RetChronicles: Revisiting “Titans Hunt”

New_Teen_Titans_Vol_2_71For 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 long box 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).

What Was “Titans Hunt”?

The “Titans Hunt” 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 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.

Was “Titans Hunt” Successful in Re-energizing the Title?

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?

Donna comes back from vacation to the skeleton of Titans Tower

Donna comes back from vacation to the skeleton of Titans Tower

Other than 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 popular Punisher titles The Punisher and The Punisher: War Journal.

The Curse of Crossover Events

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.

pariah

Donna Troy’s husband, Terry Long, is possibly whinier than Pariah.

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 stopping everything that’s been building for eight issues 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 this issue 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. The pause is forgivable due to the significance of the developments in issue 80. If you’re only interested in the Titans Hunt story arc, skip it. If reading beyond the Titans Hunt arc is desired the best reading order is 71-79, 82-84, annual 7, 80.

What Happened to Speedy?

speedyPerhaps the weakest point of the “Titans Hunt” arc is the mystery of Speedy. Green Arrow’s sidekick goes to check on his daughter on page three of issue 71 and, mysteriously, the next time we see him is in a single panel glimpse in issue 98 on page 17. His full return is in issue 99 where he makes his debut as the weapon-wielding Arsenal. In his return he doesn’t offer a single apology for ducking out (I’m guessing he climbed out a window with his daughter?) and not helping the rest of the Titans when they were being kidnapped and killed by the Wildebeest Society. Once a junkie…

Was “Titans Hunt” a Sales Success?

I can’t say for sure as individual issue sales 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 the company took at least one of his popular ideas, his Team Titans from Annual 7, and pushed him to turn them into an analog for X-Force (source).

As for me, I enjoyed “Titans Hunt” 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 beyond the story arc due to an interest in seeing how some of the seeds Wolfman planted are eventually resolved. 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.

jerichoThe fallout:

Nightwing (alive)

Starfire (alive)

Changeling (alive)

Donna Troy (alive)

Jericho (dead)

Arella (dead)

Raven (dead)

Golden Eagle (dead)

Danny Ketch (dead)

Aqualad (coma)

Cyborg (human vegetable in a suit of armor)

Terminator (potential new member)

Pantha (new member)

Red Star (new member)

Baby Wildebeest (sigh…new member)

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