Young Justice Book 1


By Peter David, Todd DeZago, D. Curtis Johnson, Mark Waid, Karl Kesel, Jay Faerber, Tom Peyer, Todd Nauck, Mike McKone, Humberto Ramos, Angel Unzueta, Craig Rosseau, Roberto Flores, Alé Garza, Joe Phillips, Cully Hamner, Amanda Conner, Ethan Van Sciver, Marty Egeland & various
ISBN: 978-1-4012-7116-9

There are many different aspects that contribute to the “perfect mix” in the creation of any continuing character in comics. How much more so then, when the idea is to build a superhero team that will stand out from the seething masses that already exist?

In the late 1990s a fresh batch of sidekicks and super-kids started cropping up at DC after some years of thematic disfavour, and as the name and modus operandi of the Teen Titans was already established, something new needed to be done with them.

But why were kid crusaders back at all? Ignoring the intrinsic imbecility – and illegality if you count numerous child-endangerment laws – of on-the-job training for superheroes who can’t shave yet, why should juvenile champions appeal at all to comics readers?

I don’t buy the old saw about it giving young readers someone to identify with: most kids I grew up with wanted to be the cool adult who got to drive the whatever-mobile, not the squawking brat in short pants. Every mission would feel like going out clubbing with your dad…

I rather suspect it’s quite the reverse: older readers with responsibilities and chores could fantasize about being powerful, effective, cool and able to beat people up without having to surrender a hormone-fuelled, purely juvenile frat-boy sense of goofy fun…

Spanning August 1998 – April 1999 and collecting Young Justice #1-7, JLA: World Without Grown-Ups #1-2, Secret Origins 80-Page Giant #1, Young Justice: The Secret and material from Young Justice 1.000,000 and Young Justice: Secret Files #1; this outrageously entertaining trade paperback (and eBook edition) offers a fetching blend of explosive action, sinister suspense and captivating comedy to delight every jaded Fights ‘n’ Tights fans.

‘World Without Grown-Ups’ sees a young boy use an Ancient Atlantean talisman to exile all adults, leaving the planet a responsibility-free playground. Planetary guardians the Justice League can only stew helplessly in some other isolated realm of existence as all the underage heroes left on Earth tackle a wave of idiocy and irresponsibility whilst trying to cope with the spiralling disasters caused by a sudden dearth of doctors, drivers, pilots and so forth.

Boy Wonder Robin, clone Superboy Kon-El and ADHD posterchild/super-speedster Impulse meanwhile seek out the root cause, desperate to set things right but painfully unaware that the malign entity imprisoned in the talisman has its own sinister agenda…

This canny blend of tension with high jinks, amusement and pathos, action plus mystery rattles along with thrills and one-liners aplenty courtesy of writer Todd DeZago aided and abetted by Humbert Ramos & Wayne Faucher (Kids World) and Mike McKone, Paul Neary & Mark McKenna (JLA sequences) who combine a compelling countdown to calamity with outright raucous buffoonery.

Closely following on is a related one-shot appearing as part of 1998 skip-week publishing event “GirlFrenzy”.

‘Young Justice: The Secret’ (by the Todds DeZago & Nauck, with inks by Lary Stucker) finds Robin, Superboy and Impulse being interviewed over the suspicious circumstances leading them to rescue a young girl composed entirely of smoke and vapour from supposedly benign federal agency the Department of ExtraNormal Operations – an exploit which will have major repercussions in later tales…

Close on those compelling scene-setters, the latest crop of “ands…” promptly stampeded into their own highly habit-forming monthly series. The monthly Young Justice comicbook saw fan-favourite writer Peter David script inspired, tongue-in-cheek, gloriously self-referential adolescent lunacy, beginning with ‘Young, Just Us’ (illustrated by Nauck & Stucker) wherein the unlikely lads arrange a sleepover in the old Justice League Secret Sanctuary and fall into a whole new career…

Whilst a nearby archaeological dig uncovers an ancient New Genesis Supercycle, the masked boys are busy vandalising the decommissioned mountain lair until similarly decommissioned superhero android Red Tornado objects. Before things become too tense the boys are called away to the dig-site where DEO operatives Fite and Maad are attempting to confiscate the alien tech.

After a brief skirmish with fabulously mutated minor villain Mighty Endowed (transformed by a “booby trap!”) the bike adopts the kids and makes a break for it…

The action then switches to the Middle East for ‘Sheik, Rattle and Roll’ as the semi-sentient trans-dimensional cycle deposits Robin, Superboy and Impulse in a sandy paradise. Apparently uncounted years ago an Apokoliptian warrior named Riproar was entombed beneath a mountain there after stealing the bike from New Genesis. Now the machine, enslaved to the thief’s ancient programming, is compelled to free the monster, but it has brought some superheroes to fight Riproar once he’s loose. Of course, they’re rather small heroes and a bit inexperienced…

A short diversion courtesy of Young Justice 1.000,000 introduces future versions of the lads and some foes from the 853rd century – that’s a million months into the future, science fans!

Devised by David, Nauck, Stucker, Angel Unzueta, Norm Rapmund, Craig Rosseau, Sean Parsons, Roberto Flores & Faucher, ‘Just Ice. Cubed’ sees a future YJ squad reviewing the exploits of their antecedents with reference to Doomsday, the JLA, Two-Face, the Sun-Eater and the Millennium Chicken before a measure of normality resumes with the 20th century kids back in America just in time for Halloween…

A riotous Trick-or-Treat time-travel romp ensues as those meddling kids dabble in magic and accidentally snatch a nerdy Fifth Dimensional scholar out of his appointed place – naturally endangering the entire continuum.

Sadly, although YJ’s best efforts in ‘The Issue Before the One Where the Girls Show Up!’ restore reality, they might have had a delayed bad influence on the quietly studious juvenile sprite Master Mxyzptlk

Secret Origins 80-Page Giant #1 provides background insights on our stars, beginning with ‘Decisions’ by D. Curtis Johnson, Unzueta & Jaime Mendoza with Red Tornado regaling intangible recruit Secret with ‘The Secret Origin of Impulse (Actual Reality)’ by Mark Waid, Ramos & Faucher, ‘Superboy! Secrets! Origins (This One’s Got ‘Em All!)’ by Karl Kesel, Joe Phillips & Jasen Rodriguez and ‘Little Wing’ by Chuck Dixon & Cully Hamner.

The revelations continue with the history of Spoiler in ‘Daddy’s Little Vigilante’ from Dixon, Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, ‘Truth is Stranger – the Secret Origin of Wonder Girl’ by Jay Faerber & Ethan van Sciver, and conclude with ‘Shafted the Secret Origin of Arrowette!’ by Tom Peyer, Marty Egeland & Rapmund…

With the scene properly set, a whole bunch of meddling females then join the exclusive boys’ club in ‘Harm’s Way’ as writer David unerringly injects some potently dark undercurrents into the frenetic fun.

Impulse’s sometime associate Arrowette (a second-generation trick archer forced into the biz by her fearsome Stage Mother, the original Arrowette) is being hunted by a psychotic youth who intends to become the world’s greatest villain.

Aforementioned mist-girl Secret and the latest incarnation of Wonder Girl are dragged into the clinically sociopathic Harm’s lethal practice-run before the assembled boys and girls finally manage to drive him off…

Johnson, Alé Garza & Cabin Boy then step in for ‘Take Back the Night’ (from Young Justice: Secret Files #1) as Secret leads the now fully-co-ed team in a raid against the clandestine and quasi-legal DEO orphanage-academy where metahuman kids are “trained” to use their abilities. It seems an awful lot of these youngsters aren’t there voluntarily or even with their parents’ approval…

Back in Young Justice #5 ‘First, Do No Harm’ (David, Nauck & Stucker) spotlights the malevolent young nemesis as he invades YJ HQ and turns Red Tornado into a weapon of Mass destruction (that’s a pun that only makes sense if I mention that the Pope guest-stars in this tale). As the Justice League step in, the tale wraps up with a majestic and moving twist ending…

The senior superstars are concerned about the kids’ behaviour and set out a virtual test, but since this is comics, that naturally goes spectacularly wrong in ‘Judgement Day’ when the ghost of alien horror Despero turns the simulation into a very practical demonstration of utter mayhem.

This terrific tome – hopefully the first of many – concludes with the edgy and hilarious ‘Conferences’ as assorted guardians and mentors convene for a highly contentious parents/teachers evening, blissfully unaware that their boy and girls have since snuck off for an unsanctioned – and unchaperoned – overnight camping trip together.

As ever, it’s not what you’d expect but it is incredibly entertaining…

In Young Justice, perennial teen issues and traditional caped crusading are perfectly combined with captivating adventure and deft, daft home-room laughs to produce a magical blend of tension, comedy, pathos and even genuine horror.

The secret joy of sidekicks has always been the sheer bravura fun they inject into a tale and this book totally epitomises that most magical of essences. Unleash your inner rapscallion with this addictive gem and remember behind every world-saving champion is a big kid trying to get noticed.
© 1998, 1999, 2017 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Tiny Titans volume 1: Welcome to the Treehouse


By Art Baltazar & Franco (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2207-5

The links between animated features and comicbooks are long established and I suspect, for young consumers, indistinguishable. After all, it’s just entertainment in the end…

For quite some time at the beginning of this century, DC’s Cartoon Network imprint was arguably the last bastion of children’s comics in America and worked to consolidate that link between TV and 2D fun and thrills with stunning interpretations of such television landmarks as Ben 10, Scooby Doo, Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory and many other video favourites.

The kids’ comics line also produced some truly exceptional material based on TV iterations of the publisher’s proprietary characters such as Legion of Super Heroes, Batman: Brave and the Bold and Krypto the Super Dog as well as material like Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! which was merely similar in tone and content.

Perhaps the line’s finest release was a series ostensibly aimed at early-readers but which quickly became a firm favourite of older fans and a multi-award winner too.

Superbly mirroring the magical wonderland inside a child’s head where everything is happily all mooshed up together, Tiny Titans became a sublime antidote to continuity cops and slavish fan-boy quibbling (all together now: “erm, uh… I think you’ll find that in…”) by reducing the vast cast of the Teen Titans Go! animated series, the far greater boutique of the mainstream comicbooks – and eventually the entire DC Universe – to little kids and their parents/guardians in a wholesome kindergarten environment.

It’s a scenario spring-loaded with multi-layered in-jokes, sight-gags and the beloved yet gently mocked trappings and paraphernalia generations of strip readers and screen-watchers can never forget….

Collecting issues #1-6 (April-September 2008) of the magically madcap and infinitely addictive all-ages mini-masterpiece, this debut volume begins after an as-standard identifying roll-call page at ‘Sidekick City Elementary’ where new Principal Mr. Slade is revealed to be not only Deathstroke the Terminator but also poor Rose’s dad! How embarrassing…

Art Baltazar and co-creator Franco (Aureliani) mastered a witty, bemusingly gentle manner of storytelling that just happily rolls along, with the assorted characters getting by and trying to make sense of the great big world while having “Adventures in Awesomeness” like Beast Boy getting a new pet and becoming Man’s Dog’s Best Friend’

The method generally involves stringing together smaller incidents and moments into an overall themed portmanteau tale and it works astoundingly well.

Back in class Robin and Kid Flash tease a fellow student in ‘Speedy Quiz’ even as ‘Meanwhile in Titans Tower’ (the treehouse of the title) finds Wonder Girl, Bumblebee, Raven and Starfire discussing whether to let Batgirl Barbara Gordon join their circle…

Later they all meet up and help scary blob Plasmus cope with an ice cream crisis but shocks still abound at school. Raven’s dad is an antlered crimson devil from another universe but his most upsetting aspect is as the class’ new substitute teacher!

Happily, however, at the treehouse the kids can forget their worries, as Wonder Girl Cassie’s new casual look – after initial resistance – wins many admirers among the boys…

The original comics were filled with activity pages, puzzles and pin-ups, so ‘Help Best Boy Find his Puppy Friend!’ and awesome group-shot ‘Awwwww Yeah Titans!!!’, offers an artistic break before the shenanigans resume with ‘Ow’ as new girl Terra persists in throwing rocks at the boys but knows just how to make friends with the girls…

Not so much for the little lads though: they’ve got into another confrontation with mean kids Fearsome Five. Is the only way to determine who wins to keep ‘Just a-Swingin’’ and ignore those bullies…?

After teeny-weeny Little Teen Titan Kid Devil finds a delicious new way to use his heat power, Beast Boy becomes besotted by Terra in ‘Shadows of Love’, even though his obvious affection makes him act like an animal. While ‘Easy Bake Cyborg’ saves the day at snack time, the lovesick green kid follows some foolish advice and transforms into a ‘Beast Boy of Steel’,

At least Kid Devil is making friends by providing ‘Charbroiled Goodness’ for a local food vendor, just as the Fearsome Five show up again…

Following a pin-up of the bad kids and a brainteaser to ‘Match the Tiny Titans to their Action Accessories!’ a new school day finds science teacher Doctor Light losing control in ‘Zoology 101’ thanks to Beast Boy’s quick changes, after which ‘Sidekick’s Superheroes’ debate status and origins whilst Rose’s ‘Li’l Bro Jericho’ causes chaos and closes school for the day.

When Robin brings some pals home Alfred the Butler is reluctant to let them check out the ‘Batcave Action Playset’. He should have listened to his suspicions: that way there wouldn’t be so much mess or so many penguins…

After Aqualad’s suggestion ‘Let’s Play: Find Fluffy!’ the Boy Wonder has a strange day, starting with ‘Robin and the Robins’ and culminating in a new costume. Before that though, you can see ‘Beast Boy at the Dentist’, Wonder Girl enduring a ‘Babysittin’ Baby Makeover’, meet ‘Beast Boy’s Prize’ and experience hair gone wild in ‘Do the ‘Do’’.

Eventually, though, ‘It’s a Nightwing Thing’ revisits the exotic yesteryears of disco mania as Robin’s new outfit debuts to mixed reviews and reactions…

Once done testing your skill with the ‘Tiny Titans Match Game!’ and admiring a ‘Little Tiny Titans Bonus Pin-up’ there are big thrills in store when ‘Playground Invaders’ introduces annoying Titans from the East side of the communal games area…

Sadly, the Fearsome Five are still around to tease the former Robin in ‘Nightwing on Rye’ even whilst continuing epic ‘Enigma and Speedy’ sees the Boy Bowman trapped in a very one-sided battle of wits with the Riddler’s daughter…

Robin’s costume crisis continues to confuse in ‘May We Take a Bat-Message?’, resulting in a kid capitulation and ‘Back to Basics’ approach to the old look, after which ‘Tiny Titans Joke Time!’ and a ‘Tiny Titans East Bonus Pin-up’ segues neatly into ‘Meet Ya, Greet Ya’ with newcomers Supergirl and Blue Beetle turning up just ahead of a host of wannabee Titans (Power Boy, Zatara, Vulcan Jr., Hawk & Dove, Li’l Barda and Lagoon Boy)…

With the riotous regulars away camping, Raven opens her eyes to a potential daybreak disaster as ‘Home with the Trigons’ finds her dressed by her dad for a change. Meanwhile, ‘Let’s Do Lunch’ finds Blue Beetle losing a very public argument with his backpack and when the kids bring their super-animal pals in, it all goes horribly wrong. At least they decide that the “First Rule of Pet Club is: We Don’t Talk About Pet Club”…

This insanely addictive initial collection then wraps up with visual and word puzzles ‘How Many Beast Boy Alpacas Can You Count?’ and ‘Blue Beetle Backpack Language Translation!’, a huge and inclusive Pin-up of ‘The Tiny Titans of Sidekick City Elementary’ and a hilarious ‘Tiny Titans “Growth Chart”’

Despite being ostensibly aimed at super-juniors and TV kids, these wonderful, wacky yarns – which marvellously marry the heart and spirit of such classic strips as Peanuts or The Perishers with something uniquely mired and marinated in pure American comic-bookery – are outrageously unforgettable yarns and gags no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, entertaining, and wickedly intoxicating.
© 2008, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Booster Gold volume 4: Day of Death


By Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2643-5

After the cosmos-crunching Crisis on Infinite Earths re-sculpted the DC Universe in 1986, a host of characters got floor-up rebuilds for the tougher, no-nonsense, straight-shooting New American readership of the Reagan-era.

A number of corporate buy-outs such as Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and The Question were assimilated into DC’s roster with their own hotly hyped solo titles. There were even a couple of all-new big launches for the altered sensibilities of the Decade of Excess such as Suicide Squad and a shiny, happy, headline-hungry hero named Booster Gold.

The blue and yellow paladin debuted amidst plenty of hoopla in his own title (cover-dated February 1986 – the first post-Crisis premiere of the freshly integrated superhero line) and presented a wholly different approach to the traditional DC costumed boy-scout.

Created, written and drawn by Dan Jurgens, the saga featured a brash, cockily mysterious metahuman golden-boy jock who had set up his stall as a superhero in Metropolis, actively seeking corporate sponsorships, selling endorsements and with a management team in place to maximise the profit potential of his crusading celebrity.

Accompanied everywhere by sentient flying-football-shaped robot Skeets, the glitzy showboat soon encountered high-tech criminal gang The 1000 and a host of super-villains, earning the ire of many sinister masterminds and the shallow approbation of models, actresses, headline-hungry journalists, politicians and the ever fickle public…

His time came and went and Booster’s title folded, but he lived on as a Justice Leaguer International where he became part of comics’ funniest double-act riffing off the aforementioned Blue Beetle.

Booster and Ted Kord (technically the second Blue Beetle) were the class clowns of Maxwell Lord’s Justice League International: a couple of obnoxiously charming frat-boys who could save the day but never get the girl or any respect. When Lord murdered Beetle, precipitating an Infinite Crisis, Booster was shattered but redefined himself as a true hero in the multiversal conflagrations of 52 and Countdown.

In landmark weekly maxi-series 52 and ultimately Infinite Crisis, the intriguing take on Heroism diverged down strange avenues when Booster – a hero traditionally only in it for fame and fortune – became a secret saviour, repairing the cracks in Reality caused by all the universe-warping shenanigans of myriad universal, multiversal Crises and uncontrolled time-travel.

Working at the instruction of enigmatic and irascible mentor Rip Hunter: Time Master, Booster surrendered all his dreams of acclaim to save us all over and over and over again.

This fourth time-bending full-colour trade paperback collects Booster Gold volume 2 #20-25 and Brave and the Bold volume 3 #23 from July to December 2009, and continues reviewing catastrophic conflicts from the time-line guardian’s never-ending battle to keep history on track and mankind in existence.

The action opens with ‘Shadows of Tomorrow’ from Brave and the Bold volume 3 #23 July 2009, by Jurgens and inker Norm Rapmund as, in his citadel beyond chronology, Booster is shocked to see his mentor Rip rematerialise in a badly beaten state, muttering the name “Magog”. A little checking reveals the name belongs to a hulking horned metahuman: a hero – of sorts – and despite the recuperating Hunter’s pleas to leave well enough alone, Booster slips into the time-stream to confront the military-trained hardliner…

The trail leads to war-torn Kahndaq during the US occupation and a tenuous team-up with a colleague who is everything Booster despises: a self-righteous hero who thinks the ends justify the means, even with the lives of hostage children precariously in the balance…

Booster Gold #20 featured ‘1952 Pick Up’ (by Keith Giffen, Pat Oliffe & Rapmund) – a light-hearted homage to B-movie sci fi and the Fantastic Four as the time traveller fetches up in early 1950s Nevada on the site of a clandestine and forgotten American space shot…

Before long he’s captured by covert operatives Frank Rock and Karin Hughes from an invisible agency dubbed Task Force X and embroiled in a secret mission involving traitorous Russian rocket scientists… and if he’s not extremely careful Booster could erase the timeline of a close future-friend and colleague…

The major portion of this collection then moves on to cover some unexpected fallout of the murder of the Dark Knight.

The only non-Time Master to know Booster’s secret was Batman. His deductive skills were beyond par and after noticing recurring anomalies around the shooting of Barbara Gordon the Dark Detective intuited Booster had tried hundreds of times to prevent it. Batman held his tongue as well as many photographs which proved Booster was not just a flashy, sensation-seeking bumbler…

Now as ‘Day of Death’ begins Booster raids the Batcave to retrieve that evidence only to be jumped by the Gotham Guardian’s successor…

Before he can even attempt to explain, they are both ambushed by the mysterious chronal raider called Black Beetle continuing to carry out his campaign to unmake history. Pausing only to gloat for a second the Beetle vanishes, followed an instant later by the substitute Batman…

And in the background a second glass tube appears. They both contain the uniforms of Robins who died in battle…

As I’m sure you all recall: following an all-out invasion by the New Gods of Apokolips, the original Batman was apparently killed at the conclusion of Infinite Crisis. The world at large was unaware of the loss, leaving the superhero community to mourn in secret whilst a small, dedicated army of assistants, protégés and allies – trained over years by the contingency-obsessed Dark Knight – formed the Network to police Gotham City in the days which followed: marking time until a successor could be found or the original restored…

Most of the Bat-schooled battalion refused to believe their inspirational mentor dead. On the understanding that he was merely lost, they eventually accepted Dick Grayson (the first Robin and latterly Nightwing) as a stand-in until Bruce Wayne could find his way back to them…

Now however Grayson has clearly been excised by Black Beetle and Booster has to rectify the situation before time unravels even further…

A new chapter opens with the Beetle conferring with a cloaked superior even as Booster consults his infinitely upgraded cybernetic companion who is keyed into to the ever-changing intricacies of the time-stream. Skeets informs Booster that the landmark first battle between the Teen Titans and the Ravager now ended with the young heroes’ deaths and like an intricate line of dominoes led to the eradication of most of Earth’s adult defenders… and worse…

Inserting himself into the appropriate moment to rectify the glitch, Booster is shocked to see Ravager’s terrifying father Deathstroke the Terminator aligned with Black Beetle to ensure the Titans’ doom…

Overwhelmed and beaten, Booster awakes to discover he’s failed again. The Teen Titans are dead and Rip Hunter is screaming at him. Also on the scene is mystic mystery Raven. She originally caused the Titans to unite, hoping to use them to stop her demonic sire Trigon conquering Earth, but now…

Hunter quickly ferries Booster and the witch to 2020AD to see what becomes of humanity. His actual plan is to find Black Beetle and try to glean the reason for his insane acts…

In that particular future Trigon idly presides over the last remnants of mankind with the Beetle at his side, but as Booster finds himself battling the demon lord, Hunter and Raven have united with a few strangely familiar characters in one glorious, last-ditch attempt to banish Trigon and unmake this fractured reality.

Although they are triumphant, the real battle is lost elsewhere as the Beetle raids Trigon’s treasure vault and steals the artefact he’s been after all along. Despite his best efforts Hunter is too slow to stop the Machiavellian monster stealing a scarlet scarab which promises unlimited power to the one who knows its secret…

With the greater game lost and the Beetle off the field, Booster finally has the leeway needed to fix the most urgent section of time and correct history, but is it all too little too late?

Everything is wrapped up and the scene set for the next catastrophic crisis when ‘Day of Death Aftermath’ sees Booster return to the Batcave for those photos and get the shock of his utterly unconventional life…

Fantastically absorbing and entertaining, this riotous romp is tragically a true fans’ story for die-hard comics mavens, with in-jokes and shared historical moments adding to the unbridled enthusiasm and exuberance of a classy time-busting tale. That’s a great pity since this is also a fabulously well-crafted story that a wider audience would certainly appreciate if only they had sufficient back-grounding.

I’m in touch with the continuity and still struggled occasionally but I’d love to be proved wrong and see if a total innocent could follow this nuanced little gem and get the buzz it gave me…

Who’s game to give it a go?
© 2009, 2010 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Teen Titans: Ravager – Fresh Hell


By Sean McKeever, David Hine, Yildiray Cinar, Georges Jeanty & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2919-1

Deathstroke the Terminator is a flamboyant cover identity for mercenary/assassin Slade Wilson who was treated with an experimental serum whilst serving as an American Special Forces soldier. He was invalided out but later developed fantastic physical abilities that augmented his military capabilities.

He debuted in the second issue of the New Teen Titans in 1980, assuming a contract that had been forfeited when neophyte costumed assassin The Ravager died trying to destroy the kid heroes. The deceased would-be killer was actually Grant Wilson, a very troubled young man desperately trying to impress his dad.

Slade’s other children would also be the cause of much heartache and bloodshed over the years…

After years he tracked down his illegitimate daughter Rose Wilson Worth. The child already had severe daddy-issues but after abducting, brainwashing and torturing her with the serum that created him he turned her into something even he couldn’t predict.

Doped and delirious, she gained physical abilities ands regenerative power like his but, in a moment of madness, cut out her left eye in a manic attempt to become just like dear old dad.

She was saved by Dick Grayson in his Nightwing persona and began a long, not entirely successful, attempt to throw off Wilson’s dire influence and sadistic parenting. After the events of Infinite Crisis she joined the Teen Titans, but found them an extremely poor fit…

This exceeding dark chronicle details Rose’s mounting struggle to come to terms with her killer instincts and conflicting determination to be nothing like her sire, gathering the one-shot Faces of Evil: Deathstroke #1 from March 2009, Teen Titans volume 3, #71 and the short back-up serial from #72-76 and #79-82 (July 2009-June 2010), beginning with ‘The Beginning’ from the aforementioned Deathstroke special, courtesy of writer David Hine and illustrators Georges Jeanty & Mark McKenna.

Following a rare defeat and well-deserved, life-threatening beating, Slade Wilson is somehow failing to recuperate in super-penitentiary Belle Reve. In his traumatic delirium he triggers a security lockdown and the harassed authorities call in Rose to save hostages and tackle her dad, the deadliest man alive…

Typically, their savage rehashing of old times ultimately frustrates the heartsick and agonised Ravager and only allows Deathstroke a chance to spectacularly escape…

With readers by now fully clued in to Rose’s ghastly past, the main event opens as ‘Fresh Hell’ (Sean McKeever, Yildiray Cinar & Julio Ferreira) opens with ‘Homecoming’ and Ravager’s return to Titans, concealing her growing addiction to adrenaline substitute Epinephrine – which gives her a kind of combat precognition – and growing dissatisfaction with the judgemental attitudes of child-heroes who have never experienced episodes of genuine “kill-or-be-killed”…

When a misunderstanding leads to bloody battle with atomic ace Bombshell, a meeting is called to discuss Rose’s future but the action junkie decides to jump before she’s pushed…

The Terminator’s daughter has finally shaken off her father’s malign influence and joined the forces of good, but almost nobody seems to believe her so she gets on her bike and heads north and away…

Some time later, the hallucination-wracked rider is robbing a pharmacy for more Epinephrine, plagued by a conscience which manifests as her preachiest ex-partners (such as Wonder Girl and Miss Martian) and desperately outracing pursuing cops. Even with the drugs her clairvoyance is diminishing and now she’s also suffering from rather inconvenient blackouts…

She snaps awake in a frozen wilderness, having crashed. Trekking over uncounted icy miles, she eventually reaches a small town filled with the unfriendliest men she’s ever met and has to break a few heads and limbs just to get a meal. However at the height of the battle she just keels over…

Slowly regaining consciousness, she’s informed by the local medic of Angelsport, Northwest Territories that his examinations have uncovered a cruel fact: all the adrenaline she’s been snorting has wrecked her heart and other organs to the point where not even her serum-based regenerative capabilities will fix them if she doesn’t stop.

Will the barman is slightly friendlier than the rest of the town, but even he is hiding something. So when she beds down in the cabin he’s provided, Rose is waiting for a next move.

It comes in a massed attack of gunmen using rocket-propelled grenades…

Despite explosively escaping and despatching many assailants, Rose is forced to run: chased by the surviving ambushers who send her to a watery grave in the frozen ocean…

They’ve grievously underestimated the Ravager, and when she follows Rose discovers the reason for the town’s hostility. The entire place is a smuggling port and former spy Will is a ruthless entrepreneur using contacts in Russia and a submarine to provide highly profitable, illicit merchandise: weapons, drugs, underage girls…

Rose is utterly determined to end him and his business and rescue the stolen children but she’s never faced a foe like Will, and before her mission is over she will have to decide if she’s a shining champion and protector or just a bloody, red-handed avenger…

With covers by Cinar, Ladrönn, Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson & Guy Major, Fresh Hell is a nasty, violent and extremely dark blend of superhero drama and real world criminal depravity that will satisfy Fights ‘n’ Tights fans with a penchant for the raw underbelly of action/adventure.
© 2009, 2010 DC Comics Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tiny Titans: The First Rule of Pet Club…


By Art Baltazar & Franco with Geoff Johns (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2892-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: just buy it – it’s so funny you’ll burst … 10/10

The links between animated features and comicbooks are long established and I suspect, for young consumers, indistinguishable. After all, it’s just entertainment in the end…

DC’s Cartoon Network imprint was arguably the last bastion of children’s comics in Americaand consolidated that link between TV and 2D fun and thrills with stunning interpretations of such television landmarks as Ben 10, Scooby Doo, Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Laboratory and others.

The kids’ comics line also produced some truly exceptional material based on TV iterations of their proprietary characters such as Legion of Super Heroes, Batman: Brave and the Bold and Krypto the Super Dog as well as material like Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! which was merely similar in tone and content.

Perhaps the imprint’s finest release was a series ostensibly aimed at beginning readers but which quickly became a firm favourite of older fans and a multi-award winner too.

Superbly mirroring the magical wonderland inside a child’s head where everything is happily mixed up together, Tiny Titans became a sublime antidote to continuity cops and slavish fan-boy quibbling (erm, uh… I think you’ll find that in…) by reducing the vast cast of the Teen Titans Go! animated series, the greater boutique of the mainstream comicbooks and eventually the entire DC Universe to little kids and their parents/guardians in the wholesome kindergarten environment ofSidekickCityElementary School.

It’s a scenario spring-loaded with in-jokes, sight-gags and beloved yet gently mocked paraphernalia of generations of strip readers and screen-watchers….

Collecting issues #19-25 (spanning October 2009 – April 2010) of the magically madcap and infinitely addictive all-ages mini-masterpiece, this fourth volume begins on a romantic note with Deep in Like.

Art Baltazar and co-creator Franco (Aureliani) have mastered a witty, bemusingly gentle manner of storytelling that just happily rolls along, with the assorted characters getting by and trying to make sense of the great big world having “Adventures in Awesomeness”. The method generally involves stringing together smaller incidents and moments into an overall themed portmanteau tale and it works astoundingly well.

After a handy and as-standard identifying roll-call page ‘Imagine Me and You…’ finds scary blob Plasmus and tiny winged Bumblebee brighten up each other’s drab day before a similar cupid moment affects the Brain and M’sieu Mallah whilst the diligent Robin finds his attempts to finish his homework disturbed by a succession of pesky lasses including Starfire, Batgirl and Duella all caught up in a ‘Like Triangle’.

‘Dates’ sees Bumblebee and Plasmus inadvertently cause chaos during an afternoon movie monster mash and even the ‘Intermission’ after which a sly sight gag for the oldies derides the company’s many Wonder Girls in ‘Jump Rope’.

The hallowed anthropoid obsession of DC is highlighted in ‘New Recruits’ when Beast Boy chairs a meeting of the Titans Ape Club after which The Kroc Files finds ultimate butler Alfred, roguish reptile Kroc and Plasmus each demonstrating ‘How to Enjoy a Lollipop’.

The issue ends with a word puzzle and the next promises to disclose The Hole Truth about Raven, beginning with a daybreak disaster at ‘Home with the Trigons’. Raven’s dad is an antlered crimson devil – and a teacher at the School – so when he oversleeps his sorceress scion gets him to work on time by opening a few wormholes. Of course leaving those dimensional doors around is just asking for trouble…

Meanwhile it’s washday at Wayne Manor but Alfred won’t let Robin, Beast Boy or Aqualad go down ‘To the Batcave’. However even the dapper domestic can’t withstand united pester-power and eventually he gives in and learns to regret it…

Following a perplexing maze game, the All Pet Club Issue! launches when Starfire and mean sister Blackfire write home for their beloved critters Silky and Poopu so that they can go to the secret social event, whilst can-do kid cyborg actually builds himself a brace of chrome companions in ‘Pet-Tronics’

With ‘Club Hoppin’’ the entire school gathers with their uniquely compatible pets and even interview some new guys – specifically the tongue-tied and thunderstruck Captain Marvel Junior and his fuzzy pal Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny. With so many members the club then has to find roomier quarters leading to a painful tryst of Beast Boy and Terra in ‘Meanwhile, on the Moon…’

There’s a brilliant vacuum-packed bonus pin-up of the Tiny Titans in space from Franco before Hot Dogs, Titans, & Stretchy Guys! finds the kids back on solid ground and wrapped up with the DCU’s many flexible fellows as ‘Offspring into Action’ introduces Plastic Man’s excitably bonny boy.

In ‘Just Playing and Bouncing’ when Bumblebee spends some time with the diminutive Atoms Family she loses control of their Teeny-Weeny, Super Duper Bouncy Ball and accidentally gets Plastic Man, Offspring, Elongated Man and Elastic Lad all wound up before helplessly watching it bowl over Principal Slade and Coach Lobo in ‘Coffee Dog Latte’.

Thankfully Robin has the right gimmick in his utility belt to set things straight but can’t stay since he’s en route to his Bird Scouts meeting where potential new members Hot Spot and Flamebird are trying out for Hawk, Dove, Raven and Talon. Sadly when shiny Golden Eagle turns up the girls want to make him the new leader…

A semi-regular ‘Epilogue’ page often supplies one more punch-line to cap each themed issue and this one leads directly into a convoluted and confounding Elastic Four pin-up which in turn precedes a spookily uproarious tale of Bats, Bunnies, and Penguins in the Batcave! Oh My!...

It all begins in ‘Ice to Meet Ya!’ when Wayne Manor’s large penguin population get into a turf war with the house rabbits and the Batcave’s regular inhabitants are displaced in ‘Driving Me Batty’. The conflict escalates in ‘All in the Batman Family’ and Robin gets a rather stern admonition from his senior partner to put things right or else…

Happily the ever-so-cute and capable Batgirl is willing to lend a hand – but unfortunately so too are the kids she’s baby-sitting (Tim and Jason – and you’ll either get that or you won’t) and the impishly infuriating Batmite

With even Batcow helping, things son start calming down but ‘Meanwhile, at the Titans’ Treehouse…’ not all of the fugitive Bat bats have heard the good news…

Once your ribs have stopped hurting you can then enjoy a Tiny Titans Aw Yeah Pin-up by Franco before The All Small Issue! starts with assorted big kids accidentally drinking ‘Milk! Milk!’ from the Atoms’ fridge and shrinking away to nearly nothing. Good thing the Atomic nippers think to call their dad, who’s with fellow dwindlers Ant, Molecule and substitute Atoms Adam and Ryan (another in-continuity howler, fans) for a Team Nucleus meeting…

That compressive cow-juice causes more trouble in the ‘Epilogue’ before a Blue Beetle puzzle clears the mind prior to an outrageous ending in Superboy Returns! in a fairly cosmic crossover – with additional scripting from Geoff Johns.

When Conner Kent shows up all the girls are really impressed and distracted, whilst across town Speedy is trading a lot of junk he shouldn’t be touching to Mr. Johns’ Sidekick City Pawn Shop and Bubblegum Emporium in ‘Brightest Day in the Afternoon!’ When Starfire and Stargirl then buy the seven different coloured “mood rings” from the shop they and BFFs Duella, Batgirl, Wonder Girl, Terra and Shelly, are turned into Green, Red, Yellow, Orange, Blue, Violet and Indigo Lanterns!

Soon the Tiny Titans are up in the air again and ticking off the Guardians of the Universe and their Green Lantern Corps.

It all ends well though, first in an Emerald ‘Epilogue’ and then a lavish pin-up of a passel of the Pistachio peace-keepers…

Despite being ostensibly aimed at super-juniors and TV kids, these wonderful, wacky yarns – which marvellously marry the heart and spirit of such classic strips as Peanuts and The Perishers with something uniquely mired and marinated in pure comic-bookery – are unforgettable tales no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, entertaining, and wickedly intoxicating. What more do you need to know?

© 2009, 2010 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Brave and the Bold volume 2: The Book of Destiny


By Mark Waid, George Pérez, Jerry Ordway, Bob Wiacek & Scott Koblish (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1838-6 (hc)   978-1-4012-1861-4 (tpb)

The Book of Destiny is a mystical ledger which charts the history, progress and fate of all Reality and everything in it – except for the four mortals entrusted with its care at the end of The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck

The death-defying Challengers of the Unknown – cool pilot Ace Morgan, indomitable strongman Rocky Davis, intellectual aquanaut Prof. Haley and daredevil acrobat Red Ryan – live on borrowed time and were bequeathed the terrifying tome by Destiny of the Endless since their lives are not included within its horrifying pages…

After the staggering spectacle of the previous Brave and the Bold story-arc, here Mark Waid, George Pérez and inkers Bob Wiacek & Scott Koblish are joined by co-penciller Jerry Ordway for a stunning sequel featuring most of the DC universe…

This compilation collects issues #7-12 of the high-energy, all-star revival of the venerable DC title and plays novel games with the traditional team-up format when a mysterious mage begins manipulating heroes and villains in a diabolical alchemical scheme to transform the cosmos forever…

Beginning with ‘Scalpels and Chainsaws’ wherein Wonder Woman and the ever-abrasive Power Girl rub each other the wrong way (oh please, what are you, ten!?) whilst tackling an undead invasion, the case takes a strange turn and the Princess of Power accidentally discovers the Caped Kryptonian has been brainwashed into trying to murder her cousin Superman

Their ill-tempered investigations lead to the fabled Lost Library of Alexandria and a disastrous confrontation with the deranged Dr. Alchemy, but he too is only a pre-programmed pawn – of a sinister presence called Megistus – who needs Power Girl to use the mystical artefact known as the Philosopher’s Stone to turn the Fortress of Solitude into pure Red Kryptonite…

Thanks to Wonder Woman’s battle savvy, the plot is frustrated and the stone thrown into the sun… just as Megistus intended…

All this has been read in the mystic chronicle by the Challengers and their fifth member Dr. June Robbins – whose merely mortal existence and eventual doom are tragically recorded in the Book. They rush off to investigate the universe-rending menace even as ‘Wally’s Choice’ brings the Flash and his rapidly aging children Jai and Iris West into unwelcome contact with manipulative genius Niles Caulder and his valiant Doom Patrol. “The Chief” claims he can cure the twins’ hyper-velocity malady, but Caulder never does anything for selfless reasons…

With no other hope, Wally and wife Linda acquiescence to the mad doctor’s scheme which relies on using elemental hero Rex Mason to stabilise their kids’ critical conditions. It might even have worked, had not Metamorpho been mystically abducted mid-process – consequently transforming the children into bizarre amalgams of Negative Man and Robot Man…

Worst of all, Flash was almost forced to choose which child to save and which should die…

Thinking faster than ever, the Scarlet Speedster beat the odds and pulled off a miracle, but in a distant place the pages of the Book were suddenly possessed and attacked the Challengers…

‘Changing Times’ featured a triptych of short team-up tales which played out as the Men that History Forgot battled a monster made of Destiny’s pages, beginning as the robotic Metal Men joined forces with young Robby Reed who could become a legion of champions whenever he needed to Dial H for Hero.

Sadly not even genius Will Magnus could have predicted the unfortunate result when crushingly shy robot Tin stuck his shiny digit in the arcane Dial…

Next, during WWII the combative Boy Commandos were joined by the Blackhawks in battling animated mummies intent on purloining the immensely powerful Orb of Ra from a lost pyramid, after which perpetually reincarnating warrior Hawkman joined substitute Atom Ryan Choi in defending Palaeolithic star-charts from the marauding Warlock of Ys, none of them aware that they were all doing the work of the malignly omnipresent Megistus…

The fourth chapter paralleled the Challengers’ incredible victory over the parchment peril with a brace of tales which saw the Man of Steel travel to ancient Britain to join heroic squire Brian of Kent (secretly the oppression-crushing Silent Knight) in bombastic battle against a deadly dragon, whilst the Teen Titans’ second ever case found Robin, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash in Atlantis for the marriage of Aquaman and Mera.

Unfortunately Megistus’ drone Oceanus crashed the party, intent on turning Aqualad into an enslaved route map to the future…

And inCalifornia, the Challengers attempted to save Green Lantern’s Power Battery from being stolen only to find it in the possession of an ensorcelled Metamorpho…

As the Element Man easily overwhelmed Destiny’s Deputies, Jerry Ordway assumed the penciller’s role for issues #5-6.

‘Superman and Ultraman’ saw the natural enemies initially clash and then collaborate at the behest of an alternate universe’s Mr. Mixyezpitelik, who revealed the appalling scope and nature of Megistus’ supernal transformational ambitions, leading to a gathering of the heroic clans and a blistering Battle Royale in the roaring heart of the Sun…

With the fate of reality at stake and featuring a veritable army of guest stars ‘The Brave and the Bold’ wrapped up the saga with a terrible, tragic sacrifice from the noblest hero of all, whilst subtly setting the scene for the upcoming Final Crisis

With fascinating designs and pencil art from Ordway to tantalise the art lovers, this second captivating collection superbly embodies all the bravura flash and dazzle thrills superhero comics so perfectly excel at. This is a gripping fanciful epic with many engaging strands that perfectly coalesce into a frantic and fabulous free-for-all overflowing with all the style, enthusiasm and sheer exuberant joy you’d expect from the industry’s top costumed drama talents.

The Brave and the Bold: The Book of Destiny is another great story with great art, ideal for kids of all ages to read and re-read over and over again.
© 2007, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Teen Titans/Outsiders: the Insiders

New Expanded Review

By Geoff Johns, Winick & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-247-6
Once upon a time superheroes, like firemen, sat around their assorted lairs or went about their civilian pursuits until the call of duty summoned them to deal with a breaking emergency. In the increasingly sober and serious world after Crisis on Infinite Earths, that precept was challenged with a number of costumed adventurers evolving into pre-emptive strikers…

After the deaths of two Teen Titans, Arsenal convinced the heartbroken Nightwing to run a covert and pre-emptive pack of self-professed “hunters”: seeking out and taking down metahuman threats and extraordinary criminals before they could do harm …

Nominally the fourth Outsiders collection this tome is also technically a Teen Titans graphic novel, as a case involving the kids overlaps and crosses over with the covert hunters’ latest disaster as originally seen in Teen Titans #24-26 and Outsiders #24-25 and 28…

This edgy chronicle is set in the slow and ponderous build-up to DC’s Infinite Crisis crossover event with lots of long-running story-threads pulling together ready for the big bang, and the tense tale contained herein collects a shared storyline that began with ‘The Insiders Part 1’ by Geoff Johns, Matthew Clark & Art Thibert, from TT #24, wherein Superboy, who had always believed himself a clone of Superman, discovered that part of his DNA was Lex Luthor’s – just as a deeply embedded psychological program activated, forcing him to mercilessly attack his fellow Titans.

With Wonder Girl, Cyborg, Kid Flash, Beast Boy, Raven and Speedy out of action the severely injured Robin desperately contacts the team’s mentors, but the Outsiders have a few problems of their own…

‘The Insiders Part 2’ in Outsiders #24 (by Judd Winick & Carlos D’anda) opens moments after the embattled team – Nightwing, Arsenal, Shift, Jade, Grace, Thunder and Starfire – have discovered that the innocuous Indigo (a robotic being from the future who travelled back to our time and inadvertently caused the death of Omen and Donna Troy) is in fact the deadly artificial invader Brainiac 8, with her affable cover personality finally subsumed by the cybernetic monster within. Her mission has always been to ensure the future dominance of the planet Colu by assassinating key Earth heroes and re-configuring the time-continuum, and now the time has come…

The battered heroes unite in the third chapter as Lex Luthor and the first Brainiac rendezvous with their corrupted pawns. With a wave of robotic automatons reprogrammed by the former Indigo massing to attack humanity, the Titans once more confront Superboy in a cataclysmic battle…

Despite being painfully outmatched, some vestige of their comrade still remains and they narrowly survive, whilst Brainiac 8’s conversion also seems less than total and she alternatively taunts and begs the Outsiders to kill her if they can…

The crisis culminates when Superboy at last turns on Luthor, and a heartbroken Shift finally acquiesces to his former lover’s pleas and destroys Indigo in a manner only he can…

In the aftermath a key member quits the outsiders whilst in ‘Soul Searching’ (Johns, Tony Daniel & Marlo Alquiza from Teen Titans #26) the restored Conner Kent ponders his recent actions and agonises over whether a test tube hero with the genes of the World’s Wickedest Man has any right to happiness or any spark of the Divine, before mystic Raven offers him a shred of redemption, whilst from Outsiders #28 ‘Letting it Go’ (Winick, Clark & Thibert) shows the individual survivors each commemorating their lost comrade Indigo in their own unique way

In case you’re wondering: issues #26-27 were a fill-in tale starring Batman and the original Outsiders and are neither germane nor included here…

Riotous, rocket-paced and compellingly poignant, this engaging Fights ‘n’ Tights thriller reset and repositioned both series for the cosmic shenanigans to come and, whilst not perhaps the sort of tale to tempt a casual reader, will certainly delight any devotee of Costumed Dramas.
© 2005, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Outsiders volume 3: Wanted


By Judd Winick, Carlos D’Anda, Shawn Moll, Dan Jurgens, Karl Kerschl & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0460-0

Once upon a time superheroes, like firemen, sat around their assorted lairs or went about their civilian pursuits until the call of duty summoned them to deal with a breaking emergency. In the grim and gritty world after Crisis on Infinite Earths, that precept was challenged with a number of costumed adventurers evolving into pre-emptive strikers…

After the deaths of two Teen Titan comrades, Arsenal convinced the heartbroken Nightwing to run a covert and pre-emptive pack of self-professed “hunters”: seeking out and taking down metahuman threats and extraordinary criminals before they could do harm …

This third edgy chronicle eschews individual issue titles but for your convenience and mine I’ve again supplied them from the original issues (#16-23) of Judd Winick’s grim and gritty Outsiders comicbook, with the barely-functioning team facing their most disturbing cases yet and by the end of it all nothing will ever be the same…

The action opens quietly with ‘A Change of Plans’, illustrated by Dan Jurgens & Nelson, with the battered team recuperating after their battle with the Fearsome Five. Soon however recriminations lead to violence and, with co-founders Arsenal and Robin literally at each others’ throats, Jade takes charge, bringing in alien powerhouse and veteran Teen Titan Starfire to bolster the ranks and her position.

The three-part shocker ‘Most Wanted’ (with art from Carlos D’Anda) featured a guest-role for real-life TV criminologist and manhunter John Walsh, whose America’s Most Wanted programme hunts down actual criminals and human monsters with people power and video appeals.

The tale begins when a regular gun-bust also uncovers a child-sex slave ring where all the victims bear the same brand mystery Amazon Grace Choi bears on her back…

With her ghastly past back to haunt her, Grace goes ballistic whilst tracking down the human filth she only barely escaped from when she was twelve, and knowing the elusive slave-master Tanner is still operating drives her crazy…

Pitted against the kind of criminal superheroes almost never encounter, Nightwing calls in an expert to help them find and stop …

With boys and girls being abducted almost weekly John Walsh and the Outsiders pool resources to hunt the predators: going public on America’s Most Wanted where a viewer tip brings the outraged heroes to Tanner’s latest human warehouse a full hour before the police.

The operation is dismantled with uncharacteristic but justified excessive force, but Tanner escapes. Later Arsenal discovers his babysitter has been murdered and his four-year old daughter Lian has been abducted…

Terrified and ballistic with rage, the full force of the Outsiders comes into play as the team smash through the city’s criminal element in a frantic race to save Lian from Tanner, and when Grace finally gets her hands on the beast who has haunted her nightmares for a decade, the result isn’t pretty…

‘Back to Normal’ (Karl Kerschl art) finds the heroes winding down with elemental metamorph Shift and sexy-future android Indigo planning an exotically amorous night in, until exploding villain Shrapnel somehow invades their super-secure HQ. Meanwhile evidence is found that shows the team is being secretly bankrolled by Bruce Wayne, against Nightwing’s express wishes…

The inevitable confrontation between Nightwing and his dark mentor is further exacerbated when Arsenal admits that all their intelligence and target-tips have been supplied by Batman in ‘Silent Partner’ (D’Anda again), but during the heated clash the Dark Knight reveals that although he interfered and provided funds he hasn’t spoken to Arsenal for over a year…

‘Deep Throat’ (illustrated by Shawn Moll & Kevin Conrad) discloses the shocking answer when Arsenal confronts his source and finds that his bat-winged benefactor has been a mere disguise for the Teen Titan’s most implacable enemy: a man who has ruthlessly used the Outsiders to further his own ends almost from day one.

In the ensuing battle the still-recuperating hero quickly realises just how pitifully over-matched he actually is…

The book but not the saga ends on a spectacular cliffhanger in ‘Lockdown’ (Moll & Conrad again) as the Outsiders are sealed within their own citadel by the battered, bruised but unbowed Arsenal. The ex-leader is determined to unmask the mole in the team who has compromised, betrayed and endangered them all. The revelation and brutal dispatch of the traitor will stun you all… and the worst is yet to come in the next volume…

Wickedly barbed, action-packed and sometimes distressingly hard-hitting, Outsiders was one of the very best series pursuing that “hunting heroes” concept, resulting in some of the most exciting superhero sagas of the last decade. Still gripping, evocative and extremely readable, these bleakly powerful stories will astound and amaze older fans of the genre.
© 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

New Teen Titans: the Judas Contract


By Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Romeo Tanghal, Dick Giordano & Mike DeCarlo (DC Comics)
ISBN: 0-930289-3A-X   (2004) ISBN: 978-0-93028-934-8

Deathstroke the Terminator is a flamboyant cover identity for mercenary/assassin Slade Wilson who underwent an experimental procedure whilst an American Special Forces soldier. He was invalided out but later developed fantastic physical abilities that augmented his military capabilities.

He debuted in the second issue of the New Teen Titans in 1980, assuming a contract that had been forfeited when neophyte costumed assassin The Ravager died trying to destroy the kid heroes. The deceased would-be killer was actually Grant Wilson, a very troubled young man desperately trying to impress his dad. Slade’s other children would also be the cause of much heartache and bloodshed over the years…

That venerable squad of sterling sidekicks had first debuted in the Swinging Sixties, battling all manner of outlandish threats and menaces (see Showcase Presents the Teen Titans volumes 1 and 2 for just how “out there” they were) but had been cancelled a number of times before writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez found just the right tone and brought them back to become one of DC’s biggest sensations.

The New Teen Titans went from strength to strength, with its close continuity, tight character interaction and stupendous action quickly winning a loyal and dedicated following and this controversial extended storyline proved it to be one of the most innovative and daring superhero series of the decade.

If a comic book story garners death-threats you know you’re doing something right, right?

In 1988 The Judas Contract (re-presenting The New Teen Titans #39-40, Tales of the New Teen Titans #41-44 and Annual #3 from February-July1984) was one of DC’s earliest and most successful trade paperback collections and remains so to this day.

The compendium opens with ‘Clash of the Titans’ a contextual explanatory introduction from author Wolfman and an insightful remembrance from Pérez entitled ‘The Contract Begins…’ before the comicbook wizardry started to unfold.

By the time of ‘Crossroads’ (inked by Romeo Tanghal) the youthful superteam were involved in a life or death battle with Brother Blood, a seemingly immortal and diabolically subtle cult-leader who used media manipulation and religious zealotry to supplement his awesome power and fanatical army of followers to run rings around the politically naive heroes.

Moreover they had just admitted as a probationary member Tara Markov, a 14 year old metahuman girl who had been the captive of terrorist kidnappers for years. Terra was slowly being accepted by the team when a turning point arrived and founder member Kid Flash decided to retire. Moreover, team leader Robin was facing a crisis of conscience and had decided to abandon the costumed identity he had employed since he was nine years old…

The war against the cult continued in ‘Lifeblood’ as Dick Grayson went undercover in the Rogue nation of Zandia where the Brotherhood was engaged in a cold war with the Island’s ruler. When the rest of the Titans invaded the villain’s temple sanctum they were overcome and the concluding ‘Baptism of Blood’ found them fighting for their lives and souls before Terra’s earth-moving geo-powers turned the tide…

The Judas Contract proper began in issue #42 with ‘The Eyes of Tara Markov’ (inked by Dick Giordano) wherein the irascible temperament and short temper of the newest member was finally explained. As the novice was granted full security access and learned the secret identities of her team-mates, Tara was exposed – to the readers at least – as the lover and pawn of the Titan’s greatest enemy Deathstroke: planted as a deep cover agent within the team and tasked with learning all their weaknesses before the Terminator’s final assault…

‘Betrayal’ (inked by Mike DeCarlo Giordano) opened with Dick Grayson narrowly escaping an ambush in his apartment and learning too late that all his friends were gone. On the run from Deathstroke, the heir of Batman deduced what had happened to his team just as he was approached by Wilson’s ex-wife Adeline and her mute son Joe who revealed the truth about Terra and her horrifyingly psychotic true nature.

With the Titans at last in the hands of criminal cabal The HIVE, who had originally commissioned the doomed Ravager, Adeline also revealed the astonishing origins of Slade and Joe before ‘There Shall Come a Titan’ in #44 introduced Grayson’s new costumed persona as he became Nightwing for the first time.

With Joe Wilson, in his own new heroic identity of Jericho, Nightwing invaded the organisation’s stronghold and in ‘Finale’ (Tales of the New Teen Titans Annual #3 and inked exclusively by Giordano) freed the helpless heroes only to fall foul of the terrifyingly insane Tara Markov who wouldn’t let the Titans, HIVE or even her lover Slade stop her from getting what she wanted…

Stirring, imaginative, controversial and immensely entertaining, this stunning Fights ‘n’ Tights extravaganza set a new standard for superhero storytelling and stills ranks as one of the best Costume Dramas ever crafted.
© 1983, 1984, 1988 DC Comics Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Outsiders volume 2: Sum of All Evil


By Judd Winick, Tom Raney, Will Conrad, Tom Derenick & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0243-8

Once upon a time superheroes, like firemen, sat around their assorted lairs or went about their civilian pursuits until the call of duty summoned them to deal with a breaking emergency. In the grim and gritty world after Crisis on Infinite Earths, the concept evolved with a number of costumed adventurers evolving into pre-emptive strikers…

After the deaths of a number of Teen Titan comrades, Arsenal convinced the heartbroken Nightwing to run a covert and pre-emptive pack of professed “hunters” to seek out and take down metahuman threats and extraordinary criminals before they could harm innocent lives or create chaos…

This second compendium collects issues #8-15 of the compelling and controversial Outsiders comicbook, ramping up the action and alienation even further as disaster and the tensions of living life outside the rules begins to take its inevitable toll…

This volume eschews individual issue titles but for your convenience and mine I’ve supplied them when applicable. The drama commences with the three-part ‘Devil’s Work’ by Judd Winick, Tom Raney & Sean Parsons as Arsenal, recovering from multiple gunshot wounds, calls in brutal vigilante The Huntress to bolster the team over the strident objections of Nightwing. Meanwhile Russian mobster Ishmael Gregor slaughters a bus full of people as the opening gambit in his scheme to steal the demonic powers of one-time super-villain Sabbac and bring about Hell on Earth…

The action continues in ‘Lightning from Above and Below’ (inked by Scott Hanna) as the new Sabbac (a supernatural super-being sponsored by devil-lords Satan, Any, Belial, Beeelzebub, Asmodeus and Craeteis in the way the ancient gods empowered Captain Marvel) trounces and severely wounds Jade, Thunder and especially Grace, prompting veteran hero Black Lightning to step in. Even with his aid the heroes are hard-pressed to stop Gregor and turn back an invasion of demons until Captain Marvel Jr. shows up in the concluding ‘A Family Matter’

A dark change of pace is offered with ‘Scream without Raising Your Voice’ illustrated by Will Conrad & Sean Parsons, as Arsenal comes to terms with the psychological trauma of taking a machine-gun burst to the chest helped by different kinds of tough love from Grace and Nightwing…

The remainder of the book is taken up with a spectacular battle with a resurgent Fearsome Five beginning with the prologue ‘Out with the New, In with the Old’ (Winick, Tom Derenick & Kevin Conrad) as fugitive mad scientist Dr. Sivana recruits and manipulates murderous metahuman Gizmo, Psimon, Jinx and Mammoth by promising to resurrect their dead comrade Shimmer, whilst the Outsiders’ solidarity and resolve begins to crumble after Huntress quits.

‘Five by Five’ opens with ‘New Business’ (art by Raney) as the restored Fearsome Five begin raiding numerous LexCorp holdings for Sivana, forcing the heroes to break into smaller teams and chase them down.

‘Strength in Numbers’ sees the Outsiders thoroughly beaten and only narrowly escaping with their lives prompting the quintet of super-psychopaths to turn on their boss. Going their own way the manic villains concoct a plan to gain global respect by nuking Canada with twenty-three stolen nuclear missiles.

As the battered Outsiders race to stop them, neither side is aware that the whole thing is a warped, Byzantine plan by an outside party to make a real killing…

Razor-sharp, rocket-paced, action-packed and edgily affecting, Outsiders was one of the very best series pursuing the “strike first and strike hard” hero-concept, generating some of the most compelling Fights ‘n’ Tights action of the last decade. Still punchy, evocative and extremely readable, these thrillers will delight older fans of the genre.
© 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.