The New Teen Titans Volume 9 brings readers to the mid-80s swan song of the Wolfman/Pérez Titans partnership.
The Titans’ concern for increasingly isolated teammate Raven comes to a head, as her demonic father Trigon escapes confinement and succeeds in corrupting her. Erstwhile Titans Kid Flash and Lilith and Raven’s mother, Arella, return to assist with the struggle to stop Trigon and save Raven’s soul, ending with a confrontation of downright Biblical proportions. After taking a moment to process their trauma and cope with Raven’s fate, the return of the mysterious-winged alien leads the Titans to discover Lilith’s true origin and precipitate a clash with power-mad renegade goddess Thia, intent on destroying the Greek pantheon and seizing control of the world. In the midst of that melee, they meet a new ally in the crystal-spinning Kole.
The conclusion of the Raven saga paid off four years of planning from collaborators Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. Readers saw how carefully the duo had built Raven’s story, with seeds planted throughout the first few years and subtly placed visual clues coming together in an arc that earned its epic stripes. The creators had wisely resisted the temptation to overuse Trigon, keeping him a background presence and only bringing him back in the flesh for this story. It gave him more impact as an antagonist, with increased power levels and with absence having made his bearing come across more menacing. It was a contrast to how many comics often handle popular or big ticket villains, whose edge dulls from overexposure. Trigon’s attack on Earth felt credible and the team’s win over him precariously fragile.
Raven was the focal point of many of the stories during this early Wolfman/Pérez era and received a deserved spotlight in this finale for the team on the book. At the time, it was unusual to allow a central character to become as corrupted as Raven broke here, but that also allowed Wolfman and Pérez to give her a big moment of redemption and send her off shrouded in mystery that would be explored in future stories.
The “breather” issue was well-handled, giving the team a moment to come together as friends and process the trauma of the Trigon fight, and giving Lilith a brief spotlight in the Thia trilogy made effective use of a character that wasn’t especially well-known to a lot of the book’s audience while still giving big moments to the central cast.
The Raven arc turned out to be the last hurrah for Pérez (at least for a few years), before he left to concentrate on his and Wolfman’s game-changing Crisis on Infinite Earths. The horror/fantasy nature of the plot gave the artist (working with long-time collaborators Romeo Tanghal on inks and Adrienne Roy on color) a lot of room to strut his stuff, spinning out grotesque designs, blistering visuals and action-stoked dramatic sequences. Pérez packed the pages with ideas and techniques, putting a strong exclamation point on his Titans run. After a one-issue fill-in by Dan Jurgens (at the time, still working his way toward DC’s A List), respected veteran José Luis García-López came aboard as the regular penciler. He deployed an approach that bore many stylistic similarities to Pérez (and continued working with Tanghal and Roy), providing a smooth transition. Even if he didn’t bring quite the visual flourish that Pérez worked, García-López kept the art standard high, with some inventive designs and fantastical sequences that made the most of the mythological elements of the Thia trilogy.
For fans of the original series, this Wolfman/ Pérez valediction is essential reading. Volume 9 is not a strong entry point for newcomers, though, as knowledge of the first few years of The New Teen Titans is necessary to fully appreciate this stretch.