Review: “The New Teen Titans: Games”

          I have been an on-again-off-again Teen Titan fan for many years.  They are one of those teams that are either written very well or not so well, and the reason why a team of teenaged sidekicks and misfits has continued on for all these decades and gained the notoriety that they have is a direct result of the genius of two men: Marv Wolfman and George Perez.  In 1980 the launch of their series The New Teen Titans not only revolutionized the team and its youthful members, but DC and comics in general.  Eight years into this historic series, as both men were trailing off their meteoric first run, the graphic novel “Games” was proposed as a bookend to all they’d achieved.  However, after only seventy pages had been plotted and drawn the project was shelved.  Twenty-some years later and thirty years after New Teen Titans #1 hit the shelves, Wolfman, Perez, and DC have finally completed and released the over-sized graphic novel for all of us to enjoy.
 
          What’s truly captivating about the series was how seriously Wolfman and Perez took the material.  With a series based around a group of teenaged kids with “knock-off” superpowers of older heroes

Titans Assemble

or flashy gimmicks, its easy to fall into camp, putting on the kid gloves and making their adventures juvenile and hokey, leaving the real threats to the adults.  Wolfman and Perez, however, realized that teenagers have an abundance of rebellion and determination to prove themselves, and that this raw emotional energy unique unto their age group could counter more than just token predicaments.  Sure, being less experienced they are going to get knocked down and fail quite often, but again, that youthful defiance will make them pick themselves up and throw down with doubled determination.  That is precisely what the series presented month after month for the majority of the 80’s.  This concept not only fueled a stellar run of the team, but went a loooong way to reasserting comics as a dramatic medium.  The plotlines depicted in the series were very serious and sometimes also very dark, outshadowing the conflicts of their older mentors and idols in the Justice League in both respects.  Deathstroke the Terminator (aka Wilson Slade), one of the biggest badasses in the whole of the DCU not only was a featured antagonist of the group, but debuted in New Teen Titans #2 in perhaps one of the most intense single title stories of that decade, “The Judas Contract.”  Another featured a transdimensional demon-god named Trigon attempting to co-opt our reality in the story “Terrors of Trigon.”

 
          This is a lengthy introduction to the graphic novel I am attempting to review, but I would say that it is integral in understanding what this book follows in the tradition of and how it measures up.  On the topic of the second point, it is a phenomenal piece.  “New Teen Titans: Games” is perhaps the best graphic novel I have read in several years.  The aforementioned storylines of “The Judas Contract” and “Terror of Trigon” have leant an intensity to

Jericho and Raven in the Guggenheim Museum

comics that is rarely seen, and almost never duplicated.  This graphic novel finds its place among those venerable pieces, with its metaphorical head held high.  What’s more, it continues to innovate, as only the Titans and the character of King Faraday are canon.  The villains and modus operandi are unique to the title, and yet in less than 150 pages the story is apocalytically ominous with an airtight plot and breathtaking panels done in oversized format, executed in a manner that makes the story complete without an excess of superfluous explanation required.  The economy of the elements employed, creating all the suspense, drama, foreshadowing, and characterization is perfection.  The volume even has an appendix at the end of the original plot outline from 1988 annotated by Wolfman to inform us which parts were kept and what parts were rewritten.  What makes all the amazement and wonder I’ve talked about above even more miraculous is that those seventy pages done above were retained unchanged, but the plot they are meant to depict was drastically changed in monumental ways, and somehow they were able to effect the changes in plot without changing the panels AT ALL!!!  

 
          I won’t be so drastic as to give it six stars out of five, but I will say that this graphic novel is a perfect five out of five.  If you like superhero comics, this story is a must read.  If you are a fan of well executed suspense, this is a must read.   If you like things that are GOOD, it is a must read.  However you look at it, one thing is incontrovertibly true: this book was well worth the twenty year wait.
 

"New Teen Titans: Games" Wrap Around Cover Art

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

The New Teen Titans: Games: Drawned by George Perez, Colored by Hi-Fi, Inked by Mike Perkins, Al Vey, and George Perez.

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