Book Review – Titans vol. 4: Titans Apart

  • Title: Titans vol. 4: Titans Apart
  • Author: Dan Abnett
  • Artists: Paul Pelletier, Tom Grummett, Tom Derenick, Andrew Hennessy, Cam Smith, Mick Gray, Trevor Scott, Adriano Lucas, Josh Reed, Carlos M. Mangual, Travis Lanham
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Titans, Wally West, Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), Arsenal (Roy Harper), the Justice League
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/31/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Titans vol. 4 Titans Apart picks up where the previous volume left off. After the near disasters of the previous volume, the Justice League arrives at Titans Tower and grounds the team, telling them they are no longer operational. Everyone goes their separate ways. Donna is taken to the Watchtower satellite and placed under house arrest. Wally moves into a new apartment and gets some help from Dick Grayson with his move. Only Roy Harper, Arsenal, ignores the order to stand down, launching a one-man war on drugs, especially a new designer street drug called Bliss.

Roy goes after the drug dealers, suppliers, and labs – and runs into his old girlfriend, Cheshire. She saves his rear during a firefight and explains she’s working for a consortium of families who lost love ones to drugs. Together Cheshire and Roy take down an Intergang distribution site and lab that is producing a knockoff of Bliss and even find a sample of the original drug. Heading to Roy’s apartment, they celebrate with some pizza and then sleep together.

Roy had also been in contact with Donna by phone since she’s under guard in the Watchtower. But when Cheshire shows up, Roy gently tells Donna he thinks it isn’t good for her to continue to be in contact with him. This has more to do with Roy hanging out with his ex-girlfriend, Cheshire, than his sudden disinterest in Donna. Donna, unfortunately, thinks that Roy might have slipped back into his drug addict ways while trying to take down dealers.

Roy wakes up, to find Cheshire and the sample gone – and realizes he’s been dosed with Bliss. Roy also realizes there is something far more dangerous going on than a new street drug. Unfortunately, when he calls Donna, she is more convinced than ever that he’s, well, taking drugs. Donna, to her credit, tells Batman and Wonder Woman what Roy told her, but of course, they don’t believe her and Batman even insists he’s done a sweep with Watchtower equipment and found nothing.

Meanwhile, we find out Mallus, the intelligent gorilla and Brain – the hyperintelligent brain in a jar, are behind Bliss. The drug forms a gestalt or cloud mind that Brain taps into to raise his intelligence even more. Brain wants to ascend, so he won’t be dependent on his life support unit. Mallus (the French hyper-intelligent gorilla) cares for Brain and tries to help him through the pain.

As Brain grows ever more intelligent, he also figures out how to control the weather and sends storms and disasters all over the world. The Justice League responds, but the storms are traps keyed to each member of the League and meant to destroy them. Donna t first tries to convince Batman that the storms prove Roy was right. When Batman insists the storms are random, Donna leaves the Watchtower. Brain then organizes an electronic break-in of the Watchtower systems and an attack on Batman.

Dick and Wally are initially sent by Batman to bring Roy in to get him help. However, especially once Donna arrives, the other three Titans realize Roy was right in the first place. They storm the hideout belonging to Mallus and Brain. All the time, Brain is getting more and more intelligent and seems to be attaching himself from Mallus, his caregiver and friend.

The four Titans fight Brain’s robot defenders, successfully. But when they are attacked again, they have more trouble getting through the fight. They run into Mallus and convince him to help them to save Brain. Mallus, with help from the Teen Titans, is able to defeat Brain, who goes back to his normal hyper-intelligent self. When the Justice League arrive, again, the Titans point out that, first of all, Roy was right, there was a major threat brewing, and secondly the Titans handled it just fine without their mentors and they deserve to be back on active duty.

I liked this issue of Titans. It’s really about young adults coming out from underneath their “parents” (mentors) shadows. And it’s Roy, who doesn’t have a mentor any more, who ends up pushing the others to independence and to insisting that their famous parents treat them as adults. Also, despite the “Titans Apart” title, this book is really about the Titans coming together as friends first, and as a team second, and I liked that very much. Titans vol. 4 Titans Apart is a very enjoyable read and I highly recommend it.

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The Flash Book One (by Geoff Johns) Review

  • Title: The Flash Book One
  • Author: Geoff Johns
  • Artists: Angel Unzueta, Scott Kolins, Ethan Van Sciver, Doug Hazlewood, Prentis Rollins, Tom McCraw, James Sinclair, Gasper Saladino, John Costanza
  • Line: Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths and Pre-Final Crisis
  • Collection Info: Collects The Flash 164-176 and The Flash: Iron Heights (2000-2001) 
  • Characters: Wally West, Linda Park (West), Rogues
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/10/2018

**Spoiler Alert** The Flash Book One collects a year of The Flash comic book (and a special) from 2000-2001, so it contains several multi-issue stories. The first story starts with a bang with Wally West’s Flash arriving in what he eventually figures out is a mirror universe, where there was no Flash – no Jay Garrick Golden Age Flash, no Barry Allen Silver Age Flash, and no Wally West Modern Age Flash. As a result, there are no other heroes – the members of the Justice Society and Justice League of America having been killed or forced into retirement. Keystone City has a zero-tolerance policy against all masks both Rogues and Heroes. West finds himself in jail, drugged by a “counselor” and then rescued by Captian Cold. Wally, Cold, and Mirror Master end-up having to work together to get out of the Mirror Universe before it collapses in on itself. They eventually succeed, only to find Keystone City missing when they return.

Mirror Master helps Wally and Capt. Cold to figure out what’s happened to Keystone City. While they were captured inside Linda’s wedding ring, Keystone was shifted into another dimension. Mirror Master gets them there and they end up in a fairy-tale like alternate universe. Wally had been there once before as Kid Flash with Barry Allen as the Flash. Wally discovers the current king of this fairyland holds quite a grudge. It seems when he and Barry last visited, he told the young, artistic prince he could “do whatever he wanted” rather than be king. So after the kingdom rose up and defeated the tyrant king, the young prince made his younger brother king, only to have his brother become a worse tyrant than the old king. This new king also launched wars that killed off much of the population of the kingdom. Wally tries to explain that the prince, who is now king, missed the point, but the king decides to execute him anyway to get even. Cold and Mirror Master try to leave but they discover they are now trapped. Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash arrives – first he’s bounced from Grimm, but then he returns. The Flash (Wally) is able to borrow some of Jay’s speed and give it to Cold and Mirror Master. They work together to break the spells and return to Keystone City to where it belongs, with everyone back to normal rather than believing they are their alternate selves.

The next story starts with some background information on Keystone City, an industrial blue-collar city that works hard and plays harder. An old girlfriend of Wally’s shows up but before he can talk to her about their break-up, she’s murdered. Magenta, another old girlfriend of Wally’s, who happens to be an unstable Meta, also returns. However, she seems to have calmed down a lot. Meanwhile, the Keystone City police are dealing with a serial killer. It takes a while to figure out the pattern, but it turns out that everyone who died was at one point in their lives saved by the Flash. The killer is Cicada, and he leads a cult of people saved by the Flash who are now some sort of religious cult. Cicada convinces his followers to offer themselves as a sacrifice and he wants to gather enough energy to bring his wife back from the dead. Oh, and due to a lightning strike, Cicada is immortal. The Flash is able to finally send Cicada to Iron Heights. But it turns out that Julie, the cop who once dated Wally had a baby.

There’s a one-issue story of the Flash verses Tarpit in which Wally quickly defeats the new foe.

As Wally deals with the death of Julie, and the possibility of being the father of her baby, Weather Wizard goes on the attack in Keystone – and he says the child is his. But Weather Wizard only wants to control the child because he thinks the child can control the weather without a weather wand. The Flash defeats Weather Wizard and he and Linda decide they need to figure out what to do with Julie’s baby.

At Iron Heights, Warden Wolfe is not simply tough – he’s corrupt, and he’s torturing Metas, but when a mutated virus makes it way through the prison, killing prisoners and guards alike – he needs to reach out to the police for help. Wally, Pied Piper (who has reformed), and Jay Garrick rush to the prison. Jay will work on an antidote in the lab, while Wally investigates and tries to find the original contagion in the prison. Wally finds evidence of corruption and torture in the prison and he’s exposed himself. He does discover the source of the virus though and gets it to Jay in time for an antidote to be made. He also informs the police of Wolfe’s abuses. The prisoners and guards that didn’t die in the initial attack are saved with a vaccine. But a few of the Flash’s Rogues escape and form a group called, “The New Rogues”.

I enjoyed The Flash Book One there’s a variety of story types, and the writing is solid. Wally is a fun character, but here, having taken over the mantle of the Flash from his Uncle Barry who died in the line of duty – he’s a bit more serious. Even though this is an older book, I still recommend it, it is a great introduction to the Wally West Modern Age Flash.

Book Review – Titans vol. 3: A Judas Among Us

  • Title: Titans vol. 3: A Judas Among Us
  • Author: Dan Abnett
  • Artists: Brett Booth, Kenneth Rocafort, V Ken Marion, Minkyu Jung, Norm Rapmund, Mick Gray, Andrew Dalhouse, Dan Brown, Blond, Josh Reed, Travis Lanham
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Titans, Wally West, Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), Tempest (Garth), Omen (Lilith), Arsenal (Roy Harper), Bumblebee (Karen Duncan)
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/04/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Titans vol. 3: A Judas Among Us picks up where volume 2 left off. Omen is at a prison, interviewing Psimon. Psimon “reads” Omen and insists the Titans are falling apart thanks to jealousies and other “teen” problems. Psimon also tells Omen that something dark is coming and she’s the one responsible for it, she’ll bring total destruction. But Omen turns the tables and pulls out the information she needs – the location of Bumblebee’s stolen engram (memories). Psimon is shocked that Omen is a stronger psychic than himself and that she was able to project what she wanted to him.

The Titans organize an attack on an H.I.V.E. stronghold in Delaware, but the engrams have been moved and they are attacked by Endgame – an H.I.V.E. scientist and soldier who has the power to add superpowers at will, the powers stolen by Meta Solutions. After a big fight, the Titans defeat Endgame, but they are unable to find Bumblebee’s engram.

After their failure to help Bumblebee get her memories back, the Titans realize there is a traitor in their midst. Nightwing, however, has some tech that will scan each of them for subconscious or conscious spying that he got from Spyral. The catch is it will take two days to scan everyone and get the results. There’s a certain amount of mistrust – but everyone agrees. Mal Duncan, Bumblebee’s husband, meanwhile looks up an old friend to try and find his wife’s engram. And while everyone is waiting, Omen sees Psimon a second time. Yet again he insists she’s an omen of destruction.

When the results come back – they are shocking, the traitor is … Dick Grayson. But it turns out that Gizmo put some spyware on Nightwing’s uniform suit, which he tracked back to Titan’s Tower, which is how H.I.V.E. knew they were coming. Dick is able to ping back the signal to track it. But this doesn’t stop the Titans from revealing a lot of secrets about just who is falling in love with who.

The Titans set off again. Nightwing is “killed” but Wally rewinds time to save his friend. Wally, who has been having heart trouble since the Lazarus Contract affair, then is killed in the fight, or so everyone thinks. Mal and his friend, Gnarrk have been taken over by Psimon, the Key, and Twister – the stress, and the Flash’s death result in an alternate dimensional doorway being opened. The deadly being that steps through isn’t Omen, though – it’s “Troia” a future, evil version of Donna Troy. The Titans try to fight her off. Donna goes through a crisis of faith, so to speak. She keeps arguing with herself (literally) but doesn’t want to accept that this evil Amazon-killer is herself. Fortunately, the other Wally West, Kid Flash, shows up. Wally had felt a disturbance in the force, Speed Force, that is, when Wally (Flash) died. But Kid Flash can tell Wally isn’t completely dead, just stuck in the Speed Force. Kid Flash zaps him and Wally recovers. This boosts the team spirit of the Titans. When Psimon tries to overcome Bumblebee by returning her memories, it has the opposite effect. Bumblebee remembers who she is, she remembers Mal, and she remembers her child – so she’s able to break the psychic hold over Mal and he tries to fight on the Titans side, despite having no powers. Donna Troy fights Troia and sends her back through the dimensional gateway, and the Titans are all OK. The Titans also re-capture Psimon, the Key, and Twister.

Although I liked that this volume of Titans focuses on team dynamics, the “one of us is a traitor” trope is one of my least favorite because of course, it’s going to turn out the “traitor” isn’t really a traitor. This volume also includes the “teammate is dead, nope he’s alive, nevermind” trope which drives me nuts. If you’re going to have someone die in comics – have it mean something. Everyone does react to Wally’s “death” – it’s what causes Donna to actually listen to Troia, but it’s also painfully obvious it isn’t a real “death”. There have been real deaths in comics or at least deaths that lasted a long time before a new generation of writers brought the character back (Jason Todd and Hal Jordan come to mind) so it can be done, but when someone is dead for five minutes and then quickly “gets better” it’s meaningless.

Most of this book is fight scenes. They are well-choreographed, and Donna’s verbal arguments with herself are well done. But I prefer a bit more characterization and character interaction.

Still, with all that, Titans offers up a solid story, interesting characters, and good character interaction. I recommend this series and this volume in particular.

Book Review – Titans vol. 2: Made in Manhattan

  • Title: Titans vol. 2: Made in Manhattan
  • Author: Dan Abnett and James Asmus
  • Artists: Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Minkyu Jung, Lee Weeks, Reilly Brown, Scott Hanna, Andrew Dalhouse, Adriano Lucas, John Kalisz, Tony Aviña, Carlos M. Mangual, Corey Breen, Josh Reed
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Titans, Wally West, Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), Tempest (Garth), Omen (Lilith), Arsenal (Roy Harper), Bumblebee (Karen Duncan)
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/23/2018

Volume 2 of Titans in DC Comics’ Rebirth continuity starts off in the middle of a fight scene. The Titans (Nightwing, The Flash (Wally West), Donna Troy, Omen (Lilith), Arsenal) are fighting a big guy determined to tear-up New York and disagreeing with each other about how to do it. However, Arsenal manages to trip him up, without destroying any buildings, though a couple of parked cars are flattened (to Wally’s chagrin). Superman arrives but the Titans have taken care of everything. Superman lets slip that it’s “good to see Wally again” then runs off.

Wally runs after him. Superman and Wally talk, and it turns out that Superman also remembers the pre-Crisis / pre-Flashpoint universe that Wally comes from. He encourages Wally to fight for his old girlfriend, Linda Park, who currently doesn’t even remember him.

Meanwhile, Bumblebee (Karen Duncan) and Mal Duncan head to Meta solutions to find out more about Bumblebee’s new powers. Meta Solutions promises to remove unwanted meta powers and to help metas train to learn how to control their powers if they want to keep them. While Karen talks to Psimon (who claims he is now reformed) Mal waits in the waiting room. When Mal sees Mammoth arrive he has a panic attack. Omen (Lilith) recognizes his panic and the Teen Titans arrive. Psimon had Karen try on a suit (costume) to measure her powers and control them. Karen loves her new Bumblebee suit and powers. When the Titans arrive they run into the Fearsome Five – who claim they are “good guys now”, having given up their powers and in the case of Psimon dedicating himself to helping others, especially other new metahumans.

Later, Wally tells Nightwing that the man they fought earlier who had Mammoth’s powers, previously had no priors and no metahuman powers. They discover a black market in superpowers – superpowers that Meta Solutions is siphoning from other metahumans.

Returning to Meta Solutions, the Titans confront the “former” Fearsome Five – only to discover they were lying about giving up their powers. There’s a big fight, but Bumblebee arrives in her costume and in control of her powers and rescues everyone. Karen is disappointed to learn though that her husband gave up his powers.

In a special holiday issue, Arsenal invites the Titans to Times Square for the New Year’s Eve ball drop – but they end up fighting a pair of metas instead. They manage to get the two thieves to drive their car into the harbor where they are rounded-up by Tempest. Arsenal explains that New Year’s is special to him because having struggled with addiction (he was a heroin addict) he now sees each new year as a new beginning and a chance to further improve his life. The Titans then realize how important it was to Roy to spend time with them on a day that he considers special in a personal way.

In Titans Legacy – four Titans and their four mentors find themselves stuck in a box together. Nightwing, Batman, Donna, Wonder Woman, Wally, The Flash (Barry Allen), Tempest, and Aquaman are actually at first suspicious – wondering if someone is a ringer. They then realize they need to work together to discover how they ended up in the box, who locked them up, and how to get out. Wonder Woman is especially cold towards Donna. A couple of challenges are thrown into the box to fight our heroes and keep them busy, first Metallo (who is a copy and not the original) and then a group of Parademons (also projections). But throughout these fights, and Batman trying to figure a way out, Wonder Woman and Donna are having issues. When Batman scans everyone, Donna doesn’t register as human. Wonder Woman explains Donna was made from clay, brought to life, and given false memories and history. Donna is completely broken by this revelation. She’s so hurt, despite Diana’s apologies, her mental anguish reaches Omen who is able to call in rescue troops, including the Justice League. They discover the Key was behind the abductions but he escapes into a metaphysical door.

This was a very fast read, with enjoyable characters and a good team. I like Nightwing, Flash (Wally) and Arsenal together – they are good friends and work together. Omen and Donna are new to me but their characterizations were clear and it easy to see how they fit. I also liked Tempest. I recommend this series.

Also, read my review of Titans vol. 1: The Return of Wally West.

Book Review – Titans vol. 1: The Return of Wally West (Rebirth)

  • Title: Titans vol. 1: The Return of Wally West
  • Author: Dan Abnett
  • Artist: Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Andrew Dalhouse, Carlos M. Mangual, Carrie Strachan
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Teen Titans, Wally West, Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), Tempest (Garth), Omen (Lilith), Arsenal (Roy Harper)
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/11/2017

In May of 2016, DC Comics started “Rebirth”, an updating of all of DC Comics. Rebirth dumps New 52, returning the DC Comics books to the feel of the Classic 1990s Modern age. The new series now features a diverse cast of characters including many women, and religious, racial, and ethnic minorities, like DC featured starting way back in the Silver Age (1960s). I have been subscribing to many of the new Rebirth titles in monthly issues, but “Titans”, the updated “Teen Titans” is a title that I skipped in single-issue form.

Rebirth takes off from Flashpoint with the Flash, lost in the Speed Force, trying to get through to his friends. Titans vol. 1 The Return of Wally West features Wally West, also lost in the Speed Force, and no longer Kid Flash, but now “a Flash”, trying to find his friends in the Teen Titans. But no one recognizes him. However, when he touches Dick Grayson (Nightwing), there’s a spark of electricity – and Dick remembers Wally. Wally and Dick gather the rest of the Titans – Donna Troy (Wonder Girl), Garth (Tempest), Lilith (Omen), Roy Harper (Arsenal), and when Wally touches them – they remember him and the Titans. The group also soon discover that their memories of Wally and the Titans were stolen when Wally was thrown into the time stream by an enemy. However, Linda Park – Wally’s girlfriend doesn’t remember him at all.

The villain of the piece, Abra Kadabra, a villain from the far future appears at a birthday party in Keystone City, and uses puppet copies of the Teen Titans to attack the Titans. He eventually sets-up the Titans so they split-up to investigate three locations to find the kidnapped Linda Park. He then places everyone in deadly peril and challenges Wally to save them all, even though he’s used magic to move everyone to different cities. One does have to wonder why Wally didn’t call on the Justice League for help, since the locations (Coast City – traditional home of Green Lantern, Gotham – home of Batman, etc) are home to other heroes, but Wally decides he must save everyone. He does (in a stunning sequence) including Linda but goes so fast he’s absorbed by the Speed Force. Kadabra gloats over defeating his enemy. In the Speed Force, Wally talks to the Linda from his future who sends him back. Returning to Real Time, Wally defeats Kadabra and is reunited with the new Titans.

I enjoyed reading this book. Rebirth gets DC right – with fun, and humor, yet with deep and meaningful characterization. In the end, it’s Wally’s love for his friends in the Titans, not his romantic feelings for Linda, that allow him to return. The scenes in the Speed Force are wonderful though. And even Kadabra, as over the top as he is, is a fun villain – semi-threatening but not totally angsty. This book and the rest of Rebirth is highly, highly recommended.

Book Review- The Flash Book 1 (by Mark Waid)

  • Title: The Flash Book 1
  • Author: Mark Waid
  • Artist: Greg LaRocque
  • Line: early Modern Age
  • Characters: Wally West (The Flash)
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/23/2017

It is just fun to go back in time, so to speak, and read a collection from the 1990s, even with the occasional cringe-worthy moment (oh, Golden Glider… let’s just say the CW version is much better). The Flash Book One by Mark Waid, is a collection of a number of Flash stories, focusing on the early modern age Flash, Wally West. This was my Flash, simply because I started reading DC Comics in the mid-1980s, after Crisis on Infinite Earths and to me, Barry Allen’s sacrificial death was a fait accompli and Wally was the Flash and a full-fledged member of the Justice League (aka Justice League International, later Justice League America).

The first story has a far future Flash traveling back in time to gather past Flashes (Jay Garrick the Golden Age Flash, Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, and Wally West) to help against a world-ending disaster in the far future. However, this Flash, John Fox, fails to even meet the various other Flashes and even manages to really mess-up the life of a mobster’s girl by preventing her from talking to the Flash.

The rest of the book is various adventures of the Flash, Wally West. From seeing Wally get his powers in a million-to-one exact repeat of the accident that made Barry Allen the Flash to Wally becoming more comfortable in his own skin as the Flash, this is a fun and light introduction to the character. Note that in the story where Wally becomes Kid Flash – he doesn’t know Barry is the Flash, even though Barry is his uncle (or uncle to-be – at this point Iris and Barry are engaged). It is clear, later, that Wally knows the truth about Barry and is a little resentful of the former Flash’s deception. (Though Barry was merely trying to protect Wally and Iris.)

The book includes adventures between the Flash and various members of his Rogues Gallery, including a final story featuring The Trickster, who is always fun.

Overall, this is a fun and light book. Wally West is a happy-go-lightly character who, although is adventures are exciting, they are above all fun. This is not a grim, serious, gritty book – it’s the exact opposite of that. Most of these stories even carry the “Comics Code Approved” seal. Still, “light and fun” have always been associated with the Flash, and this book is that. It’s the perfect light reading.