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Thursday, 31 January 2019

Teen Titans Spotlight 12 - Wonder Girl married a jerk

I never liked Terry Long, Wonder Girl's husband. I suspect Doug Moench, Ernie Colon, and Romeo Tanghal shared that feeling, since he comes off really poorly in the Wonder Girl tale from Teen Titans Spotlight 12 (July 1987).

The story begins with Donna Troy and Terry Long having lunch. Donna has some time off from the team, and suggests that she and Terry go on a vacation together. He pays no attention to her, reading a letter from an old friend. He informs Donna that he wants to go to El Salvador and join his buddy on an archaeological dig. Donna is even willing to go to El Salvador with him, but Terry wants this to be a "boy's night" kind of thing.

After Terry leaves on his trip, Donna examines the note. Terry had told her how he and his buddy used to send secret messages embedded in ordinary letters to each other. Sure enough, Donna finds a plea for help. So did Terry see this, and head off alone to protect Donna? 

Nope, he was totally oblivious, and has no idea his friend is in trouble until he arrives and winds up a captive of the drug dealers who have taken over the dig.

Wonder Girl heads down to rescue her husband. There is some good art on her action stuff, though the bit with Terry supposedly having been beheaded doesn't come off too effectively.

Terry actually warns Donna to stay back when they spot the arms the drug dealers have. Seriously? Terry is planning on taking these guys down by himself, and thinks it's too dangerous for Wonder Girl? WTF was this guy thinking? Thankfully, Donna doesn't listen to him, and single handedly takes down the bad guys. Kind of wish she had just left Terry in the jungle, but they go off for a vacation together at the end.

Teen Titans Spotlight 11 - the Brotherhood of Evil meet Tintin (sort of)

The Brotherhood of Evil are given a story by Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier, Joe Orlando, and Bruce Patterson in Teen Titans Spotlight 11 (June 1987).

The story opens at the Dome, as Belphegor meets with Dr Mist and some other European operatives. They discuss Madame Rouge's attempt to kill the Brain and Monsieur Mallah, and how the two villains survived. Belphegor has a plan to set the Brain and Mallah after the double agent who gave Rouge the intel on them.

The story then shifts to St Tropez, where the Brain, Phobia, and Mallah are trying to convince Warp, who has retired from crime, to work with them again. The group then get attacked by operatives of the double agent. Warp uses his powers to shunt them away, but winds up taking them all to another dimension.

It's a post-apocalyptic world, but it's also the world of Tintin, the Belgian youth whose adventures were charted by Herge back in the 40s and 50s. The best thing about this story is how the history of this dimension follows the events from Tintin's books. Their trip to the Moon in 1952 accelerated the Cold War, and World War 3 broke out there. Tintin, who is just called Tin in this story, is now an adult, and the Captain is an old man.

They enlist the aid of the Brotherhood of Evil in fighting against the evil forces that now dominate their world. Snowy has become a giant mutated dog. On the one hand, this plot jumps around a bit too much. But I am forgiving, since I was a big Tintin fan as a kid. 

The villain even feels straight out of a Tintin story, an evil American oil man, who gets gunned down by Mallah.

The Brotherhood then head back to their own world, where they confront and kill the double agent, just as Belphegor had intended. If thee Global Guardians are the Dome's version of the Justice League, then Belphegor is using the Brotherhood as the Dome's version of the Suicide Squad, at least in this instance.

The Brotherhood of Evil are next seen the following year in New Teen Titans.

Teen Titans Spotlight 10 - Aqualad tortured by Mento

John Ostrander, Erik Larsen and Romeo Tanghal put Aqualad through mental torture in Teen Titans Spotlight 10 (May 1987).

This story is a lot of fun, the best one in the series so far. Larsen is the perfect artist for the bizarre scenes that Aqualad is put through, all torments controlled by Mento. Aqualad sees himself back with his long dead parents, but in this reality Jericho possesses Aqualad, forcing him to kill them himself.

Aqualad breaks down as Mento plays with his mind, forcing him into weird confrontations with Aquaman and Mera. At one point Changeling accuses Aqualad of being related to Arion's arch-enemy, Garn Daanuth, based on the similarity of Garth's name. Although this is just more torment, it also is the first hint at Garth having magical abilities, though it would be many years before that notion would get developed.

Of course the main torment that Mento puts Aqualad through is reliving the death of his girlfriend, Tula. I love the scene of Garth with the original Teen Titans, who are shown as high school stereotypes.

This all pushes Aqualad to the breaking point. But that proves to be a good thing. His stress allows his mind to break free of Mento's illusions, and the hero sees that he is in a tank, being toyed with.

Aqualad uses his own mental abilities to "swim upstream" as it were, taking control of Mento's mind, and putting him through a series of degrading hallucinations, making the Doom Patrol mock him.

Both men search for some mental weakness to exploit, but in doing so they find both are sharing the same grief. Aqualad for Aquagirl, and Mento for Elasti-Girl.

This shakes up Mento a lot. So much so that he releases Aqualad and sends him away, although with a mental command preventing him from returning to Mento's lair.

Considering how poorly the Mento plot line was handled in the pages of New Teen Titans itself, I was quite surprised to find the best chapter of the storyline here.

Teen Titans Spotlight 9 - Changeling and Robotman vs Mr 104

Changeling and Robotman face an old enemy from their Doom Patrol days in a story by Paul Kupperberg, Dan Jurgens, and Gary Martin, in Teen Titans Spotlight 9 (April 1987).

The story begins with a flashback to a scene of the Doom Patrol fighting General Immortus. The Chief, Negative Man, and Elasti-Girl are there with Changeling and Robotman, and we soon find out the two former teammates are reminiscing about the good old days, and this fight.

Robotman talks repeatedly about intending to retire. He doesn't even want to be called Robotman anymore, preferring his real name, Cliff Steele. And though Changeling loves the spotlight, Robotman hates all the attention that he gets when he goes out in public. And he really hates being mistaken for Cyborg.

The pair are wandering through the zoo as they talk, and they get attacked by Mr 104, formerly Mr 103,  a villain with the ability to turn himself into any element. He had been dispersed into free flowing atoms in his last encounter with the Doom Patrol, and here mentions that an electrical storm brought his body back together. I think it's safe to assume this "storm" was the Crisis.

Though Mr 104 fights both heroes, it becomes readily apparent that Robotman is the real star of the story. His emotional state is far more important than Changeling's, and the battle really shows off the resilience and durability of his robot body. Changeling does help defeat Mr 104, but does so by dousing him with carbon dioxide, when Mr 104 is in sulfuric form, not by his own shape changing powers.

This story is very mildly linked to the story in the next issue, as we see that Mento is monitoring Changeling's activities. Aqualad is still Mento's captive.

The story ends with some bonding between Changeling and Robotman, though nothing really new. We already know how much Robotman means to Changeling. And despite his constant insistence that he does not want to go back to crime fighting, the lettercolumn makes it clear that this story is a lead in to the upcoming Doom Patrol series.

Robotman is next seen in the Secret Origins annual detailing the history of the Doom Patrol. Mr 104 returns the following year in the Doom Patrol/Suicide Squad Special.

Teen Titans Spotlight 8 - Hawk loves bugs

Baron, Guice, and Mahlstedt conclude Hawk's outing in Teen Titans Spotlight 8 (March 1987).

Hawk flies down to South America at the start of this story. A woman meets his plane, and is going to take him to meet Arachnid's queen, but the police try to stop her, calling her a terrorist. Hawk winds up fighting the cops in order to get her away.

She leads Hawk to some ruins, and they ride there on a giant flying bug. By the time the woman reveals that she is really the queen of the insects, in a human-looking form, Hawk has already fallen in love with her. She explains that their actions are against a corporation that is poisoning the land, so they are acting in the greater good. Despite the attempt to cause a nuclear meltdown in the previous issue, Hawk decides to fight on the bugs side now.

The corporation has hired an assassin of sorts, the Toxicator, who is basically a really tough exterminator. Hawk gets doused with his bug poison, but of course it doesn't kill him, and Hawk beats the guy up.

He then pretends to be one of the giant insects, and scares the company's workers into fleeing the area. I cannot imagine the corporation would just give up its multinational activities at this point, but Hawk seems to think he has saved the day.

Hawk returns a few months down the road in the pages of Booster Gold.

Teen Titans Spotlight 7 - Hawk hates bugs

Following his appearance in Fury of Firestorm during the Legends crossover, Hawk gets a two part story, which begins in Teen Titans Spotlight 7 (Feb 7). Mike Baron, Jackson Guice, and Larry Mahlstedt handle the tale, about which I have very little positive to say.

I remember picking this up, taking a look at this page, and putting the issue back down. It always irritates me when Hawk (or Dove, but it's usually Hawk) is shown with a costume that he can remove. THE HAWK AND DOVE COSTUMES DO NOT COME OFF. They are magical, and only appear when Hawk (or Dove) is in danger and says the word "Hawk" (or "Dove"), then vanish when the trouble is over.

You can see this is a major issue for me.

Anyway, that's not the only problem I have with this story. At the start, Hawk comes to Colorado for a conference sponsored by the Kellog Institute, described as a "corporate funded think tank." The cops question Hawk, and though they let him go, we also find out that no other heroes have shown up, despite Kellog inviting reps from all the major teams. That made me suspicious of the group, but they turn out to be benign. Not only that, they really have nothing at all to do with the story.

The Institute just happens to be next door to a nuclear power plant, which winds up getting attacked by thousands of insects. Hawk goes into action, though he isn't quite sure what to do. Beating up bugs is not going to solve the problem. In the plant, he encounters a woman who apparently just decided to wander into the plant and see if she could do anything to help out. I didn't trust her, either, but she also turns out to have no hidden agenda. Just eye candy, it seems.

The bugs are being controlled by a huge one, called Arachnid. This at least gives Hawk something to fight.

But defeating the monster will not stop the thousands of other, normal sized insects invading the plant. Fortunately, the nuclear plant has its own piano. Because they are standard equipment in nuclear plants, I suppose. Anyway, Hawk decides to play the piano, and manages to find some chords that drive the insects crazy, and they flee.

The story gets even weirder, as Hawk and the military discuss what to do about the bugs, and then Arachnid shows up, offering to hold peace talks with Hawk, if he comes to their base.

I will concede, the second half of the story is not as bad. Couldn't possibly be, when it comes down to it.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Teen Titans Spotlight 6 - Jericho falls out of love

Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier join Wolfman, Andru, and McLaughlin for the conclusion of the Jericho story, in Teen Titans Spotlight 6 (Jan 87).

It's the big finale, as Jericho and Adeline Kane go after the new HIVE leader and his treacherous daughter.

Jericho gets the requisite scene, facing down with his former lover. It turns out that she never cared for him. Their romance had been part of the scam right from the start.

There is little in this issue that is actually surprising. The story really didn't deserve four whole issues, being so easy to figure out. But I do like that Penny winds up shooting and killing her father, while Jericho is possessing him, only realizing what she has done when it is too late.

And though Penny insists that she will take over HIVE and carry on where her father left off, we don't see that criminal organization again for many years, and Penny herself never returns.

But otherwise, there is some good art here, but not enough plot to carry it off. This is also Jericho's only story in Teen Titans Spotlight.

Teen Titans Spotlight 5 - Jericho learns the truth

Giordano and Frank McLaughlin join Wolfman, Andru and Mahlstedt for Jericho's story in Teen Titans Spotlight 5 (Dec 86).

Changeling gets a cameo right at the top of this issue, as Jericho breaks into his room to make copies of his fingerprints. My goodness that boy is a sound sleeper. I cannot imagine anyone doing that to me without waking me up.

As before, the action in the story is good. Jericho uses his powers to help him break into Dayton Labs, and steal a small amount of Promethium. He and his mother then go through the whole ransom drop process.

But by this point Adeline is suspicious of the entire situation. Good. It's such an obvious set-up. Penny and her father just wanted the Promethium all along. Doesn't even seem like Penny cares about her husband, who remains a captive until Jericho and Adeline find and free him.

Even once they have rescued him the husband is not keen on helping the pair. But since they have already guessed a lot of it, he gives in.

The man's plan, right from he outset, was to take over HIVE. When the leader was killed by his wife, the guy set his plans in motion, stealing HIVE's funds and using Adeline to fake his death. He contacted some other HIVE members, and is now in charge of a reborn organization.

Jericho and Adeline attack the HIVE base. Jericho fights the new leader, but the man gets away. Jericho and his mother have to content themselves with blowing up the base, but are still determined to find Penny and her father and get justice.