The New Teen Titans Volume 10 found the franchise in a transitional phase after the departure of co-creator George Pérez.

After parting ways with Lilith, the Titans learned the background of new ally Kole, coming into conflict with her mad scientist parents who were certain environmental doom was imminent and were willing to take extreme measures to survive it. A child’s ghost put the team onto a fifty-year-old murder, while a flashback detailed an encounter with a bizarre alien team called the Vanguard and one of Superman’s biggest foes. Then the Titans became enmeshed in Crisis on Infinite Earths, while the winged alien now known as Azrael was gulled by the Church of Brother Blood, as Arella’s search brought her closer and closer to her daughter, Raven. After a lengthy exile, Starfire was called back to her home planet Tamaran to reunite with her parents (with Nightwing and Jericho in tow), unaware that her vengeful sister was lurking in the shadows or that she’d be expected to fulfill a duty that would rip apart the life she’d built on Earth. Meanwhile, Changeling’s adoptive father, using the helmet that gave him the powers of Mento, became unhinged and promised to be a major threat.

After the second New Teen Titans series opened with the one-two punch of the finale of the Raven saga and the impressive Olympians spectacle, most of the issues collected in Volume 10 found the book treading water, gestating plots that wouldn’t pay off until a bit further down the road. Writer Marv Wolfman was, of course, embroiled in the massive Crisis series at the time, suggesting he was stalling until the new order that the climax of Crisis ushered in for DC. There was still plenty of good characterization, as the cast navigated romantic ups and downs, family drama and other personal preoccupations. The early focus on Kole was well done (even if the environmental message of the story was delivered a bit hamfistedly), setting her up as an interesting addition to the cast and making Wolfman’s decision to kill her off not too much later in Crisis all the more puzzling. Other characters (notably fan favorite Wonder Girl) seemed to drift along without much going on.

The Crisis tie-in issue itself was disjointed, with half of it devoted to the cast’s personal issues and much of the rest of it a re-hash of the team’s involvement in the main series, with only the sequence showing Cyborg’s initial recruitment into Monitor’s strike force being of note. The ghost story and the introduction of the Vanguard felt like filler of differing degrees of success. This stretch doesn’t really kick into gear until the final two issues collected here, exploiting the building romantic drama between Starfire and Nightwing against the backdrop of her unstable home planet, while also dramatizing Mento’s emotional breakdown. Raven remained an ethereal background presence nearly a year after the climax of the first arc, but both she and Azrael loomed to feature in the return of Brother Blood.

A hodgepodge of artists featured in a relatively brief a run. José Luis García-López delivered only two more issues as regular artist, but they were absolutely gorgeous, as he took a softer focus, more impressionistic approach that fit the horror elements of the Kole story quite effectively. Eduardo Barreto came aboard as the regular artist, consciously aping Pérez’s style, but without as significant an impact. In between, Stan Woch, later to be known for his horror and fantasy work, contributed a surprisingly mainstream issue that added some interest to the ghost story. Veterans Ed Hannigan and Mike DeCarlo did their usual clean, professional work on the otherwise forgettable Vanguard story. Series staples Romeo Tanghal on inks and Adrienne Roy on colors provided some continuity, but the book couldn’t help but miss the innovation that Pérez had brought to it. Still, there was no bad work here.

Volume 10 is not for the uninitiated. It really relies on a reader’s knowledge of and investment in the events of the franchise up to that point to achieve any impact. But Wolfman was incubating some elements that at least gave readers a reason to have some faith that he knew what he was doing without his long-time collaborator.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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