Monday, March 21, 2011

Back Issue Alphabet: N is for The New Teen Titans Vol 3 #20 (1983)

The New Teen Titans Vol 3 #20 (Marv Wolfman, George Pérez)

This is by far the most original cover that I’ve come across, not just in the line of writing “Back Issue Alphabet” but in my decade or so of reading comics. It’s eye catching, relevant to the events in the book, and made me curious as to what was inside.

In New Teen Titans #20 the Titans are tracking a new teenage super villain, the Disruptor. He has the ability to “disrupt the natural flow of things,” a power so vague and ill-defined that it only could have come from DC. Can he turn butterflies into caterpillars? Eh, whatever. The Changeling and Cyborg manage to corner the Disruptor in a sewer, and he manages to take them both out and leave them to drown in a slowly filling pipe. So he’s a pretty terrible assassin, but that’s actually acknowledged in the text. It turns out that he’s been given a powered-suit from his father, and is trying to help his father join a criminal organization by killing the Titans. He’s dangerous, but he’s not very bright and is something of a screw-up, a fact that Disruptor’s father keeps reminding him of. The whole issue unfolds in the form of a letter being written by Kid Flash, the only Titan with a normal family, to his parents. It’s a strong contrast to Disruptor’s insulting and demanding father.

The story is great but the dialogue is very... well... comic-booky.

Eugh. Human beings don’t talk like that. If I had read that in a novel I would have thrown the book across the room, but I guess years of comic bookery have increased my tolerance for purple prose. The recollection-style narrative is pretty effective; when the Changeling describes the pain of having the flow of his blood disrupted, I actually shuddered. That’s creepy as hell, man.

Even though some of the dialogue doesn’t exactly pass the test of time, the artwork passes the test of time and then punches it in the face. Meticulously rendered backgrounds are complemented by natural facial expressions and believable fight scenes. Layouts are creative and easy to follow; this book is great to look at.

This issue is definitely worth the sixty cent cover price, and it’s a great jumping-on story for new readers. If I had read this in ‘82, I would have picked up the next issue.

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