Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.
New Teen Titans #10 by Marv Wolfman (writer), George Pérez (artist), Romeo Tanghal (embellisher), Ben Oda (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist), Len Wein (editor), and George Pérez (cover)
It’s hard for me to believe that this is the first time that an issue of New Teen Titans volume one has been chosen by the randomizer, but here we are. The plot is pretty simple: Deathstroke, the Terminator decides it’s time to fulfill his son’s contract with H.I.V.E and kill the New Teen Titans. To that end, he kidnaps Cyborg’s friend Sarah Simms, and then attacks Starfire, shooting a miniaturized radio transmitter onto her neck to deliver his message: surrender to him or Sarah will die. Meanwhile, Deathstroke has another plan going, namely, to sell a promethium bomb. Ever the show off (why this guy wears a mask is a mystery to me–he wants you to know that he is your better), Deathstroke decides to kill two birds with one stone, i.e., demonstrate the power of the promethium bomb by detonating it on top of the surrendered (and now conspicuously unconscious) New Teen Titans. Of course, the Titans figured out a way to fake the explosion, and then confront Deathstroke. A fight ensues, with most of the Titans fighting off mercenaries, and Changeling going after Deathstroke by himself. The issue ends with Raven sensing, and us seeing, Gar get the receiving end of Deathstroke’s energy rod, causing his heart to stop. To be continued.
This was a lot of fun to revisit. I probably haven’t read this issue in 15-20 years at least. There’s so much fun and material to appreciate even after all this time. First, you have the obligatory (for that time anyway) one-page origin retelling (Changeling’s) and the constant reminders that Deathstroke’s body and mind are at superhuman levels. Next, the humor. A scientist by the name of Benson Honeywell talks with Deathstroke at the beginning of the story, and the doctor references his assistant Bleeker. If that isn’t enough to clue you in, the good doctor resembles quite vividly the scientist in residence of the Muppets, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and whose assistant is named Beeker. I always love a Muppet reference. There’s also the good-natured name calling that became a New Teen Titans staple: Vic telling Gar “salad-head”; Gar telling Vic to go get a lube job–hmm,maybe there was more sexual innuendo in these all-ages books back then than I realized. Then there was Deathstroke himself, who comes across one part jocular New Yorker in the way that he talks, and one part self-actualized movie villain. After the Titans reveal themselves as alive, he tells them, “I really should be surprised, shouldn’t I? Really should shout out–‘The Titans–alive! But how?’ Only somehow I’m not shocked. How’d you do it, buddies?” IIRC, that aspect of Deathstroke went away over time. Finally, while this is not intentionally funny, I laughed when the Titans explain in detail to Deathstroke how they were able to make it appear that the bomb had been detonated.
And then there’s the art. Is all good Pérezian art, though still early and not finalized in the way that some Titans would come to be drawn in later issues, but more importantly, you see what a master draftsman he is (or perhaps it’s Romeo Tangual’s embellishes that should get this credit) because we see things not ordinarily shown in a superhero comic–then and now–such as Gar blow drying his hair, the fact that the young teenager has a chest full of hair (something I did not have at his age!), and that Gar wears a tank top and boxers under his superhero costume, which he also zips up in front! There’s more air blown effects in a later scene in the desert where we saw Robin’s hair and cape being blown around. It’s these details that made Mr. Pérez the artist I wanted to be and shows just how good he (and Mr. Tangual) is. I also wanted to make note of something Mr. Roy did as the colorist in this issue and as I recall, in other issues as well. When we see Sarah Simms, her hair is shown as light blond, not by coloring it as simply light yellow as other color artists would, but by showing her hair as white close to Sarah’s head and highlighting the outer parts of her hair as a light yellow. She does this with another character in the story, only using yellow and red to depict a different shade of “red” hair for the person. I really think that’s pretty cool.
A final criticism before I end this. There’s a short scene near the beginning of the story depicting a Navy carrier that’s been attacked so that Deathstroke’s men can hijack a thermonuclear warhead from the vessel. In the dialog, the ship is referred to as F-16, and one of the ship personnel calls someone on the radio a “General”. There’s no way that ship, clearly shown as an aircraft carrier, would be called an F-16 (that’s a jet fighter). Its ship number would be CV-some number (or CVB-xx, CVL-xx, CVN-xx, depending on the class). And the likelihood that a Navy officer is talking to a General at the operations base is unlikely (and the colors of their uniforms are wrong as well), based on what I know of Navy operations (which, admittedly, is not extensive), but it’s those kinds of details that show a lack of knowledge (or laziness) on the writer’s part and throw me out of the story. However, this is a very minor quibble in an overall decent story whose strength is really in the character interactions.