For a few of years I’ve been haunted by a story arc from The New Titans dubbed “The Titans Hunt.” Since my original reading of the storyline in 1990 it’s lived in my mind as one of the greatest Teen Titan stories ever told. For a couple of years now I’ve wanted to revisit the story, but haven’t been willing to invest in the floppies knowing I already had them sitting in a longbox 3,000 miles away. On a recent trip to my childhood home I decided to crack open that box, pull out a big chunk of nostalgia, and pack it all in my luggage (I had to steal a second suitcase from my parents, because I ended up taking 15 pounds of comics back with me).
The story arc runs from issue 71 through 84, but the fallout from the events in “Titans Hunt” ripple well beyond issue 100. In the letter section of issue 71 editor Jonathan Peterson promised to “shake things up” as the title had fallen into a rut. Working with longtime Titans writer Marv Wolfman and penciler Tom Grummett little time is wasted turning the Titans inside out like a baboon through a Brundle telepod. By the end of the first five issues in the arc most of the Titans are captured by the Wildebeest Society for a mysterious experiment, Aqualad’s in a coma, Titans Tower has been demolished, Jericho is revealed to be a traitor, and some b-list Titans are “dead” (I run the tally at the very end of this post).
Wolfman doesn’t hold back when it comes to putting these beloved characters (many of whom he created) through the grinder. Peterson definitely got his wish by the end of the storyline with most of the core members who’d been on the roster for more than a decade out of commission.
The storyline was successful in re-energizing the series by planting seeds for dozens of storylines that would play out over the next three dozen issues. It ends with a Riddler’s costume worth of question marks hanging in the air. How long will Cyborg stay a vegetable? Is Raven really dead? What’s going on with Steve Dayton? How will the inevitable battle between Donna Troy and her son play-out? Will Pantha be a good mother for Baby Wildebeest? STAR Labs honestly has no experience dealing with Atlantean biology? Is the Terra from the future the same Terra that betrayed the Titans and accidentally killed herself under a mountain of earth way back in 1984?
Other than the gutting and rebuilding of the Titans the second most important plot point in “Hunt” was the realignment of Slade Wilson (a.k.a. Deathstroke the Terminator). Wilson had already started down a path from villain toward anti-hero after the events in “The Judas Contract,” but being put into a position where he had to kill his son, Jericho, essentially cemented his place as a Titan ally. He was also a convenient already existing gun-toting character that DC could spin-off into a solo series to compete with Marvel’s two very popular Punisher titles The Punisher and The Punisher: War Journal.
The arc does have some rough moments, but the greatest flaw in the arc isn’t the arc itself. It’s a problem that has plagued efforts by Marvel and DC writers to tell compelling stories since Secret Wars II. The story is jarringly brought to a halt by, not one, but two DC-wide crossover events (Armageddon 2001 and War of the Gods) that occupy issues 80, 81, and the annual.
Of the two interruptions the War of the Gods crossover in issue 81 is the most like running into a brick wall. Here we have a rag tag group of heroes led by Terminator who’ve spent eight issues trying to find the Titans stopping everything to listen to Pariah (a character Titans writer Marv Wolfman created during Crisis on Infinite Earths) whine for 24 pages about how no matter how much he wants to die the Universe won’t allow it. If you hadn’t read any of the War of the Gods tie-ins the issue will makes zero sense and does nothing to move along the overall Titans story.
On the flip side, Wolfman handles the Armageddon 2001 interruption in issue 80 decently and uses it as an opportunity to set up a future storyline that will have a dramatic impact on Donna Troy. It’s only the significance of the developments in issue 80 that make the pause forgivable, but if someone is only interested in reading the Titans Hunt storyline it can be skipped. If reading beyond the Titans Hunt arc is desired the best reading order is 71-79, 82-84, annual 7, 80.
There’s also the mystery of Speedy who goes to check on his daughter on page three of issue 71 and mysteriously isn’t seen again until we catch a one panel glimpse of him in issue 98, page 17. In issue 99 he debuts as Arsenal without the hint of an apology for ducking out and not helping the rest of the Titans when they were being kidnapped and killed by the Wildebeest Society. Once a junkie…
Was it a sales success? I can’t say for sure as individual issue sale numbers are difficult to come by in 1990 and 1991. I will hazard a guess that any bump the book received was sabotaged as DC panicked due to the Marvel X-book sales dominance. Wolfman admits that the company took at least one of his popular idea, his Team Titans from Annual 7, and pushed him to turn them into an analog for X-Force (source).
As for me, I enjoyed it upon this reread two decades later. I’d forgotten some of the cliffhangers over the years and every issue (with the exception of the crossover issues) left me wanting to jump right into the next. I’ve kept reading due to an interest in seeing how some of the seeds Wolfman planted are eventually resolved. It does the job Wolfman, Grummett, and Peterson had set out to do. It was a commendable effort to relaunch and refresh a long running title without defaulting to the now very common Big Two tactic of rebooting a title just to get those delicious issue one sales.
Donna Troy (alive)
Golden Eagle (dead)
Danny Ketch (dead)
Cyborg (human vegetable in a suit of armor)
Terminator (potential new member)
Pantha (new member)
Red Star (new member)
Baby Wildebeest (sigh…new member)