The New Teen Titans reprint project hits the mid-80s and contemplates a post-Pérez direction.
After erstwhile Kid Flash Wally West and his girlfriend foil a plot by Doctor Light in Central City, friends old and new gather for Donna Troy’s wedding. Then, with the Terminator’s trial pending, Changeling’s lingering trauma threatens to take him somewhere dark, while Jericho finds himself suspected by his new friends when he goes to great lengths to rescue his mother, after she’s kidnapped by the terrorist Cheshire. Original Teen Titans member Lilith sticks around after Donna’s wedding, until conflict with the team over a mysterious winged alien recovered from an Arctic ice floe and new hints about her own mysterious past drive her away. Changeling and Terminator’s conflict reaches an unexpected resolution. Then the Fearsome Five returns, with two new recruits and a plot to blackmail New York City, just as Cyborg sees a chance to regain a human-looking appearance.
Any stretch would seem to pale in comparison to “The Judas Contract,” the high point of this original series. If the book seemed to come back down to Earth, it was still a state-of-the-art superhero series for its time. The emotional high point comes early, with Donna’s wedding, which also marks the swan song for the Marv Wolfman/George Pérez team on the original series (by this point, the book had been renamed Tales of the Teen Titans, the New Teen Titans title having been used for a deluxe re-launch that featured the final Wolfman/ Pérez arc before the team turned its attention to the landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths). Wolfman was perfectly capable of flying solo, even if the material did seem to miss the extra spark his collaboration with Pérez seemed to provide.
Still, there’s a lot of good stuff in this arc. Donna’s wedding was a nicely deserved moment in the spotlight for a popular character who often seemed pushed more into “big sister” mode in the ensemble. The issue brought back all kinds of long-absent characters and provided several well-earned emotional moments. Wolfman continued to develop the Terminator as one of the most nuanced adversaries in ’80s comics; his trial provided a rare glimpse into the legal process of the superhero world, while Wolfman’s unique choice for the long-running plot’s finale provided an emotional payoff of a different kind. Wolfman continued to effectively develop Jericho and for long-time fans, the return of Lilith was a welcome addition (albeit a brief one). Wolfman assayed an effective post-Doctor Light version of the Fearsome Five, introducing mainstay villain Jinx in the process. Wolfman gave Cyborg some complex material and continued to develop threads he’d explore in the new series. It’s solid work overall. The only curiosity for fans might be how thoroughly the popular Raven was pushed into the background; Wolfman was building to a big turning point for the character in the new deluxe series and continued to sow those seeds, but her absence from much of the action was a disappointment.
Pérez’s finale on this iteration of the series was a nice send-off. With nary an action scene to be found, the artist drove home the emotional lives of the characters with Donna’s elaborate wedding. Pérez made the whole thing shimmer and provided both a proper tribute to Donna and a fitting close to his run on the book. Veteran Flash artist Carmine Infantino was an apt choice to pitch in on the Wally spotlight. After Pérez, ’80s DC mainstays Rich Buckler, Ron Randall and Chuck Patton all contributed issues. While each clearly exhibited a certain surface similarity to Pérez, they lacked his nuance and produced work that was more conventional, more typical of the “house style” for DC’s mid-tier books of the era. It was all clean, well-produced, professional and enjoyable, but none of his successors could match the depth of Pérez’s work. More than anything, those issues couldn’t help like feeling they were moving around the pieces until the title started running reprints of the deluxe series.
The New Teen Titans Volume 8 is worth reading for fans who have already gone the distance with this reprint project. For those whose interest is more casual, there’s probably not enough here to warrant the investment of time and money.