New Teen Titans #2 (December 1980)
"Today... the Terminator!"
Marv Wolfman-George Perez/Romeo Tanghal
Doug: Deathstroke the Terminator is suddenly in the news - big time! The character has been featured on the CW's Arrow, and the casting of Slade Wilson has taken place for Ben Affleck's solo-Batflick, The Batman. Since I've been purchasing the very-affordable trades of The New Teen Titans, I figured we'd check out Deathstroke's debut. It came in only the second issue of NTT, just as the group was getting to know each other.
A quick note on the cover: I don't like it. The inclusion of Deathstroke and his word balloon at middle right ruins it for me. Composition-wise it's not bad. Nothing we haven't seen before, however. Raven seems a bit too static, but then that fits her personality. The "I've killed X" trope is tired - and the hyperbole of "Can this truly be the end..." on a second issue is stupid. The word balloons from Ravager are fine as far as their existence and content. But overall I'd grade this one a C.
Among the many other things I missed during my high school hiatus from comics buying (you know, "The Dark Phoenix Saga", almost all of Frank Miller's run on Daredevil), go ahead and put The New Teen Titans near the top of the list. I think the first NTT story I read upon my return was the crossover with the X-Men, which I really liked. I started buying the Baxter paper series, but I never really understood why people were comparing it to Uncanny X-Men. Wasn't that a thing back then, those two books jockeying for the monthly top sales position? I just didn't see it. That being said, now knowing that the X-Men book had begun to slide a bit after the departure of John Byrne and Terry Austin, maybe NTT was coming along at the right time. I'd welcome input on this era from those who lived it as consumers.
For those wondering which character came first, the Taskmaster (Marvel) or today's subject, Deathstroke... it was the Taskmaster by seven months (Avengers #195, cover-dated May 1980). Both were co-created by George Perez.
Let's get rolling with a 100-Word Review of this issue's plot:
There’s no waiting for the baddie du jour, as Deathstroke graces the splash page. Standing in front of several robed figures who represent the H.I.V.E. Deathstroke requests the targets of his contract. He has words with his would-be benefactors, and is physically tested. He leaves in a huff. We then meet domestic abuser Grant Wilson, who has a run-in with the Titans. An angry sort, Wilson turns to the H.I.V.E. and is recreated as the Ravager. He attacks the Titans, and gets some unwanted help from Deathstroke. The Ravager’s powers end up killing him; his H.I.V.E. contract will be completed by his father – Deathstroke!The Good: You know where this starts -- the art team of Perez and Romeo Tanghal. Just beautiful. And so busy! You know Perez is the God of Team Books; one never gets cheated on characters per capita. Perez never took shortcuts, either.
Most panels in the story have backgrounds. I cannot honestly say that those weren't added by Tanghal, but I believe that Perez was so thorough in his storytelling that I am going to make the assumption that what you see was what he intended.
Love, love, love the roll call on the side of the splash page!
Karen and I previously reviewed the 1st appearance of the New Teen Titans from an insert in DC Comics Presents #26. I also read NTT #1 so that I could bridge the gap between the premiere and this issue. I've liked the development of the characters to this point -- relationships are being formed, and the slow reveal of the backstories of Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven seems well-paced.
I thought it was interesting the manner in which Starfire broke the language barrier -- by kissing Robin. From the start she is over-sexualized, and this issue did nothing to dispel any wonder if that would continue. Raven seems almost asexual, yet Wally's obvious pining for her would make that interesting moving forward.
Deathstroke was a formidable foil for the young Titans, but I was left wondering if it wasn't merely because the team was new. I did bristle a bit at the suggestion that Deathstroke had trained himself to use his brain to 90% of its efficiency, as compared with a normal human's 10%. I'm thinking that at that high rate, photographic/muscle memory in fighting would be the last thing I'd do with that skill. But anyway, it made him an interesting foe, if perhaps a challenge for the artist. No stock image here!
I understand why the Ravager was a throwaway character here -- he's basically set-up for future stories and additional motivation for Deathstroke; an instant grudge. So as a plot point his presence was fine -- I'm glad he didn't last, though, as he was somewhat formulaic (feels wronged by the good guys, gets juiced up by a covert cabal, fights good guys, dies because his revenge motive got the best of him). There's enough mystery around Deathstroke -- who is he, how did he lose one eye, he seems rich, how was it that he was the Ravager's father yet they had no relationship, etc.
Kid Flash has one of my top 3 superhero costumes - alongside Havok and Green Lantern.
Did I mention the art?
The Bad: Beast Boy. I would slap the crap out of him if I were Wonder Girl. Or if I was Cyborg. ANYONE should have punched him repeatedly. What an annoying character. He's the Jar Jar Binks of the New Teen Titans. For that matter, why am I writing this here? It should be a section below.
I thought it was dumb that in the second issue there was an organization like the H.I.V.E. bent on the destruction of the Titans. Who even knew they existed? I'll bet Batman, Flash, and Wonder Woman did not. Just an extension of the hyperbole at the top of the cover.
I liked the mystery of Raven, but being somewhat of an impatient fellow, I know I wouldn't like waiting to find out about her. So that's a good and a bad -- the bad's on me.
The Ugly: Beast Boy. I would slap the... Oh, I already said that. Well I still would!
I do believe I'll revisit the trades I've purchased. As I've said, I'm coming to these early stories for the first time. Thank goodness for the golden age of reprints!