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Sunday, 30 September 2018

New Titans Annual 10 - an Elseworlds fantasy world New Titans

I place all the Elsewords annuals from 1994 just before the "0" issues that follow Zero Hour. My logic being that these are the potential worlds floating around before Parallax re-creates the universe. So New Titans Annual 10 fits in here.

Wolfman and Louise Simonson are joined by Scott Lee, Martin Griffiths, Kevin Conrad, and Dan Davis for a story set in a fairly typical fantasy realm. Raven is the big villain, a sorceress who transforms people into her minions, and starts off the issue by turning an injured sailor into Cyborg.

Nightwing, the Flash, Donna Troy, Changeling, Arsenal and Pantha are also creations of Raven in this story.

Raven is opposed by the wizard Phantasm, and Starfire is his one power player. As the story unfolds, we find out that the energy that Starfire has was meant to go to Nightwing (who can fly in this tale), but Raven kept it from him.

Nightwing helps free the rest of the Titans, and they meet up with Terry Long, who is married to Donna Troy in this story as well.

But overall this is not very interesting. Phantasm works with Nightwing, though at first he seems dangerous, stripping Nightwing of his power of flight.

But the Titans join forces with Phantasm and Starfire to defeat Raven, who has been working to bring her demonic father, Trigon, to Earth. All in all, this is simply too close to stories of the real team. The Titans defeat Raven and Trigon, and then decide to fight for truth and justice in their fantasy world.

New Titans 114 - everyone quits

The New Titans was no longer the book it had been. Not even close. Wolfman makes that official in issue 114 (Sept 94), with Rick Mays, Karl Story, Jason Martin and Keith Champagne.

The story is told over a period of 24 hours, though the events do not happen chronologically. There are clocks throughout the issue, to help place events in order, but the time jumps really don't add very much to the story. Arsenal goes jogging with Sarge Steel and a poorly drawn President Clinton, getting the assurances he wants about the team's independence. But later we find out that the words are meaningless, and the Titans are expected to obey orders.

Changeling gets captured by Deathwing and brought to Raven, who implants him with a demon seed. Changeling suffers as a result of this, but doesn't tell anyone else about it.

There are also a few scenes that are clearly setting up some new characters, though I had dropped Titans by this point, and am really not sure what is important here. We see Jarras Minion escape the devastation of his homeworld, Taryn, though the Darkstara are fighting to save it. Jarras gets sent into space in the Omegadrome by his parents, very Superman-like.

Arsenal has been inviting the members to a meeting to tell them about his re-booting of the team, but this does not go well. He tries calling the Flash, but gets no answer and leaves a message on Wally's machine. Impulse, recently introduced in the Flash's book, gets the message.

Nightwing is the first to inform Arsenal that his time with the Titans is at an end, and that he is happy to be passing the leadership to Roy.

Red Star, Pantha and baby Wildebeest then say their goodbyes. The scene is odd, as Pantha announces that she and Red Star are a couple, something Red Star seems unaware of, but happy to go along with.

Starfire not only doesn't go back to the Titans, she doesn't even go back to Dick Grayson, heading off into a solo story in Showcase 94 instead.

So only Changeling and Phantasm are still around for Arsenal's meeting. Roy mentions having tried to contact Frances (misspelled Francis yet again) Kane, Thunder and Lighting and the new Robin, Tim Drake, but with no success. Phantasm informs Arsenal and Changeling that they are needed, and they head off into the pages of Damage, for the Zero Hour crossover.

New Titans 113 - Nightwing thinks about his life

Nightwing gets a largely solo issue in New Titans 113 (Aug 94), by Wolfman, Jaaska and Sever.

Dick Grayson is still in the Amazon, helping the people there recover from the Terraist's attack. He spends most of the issue thinking about his life. So we get a brief recap of his origin, and being taken in and trained by Batman.

More focus is given to his days with the Titans, starting with the original team, and then quickly scanning over the newer incarnation of the group, and his relationship with Starfire.

Although Dick briefly considers giving it all up to live in nature, of course he decides he is meant to be a hero, and starts to head back to the US. Starfire makes a cameo right at the end, making this a contrast between the two rites of passage they have undergone.

New Titans 112 - Starfire remembers

Starfire gets her memory back as Rick Mays and Blyberg join Wolfman for New Titans 112 (July 1994).

Most of this issue has the team dealing with Sarge Steel and Checkmate, as Arsenal tries to negotiate funding, and a level of independence, for the team. The Titans also struggle to remind Starfire of who she is, and their connection to her.

Flash and Aqualad join Arsenal in his talks with Sarge Steel, but neither has any interest in becoming government agents. On the plus side, Arsenal does negotiate to have the Titans remain in possession of the Terraist's satellite, to use as their new base.

Remembering that Starfire learned English by kissing Dick Grayson all those years ago, Red Star tries kissing her, and this does work to restore her memories. And probably she learned some Russian at the same time. This scene seems to indicate a potential romance between these two, but that does not pan out.

The story closes by revealing that Elizabeth Alderman has died, and we find out that Raven was responsible. The demon seed she implanted in Alderman was too powerful for her body, and killed it.

New Titans 111 - battling in space

Matt Thompson and Rus Sever join Wolfman as the Terraist story continues in New Titans 111 (June 1994).

Lots of fighting in space in this one. Starfire heads out to fight against the satellite without even really understanding what the fight is about. The Amazons, and Nightwing, all get blasted by a deadly beam from the satellite. 

Starfire herself gets taken out by the beam, but the Titans rescue her and bring her aboard their rocket. They re not prepared for how she has changed, and don't quite know what to do when Starfire doesn't remember them at all.

Red Star gets an impressive scene during the rescue, though. His powers enable him to fly in the vacuum of space, protecting him from the cold. They do not, however, compensate for the lack of air. I haven't liked much that has been going on in this series, but I do like the couple of pages in which Red Star has to hold his breath during the rescue. Adds some tension. The Terraist is revealed to not actually care about the environment, and it's all big blackmail scam against the world, but he gets easily defeated once the Titans reach the satellite.

New Titans 110 - Starfire forgets Nightwing

Starfire's ritual has left her with some memory loss, as detailed in the Wolfman, Jaaska, Blyberg and Simons story from New Titans 110 (May 1994).

Dick Grayson has been hanging out in the Amazon with some tribespeople, waiting for Starfire to return. She finally does, looking and acting much harsher. Starfire no longer knows Nightwing, nor does she seem to have any awareness that she is on Earth. All she speaks of is Tamaran, and she remains in this confused mental state for the remainder of the issue.

A villain called the Terraist is also causing problems. He commands a satellite and some minions, and threatens Earth unless it goes really ecological. It makes little sense, and will prove to not be his actual motives anyway. Sarge Steel calls on Arsenal, Changeling, Red Star and Flash, ordering the Titans into space to deal with the villain. In this issue, the Titans even report to Checkmate offices to get their mission.

But, you know, they don't have a rocket or anything, so they turn to Steve Dayton for one. Dayton is getting tired of funding the group, an endless drain, and when Pantha attacks him, blaming him for her transformation, he is more angry than scared. 

But Sarge Steel has other plans. Lex Luthor Jr has a rocketship on hand, and even an astronaut trained to pilot it, and the team heads off into space to battle the Terraist.

The Terraist sends a destructive beam at the Amazon, which Starfire takes as an attack on her people, and flies out into space to fight.

New Titans 109 - Starfire's ritual

Starfire gets a solo story in Wolfman and Jaaska story from New Titans 109 (March 1994).

Starfire spend the issue undergoing a coming-of-age type ritual. We have never heard about this before, but apparently all Tamaranians experience it. For Starfire, infected by Raven's evil seeds, this becomes more torturous than normal. The ritual allows some brief recap of Starfire's life, her time in captivity, and her rivalry with her sister, Blackfire.

Nightwing shows up in a vision, but he is portrayed as weak, and his hopes to make Starfire less violent are shown as a bad thing. Starfire experiences visitations from Auron and X'Hal, and by the end her Tamaranian warrior nature has won out.

Friday, 28 September 2018

New Titans 108 - Sarge Steel shakes things up

More changes are in store for the team in the Wolfman and Jaaska story from New Titans 108 (Feb 94).

There is a genuinely creepy opening to this issue, as Starfire goes to visit Elizabeth Alderman in the asylum. Alderman is being consumed by the demon seed that Raven implanted in her, and though Starfire is much stronger, and holding out better, the seed is fighting her for control as well. Nightwing tries to help her, but Starfire flies away.

Arsenal meets with Sarge Steel, and learns that, even though he is in charge of the Titans, Checkmate is ultimately calling the shots. Sarge Steel is manipulating the media to make it look like all the problems with the Titans were Nightwing's fault, and that Arsenal is saving the day and cleaning up the team. Roy Harper is not happy about this, but not able to do anything about it, or about the new person Steel has arranged to have working with them.

But a lot of the issue is devoted to mourning the loss of Cyborg. Changeling and Sarah Charles have a very touching scene, but it is also powerful when Red Star freaks out, his guilt overwhelming him, while Pantha is more interested in playing with baby Wildebeest.

The Flash makes a cameo as Arsenal calls to talk to him about everything Sarge Steel is doing. This further teases the mystery man Steel has been working with.

But the mystery isn't dragged on too long, and we find out that it is Lex Luthor Jr who is to be helping the Titans, developing their tech. Supergirl makes a brief cameo, foreshadowing her later role with the team.

The story closes on Starfire, struggling within herself, while flying around destructively. Is she an alien warrior, or a demonic host?

New Titans 107 - Cyborg assimilates

Wolfman, Tenney and Barnett conclude the Technis story in New Titans 107 (Late Jan 94).

Prester Jon has been seduced by Technis, who has promised him his own body. This keeps Jon distracted while Technis moves to infect the Earth with its computer domination.

Although overall I detest the art on this book right now, I have to credit the visuals for the scene in which people, buildings, animals and everything get digitized.

Cyborg realizes that he needs to take control of Technis to free the Earth. As well, his sentience will only last as long as he is on Technis. Were he to return to Earth, his consciousness would stay dormant on Technis. So, bidding a sad farewell to Sarah Charles, Arsenal, Changeling, Phantasm, Pantha, Red Star and baby Wildebeest, Vic Stone merges his body with the computer world. Cyborg becomes one with Technis, controlling it and making it release Earth and head back into space. The rest of the team return to Earth. Cyborg will return, though not in this series.

New Titans 106 - Victor Stone returns

Mark Tenney and Charles Barnett III join Wolfman as the Technis story continues in New Titans 106 (Early Jan 94).

For the most part this just continues the plot threads already introduced. Arsenal descends deeper into Technis. His costume has been changing, although it's not like he brought extras to change into.

Pantha is not able to get conclusive evidence about Steve Dayton's involvement in her transformation, or even learn for certain whether she was human or animal. She is upset about this, but baby Wildebeest's love makes her realize she should just accept who she is. Yeah, gag.

But good news for Victor Stone. Prester Jon, with the aid of Techis, Phantasm and Sarah Charles, manages to reach his mind. Changeling is so happy he changes into a bird, although he shouldn't be able to do this anymore. The narration concedes that he feels a lot of pain while doing it. But somehow that pain is worth it. Of course, he could have been happy without changing into any animal.

But Victor is back, and that's a definite plus. Still, the story isn't over, and Technis is approaching Earth and ready for conquest.