a grand re-entrance in this issue, which does not happen. Although we do talk about her for a bit.

Our story begins in Gotham City at 5:43 p.m. on Friday. Tim Drake is heading out to join the Teen Titans, feeling guilty about constantly lying to his dad, who believes Tim's injuries are the result of playing football without a helmet. Robin discusses this with Batman while flying out to San Francisco, coldly telling the Dark Knight that he never had to lie to his father.

Meanwhile, it's 2:52 p.m. Pacific Time in San Francisco, where Wonder Girl and Kid Flash have already arrived and are helping the mentors escort super villains to the newly opened prison on Alcatraz Island. But two classic Titans villains — Mammoth and Gizmo — have escaped and are causing a scene at Fisherman's Wharf.

Kid Flash makes sure everybody knows that he knows everything about Mammoth, but Cyborg makes him protect the crowd of people who were protesting the reopening of the prison. During the fight, Beast Boy asks Wonder Girl where her boyfriend, Superboy is. She tries to deny this, but Beast Boy can see right through her. (We do see that Superboy is once again stuck in detention.) The two get so caught up in their banter, they are almost hit by the rampaging Mammoth, but Kid Flash pulls them to safety in the nick of time.

Wonder Girl electrocutes Mammoth with her lasso, Starfire blasts him and Cyborg finishes him off with a big punch. Gizmo has a powerful bomb at the ready, but Beast Boy turns into a blue coral snake and bites him. He gives Gizmo the option to surrender and be escorted to the hospital to have the venom drained, or he can drop dead.

Back on the Batplane, Batman has changed the subject to Raven, warning Robin that she's spent her life being dishonest and he can't trust her. The angsty Robin says, "Sound familiar." So Batman finally says it's better that his dad doesn't know he's a superhero.

Robin finally arrives at Titans Tower at 4:13 p.m., around the same time Superboy shows up. Robin claims he was late because Clayface escaped Arkham, so Superboy tries to quickly come up with a story about Bizarro trashing the Daily Planet, but Robin sees through him. They join Bart and Cassie in the classroom and hear all about the excitement they missed. Apparently the task of escorting villains to the Alcatraz prison is one of the favors the Teen Titans needs to do to repay the city for financing their tower. Despite the protests, all our heroes believe this is a good idea, as San Francisco can charge other cities to house their villains, and should any villains escape, they'll likely attack the nearby Titans Tower instead of the city.

With everybody at their desks, Starfire comes in to debrief the new members on the history of Raven. Superboy is reluctant to spend more time in a school setting, but Bart is curious, noting that he couldn't find much material to read about Raven. Robin tries to deliver Batman's warning, but Starfire insists that Batman does not know Raven like she does.

So we delve into the story of how Raven's mom ran away from home, fell into a cult and was impregnated by the demon Trigon. She was rescued by the people of Azarath, who raised Raven to suppress all emotions to avoid the attention of Trigon. Raven then came to Earth to battle Trigon with the Teen Titans ... several times. Eventually Raven turned evil, then her body was vaporized, which enabled her true self — a golden "soul-self" — to be free. (This happened at the end the New Titans, but Impulse missed out on all of it because he was left behind on Earth.)

Bart admits he spaced out during Starfire's lecture, but Cassie took notes, which he quickly reads. Cassie asks if the Raven they saw was a new body she created for herself, and Robin brings up the possibility that someone else created the body for her. Superboy is still failing to see the importance of all this, so Starfire cryptically says that Raven's appearance is always a warning sign of approaching evil. Robin quietly wonders to himself if Raven herself is the evil.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Deathstroke and Rose's quest have brought them to the Church of St. Sebastian. They are beating and killing the people dressed in red cloaks, demanding information about Raven. But all the people say is "All praise Brother Blood." And on the last page of the issue, we see that Rose has put on the outfit we saw on the cover of Teen Titans #½ and is calling herself the Ravager.

I really don't have a lot to say about this issue. We saw more of Geoff Johns' desire to reinstate everything Marv Wolfman did, as well as his fascination with prisons. I do wonder why he bothered to throw in protesters without allowing any kind of debate on the subject. But I will admit I kind of like the idea of our heroes basically taking a class on superhero history. Even though I don't care too much about Raven, this was a good way to present some key information.

Next time, we're going to return to The Flash and we're not going to worry about the continuity between that series and this one because it will make my head explode.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Teen Titans #7


Written by Geoff Johns
Pencilled by Tom Grummett
Inked by Nelson & Kevin Conrad
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Comicraft
Associate Editor Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor Eddie Berganza

Our cover by Mike McKone is kind of a hodgepodge collection of unrelated images. We have three computer windows, showing Deathstroke in a cemetery, Superman and Superboy flying over the fields of Kansas, and Kid Flash battling the Trickster. Oddly, Superman and Superboy are popping out of their computer window, and most randomly, Beast Boy (as a dog) and Krypto are tearing apart the Teen Titans logo. You'd also think that with the computer windows, this story is about someone monitoring these heroes (and villains), but that's not the case.

Our story begins with Deathstroke visiting the grave of his friend, William Wintergreen, whom he killed while being possessed by Jericho. Naturally, it's raining, because it always rains at cemeteries. Slade still doesn't quite understand what happened, or where his son is, but he vows to make sure Jericho stays dead.

At Titans Tower in San Francisco, Beast Boy returns from an acting class and asks Cyborg if he's picked up on any leads about Raven. Vic says he suspected Brother Blood to be involved, considering Raven's cryptic comment about blood washing over the Earth, but apparently Nightwing and the Outsiders have recently battled Brother Blood, and reported he is no longer a cult leader and merely an arms dealer.

At Smallville High School, Conner is serving detention for skipping class, and he surprises himself with his unusually dark thoughts about destroying the school and killing everyone in it. As soon as he leaves the building, he's met by Superman, who offers him a gift to apologize for the JLA getting into a fight with the Teen Titans.

We then check in with Kid Flash, who is reveling in his recent adventures with his friends and the Teen Titans. School is now completely useless for him since reading an entire library, but Flash insists he stay to gain experience and wisdom.

The Trickster is speeding down the streets in a customized car, and Bart easily defeats him by taking the car apart piece by piece. During the "battle," Bart's thoughts dwell on his difficulties at school — his string of perfect test scores has teachers believing he's cheating — and a desire to hang out with his friends again, especially Robin, who has a knack of making Bart feel stupid, which he actually craves right now.

Tim, meanwhile, is struggling with a homework assignment to write an essay about what he wants to be when he grows up. Tim has no idea what he wants to do in the future as a superhero or a civilian. We then cut back to Superman and Superboy, who are discussing Conner's developing powers and how the Kents can be a good resource for Conner, since they went through all this with Clark. Superman then summons Superboy's present — Krypto the Superdog.

Cassie Sandsmark, meanwhile, is missing Conner, while she and her mom are applying at their 17th different school — the Elias School for Girls. The previous principal, Ms. Foster, probably would have been more accommodating, having had quite a bit of experience with Young Justice. But the new principal, Ms. David, flatly rejects Cassie, despite her dozens of letters of recommendation, including some from Power Girl, Mary Marvel and the Red Tornado.

Suddenly, Cissie King-Jones fires an arrow past Principal David's head, saying that if Cassie isn't admitted, then she, the school's darling Olympic winner, will leave. Right behind Cissie is the human Greta Hayes, who adds that she'll also leave and that she's really good at trigonometry. The principal eventually gives in, but she sternly warns Cassie to not use her powers on campus. Cassie gives Cissie and Greta a big hug, realizing just how much she missed her friends.

We then return to Superman and Superboy for the third time, just so we can see Conner whine and complain a bit more, since he thinks owning a pet is lame. Back at the tower, Starfire is spending time in the garden, hoping this activity will teach her more patience. And back at Wintergreen's grave, Deathstroke is joined by his daughter, Rose, who is preparing to journey with him to Phoenix to try to track down Raven and Jericho.

This was a good decompression issue to give us a quick glimpse of what's going on in everybody's life. Unfortunately, we have a pretty big cast of characters to deal with, so nobody got more than a couple of pages (except for Superboy, who got more than enough room to display his teenage angst). Mostly, I was happy to finally see what Greta is doing now that she's no longer Secret. Sending her to Cissie's school was the natural thing, and I'm surprised that Cassie didn't try to go there right off the bat. I'm also surprised that Wonder Woman (or at least Red Tornado) didn't come into the principal's office to personally vouch for Cassie. It also would have been nice to see Traya, too, but I feel like I'm asking for too much at this point.

I did like Bart's pages. He had the most dramatic transformation since this team started, so it's understandable that he'd still be a bit wired from everything. It's also understandable that his school would become suspicious with him suddenly getting perfect scores. Bart's tactic he used with the Trickster is a pretty clever one, but it's also something that makes you wonder how speedsters are ever defeated by anybody. If you're fast enough to pull out every nut and bolt from a speeding car, then you should be able to stop just about everything that comes your way. Geoff Johns liked this stunt so much that he repeated it a few years later with Barry Allen and the Trickster again.

Once again, I have to say that I like the guest artist better than Mike McKone. The two inkers did have different styles, though, so that was a little distracting, but otherwise I was happier than usual with the art on this book. I feel a little bad for constantly ragging on McKone. I'm sure he's a wonderful and kind man. But I did not like his artwork in this series.

Next time: Teen Titans #8

Teen Titans #½

The Ravager

Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Ivan Reis
Inks by Marc Campos
Colors by Sno-Cone
Letters by Comicraft
Associate Editor Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor Eddie Berganza

Our cover is by Mike McKone, featuring a fairly decent shot of Rose Wilson dressed like her father, Deathstroke. But I don't get what's going on with the mugshots of the Teen Titans on the side. Are they supposed to be in sniper crosshairs? It mostly feels like a waste of space to me. Also, we once again have Raven on the cover, but not in the inside story.

This issue was a 13-page mail-in order from Wizard magazine, which was apparently still a pretty big deal in 2003. Technically speaking, this comic does not have a publication date. But an editor's note does say this takes place between issues #6 and #7, so we're going to review it now. I don't know why they didn't call this Teen Titans #6½, but that's beside the point.

Our story begins with a series of flashbacks, beginning with Slade Wilson meeting Lillian Worth in Cambodia 18 years ago. Sweet Lili would eventually give birth to Slade's daughter, Rose. We then see Dick Grayson's parents die in Gotham City 10 years ago; Rose learning martial arts in New York six years ago, Slade's oldest son dying in East Hampton five years ago; Slade killing his second son, Jericho, in the dimension of Azarath three years ago; Superboy being cloned in Metropolis two years ago; Sweet Lili dying in the Adirondack Mountains 18 months ago; and Impulse being shot in the knee on Alcatraz Island one week ago.

We then cut to today in Chicago, where Rose is living with loving foster parents, who are patiently weening her off her violent tendencies. Suddenly, the foster parents are both shot in the head by a man in a red-and-blue outfit, who introduces himself as Deathstroke's half-brother, Wade Defarge. He's taken up the identity of Slade's first son, Ravager, just to drive him nuts. In fact, Wade hates Slade so much, he even offered to kidnap Rose for free, despite being offered $100,000. But before he can take his niece away, the Teen Titans literally come crashing through the wall.

Kid Flash dodges a shot from Ravager's gun, saying he's not going to get hit twice. He then starts punching Wade, saying that when people can't afford Deathstroke the Terminator, they call Deadshot. If they can't afford Deadshot, they call Merlyn. But if they can't afford Merlyn, then they Wade. Cyborg then steps in to start attacking Ravager, explaining that they received an anonymous call giving them Rose's location and saying she's in danger.

Bart asks Rose if she's OK, telling her he's Impulse, or Kid Flash. But Rose doesn't want to be touched. Beast Boy tells her they're just trying to help, but Robin, who has confirmed the deaths of the foster parents, darkly says, "We can't help them." Cyborg, meanwhile, is trying to interrogate Ravager to find out who hired him. But a gas arrow flies through the window and knocks out everybody.

When they come to, Rose and Ravager are gone. Cyborg realizes they should have anticipated Deathstroke's involvement, although Beast Boy is much more forgiving of their performance. Superboy comments on how psychotic the Deathstroke family is, ranging from this Ravager to Jericho, who attacked them last week. Starfire tries to defend Jericho, but Superboy lumps him in with the other "wacko" Titans — Raven, Terra and Duela Dent. Bart angrily claims that Rose is not like her family and that he's going to find her.

Cassie remembers that Bart knew Rose, and Starfire provides a brief history. Rose didn't know Deathstroke was her father until a few years ago, and she inherited his strength, stamina, agility and limited precognition. After her mother was killed, Deathstroke wanted nothing to do with her, and for a brief time, Rose was a member of the New Titans, along with Impulse. Superboy takes this all as confirmation of his point.

Rose then wakes up in a warehouse with her dad standing over her. Deathstroke apologizes for not being a part of Rose's life, and says he now needs someone at his side he can trust. He shows Rose that he's tied up Wade, and he proposes they kill him to erase the bad memories of Ravager and replace them with better ones. Rose instantly agrees to this place, and even takes it one step further — demanding to use her dad's sword on her uncle to give him a slow death. Deathstroke gladly approves.

We conclude our story at Titans Tower in San Francisco. Apparently the team spent hours looking for Rose, and Kid Flash covered every inch of Chicago, but to no avail. Wonder Girls asks who put the hit on Rose in the first place, and Cyborg says it had to have been Deathstroke, weaving an elaborate plan to bring his daughter to his side.

I think the smaller page count really hurt this story. Everything was rushed to the point of basically giving me whiplash. In the space of less than an hour, Rose Wilson goes from doing homework and watching Cinderella to wanting to kill her uncle as slowly and brutally as possible. We needed some more time between this dramatic change in attitude. It also bugged me with how incompetent the Teen Titans were in this issue. Seven powerful and experienced superheroes charged into a house, recklessly destroying an entire wall in the process, all to take out one random C-list villain. And not one of them saw Deathstroke's arrow coming. And none of them could prevent the gas from knocking them out. Kid Flash could have blown the gas away, or Cyborg could have filtered out the gas with his suit, or something, right? And how come they couldn't find Deathstroke at the end? Kid Flash can move at the speed of light and vibrate through walls. If he needed to find someone in Chicago, he should be able to find them.

I found Geoff Johns' timeline interesting. We did witness the death of Sweet Lili, back in 1995. That was during Impulse's short stint with the New Titans, which apparently happened only 18 months ago. It is true that Bart also did think he liked Rose for about five minutes back then. But it feels kind of odd for Johns to call back New Titans stories from eight years ago, and yet go out of his way to avoid any mention of Young Justice.

The one positive I have for this issue was the artwork. I like Ivan Reis' style much more than Mike McKone's. It's more refined, more consistent. I've said it before and I'll say it again: If this title had a better artist, I'd be able to handle Johns' changes a lot better.

Next time: Teen Titans #7.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Teen Titans #6

War and Peace

Written by Geoff Johns
Pencilled by Mike McKone
Inked by Marlo Alquiza
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Comicraft
Associate Editor Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor Eddie Berganza

This cover is a perfect example of why I am not a Mike McKone fan. In what is supposed to be an intense fight between the Teen Titans and the JLA, we have some really goofy faces and poses going on. The absolute worst is Batman. With his arms raised like that and that silly smile on his face, it looks like he's chasing Robin around as the tickle monster. And in the opposite corner, our little Kid Flash isn't faring too much better. What's with that demonic grin? So disappointing.

Our story picks up on Sunday morning, with Robin and Kid Flash having concluded their conversation in the garden, and now are presenting some conditions to the Teen Titan mentors. They demand there to be no rules in the tower and to not be left on the sidelines like inferiors. Beast Boy likes their spirit, saying Robin reminds him of Nightwing, but Starfire disagrees. The repaired Cyborg agrees to an extent, saying they'll still provide training and educational seminars, and he'll still act as the leader of the team, but otherwise Titans Tower should be enjoyed by all of them together. Robin and Kid Flash accept those terms. Superboy suddenly flies in, with a bit of Wonder Girl's lipstick still on his cheek, telling everybody they have a problem.

Up on the roof, Cassie is arguing with Wonder Woman about her joining the Teen Titans. Diana believes the best course for Cassie right now is to train with the Amazons on Themyscira, but Cassie feels that's too controlling and she says she doesn't need another mother. Diana points out that Cassie's mom is worried sick, and Cassie admits she made a mistake by not telling her mom she was spending the weekend in San Francisco. But she's still mad at Wonder Woman, and reveals she has been speaking with Ares.

Starfire is the first to arrive on the scene, telling Wonder Woman to leave Wonder Girl alone. Diana tells Koriand'r to leave, so Starfire turns to Cassie, asking her what she wants to do. When Cassie says she wants to stay, Starfire immediately attacks Wonder Woman. The fight is in full force by the time everybody else makes it out to the gardens, and Cyborg is a bit perturbed that Kory failed to tell him Wonder Woman objected to Wonder Girl joining the Teen Titans. Before anyone can try to break up the fight, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Flash arrive.

Cyborg asks what they're doing here, and Batman says Wonder Woman didn't authorize Wonder Girl's involvement. Kid Flash takes issue with the word "authorize," saying they all joined because they wanted to. Flash immediately assumes Starfire started the fight, and Green Lantern orders everyone to stay put while Wonder Woman deals with Starfire. Kid Flash disobeys that order, taking off while saying, "The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are in the wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are in the right."

Wally catches up to Bart running across the water, asking him what he just said. Bart says he was quoting Mark Twain, and that he particularly enjoyed "Roughing It," as it parallels his life right now — heading west and finding out he can do a lot more that some people tell him. Wally tells Bart he's trying too hard with the new costume and quoting books. Bart throws this back in Wally's face, pointing out that until now, no matter what he did or said, it was never good enough for Wally — he doesn't think Bart can handle the legacy of the Flash. Wally claims to have never said that, but Bart says he just didn't say it to his face. And he's tired of it.

Superman has also decided to follow Starfire and Wonder Woman out over the bay, so Superboy trails him, demanding to know what happened to his promise that the JLA won't get involved. Superman says he'll keep that promise after they clear up this miscommunication. That's not good enough for Superboy, who infers that that Superman believes Wonder Woman has the right to control Cassie's life. As he talks, Conner inadvertently blasts some heat vision at Superman's back.

Batman saw that and tells Green Lantern to "take care of the clone." Robin takes offense at the word "clone" and he prepares to fight Batman. Cyborg and Beast Boy attack Green Lantern, arguing about authority and duty. Cassie finally catches up to Wonder Woman and throws her new lasso around her, electrocuting the Amazon.

Wally tells Bart he never meant to hurt his feelings, but Bart doesn't buy it. He says if he can survive being kneecapped by Deathstroke, he can survive getting slammed by Wally. Flash pauses for a bit upon hearing about this attack for the first time, which gives Kid Flash the opportunity to prepare an attack. He races around Wally, heating up the water into a boiling explosion that shoots both of the them up into the air. Superman and Superboy catch Flash and Kid Flash, while Wonder Woman demands to know where Cassie got this Zeus lightning-powered lasso.

Everybody keeps fighting and arguing, until Nightwing suddenly shows up. He says he just happened to be listening in on his JLA Reserve communicator, and he's shocked to see them all behaving like children. Dick first approaches Wally, reminding him of how he hated it when Aquaman and Hawkman would constantly check on them as Teen Titans. He then tells Kory that he knows she can control herself better than this. Superman suggests they all begin to actually talk to each other.

As everybody heads back inside, Cassie pauses in front of the massive statue of the original members and says she misses Donna. Starfire angrily declares that this is all Wonder Woman's fault. Diana says she takes responsibility for her (but I'm not sure if she was referring to Cassie or Donna). Starfire seizes on the word "responsibility," saying the new members of the Teen Titans have been blaming themselves for the death of Donna Troy, and if anyone is to be blamed, it should be Superman.

Starfire fires a blast at Superman, reminding everyone that it was one of his androids that killed Donna — a mindless robot that was too much trouble to scrap. Vic, Gar and Dick hold Kory back, but Conner, Cassie, Bart and Tim are impressed, with Bart saying, "Daaamn." Superman tells Starfire she's right, and says he thought he dismantled all the androids, but one of them obviously fell into the wrong hands. But Wonder Woman says she deserves all the blame. She tells Cassie that she was mostly mad that she was hiding things from her. Diana concedes she may have been wrong. Ultimately, she wants Cassie and all the Teen Titans to know she and the JLA are there if they need help.

Nightwing tells the JLA to let the teens come to them when they want to and to respect their privacy at the tower. He tells Batman he'll give Robin a ride back to Gotham and that he can skip the lecture tonight. To Robin's surprise, Batman agrees. Cyborg, Starfire and Beast Boy then take a bit of pleasure in escorting the JLA out of their headquarters.

Before taking off, Robin pulls Superboy aside to tell him that he somehow found time over the weekend to complete a DNA analysis on his strand of hair. Robin reports that Conner's DNA is split — 50 percent Kryptonian and 50 percent human, with Lex Luthor being the human donor. (I'm not sure how he confirmed this. Wouldn't he need Luthor's DNA to compare?) Superboy is not too happy about Robin sneaking around behind his back, and he accuses him of acting like Batman. Superboy says he's now burdened with the knowledge that he'll either become the world's greatest hero or the world's greatest villain.

Robin tries to joke about Superboy going bald, then he assures Conner that he and the rest of the Teen Titans will make sure that he won't become a villain, since he knows Conner will be there for him when he'll need help down the road. After considering this for a moment, Superboy tells Robin that he's nothing like Batman. He departs on good terms, saying they'll see each other next week.

In Gotham City, Tim has convinced his dad that Bruce Wayne is sending him to a vocational school each weekend, and he really likes it because he's met a lot of good friends there. Tim then sits down at his computer to do some homework, but he suddenly receives another message from Snapdragon, asking, "Did he tell Superman?" Another message soon follows: "He's a danger to you all." Tim responds with the username 003Robin457: "Who are you?" Snapdragon doesn't answer, but we see that he is none other than Lex Luthor himself.

This issue was unnecessary. Geoff Johns brought in the Justice League and had everybody act out of character all for what? To show us the Teen Titans crave independence? Haven't they already been whining about that in every single issue of this series? Seriously, this all came down to, as Superman said, a misunderstanding between Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl. That's it. Diana wanted Cassie to spend more time recovering from Donna's death and to train with Artemis. There was absolutely no reason for the rest of the JLA to come down and act like condescending jerks.

Also, Wally's appearance breaks the fragile grasp of continuity I had between The Flash, JSA and Teen Titans. I tried so hard to work out the timing of everything, but now I cannot. It's frustrating because Johns was the writer on all three books, so if anyone could have accurately reflected the events in each of these books, it would have been him. I guess he just wanted to have his cake and eat it, too.

Other than the continuity problems, I did like how Bart called out Wally on his inexplicable rudeness toward him (especially how Johns writes him). I don't like Bart quoting books and reciting scientific facts (I don't think I ever will), but the things he told Wally needed to be said.

Next time: Teen Titans #½.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Teen Titans #5

Clash of the Teen Titans!

Written by Geoff Johns
Pencilled by Mike McKone
Inked by Marlo Alquiza
Colored by Jeromy Cox
Lettered by Comicraft
Associate Editor Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor Eddie Berganza

Our cover by Mike McKone features Impulse and Kid Flash in a rather odd set up. It's like Kid Flash is racing past the anguished Impulse, who does not like the idea of being replaced. And I can't say that Kid Flash looks too pleased about it, either. Also, Kid Flash's hair is looking a bit too red for me. He's not Wally West, people! Anyway, the background is random as usual, showing Raven and Deathstroke ... with some circle things above Deathstroke's head. Are they targets? Bullets? Like I said, very random.

Our story picks up at 9:40 p.m. on the new Teen Titans' first Saturday. Starfire has caught up with Beast Boy and Cyborg, who are recovering from the Deathstroke attack (Cyborg is rerouting cranial nerve impulses so he can function with only half a brain). Beast Boy tells Starfire that Deathstroke is possessed by Jericho, who has threatened to kill one of the kids to illustrate how dangerous the Teen Titans are. Cyborg says the new members should be safe in the tower, but Starfire has to tell him she failed at her babysitting job. Meanwhile, Kid Flash has engaged Deathstroke.

After running through every law Deathstroke is currently breaking, Bart takes the time to explain to Robin that he spent a relative year and a half (20 minutes in real time) reading every book in the San Francisco Public Library. He used his gained knowledge on aerodynamics and athletic equipment to create his new costume. Bart spends so much time telling all this to Robin, he leaves an opening for Deathstroke to kick him in the chest, breaking one of his ribs.

Robin throws an R-shaped batarang at Deathstroke, nearly taking out his one good eye. Superboy finally recovers and smashes Deathstroke into the sidewalk. Wonder Girl is right behind, trying out her new lasso. Once she wraps up Deathstroke, the lightning spews out of the lasso, electrocuting the possessed villain. This surprises both Robin and Wonder Girl. Superboy moves in for the finishing blow, but Jericho jumps into his body.

Kid Flash catches up with Robin and Wonder Girl, explaining that he snapped his rib back into place (thanks to a book he read) and it's already healed right up. He tells Cassie that he's Kid Flash now and asks if Deathstroke is still conscious, since he wants to hit him a few hundred times more. Superboy swoops in to attack them, and to everyone's surprise, he hits them with a blast of heat vision. Bart jumps on Conner's back, but Superboy knocks him off with a head butt.

The other Titans have now arrived, and Cyborg brings Superboy down by throwing a car at him. Bart asks Vic what happened to his head, but he ignores the question and criticizes the new members for leaving the tower. He also explains that they're fighting Jericho, who can jump into people's bodies by making eye contact. Starfire also criticizes Robin for lying to her, but he says she didn't give him a choice.

Beast Boy is surprised to see Bart is OK, but while he tries to talk to him, Jericho jumps out of Superboy's body and into Bart's. Kid Flash immediately attacks Beast Boy, but is soon lifted up into the air by Wonder Girl. Jericho then jumps into Starfire's body, knocks down Wonder Girl and Kid Flash, and goes after Beast Boy again.

Beast Boy tries to talk Jericho down, reminding him of their purpose as heroes — to risk their lives to protect others. And for once, Jericho actually starts to listen. Raven suddenly shows up, but instead of helping her teammates, she's asking for help. Jericho, however, believes Raven can help him and make the pain go away, so he jumps into her body, ignoring her warnings. Raven is suddenly surrounded by fire, and she cries out to her teammates that they must stop them before "blood washes over the Earth."

Raven disappears as quickly as she appeared, leaving behind only a small pool of blood on the ground. Superboy reports that Deathstroke is missing and Robin asks about Jericho. Beast Boy speculates Raven took Jericho away to someplace that isn't good, but he admits he's as perplexed by everything as much as the newcomers. Bart asks if they won or what, and Robin darkly says, "If we did — we sure didn't do it together."

The next day, Sunday at 8:38 a.m., Robin is walking with Kid Flash through the gardens, asking him why he's changed his costume and code name. Tim says that if he got shot and read a bunch of books, he wouldn't become Nightwing. Bart agrees, saying that Tim will never become Batman, either. But for himself, he's been ignoring his future of one day becoming the Flash like his grandfather was. Also, he's sick of everyone treating him like an impulsive idiot. Robin warns Bart that he's now going to be in the Flash's shadow, but Bart says the Flash will be in his shadow. This comment doesn't make any sense, but it seems to impress Robin.

Meanwhile, Superboy and Wonder Girl are up on the tower's roof, finally making some time to talk to each other after all the recent events. Superboy says he wants to figure out how Jericho was able to activate his heat vision, and why Bart's now acting so weird. He also tells Cassie that he now has a secret identity, Conner, and he lives on a farm with some foster parents. Although he complains about having to milk cows now, Cassie envies the structure of his life. She tells him she recently was expelled from her school and she took off this weekend without telling her mom where she went.

Conner apologizes to Cassie for their previous team not being what she thought it should be, but he says they shouldn't give up. Cassie shuts him up with a kiss, but then she's suddenly dragged away by Wonder Woman. Just as Starfire had warned, Wonder Woman is dead-set against this team, and she angrily orders Cassie to come home with her now.

I'm a little disappointed with how the Jericho battle ended. I liked the fight with Deathstroke, and things got really interesting when Jericho started jumping into other heroes' bodies. That stuff probably could have gone on a bit longer — especially with Jericho's desire to teach the Teen Titans a lesson. But it all ended with a cryptic appearance and subsequent disappearance by Raven. I struggle with Raven and all characters dealing with demons and hellish dimensions. So I am not excited to follow that story arc.

A case could be made that by all rights Bart should have been the one to defeat Deathstroke/Jericho. He gets his knee blown off, then spends the day recovering and forging a new identity. But when he comes back with his new costume, he doesn't seem any stronger or even smarter. Yeah, he can now spout out an endless stream of factoids, but he still got his butt kicked by Deathstroke. So if Kid Flash isn't any better at being a superhero than Impulse, then what was the point?

Next time, the JLA will guest star in Teen Titans #6.

Monday, December 11, 2017

JSA #54

Virtue, Vice & Pumpkin Pie

Geoff Johns Writer
Don Kramer Pencils
Keith Champagne Inks
John Kalisz Colors
Heroic Age Separations
Jared K Fletcher Letters
Stephen Wacker Assoc. Editor
Peter Tomasi Editor

Our cover by Carlos Pacheco shows the JSA and the JLA gathering around a table like a happy family for a Thanksgiving feast. And this isn't just a sentimental, fun holiday cover. This actually happens in this issue. With one exception: Wally West. I'll talk more about his conspicuous absence at the end.

Our story opens at the headquarters of the Justice Society of America in Manhattan, where the JSA and JLA have gathered together for the first time since the Virtue and Vice even that saw Despero and Johnny Sorrow nearly conquer the world. Everybody's in a good mood and excited to celebrate Thanksgiving, except for Batman, who spends the entire issue worrying that something bad will happen.

Representing the Flash family are Jay and Joan Garrick, Bart (still as Impulse) and the de-powered Jesse Chambers. Bart complains to Jay about having to wait so long to eat, noting he could quickly grab some KFC right now. (I love this joke, because in the future, Impulse will literally appear in a KFC comic.) Jay encourages Bart to try to socialize with the other heroes and warns him that he'll steal his speed if he doesn't slow down.

Bart and Jakeem Thunder find each other, and although they have met before, it was only briefly, so Bart needs to be reminded of Jakeem's name. Turns out they both live in Keystone City, but go to different high schools. Bart says his school "totally blows," which earns him a reprimand from Jay. So Bart improves his language, saying he doesn't like it. Jakeem actually swears when talking about his school, and when Jay yells at Jakeem, Bart gives him a thumbs up.

Eventually, dinner is served. Stargirl (formerly known as the Star-Spangled Kid) is upset at having to sit at the kids table with Bart and Jakeem, complaining that Captain Marvel is the only real kid in attendance. Bart and Jakeem don't make Courtney feel any better by bragging about being able to eat mashed potatoes through their nose.

Jay proposes a toast, but before anyone can begin eating, a blue and red alien suddenly teleport into the middle of the room, destroying the table and all the food. They announce themselves as Kulak the Sorcerer and the Warlock of Ys and claim they'll crush the Justice League and rule the world. But then they realize they're outnumbered 10-to-1 and don't stand a chance. With the villains defeated very quickly off screen, our heroes order pizza and Mr. Terrific allows Batman the satisfaction of saying he was right.

This was a nice, light-hearted comic, giving our heroes the rare chance to just hang out and relax. Bart goofing off with Jakeem was a natural pairing, although I feel Geoff Johns had both of them acting way too young. I don't think there are many 15-year-olds trying to eat mashed potatoes through their nose.

Now for the Wally business. The Flash #200 ended with Wally reporting on Bart having joined the Teen Titans and Jesse losing her powers, right before he makes a deal with the Spectre to have the world forget about the Flash. So this comic had to fall within a very narrow time frame after the conversation Wally had with Jay about Bart joining the Teen Titans, but before Bart spends his first day with the team, because he ended that night as Kid Flash. It's pretty weird, but it does almost, sort of work, continuity-wise. The ironic thing here is that Geoff Johns is the writer of all three books, so you'd think he would have made everything a bit clearer. Instead, it feels like he kind of painted himself into a corner with Wally's story.

Next time, we'll continue Bart's first day as Kid Flash in Teen Titans #5.

Year in Review: 2003

I was a sophomore in high school in 2002-03, and the big event for me that year was my marching band's trip to the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, on New Years Day. I played trumpet in this 292-member band that went down the streets, blasting "Call of the Champions" — the theme song John Williams wrote for the 2002 Winter Olympics. We were still pretty excited by that event and wanted the world to know that we were from Utah.

In the world of film, Return of the King dominated in both the box office and at the award ceremonies. After becoming the second movie after Titanic to gross more than $1 billion, Return of the King then went on to win all 11 Oscars it was nominated for, including Best Picture. I loved this movie as much as anyone, but I still think some of those Academy Awards were given to make up for the previous Lord of the Rings films being snubbed.

Three other movies passed the $500 million mark — Finding Nemo, The Matrix Reloaded and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. As for superheroes, Marvel came out with three films — Daredevil, X2 and Hulk. However, the only one of those worth watching was the X-Men sequel.

The year 2003 was not particularly kind to Bart Allen. Without the Impulse series, and Young Justice facing a quick cancellation, Bart only appeared in 20 issues this year — his lowest total since 1994, which wasn't even a full year. Bart helped Young Justice wrap up their business on Zandia and with Secret, before getting his butt kicked by Zoom and a Superman robot. As Young Justice collapsed around him, Bart eagerly jumped at the chance to join the new Teen Titans. But on his first day on the job, Deathstroke destroyed his knee. And so the year ended with Bart resolving to be less impulsive and become Kid Flash.

Since this is my 10th Year in Review post, I think it'll be fun to go back over the previous awards.

Best Issue

1994: Flash #92
1995: Impulse #6
1996: Impulse #10
1997: Impulse #24
1998: JLA: World Without Grown-Ups
1999: Impulse #50
2000: Impulse #66
2001: Young Justice #31
2002: Young Justice #45
2003: Young Justice #55

All the awards for 2003 were pretty tough for me. There were very few highlights for Impulse this year. The Blitz storyline in The Flash was memorable, but Impulse was just a bystander during it. I also considered Teen Titans #4, which showed Bart's transformation to Kid Flash, but I'm still not sure if I think that's a good thing. So that left me with the last five issues of Young Justice, as they were the most enjoyable for me from an art and story perspective.

Young Justice #55 wins the award to represent the conclusion of that wonderful series and Bart Allen's time as Impulse. The final issue wrapped up the Secret storyline that had been building throughout the entire series. And it wasn't our heroes' superpowers that brought down Secret, but the normal teenager Trim Drake. Darkseid gave Secret what he saw as the most severe punishment, but was actually a blessing to her. And then the whole thing ended with a fun cameo from Young Justice One Million.

Best Writer

1994: Mark Waid
1995: Mark Waid
1996: Mark Waid
1997: Mark Waid
1998: William Messner-Loebs
1999: Todd Dezago
2000: Todd Dezago
2001: Peter David
2002: Todd Dezago
2003: Peter David

This award only came down to Peter David, Judd Winick and Geoff Johns. Winick demonstrated a complete ignorance of Impulse and Young Justice. And Johns was wildly inconsistent with Bart. At times, he had Bart act like a little kid — thinking it's gross to see people kiss and begging to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Other times, Johns had him act like an annoying know-it-all, spouting off memorized passages from encyclopedias — before he read an entire library. I know that by nature teenagers are inconsistent, and that Bart is really only 3 years old. But I still did not like how Johns wrote the character during this year. Or how he acted like the entire series of Young Justice and Impulse didn't happen.

David didn't get to do a whole lot with Impulse this year, but he did make sure to have fun with him. Bart got to goof off with Superboy and Ray, before having a candid conversation about how he never fears for his own safety, just that of those close to him. Mostly, David wins this award for creating an environment where characters could have fun and goof off, yet still deal with serious issues.

Best Artist

1994: Mike Wieringo
1995: Humberto Ramos
1996: Humberto Ramos
1997: Humberto Ramos
1998: Craig Rousseau
1999: Todd Nauck
2000: Ethan Van Sciver
2001: Todd Nauck
2002: Carlo Barberi
2003: Todd Nauck

This was perhaps the easiest award to hand out. The only other people who drew Impulse in more than one comic book in 2003 were Alé Garza, Scott Kolins and Mike McKone. And I don't care for their styles at all. (Well, in Garza's case, it's more of an issue of execution, rather than style.) So Nauck was the obvious pick. Not only because of the crisp, clean and expressive way he drew Impulse, but because he was also able to masterfully create scenes of dozens of characters and still make his deadlines without ever compromising on quality.

Best Supporting Character

1994: Damage
1995: Max Mercury
1996: XS
1997: Carol Bucklen
1998: Superboy
1999: Max Mercury
2000: Max Mercury
2001: Carol Bucklen
2002: Max Mercury
2003: Jay Garrick

You'd think that with Max and Carol out of the picture, this would be a shoo-in for Superboy, the perennial runner-up. But sadly, we just didn't have enough time this year for Bart and Kon to get up to their usual hijinks. They did make a sales pitch to the team, and played a game of random trivia, but that was it. Superboy became too preoccupied with trying to woo Wonder Girl, and as soon as he joined the Teen Titans, the whole Lex Luthor DNA bombshell hit.

But throughout this turbulent time in Bart's life, there was one — and only one — person who consistently stood up for Bart. And that was Jay Garrick. In The Flash and Teen Titans, Wally seemed to go out of his way to belittle and demean Bart. Luckily, Jay was usually there to put in a good word about Bart. He recognizes Bart's potential, and, like a responsible guardian, is staying on top of Bart's homework. He's no Max, but he's the best Bart has right now.

Best Villain

1994: Psimon
1995: Kobra
1996: Savitar
1997: President Thawne
1998: Bedlam
1999: Inertia
2000: Inertia
2001: President Thawne
2002: Bedlam
2003: Deathstroke/Jericho

Bart didn't face too many villains this year. Agua Sin Gaaz and Lady Zand were part of a larger story focusing on Empress. Darkseid was involved in the Secret business, but nobody directly fought him. Indigo and the Superman robot were just freak accidents. And Zoom, while a compelling villain, was all about Wally, not Bart. So that leaves us with Deathstroke, who may or may not be under the control of his dead son, Jericho.

Much like Zoom, this villain believes, in his own twisted logic, that he is doing a good thing. If he can frighten the Teen Titans enough to disband, then he'll save the teenagers' lives down the road. But more significantly, Deathstroke directly caused more physical damage to Bart than any one villain. Prior to this, Bart's greatest injury was the death of his scout, but that was pretty much a result of the hostile environment on Apokolips more than anything else. With Deathstroke, he meticulously set up a trap, paralyzed Bart, then blew away a part of his leg. And later that same day, he severely damaged Cyborg and nearly killed Robin. It only took this Teen Titans team a few hours to develop one pretty nasty villain.

Well, that's it for 2003. Next time, we'll begin reviewing comics with a publication date of 2004, which will mostly be Teen Titans. But there will be a handful of cameos scattered here and there, as well as the first appearance of a Bart Allen on TV via the Smallville show. But first, we will be treated to one more sighting of Bart as Impulse in JSA #54.