Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Insiders

Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Insiders

By Geoff Johns, Winick & various (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84576-247-9

In the build-up to DC’s Infinite Crisis crossover event lots of long-running story-threads were all pulled together ready for the big bang. This volume collects a shared storyline that ran in Teen Titans #24-26 and Outsiders #24-25 and 28 with art by Matthew Clark & Art Thibert, Carlos D’anda and Tony Daniel & Marlo Alquiza.

Superboy was always believed to be a clone of Superman, but the discovery that part of his DNA was Lex Luthor’s deeply unsettled the young hero. However, just as he is about to share the revelation with his young team-mates, Luthor activates a deeply seated program that overrides Superboy’s consciousness and makes him evil.

Indigo was a robotic being from the future who travelled back to our time and inadvertently caused the death of Omen and Donna Troy (see The Death and Return of Donna Troy, ISBN13: 978-1-84576-248-3). She subsequently joined the Outsiders but here is revealed as Brainiac 8, a deadly cybernetic killer determined to wipe out the heroes and re-configure her own time-continuum.

Fast-paced and well illustrated this lightweight but engaging tight-and-fights thriller goes through all the expected motions with great style and enthusiasm but it’s rather charmless for all that and the casual reader will definitely wonder what all the fuss was about.

© 2005, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Death and Return of Donna Troy

Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Death and Return of Donna Troy

By Phil Jimenez, Judd Winick & various (DC Comics)
ISBN12: 978-1-84576-248-3

For the continuity conscious comic reader, Wonder Girl — or Donna Troy, or Troia, or whatever — has always been a problem. From the very first moment that she joined the rest of the DC Universe in Brave and the Bold #60 (a Teen Titans tryout issue) she was a vital part of the team, despite actually only being a projection of the adult Wonder Woman in her home comic. Over the years a succession of writers has tried to retrofit the character into a semblance of logic without much success. Best then to just accept that she’s there and leave it at that, if you can.

This volume collects the latest attempt to validate her existences, reprinting her last major stories just prior to the DC Infinite Crisis storyline which reset everything. Featured here are Teen Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day #1-3, Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files 2003 and DC Special: The Return of Donna Troy #1-4; a series of specials that attempted to reposition some of the company’s core titles in advance of that looming mega event.

‘Graduation Day’ saw a sexy robot arrive from the future as the juvenile superhero team Young Justice was breaking up. Her confused actions inadvertently release a deadly android stored at S.T.A.R. Labs, which neither the child heroes nor the Teen Titans can stop. In a cataclysmic battle both Omen and Donna Troy are killed. These tragedies lead to the dissolution of Young Justice, the formation of the covert and pre-emptive Outsiders and the reformation of a new Titans group dedicated to better training the heroes of tomorrow. Even though a frightfully contrived ploy to launch some new titles, this tale is still a punchy and effective thriller from writer Judd Winick, penciller Alé Garcia and inkers Trevor Scott, Larry Stucker and Marlo Alquiza.

‘Who was Donna Troy’, written and drawn by Phil Jimenez, with inks by Andy Lanning is a short but moving eulogy for the character set at her funeral with friends and guest-stars discussing her life and career.

‘The Return of Donna Troy’, scripted by Jimenez and illustrated by José Luis Garcia-López and George Pérez, reveals that Donna Troy’s soul was intercepted by the Titans, the mythical progenitors of the Greek Gods who reanimated her body and elevated her to their ranks. The backstory of this is much too complicated for this review, but if you’ll just accept that in one of her previous refits Troy was revealed as an adopted child of these morally ambivalent deities and they have returned to exploit her you’ll be fine.

These Gods are using her to further a plot to conquer a planet with a cosmic secret, but Troy’s near seduction to the Dark Side is thwarted when her old superhero comrades get involved. However, although beautifully drawn this tale menders and waffles way too much to be anything more than eye-candy for the faithful and a big headache for any fool brave enough to try it without a degree in Teen Titans continuity.

© 2005, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Teen Titans: The Future is Now

Teen Titans: The Future is Now 

By Geoff Johns, Mike McKone, Ivan Reis & Tom Grummet

(DC Comics)  ISBN 1-84576-166-9

This compilation reprints issues #15-23 of the monthly comic and the Teen Titans/ Legion of Super Heroes special which saw our eponymous heroes catapulted into the thirty-first century for a huge punch up with the Fatal Five – who had teamed up with their counterparts from 495 alternate Earths – to wipe out the future heroes. And in a way they succeed as the special is a prologue to yet another refit and re-restart of the fan favourites. But we’ll deal with that if DC ever produce a Legion graphic compilation.

The bulk of this volume concerns the time-displaced Titans fighting adult versions of themselves when they fetch up a decade into their own future – a dystopian America where the Titans have taken over the reins of government. When they finally get back to where they belong, but not before lots of running, fighting and trenchant prophetic musing, and thus forewarned if not forearmed, they promptly add a new member just in time to fight Dr Light, fresh from his pivotal role in the Identity Crisis publishing event. The conclusion neatly leads directly into the books that comprise the Infinite Crisis publishing event.

As a stand-alone read this is all a bit of a mess, with no real cohesive narrative thread and a bunch of done-to-death plot devices that were old even before I was. Fans won’t complain, I’m sure, but this won’t work with all those new readers the coverage of Infinite Crisis is intended to pull in.

© 2004, 2005 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls

Teen Titans: Beast Boys & Girls

By various

(DC Comics)  ISBN 1-84576-166-9

Beast Boys and Girls starts by reprinting the Beast Boy mini-series from 2000, which, although a competent and readable outing by Ben Raab and Geoff Johns, illustrated by Justiniano and Chris Ivy, seems rather at odds thematically with the character’s treatment and portrayal in the Teen Titans regular series.

The effective and determined young man of this tale – whose shape-changing powers are by the way cool side-effects of a rare African disease and a subsequent experimental cure – thwarts a murder/frame plot by a shape-shifting psychopath whilst re-launching his movie career, but is curiously at odds with the meandering fifth-wheel of a character in the second half of the book. Originally from the Teen Titans monthly comic #13-15, the follow-up tale shows him as a whiny disease vector that attacks children. This seemingly causes his animal morphing powers to destabilise, subsequently infecting every child in the city. Johns is joined with Tom Grummett and Larry Stucker for this laborious mini-epic.

Teen Titans is one of DC’s strongest brands but the lack of cohesion in its various incarnations is a real hindrance if the publishers want to expand the base of readership beyond the limited confines of the already converted.

© 2000, 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Teen Titans: Family Lost

Teen Titans: Family Lost 

By various

(DC Comics)  ISBN 1-84023-998-0

Family Lost sees penciller Ivan Reis, inkers Kevin Conrad, Marc Campos and Norm Rapmund, plus colourist Sno Cone, join the burgeoning creative brigade with issues #8-12 of the monthly comic, plus the premium Teen Titans #½, collected under one cover.

Deathstroke the terminator has a wild-child daughter called Rose who is a borderline psychotic and these adventures recount how she joins the team, co-opting her dead brothers code-name ‘Ravager’. Our hormone raddled heroes must keep a wary eye on their newest member whilst fighting the menace of a vampiric incarnation of their old foe, Brother Blood.

These are all very competent superhero tales with lots of action and – I presume – the kind of dialogue that today’s kids are hip to, but that really shouldn’t be all there is to them, surely? Doesn’t it seem that you should concentrate on storytelling and entertainment fundamentals rather than depend on the opinion that old fans just want to name-check favourite characters and plots on their fan-boy score-cards?

© 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Teen Titans: A Kid’s Game

Teen Titans: A Kid’s Game 

By various

(DC Comics)  ISBN 1-84023-839-9

This series has as its theme the idea that super-hero kids need somewhere to go to be away from their mentors and partners. Practically speaking that means that Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl hang out every weekend with the survivors of previous incarnations of the 1980s teen team such as Starfire, Beast Boy, Cyborg and latterly, Raven.

A Kid’s Game details the coming together of the newest team in the aftermath of a tremendous battle that led to the death (yeah, right!) of long-time Titan Donna Troy. It also ties up some long hanging plot threads regarding ex-Titan Jericho (he wasn’t really dead after all, you see) whilst positioning Deathstroke the Terminator as the title’s major villain.

The creative team is the ubiquitous Geoff Johns with pencils by Mike McKone and Tom Grummett. Inkers Marlo Alquiza and Nelson provide the finishes and Jeremy Cox the colours. The stories were originally printed as Teen Titans #1-7 and Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files 2003, and as super-hero comics go it’s not a bad use of your cash. Readers of a less insular persuasion might be a bit baffled though, and fans coming to the volume because of the Warner Brothers cartoon show will be, frankly, baffled and somewhat disappointed at the lack of charm and humour.

© 2003, 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.