Overview

Titans?Together?

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Teen Titans, before Marv Wolfman and George Pérez took them over, had not graced comic book shop shelves in almost three years. For all intents and purposes, the concept had run its course. It seemed that there were no more stories to be told with the Teen Titans, or, at least, no stories readers would be interested in.

It was for this reason that Wolfman and Pérez essentially had carte blanche to revamp the series as they liked. Both were comic veterans at the time—Wolfman known for his well received run on Tomb of Dracula and his time as Marvel’s editor-in-chief, Pérez for runs on Marvel’s Avengers and Fantastic Four titles—but not nearly superstars.

There was something about the Wolfman/Pérez dynamic on The New Teen Titans that created something magical. Each creator brought out the best in each other, and the results were one of the best collaborations of all time.

Inspired by Marvel’s success with Uncanny X-Men, they brought a deeper level of characterization to the characters. Instead of several random heroes just gathering together to fight crime, they became a group of friends, if not a family, who could depend on each other. They dealt with real world problems. They fell in love. They joked around with each other.

This is not to say that there was a lack in action or adventure. Their collaboration led to some of the most classic stories in comics’ history. The Titans had memorable battles against memorable bad guys the likes of  Trigon, Brother Blood and Deathstroke. The Judas Contract, and the issues leading up to it, was one of the best comic book storylines of all time.

Wolfman and Pérez created a lasting legacy with their work on The New Teen Titans, one that all of comics have had to try to live up to indirectly since that run. But, this week, Judd Winick and Ian Churchill tackle that legacy head on.

You don’t have to look any farther than the line-up of the team starring in Titans #1 to see that Winick and Churchill are using the Wolfman/Pérez Titans as an inspiration—the team is all but identical, taking into consideration all the changes that almost 30 years of stories will do to a character.

But the point of where they get their inspiration is also made in many interviews the pair have done to promote the series. Winick spelled it out plainly in a talk with Newsarama when he said: “So why not try and stand on the shoulders of giants and see if we can’t move these characters forward and build on what Marv and George have left?”

This is a bold statement by Winick, one that throws himself, and, by proxy, Churchill, into direct comparison with Wolfman and Pérez. And, to paraphrase a famous American political line from the late 1980s, Mr. Winick, I’ve read Wolfman and Pérez, I know Wolfman and Pérez, and sir, you and Mr. Churchill are not Wolfman and Pérez.

Judd Winick, as a writer, has his share of detractors. I’m afraid I’m one of them. Sure, I give that he’s good with writing dialogue. But where I find him lacking, and where Wolfman excelled, is in characterization. In the many books that I’ve read, the characters seem out of sync with the way they have always been portrayed. And the relationships between the characters have no depth or meaning. It’s all flash and glibness and no realism and weight.

And I am especially annoyed by his use of characters having casual sex with one another as character development. Does this “hooking up” happen in real life? Certainly, it does. But usually with complications which Winick never bothers to show. And future solicitations show it will only take until the third issue for Winick to employ this tactic on this series.

As for Churchill, the British artist got his start when Rob Liefeld was at the apex of his popularity, and his style reflects this. Whereas Pérez’s art is fluid, distinct and with a lot of attention to detail, Churchill’s, at times, looks stiff and posed, with squinty eyes and wonky proportions. There is a sameness to his character’s features and he sometimes gets fuzzy with the details.

If these opinions don’t stand as a harbinger of doom for the new series, the Titans East Special #1 acts as another one. This critically lambasted one-shot acts as the first chapter to the new series. They hammered the plot, the shameless killing of characters, and Churchill’s quasi-misogynistic art. Ouch. Not an auspicious start.

Fans of the Wolfman/Pérez Titans are excited about the team they love coming back together, hoping that the magic will strike twice. Unfortunately, odds are severely against it. What they probably will get will be more tragic than magic.

Also out this week:

Batman: Death Mask #1:

Manga is one of the biggest forms of comic art in the world. The Japanese comic book style has become as popular in the United States as it is in Japan. It has gone from the fringes of comic culture to something that threatens conventional superheroes for sales supremacy. Another sign of how far Manga has come is that DC is actually allowing one of its most recognizable properties to receive the Manga treatment.

Toguri artist Yoshinori Natsume creates a tale for DC’s CMX imprint which allows an interesting reinterpretation, yet keeps true to the character. There is a new serial killer in Gotham, and there is something familiar about him to Batman. Could he be a tie to his past? Could someone who trained him in Japan follow him to the States? And is this person aware that his student, Bruce Wayne, is really the Batman?

Yoshinori Natsume (W/A),CMX/DC Comics, $5.99.   Four-Issue Miniseries.

Amazing Spider-Girl #19:

During one of Spider-Girl’s flirtations with cancellation (and there were many), the character of Araňa was the focus of many a S-G fan’s ire. They felt that Marvel was promoting her, a newer, “hipper”, more culturally diverse female Spider character, above the preexisting (and in much bigger need of promotion) Spider-Girl. Time went to show who won that battle as only one of them has their own ongoing title.

And both Spider-Girls come together in that title tomorrow, as the much older MC2 version of Araňa pays a visit to our May Parker. Will their fight in this issue turn out any different than their war for newsstand supremacy? I guess we’ll have tune in and see, now won’t we?

Tom DeFalco (W), Ron Frenz (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards: The Hard Call #1:

The Dabel Brothers association with Marvel is at an end. Rumors swirled around the break up, but the fact remains that they had to start from scratch and once again form a company from the ground floor. And they are doing it the same way they did it the first time---they are getting best-selling authors with cult popularity and adapting their works into comics. And one of the first properties is a series of novels with great appeal to the comic reading audience.

This isn’t the first time “Wild Cards” has appeared in comics. It was part of Epic Comics’aptly named Epic anthology back in 1992. But George R.R. Martin’s history with the Dabels (they adapted his Hedge Knight and other works) brings the tales from an alternate history where an alien virus gives human superpowers—if it doesn’t kill them first—back in a six-issue miniseries.

Daniel Abraham (W), Eric Battle (A), Dabel Brothers Productions, $2.99.  Six-Issue Miniseries.

Groo: Hell on Earth #4:

Groo is known for doing the wrong thing pretty much all the time. Unfortunately, the one time he does something right, quite accidentally I might add, it ends up causing more chaos and destruction than people even anticipate from Groo. Simply helping the workers at a munitions factory results in starvation, flood, a decaying environment, and, now, all-out war. Can things hope to get better? Or has Groo really done it this time?

Ah, I love Groo. I’ve been a fan since the first issue of the Epic series came out. Evanier and Aragonés are busy with other projects, but I hope that more Groo series are in our future. Hopefully, an ongoing one next!

Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragonés (W), Sergio Aragonés (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.

Whatever:

The stories contained in this graphic novel first appeared as strips in Boston’s alternative weekly, The Phoenix. That should tell us to expect that what lies inside might be a tad bit unconventional and unique. And that is exactly what you get with this collection.

Created by Xeric-award winning artist Karl Stevens, Whatever tells the tales of a group of people living in what may be considered the indie or underground scene in Allston, Massachusetts. It offers a slice of life look at a group of people who exist on their own terms. It is beautifully rendered with documentary-like realism, and gives insight into certain areas of the subculture.

If you are already familiar with the strips, there is a special bonus for you. Added for this collection are ten pieces Stevens painted in ethereal watercolor. 

 

Karl Stevens (W/A), Alternative Comics, $9.95. Graphic Novel.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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