Two Tribes

A couple of super teams from the DC side of the street.

Teen Titans – Team Building

Written by J. T. Krull, illustrated by Nicola Scott& Doug Hazelwood

Back when I was reading comics this new team series started up and, from what I can remember, for a while was the hot ticket, though I can’t remember why as all I can recall was an overly busy storyline(s), not especially engaging characters, and cramped panels. Still, with that word ‘Teen’ in the title, maybe I just wasn’t part of the target demographic. This book collects together issues #88 – 92, plus #20 of Red Robin, which was long after my comics heyday, and to be fair, visually it’s a much more attractive book, with a new feel of spaciousness to the illustrations, a sense that stories are being given time to develop naturally and in a way that enables the artwork to bring them fully to life. Underlying everything is the new Batman dumping the new Robin (his name is Damien Wayne, so you know he’s going to be trouble) on the Titans so that he can learn to work as a team member. Naturally Damien’s grandstanding and assurance that he knows everything puts other people’s lives in danger and he doesn’t bond with anyone, except possibly the Ravager, whose personality broke a similar mould. The main story concerns the Titans’ attempts to deal with a bitter young man who’s been given almost godlike powers by Doctor Caligan. Doubts are raised about Wonder Girl’s leadership of the team, with the arrival of old head honcho Nightwing to help undo a nefarious scheme of the Calculator only exacerbating those feelings. Finally we get a solo (mostly) outing for WG in which she defeats a supernatural menace and bonds with her archaeologist mother. It’s all good stuff and told well, with the characters given a lot more depth from when I previously knew them and some good interaction between the heroes. In spite of all that, and as entertaining as the book undoubtedly was, it pretty much felt like stuff we have all seen done many times before.

Titans – Lockdown

Written by Judd Winick, illustrated by Sean McKeever, & Howard Porter

This collects together #7 – 11 of the title that, presumably, took over from TT once the dramatis personae all grew up. Nightwing is in charge of the team, though he decides to leave at the end (sorry, spoiler), and the threat comes from another member, Jericho, who has the power to possess and control anyone. Unfortunately he’s gone mad and on the rampage, forcing the Titans to lockdown their HQ as they don’t know whose body he’s in and can’t risk him escaping. Nightwing learns what Jericho’s problem is, but doesn’t have a solution, and the arrival of the JLA with their own ideas on how this threat should be dealt with just complicates everything even more. It never rains, as they say. By way of a codicil we get some pages showing scenes from the personal lives of each of the characters. Beautifully drawn and with some marvellous splash panels and excellent use of colour, it’s a simple pleasure to look at. The story is intriguing, not least for the dilemma of how you fight a foe who can be anyone, but also for the revelation of what Jericho is suffering, the idea that he himself may be controlled by others, is carrying unwelcome passengers. Also of note is what we learn of the character’s back story, Jericho’s troubled childhood and the feelings of guilt that haunt him. It is a super hero book, with all that that designation entails, the requisite amount of bang for your buck, but it’s one that is in the main character driven, and I had a good time with it.

Doom Patrol – Brotherhood

Written by Keith Giffen, illustrated by Matthew Clark, Ron Randall, & John Livesay

Doom Patrol used to be one of my favourite comics back in the day – there was a zany, anything goes quality to the book, and some nicely done humour. On the other hand Keith Giffen, who was squiring the Legion at the time, was not one of my favourite writers. His reach nearly always seemed to fall short of his ambition. You can see that here, with some great artwork but a story that seems to be all over the shop, as the team take on squatters from another reality to help an ally called Danny the Brick (at least I think that’s what’s going on – not quite sure), and another plot strand in which a billionaire is out to discredit the DP by faking their slaughter of his own super team, or something like that. I wanted to like this, and there are certainly some good moments – the second string plot is definitely an intriguing idea even if it lacks something in the execution, and there’s a nice codicil in which we get the final break up of Elasti-Woman’s relationship with Steve Dayton, which again has an interesting concept at the back of it, though the whole thing just comes at the reader out of nowhere – but overall, like the team itself though not so winningly, it’s all a bit confused and screwed up.

Doom Patrol – Crawling from the Wreckage

Written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Diverse Hands

Grant Morrison took over the helm at DP long after I gave up on comics. His mission seems to have been to reinvent the book by putting it back in touch with its gonzo past and introducing new team members, such as the memorable Crazy Alice, who has over sixty different personalities nesting inside her head, each with a distinctive super power that she can tap into. The main story, the four part ‘Crawling from the Wreckage’, has a Fortean quality to it, the plot undercut by philosophical concerns of a distinctly Borgean slant as another reality impinges on ours, the creation of a group of thinkers given concrete form, and its heralds are the deadly Scissormen. A second story has the Patrol enter another reality to save a comatose Elasti-Woman from Red Jack, and finally they have to take on the mental projections of the girl Dorothy. It’s all good stuff, solid storytelling and characterisation, with some intriguing ideas for the groundwork. However, the cynic in me wonders how many issues GM managed to go before he had to introduce a foe who actually existed rather than being some sort of thought form. The artwork gets the job done, but certainly isn’t inspired or particularly memorable, seems rather more like a hearkening back to the rigid panel structure of the Silver Age heyday. Moreover, the use of heavy stock paper doesn’t really reproduce the colours as well as I’d like, making it all seem rather flat. I liked the book, and of these four it’s probably the one that will stay with me the longest, but all the same I felt it could have all been so much better and the true potential of the material wasn’t fully realised.

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