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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Titans Hunt: first impressions part 2

Welcome to the second of two articles with Erik Tramontana's review of the 1990 - 1992 Titans Hunt story arc that ran through New Titans #71 to New Titans #84

This is Erik's very first reading of Titans Hunt, and he managed to read all 14 issues in one sitting. The are lots and lots of SPOILERS in this article. You've been forewarned.

When we last left off, the Titans had definitely seen better days: Titans Tower had been blown up, a few Titans had been killed off or gone missing, and one of their own had been revealed to be the leader of a criminal organization hell bent on destroying the Titans. More importantly, where are Starfire, Raven and Changeling/Beast Boy in all of this?


The New Titans # 77 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.


One of the rockets [from issue #75] lands in Russia, where it is found by Red Star.

re-introducing: Red Star! Art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey


Back in NYC, emergency crews respond to the explosion of the Tower. Nightwing, Pantha, Phantasm, Arella, and Mento fly the T-Jet to follow the path of the rocket to Russia.

In "Science City" Russian scientists are trying to repair Cyborg. His body was damaged by the rocket crash and he has no memory of his previous life. The Russians don't want to give him back, so they order Robot Vic to attack the Titans.

Cliffhanger #4! What's up with Cyborg? Art by Tom Grummett, inks by Al Vey

The New Titans # 78 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Vey, Costanza, Lewis, Montano, Roy, Peterson- Ed.


Wonder Girl and Terry return from vacation and are (understandably) shocked to see the ruins of Titans Tower. Police tell them that the Titans owe the city money for the damages.

Back in the USSR, Cyborg is ordered to stand down -- the Russians were just trying to prove the point that Cyborg belongs to Mother Russia now. The Titans insist on taking him back, and Cyborg switches to attack mode for real this time. Red Star promises to watch over him in America while the Titans try to restore his memory: compromise! The Titans, Red, and Cyborg return to the States. 

the NEW and IMPROVED Cyborg! 

Donna gets a hold of the team on her communicator. Back at the apartment Pantha and Donna fight until Phantasm breaks it up. After the good guys explain what happen, Wildebeests attack the apartment. They take Nightwing, and then some weird God-Thing takes Donna away.

Nightwing finds himself in Jericho’s lair, where he discovers the Titans were never actually launched in rockets (well, except for Cyborg). It was all a ruse and they are strapped naked to some kind of mind transference machine.

Cliffhanger #5! Also: warranted nudity!

The New Titans # 79 (1991), by Wolfman, Grummet, Cullins, Swan, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.


(ART NOTE: PARIS “BLUE BEETLE” CULLEN AND CURT “SUPERMAN” SWAN SHARE ART DUTIES ON THIS ISSUE. COINCIDENTALLY THIS IS THE POINT WHERE TITANS HUNT BEGINS TO GO OFF THE RAILS, BUT IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT)

Joe keeps killing henchmen who ask too many questions. Terry Long is freaking out at Troia’s disappearance. Cops are looking for clues about the missing Titans. The captain’s relationship with Nightwing is strained now that City Hall wants the Titans out of NYC for good. The Captain and a detective find a grizzly murder scene. Councilwoman Alderman is attacked in the bathroom and tied up and gagged. Someone is now impersonating her. None of this is interesting.

A "Terry Long" moment.


Aqualad busts out of his bacta tank- he is choking and doctors don’t know how to help. Back in the lair, Joseph begins the mind transference machine, but wait... what? Terra is back? How?? And who are these jabronis with her???


Cliffhanger #6!



The New Titans # 80 (1991), by Wolfman, Cullins, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.


The editor’s note says “To Be Read After New Titans Annual #7”, but we’re not doing that. Waverider peeks in and determines Nightwing is NOT going to become Monarch (oh dang, is this an Armageddon 2001 tie-in? PASS).

In the far-off future of 2001 we are introduced to the Team Titans of Future Past: Nightrider, Mirage, Killowat, Redwing, Birdguy, Goth-Chick, Face First, Migraine, and Terra. They are boring and nobody cares about them. (I just made half of them up just now and you didn’t even notice.)

Donna Troy’s baby is destined to be Lord Chaos, I guess, so the Team Titans need to go back in time and KILL SARAH CONNOR DONNA TROY. They make the leap back to 1991. Lord Chaos monologues that Troia did not teach him to use his powers properly so he had to kill her, and all the other Titans too. Some other garbage happens and Lord Chaos also timejumps back to 1991. To save the future, Donna Troy Must Die.

"DONNA TROY MUST DIE!" -- what a twist!


[Editor's note: I told Erik that he didn't have to get to in-depth with the somewhat forgettable Team Titans spin-off series, and he happily complied. Any volunteers? -Justin]



The New Titans # 81 (1991), by Wolfman, Swan, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.


Aqualad is in critical condition. Lilith calls to say she has info about Donna. Lilith says Donna is no longer on Earth.

Now Pariah from Crisis on Infinite Earths is at Lilith’s apartment, where he warns that all creation will be destroyed but he welcomes the peace and quiet. Pariah tells Phantasm that the universe will end and there’s nothing to be done about it. Riveting stuff.



After a heart-to-beard talk with Terry Long, Pariah says Troia is on New Olympus. And then New Olympus appears... to be continued in War of the Gods. A crummy commercial?



The New Titans # 82 (1992), by Wolfman, Grummett, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.


The Jericho Gambit, Part 1: Jericho is monologuing to Nightwing again and he breaks out of his restraints. Wildebeests want to kill him but they have orders to lock him up instead. In the cell with him is the original Wildebeest.

At the apartment, Raven’s mom points out that Jericho has a soul-self like hers and Raven’s, but his is a lion and therefore more powerful. Terry Long bitches her out.

Back at the ranch, Arella had been attacked by that same soul monster and it killed a bunch of people. Now she realizes it was Joseph’s soul. It tried again to kill her but couldn’t, and that’s where Terminator found her way back in issue #73

Lilith and Slade begin to suspect that Trigon has been possessing Joseph. Troia comes back from War of the Gods, pissed off and ready to brawl.

I'm not even sure if this is considered a BIG REVEAL or not...

The Team Titans from the future are spying on this meeting from a neighboring rooftop.

The OG Wildebeest tells Nightwing that he started the group as an offshoot of HIVE, with the idea that they’d all look the same but would only pull jobs one at a time, hiding numbers and motives. Then Joseph took over through force, and when the real Wildebeest questioned him they locked Wildebeest in the dungeon.

Slade discovers the location of Joseph’s lair by studying his paintings of the New York skyline (which is such a Grand Admiral Thrawn move) and they all sneak in. A door inside the hideout leads to...wait for it… AZARATH!

This MUST be a cliffhanger...

Meanwhile. the editorial team seems to have a sense of humor, and have updated the letterhead to the letters page:



The New Titans # 83 (1992), by Wolfman, Grummett, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.


The Jericho Gambit, Part 2: Joe has the (naked) Titans strapped to the machine, while Deathstroke and company find themselves in Azarath, only it looks different since the last time Lilith was there.

Joe kills Original Recipe Wildebeest and brings Nightwing out from his cell.

Slade splits the team into pairs. Phantasm is somebody we know, and Slade has figured it out, but advises him not to tell the others yet.

Redstar, Troia, Pantha, and Lilith beat the hell out of some Wildebeests. They break into the lab where the Titans are being held (including Nightwing now). Nightwing is all “get me outta here”. Deathstroke and Phantasm find a brain in a jar, and are promptly attacked by Beests. Hey guess what, Nightwing is now being controlled by Joseph. He lets loose the soul-lion and fights Pantha. Joe knocks out Deathstroke (WHICH IS BOLLOCKS) and chains him up in the lab. Joe monologues that “I- We- Are Azarath!”



Here’s a little backstory: Way back in New Teen Titans #5, Trigon and the souls of Azarath merged and lay dormant inside of Joseph Wilson for years. The souls want to inhabit the Titans’ super-bodies to level up, with the end goal of using Superman as a host. As the souls try to enter the Titans, Joe has a moment of clarity and tries to fight the souls away. He is unsuccessful and the body swap proceeds as planned.

Joe briefly regains control and he asks his dad Slade to kill him. AND... HOLY CRAP! ... HE DOES IT!!!

Now THIS is how you resolve a 14-issue story arc!


And, in this issue, more fun with the New Titans letterhead:




The New Titans # 84 (1992), by Wolfman, Grummett, Vey, Costanza, Roy, Peterson- Ed.


The Jericho Gambit, Part 3: Stabbing his only living son in the back with a sword messes with Deathstroke’s head a bit. Danny Friggin Chase (remember him?) is all “Durrr, I did what you told me to Dick. Nobody was supposed to die.” I thought this moron died back in issue #73. The Titans are alive but still unconscious. Joe crumbles to dust in Slade’s hands. Slade understandably starts wrecking the place. Azarath possesses the Titans according to plan. The one inhabiting Starfire tries to upgrade to Donna, but is kicked in the tits by Nightwing (seriously). Beast Boy turns into a dinosaur thing and fights Redstar and Pantha.

"WHUMP"
Raven beats up on Danny and Lilith, Lilith tries to get through to Raven, they fight. Danny ports them inside the evil soul and they fight naked red Raven. They use the power of Azar to defeat Trigon and Azarath. Danny doesn’t make it (too bad).

The second (and hopefully FINAL) death of Danny Chase.

Azar calls all the souls back home and the Titans are themselves once again. They all cross the dimensional bridge home, THE END.


Issue #84's letterhead for the letter page:





BONUS: Issue #85, which I didn’t read, apparently explains what the deal is with Phantasm and Danny Chase, and it’s unbearably stupid:

convenient explanation ejecting Phantasm from the team



...and one final letterhead:

This letterheads hints at the upcoming battle between Nightwing and Deathstroke in New Titans #86. Incidentally, Dick's costume get thrashed, and he gets a new, updated Nightwing costume afterwards.



FINAL THOUGHTS: 


Wow. I can see why this storyline had a reputation as a must-read for all these years. For one thing, it’s completely nuts. Like Hush would do years later, this story throws nearly every villain the Teen Titans ever fought at them all at once, at breakneck speed. If you were a lapsed Wolfman-Perez New Teen Titans fan in 1991, I imagine this was a total blast to read.

Yeah, it’s way too long (with two separate crossover events getting their own issues plus whatever the hell Team Titans is supposed to be) and it’s a blatantly obvious attempt to make the Titans more like the X-Men, but darn it if I didn’t really enjoy reading this. Sure, there are too many characters, the villain’s plot makes no sense, and there are more dangling lines than a bass fishing tournament, but this is superhero comics, baby! I’ll take ten more stories like this -- where seasoned pros are working their asses off to give the people what they want -- than any of the juggalo noise coming out of the post New-52 DC “Entertainment.”

Titans Hunt is well worth the time and effort it takes to track down. Who knows, maybe if the new version sells really well we can get a nice hardcover omnibus to display on the shelf next to our Teen Titans Games Graphic Novel. Stranger things have happened.


----

...and this concludes Erik Tramontana's review of the early 90s Titans Hunt story arc. In his final e-mail to me after submitting this article for posting, Erik concluded with "I think I'm done with Titans Hunt. I'm exhausted."

We really want to thank Erik for 'taking one for the team' on this one. He's also absolutely right; there is currently NO version of this story arc available in collected format, and Erik needed to track down these individual issues himself (e-bay?). Really impressed with his dedication here. 


Extra:

If you liked this review, you're also probably going to enjoy our interview with Tom Grummett from the 2016 Montreal Comicon, in which he spoke his work on the Teen Titans and his participation on the Death and Return of Superman. 


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