Titans Together Again

So I went back and checked and it seems that I haven’t written about my Titans read-through project since January 31, 2021 when I reviewed the second volume of the trade paperback reprints of the Wolfman-Perez stories. Since then, I’ve made my way through all of the trades that were available and then through the newer editions of the books as they have been coming out–pre-ordering them is one of two trade paperback series I’m “allowing” myself (the other are the Robotech Archives). Now, I’m up to volume 13, which takes the Baxter series to #41, which is deep into one of the more fallow periods for the title. I’m sure that we’re going to get at least one more of these trades to cover the remaining issues of The New Teen Titans, although I guess that would depend on how DC feels about such things.

Anyway, I guess I haven’t been writing reviews of the books because so many of them were such familiar territory. I went from the Search for the Doom Patrol to Brother Blood to Blackfire to Terra to The Judas Contract to Trigon and back to Blackfire and Brother Blood traveling a well-worn path in my comics reading. I’ve read all of those comics so many times, and every time I remember what a joy I used to have collecting them; even that second Brother Blood storyline, which dragged through more than a year’s worth of books was fun to collect when I was diving into back issue bins at the mall in 1992.

I guess I should pause here to note that there are 16 issues between the beginning of the Brother Blood storyline and its end … and if you want to get technical, the ending of all of that mess was issue #34 with the end of the Mento storyline, making it about 20 issues from beginning to end. But then I think of how the length of time between the arrival of Terra and her death at the end of The Judas Contract was roughly the same amount of time and how reading it doesn’t feel that way and this becomes an example of how titles like this can succeed in their ambitions as well as fall short. I won’t say fail in the case of that second Brother Blood storyline because it’s ultimately entertaining and has some genuinely good moments.

But the issues in the 13th trade are a mixed bag. There’s an attempt at going back to the storytelling of the original series–one-and-done villains with some personal subplots running through, and the villains themselves aren’t particularly memorable. Godiva? A couple that gets powers and goes god-like? At least Wildebeest makes an appearance and has a decent look for what will be a recurring villain. We also get Danny Chase’s introduction here and … well, the less said about him, the better.

What I found most interesting in this reread was not necessarily what was in the trade, but the ancillary books I was reading alongside it. There’s a couple of early issues of the Wally West Flash book that are very good, a solid four-issue arc in Blue Beetle where they take on The Hybrid (a group of villains that had the potential to be another Brotherhood of Evil but never really worked), Nightwing’s solo stuff in an issue of Batman and Action Comics Weekly, and most of Teen Titans Spotlight. That title was DC’s attempt to use the capital it had with the book’s popularity to tell more stories, especially about secondary or tertiary characters whom we hadn’t seen in a while. I’d always seen it as kind of an “eating your vegetables” type of book for a Titans completist like me. After all, who wants to read a four-part Jericho solo story? Or a two-parter featuring Thunder and Lightning and Frances Kane?

Maybe it was because the main issues felt like kind of a slog, but I enjoyed Teen Titans Spotlight more than the first couple of times I’d read it. Yes, it was hit or miss, but I was struck by the novelty of someone other than Marv Wolfman writing these characters. Even the Thunder and Lightning/Frances Kane (aka Magenta) story was interesting because it involved mad scientist mind control.

But I think it’s safe to say that this particular portion of The New Teen Titans Baxter series is for completists and hardcore fans. I mentioned that I hope that DC publishes another trade to take it all the way to issue #49; but I also hope that they keep going into The New Titans and take it all the way through to the end …

… okay, maybe not to the post-Zero Hour stuff. But I’d at least like to see the Titans Hunt collected.

Until now, I’ll hold on to these issues and these trades and pick everything up again another time.

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