Review: New Teen Titans Archives Vol. 3 hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, January 04, 2010

This is the third part in our series on the New Teen Titans Archives:

Volume three of the New Teen Titans Archives is essentially a collection of short stories. I understand from Marv Wolfman's introduction in volume two why he felt a string of done-in-one issues was necessary, breaking up the flow of a number of epic Titans adventures; it also helps return to the root of the series -- that is, the characterization of these heroes before their wild heroics. Reading the archive collection, I admit to feeling impatient with these four issues and the four-part, character-focused Tales of the New Teen Titans miniseries -- in following the early history of the Titans, I'd rather read about the rise of Brother Blood than in a one-off team-up with Hawkman -- though certainly there's much to like in this volume.

I'm a Red Star fan from way back -- but by way back I mean "Titans Hunt," and not the earlier story collected here, when Red Star was still called Starfire. Despite that "A Pretty Girl Is Like a -- Maladi" telegraphs the end all the way from the beginning, what's gripping and endearing here is Red Star's stoic self-sacrifice in the face of tragedy; it's impossible not to like this character. Wolfman and George Perez use Kid Flash to offer a healthy dose of 1980s Cold War paranoia in opposition to Red Star, and it's fascinating to watch this buttoned-up, conservative Wally West as compared to the hero we know today (as is true for the later Wally story, "Dear Mom and Dad").

The Tales of the New Teen Titans miniseries collected here serves two purposes -- to offer backstory on the "new" Titans introduced at that time, and to tease some future Titans stories (also introduces the Titans campout, referenced time and again especially in later Titans series). Most notable is the introduction of Starfire Koriand'r's sister Komand'r, who I believe appears in the next volume and has been a reoccurring DC Universe baddie ever since. I also found interesting Raven's revelation that the denizens of Azarath actually created Trigon, something I don't think I knew; one of these days I'll have to go back and re-read "Titans Hunt" up through Nightwing and Starfire's wedding, and try to pin down who exactly possessed whom and why in that whole thing.

The Cyborg spotlight stood as the favorite of the miniseries issues. I felt so touched by Cyborg Victor Stone and his father Silas's reconciliation in the first volume that this second look at the origins of their estrangement was all the more moving. We find here that it was not just that Silas couldn't accept Victor's lack of interest in science, but also that Victor fell into a bad crowd that caused him to rebel against his parents. The writers spin a tale of peer pressure that spans both Victor Stone's early life and the unexplored time after he became Cyborg but before he joined the Titans; this story too, though mildly cliched, offers an interesting look at the person behind the hero.

I've enjoyed George Perez's art, with inking by Romeo Tanghal, throughout the books so far, though I admit it leaves me hungry for Perez's later, wider-screen art in Crisis on Infinite Earths or Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. In the Tales of the Teen Titans miniseries, Perez pairs with one of my all-time favorite inkers, Brett Breeding, and also Pablo Marcos, and the art on the Cyborg and Raven issues reflected some of the bold life I've been waiting to see in Perez's pages.

There's nothing wrong with smaller stories, but these have left me hungry for an epic -- I'm eager to see if the fourth volume delivers.

[Contains full covers, introduction by Len Wein, pin-up pages (also reprinted in volume one)]
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2 comments:

  1. In rereading this volume, I was shocked at how dated the Red Star story was. With all the Cold War debate, it felt as distant historically now as the World War 2 stories I’d read as a kid. And yet back then the same issues felt deadly serious.

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  2. Will the current Checkmate stories, watching North Korea go at it with China, feel the same way in twenty years? Or is there a specific paranoia in those Cold War stories that feels dated (even if we've replaced it with brand new paranoia)?

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