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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Titans Hunt: first impressions from reviewer Erik Tramontana

Inspired by Michel Fiffe's recent New Teen Titans deep dive, I decided to finally read a story arc I'd heard about for years but never actually read: Marv Wolfman and Tom Grummet's Titans Hunt. And lemme tell ya, it's a doozy.

I'd read all of the Wolfman-Perez classics, and the Lonely Place of Dying issues of New Titans, but other than that I went into this run cold. I was slightly worried that I wouldn't be able to piece together the status quo as I went, but it turns out it didn't matter since the status quo is blown up, literally and figuratively, over the course of these fifteen issues. If you, too, know and love the New Teen Titans characters but lost touch with them some time around 1986, take a journey with me through the at-times-incomprehensible-but-never-boring Titans Hunt.

[If it isn't obvious by now, there's going to be lots of spoilers in this review. If you have any interest in reading Titans Hunt and experiencing first-hand all the cliffhangers and 'big reveal' moments that await -- stop now, track down the story arc, and re-visit us when you're done. Otherwise, read on. -Justin]

The New Titans # 71 (1990), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

There's going to be a party tonight for the Titans' anniversary. They are not "Teen Titans" anymore, though, as it states that Dick Grayson is 21 years old. Donna "Troia" Troy and Terry "That Creep With The Beard" Long are going on a vacation to Greece. Dick "Nightwing" Grayson and Kori "Starfire" Anders are blissfully in love, but surprise, Dick is acting uptight.

In the hours before the party, Nightwing helps a girl who wanders onto a window ledge and Starfire foils a mugging-- but the victim injects Kori with a hypodermic needle. A monster beats up Starfire and pays the old lady -- with exploding money (lol) -- out of sight of any witnesses. Dick rescues a little girl.

exploding money

The monster, now identified as Wildebeest, attacks Vic "Cyborg" Stone next, as he reminisces about the events of New Teen Titans #1.

Vic is trapped in an explosion while trying to rescue schoolchildren. Wildebeest then captures Raven as she tries to help a woman trapped by a mental patient. The complete madness she experiences overwhelms her empathetic abilities. Wildebeest captures Joseph "Jericho" Wilson when he is out on a date. Gar "Changeling, not Beast Boy" loses control of his animal powers at the opera. Nightwing finally shows at the restaurant for the party and is promptly taken out by Wildebeest. Changeling's adopted dad, Mento, hires Slade Wilson (aka: Deathstroke: The Terminator) to find the kids.

The New Titans # 72 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, McCraw, Peterson- Ed.

Terminator is supposed to meet Aqualad and Golden Eagle, but Wildebeest shows up instead. Wildebeest kills Golden Eagle (it's OK, I never heard of him either).

death of a relatively unknown Titan. art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

Deathstroke goes to Nightwing's apartment and Wildebeest is waiting for him and they fight. Wait, what, there are TWO Wildebeests? Deathstroke jumps from the fire escape. The two Beests argue over whose assignment this was supposed to be, in a scene right out of The Venture Bros.

Mento and Deathstroke go to Titans Tower and use the computer to look up known Titans associates. A Wildebeest follows them and snoops in on the non-password protected computer after they leave the room. Then the Wildebeest Society chases Slade and Mento to Donna's apartment and blow it up. Luckily Donna and Terry (eww) are still in Greece.

Aqualad's body is found, not breathing and unresponsive.

Cliffhanger #1 - death of Aqualad? Art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

The New Titans # 73 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

Mento and Deathstroke bring Aqualad to the hospital. They put him in a convenient water tank while they wait for a response from STAR Labs.

Back at Titans Tower, Mento contacts the family members of Titans while Deathstroke takes the Titans jet to see Raven's mom, Arella. On the farm, Slade finds dead bodies everywhere (along with Arella in a state of shock and "Paradise Lost" written on the wall in blood). Meanwhile, two Wildebeests are sent to find Danny "Cousin Oliver" Chase. Arella tells Terminator that she tried to create Azarath on Earth, but now everyone is dead and she blames herself for bringing Trigon to this dimension. Deathstroke tells her it is not her fault and the Wildebeests are the ones responsible. Arella leaves on the jet with Slade.

At a mall, Danny Chase is telepathically tormenting some would-be jewel thieves when the Wildebeests show up and begin to attack him. Danny appears to be vaporized.

Danny Chase being a sadist

Arella and Deathstroke arrive just in time to fight off the Council of Wildebeests (who by this time are given henchmen numbers so the reader can tell them apart), and then somebody called The Phantasm shows up and scares away the bad guys.

introducing: Phantasm! art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

The New Titans # 74 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

Introducing Pantha! In the secret lair of the Council of Wildebeests, Beests # 8 and #14 are punished for their failure back at the mall. As punishment, 14 must kill 8. A mysterious female figure watches from a rooftop. 8 and 14 fight, 8 flees. Beest #9 catches him -- and is killed by 8, who takes 9's mask and passes himself off as Beest 9 (IMPORTANT NOTE: BY THIS TIME I AM THREE BEERS IN AND THIS NUMBERED WILDEBEEST THING STARTS TO GET REAL CONFUSING). 

Meanwhile X-24, aka Pantha, is chased through the Wildebeest compound. She kills #29 and escapes. 14 wanders into a mad science lab, where an evil scientist is trying to mutate somebody. So far Weapon X-24 is the only successful experiment. Back outside and on a rooftop, Pantha vows to kill all of the Wildebeests, and then foils a mugging.

introducing: Panthra! art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

Deathstroke and Arella show up because the police band radio said something about a mugging and super powers. They fight with Pantha and she runs off. They follow her in a helicopter, while the mysterious Phantasm looks on.

Some of the Wildebeests are suspicious of #14 and his habit of asking questions and not murdering people. 8 (in #9's mask, remember) tries to kill 14 because he thinks 14 is a spy. Turns out Wildebeest #14 is Nightwing!

minor reveal

Nightwing fights the Beests, who let slip that they are only after Titans with super powers. Dick is beat up and dragged off by Beests. Pantha finds a shred of Nightwing's costume, and then Deathstroke and Arella try to get her to help find the Titans, but she refuses. After she leaves she is approached by Phantasm who says, "You and I will join forces. And neither Wildebeest nor Titan will stop us." There was a lot going on in this issue.

The New Titans # 75 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

Nightwing is beaten by the Wildebeests and shown the stasis tubes where the Titans are being held. Bumblebee, Francis Kane, Chris King, Cyborg, Starfire, Changeling, Raven are all naked and cryogenically frozen. Outside, the Beests blow up Deathstroke's helicopter. Deathstroke lands in the river and makes a swim for it, then finds himself being sucked up through the filtration intake right into the Beest hideout. Deathstroke finds Nightwing inside and discovers that his son, Joseph (aka Jericho), is the leader of the Wildebeests!

Big REVEAL #1! art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

Why is Joe evil now? How can he talk all of a sudden? WHO KNOWS. Pantha and Phantasm fight Beests outside, and Pantha breaks back into the lair. Eeevil Joseph presses a button that launches the stasis tubes like missiles, and they shoot into different directions. One of the rockets explodes -- a Titan has been killed! What a cliffhanger!

Cliffhanger #2! WHO DIED? Art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

The New Titans # 76 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.

Jericho takes over Pantha's body with his mind-control powers. Somehow Phantasm pushes him right back out. Joe monologues a bit about being "The Voice! The Harbinger! The Power!" and then starts wrecking it up, causing the lab to blow up. The good guys escape and Joe vanishes into thin air.

Everyone reconvenes at Titans Tower. Pantha and Deathstroke scuffle, because there's only room enough for one Wolverine on this team.

Teen Titans? More 'Team Tension'! Amirite?

Slade leaves her tied up. Wildebeests attack the tower and Phantasm releases Pantha from her bonds. Nightwing and Deathstroke fight off the Beests and Pantha and Phantasm join the fray. They try to unmask one of the Beests and he self-destructs. Arella freaks out and heads to the sub-basement to hide. Suddenly all of the Wildebeests start disintegrating -- it was a suicide mission! Turns out the attack was only a diversion, as the Wildebeests planted bombs all around Titans Tower during the fracas.

Phantasm magically tosses all of the bombs that were on the T-Jet out through the skylight and they take off, just as Titans Tower explodes!

Cliffhanger #3! Homeless Teen Titans! Art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

To celebrate this momentous occasion, the letterhead for the letters page in issue #76 had been updated:

[Okay, we're only 6 issues deep into Titans Hunt and we've seen Golden Eagle killed, Danny Chase vaporized, Aqualad put into a coma, Titans Tower blown up, Jericho turned traitor, two new characters introduced (Phantasm and Pantha)... but most importantly, this article has run longer than our allotted character count for a single web page.

Join us for part two as Erik Tramontana reveals who died in that rocket, the mystery of the Team Titans and how this whole story arc resolves. There's still (at least) eight issues left to this thing. -Justin]

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