Comics Reviews: New Teen Titans 26, All-Star Squadron Annual 1

New Teen Titans 26 coverNew Teen Titans #26 – “Runaways” – Marv Wolfman/George Perez/Romeo Tanghal

This one starts with the Titans returning from the their adventure in space (which we covered in the last few reviews). Dick (Robin) Grayson apologizes to Starfire for acting like such a tool lately and finally admits he has feelings for her. Dick says being raised by Batman has made him trust his head more than his heart, so he’ll need some time to process these feelings. Starfire already knows she loves him, but says she can wait for him to figure things out. Meanwhile back on Earth, we get a number of vignettes of young people leaving home for various reasons: a boy from Minnesota is afraid his bad grades will earn him another beating from his mom, so he takes off for New York; a dude named Luis in the Bronx tells his parents he’s done playing byTitans arriving back on Earth their rules since he can make way more money selling dope than by getting a real job; and a girl named Lizzie from Illinois is kicked out by her father after getting pregnant. At about the same time, a major drug shipment in Turkey is intercepted by the cops, who end up shooting it out with the dealers. The Titans land back at their headquarters and realize how much they’ve missed being home. They all leave to see various people … Cyborg goes to see Sarah and the kids she looks after, Wonder Girl to see Terry, Raven to re-register for college, and Changeling to (supposedly) hang out with a bevy of babes. Dick takes Starfire to Gotham so they can spend some time together. A few weeks pass before the next part of the story, which starts with Dick and junkie gets run overStarfire (in their civilian clothes) going to see a Broadway show. Apparently, they’re officially a couple now, so that worked out okay. Dick notices Adrian Chase, the District Attorney the Titans met a while back, with his wife outside the show. Starfire wants to say hi but Dick reminds her Chase has only met them in their superhero identities, so they can’t blow their cover by talking to him now. The kid from Minnesota approaches the crowd with a knife, threatening Chase and asking for his wife’s necklace. The kid is obviously strung out and desperate, so Chase tries to reason with him. Dick and Starfire hold back, but when Chase tries to grab the kid, he knees Chase in the sack and runs out into the street, getting mowed down by a car. Chase wife is freaked out and Chase says the animals are starting to take over the city. The next day, Gar (Changeling) Logan is on duty at Titans’ Tower whenChangeling meets Terra he spots trouble at the Statue of Liberty. Instead of calling for back-up, he heads over himself to check it out. He runs into a young girl named Terra, who has the power to control soil and rocks. She’s freaking out, trying to destroy the Statue of Liberty, even though she doesn’t really want to. Terra claims she’s being forced to do it by some group who will kill her if she doesn’t obey. After mixing it up with Changeling and the cops, Terra takes off, saying she’ll probably be killed for failing her mission. Changeling is too exhausted to follow, so he’s left wondering who the hell she is. (Careful, Gar, you may not like the answer.) Downtown, Raven is hanging out with some people from college when she feels an intense wave of emotion from a girl across the street. It’s Lizzie, who’s now a hooker (though Raven doesn’t Lizzie gets helpquite understand that) and Raven uses her empathic powers to help ease Lizzie’s pain. Raven takes Lizzie to Victor (Cyborg) Stone’s apartment for food and Victor tells Lizzie about a runaway center that helped him when he was a troubled kid. He and Raven take Lizzie to the center and the story turns into an after-school special on teen runaways. Adrian Chase is at he center and tells Cyborg and Raven that a huge drug shipment was stopped in Turkey a few weeks ago, so suppliers had to scramble to arrange another shipment. The dope is coming in soon and Chase wants help stopping it. There’s some dude hanging around outside the center, listening to them talk; he was outside Victor’s place when Lizzie was there and followed them. Chase tells Victor the junkie kid who was run over last night came from the center and he needs help figuring out if there’s a connection. Later we see the guy whoChase asks for help was listening outside the center down at the docks, spying on a yacht. The yacht belongs to a mobster named Anthony Scarapelli and Luis is working for him as a waiter. Luis spots the dude on the docks and Scarapelli sends his men after him and they run him down and shoot him. At police headquarters, Robin, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Wonder Girl meet with Chase, who tells them about the big drug shipment coming in and how runaways are being used as mules to move the dope around the city. Robin isn’t sure what they can do and Chase says he wants them to bust some heads and stop the drugs getting to the streets. Robin says they have to adhere to the law, but Chase says doing what’s right is more important than the law. Cyborg is worried about Chase, telling Robin he’s wound too tight and out for blood. When they get back to Victor’s apartment, they find the guy who was shot half-dead and bleeding all over the floor.

All-Star Squadron Annual 1 coverAll-Star Squadron Annual #1 – “The Three Faces of Evil” – Roy Thomas/Adrian Gonzales/Jerry Ordway

This one starts with three All-Stars (Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern) performing at a charity circus for war bonds. They’re showing off for the crowd, riding across the high wire, when it snaps and they barely manage to save themselves. It’s all part of the act and they soon move on to some trapeze work. But they’re interrupted by a bright light flashing near the top of the tent, which distracts them so much that Flash almost falls to his death. This isn’t part of the act, and neither is the weird bubble that appears out of nowhere with three more costumed heroes inside. These guys (Atom, Wildcat, and a new dude in blue and gold carryingnewcomers attack All-Stars a shield) aren’t there to join the fun; they attack the All-Stars and do pretty well, considering none of the newcomers are supposed to have super-powers. Wildcat pummels Green Lantern, while the guy with the shield knocks Flash on his ass, even though the speedster was going all out. Atom holds his own against Wonder Woman’s Amazon strength, and none of the aggressors says a word. Green Lantern finally blasts them with some ring energy and that brings them back to their senses … and their normal power levels. None of the three attackers knows how they got there, and nobody seems to recognize the new guy with the shield. The crowd assumes the fight was part of the act, so the heroes let them think that and take off to discuss things. They’re reluctant to trust each other at first, but Green Atom tells his originLantern offers to wipe any knowledge of secret identities from everyone’s mind afterwards, so they finally open up and we get their secret origins. Wildcat goes first: he’s Ted Grant, state boxing champion, who was framed for murdering an opponent in the ring by some mobsters. He became Wildcat to take care of the crooks and found he liked the life of a hero. Earlier tonight, he was pounding some thieves when a glowing ball of light popped up and sucked him in, and that’s the last thing he remembers. Atom tells his story next; he’s really Al Pratt, who’d always been short and kinda puny. When some robbers threatened his girlfriend (Mary), he was too scared to do anything—and Mary was kind of an asshole about it—so when a washed-up boxing trainer offered to turn Al into a pint-sized powerhouse, he jumped at the chance. Following the trainer’s regime, Al packed on the muscle andGuardian tells his origin got into amazing shape, eventually becoming the Atom. Tonight he was heading off to his Army posting when a glowing ball of light grabbed him, just like what happened to Wildcat. The stranger tells his story last. Turns out he’s really a cop named Jim Harper, who was kind of a punk as a kid. Him and his best friend Leo ran around committing petty crimes in the streets until some guy showed up and grabbed Jim. The guy said he wanted to help Jim turn his life around, so he trained him to be a top athlete, hoping Jim could make the Olympics some day. But Jim had to find out what happened to Leo first. Like Humphrey Bogart in Dead End, Leo turned out to be a mobster and he tried to get Jim to join him. Leo was shot down like a dog and Jim vowed to end the violence in Suicide Slum, so he joined the police force. His realizing they were all trained by Morgantrainer was pissed off, thinking Jim would’ve been a winner at the Olympics and they both could’ve made some money. Jim got knocked around by some punks while off-duty, so he raided a costume shop and put on the blue outfit with the gold helmet and shield. He pounded the crooks and dubbed himself Guardian. Tonight he ran into the same glowing ball that shanghaied the others, and he ended up telling his story to a bunch of people he just met. Green Lantern wonders what the glowing ball is and why it targeted these three. Wonder Woman points out that they each have similar backgrounds, especially the part about being trained to physical perfection. Green Lantern uses his ring to probe their minds and it turns out they were all trained by the same guy, Joe Morgan (or Nat Milligan, as he called himself while training Jim). They wonder how and why Morgan would conjure up a golden ball of light to kidnap, hypnotize, and empower them.Guardian decks red Morgan Wonder Woman mentions that Morgan might be bitter about all his missed opportunities: first he trained Wildcat, who went on to be the champ (without Morgan); then he trained Atom, who quit to become a super-hero; and finally he trained Guardian, who became a cop. They decide to split up and check Morgan’s old stomping grounds. Flash and Guardian go to “Nat Milligan’s” place in Suicide Slum and find a bigger version of Nat waiting for them. He’s shining bright red and tosses a couple of glowing bubbles at them, which Flash manages to delay with some super-speed vibrations, giving Guardian time to deck Milligan. Flash wonders if it was too easy and Guardian agrees when he sees something happening to Milligan’s unconscious body. Atom and Wonder Woman go to the old cabin where Joe Morgan trained Atom. They Wildcat decks yellow Morganfind another large version of Morgan, this one glowing bright blue. Neither Wonder Woman’s lasso nor his fists have any effect, but Atom takes Morgan down with one shot to the gut. He and Wonder Woman are startled when Morgan’s form starts to change. In Manhattan, Wildcat and Green Lantern check out Wildcat’s old gym and run into—you guessed it—another Joe Morgan, glowing yellow this time. Morgan tosses some boxers around and Wildcat jumps I the ring and knocks him on his ass. This Morgan changes too, metamorphing into Joe Morgan as Wildcat knew him years ago. They take Morgan to meet with the others at Madison Square Garden, where all three Joe Morgans are laid out. They’re virtually identical, except they seem to be different ages. When Green Lantern tries to pick them up to take them to a hospital, the three merge into a gigantic Joe Morgan, glowing white and threatening to kill them all. Wonder Woman says she can sense pure evileveryone fighting the giant Joe Morgan emanating from Morgan and he confirms it, beating the shit out of them and saying that his real target was Green Lantern all along. Atom, Wildcat, and Guardian try to get through to whatever’s left of the real Joe Morgan and they finally succeed just as he’s about to kill Green Lantern, causing a glowing ball of energy to separate from Joe’s body. Joe gasps out his story to the All-Stars; he has some kind of split personality (hence the alias Nat Milligan) and was pissed off that all three of his protegés left him. The glowing ball showed up tonight and offered him a chance at revenge and he took it, even though he could sense the ball was evil. It split him into three and sent him to attack the heroes; Joe tried to resist but couldn’t overcome the evil energy. The All-Stars assure him that he did overcome it, thus saving all Green Lantern sends the evil into spacetheir lives and maybe even the world. Joe dies happy, knowing he made a difference after all, and Green Lantern uses his ring to banish the evil energy into space. The others wonder why it targeted him, but Lantern has no idea, saying his ring and the strange meteor it was carved from are still mysterious to him. On the last page, we get an epilogue that explains things: eons ago, the Guardians of the Universe purged all the evil from themselves and concentrated it into a glowing ball of energy. They decided to send it through the dimensional barrier, the same way they did with the magic from their universe (which we saw in Green Lantern 112). They fixed the energy so that it would split into three and weaken itself if it tried to do evil, and it could be defeated by that same magical energy they’d banished earlier … which explains why the glowing ball targeted Green Lantern, and why he was able to affect it.

Noticeable Things:

  • This annual originally came out between All-Star Squadrons 14 and 15 (which are part of a big five part crossover), so it must’ve happened after issue 15 but before 16, since Wonder Woman mentions this adventure there.
  • We get a quick synopsis of what some of the other all-Stars are up to: Firebrand, Liberty Belle, and Johnny Quick are on the West Coast; Shining Knight’s in England guarding Churchill; Commander Steel is coming to terms with his mentor’s death; Robotman is gearing up to fight the scumbag who wants to declare him a public menace; and Hawkman has joined the Army Air Force, while his fiancée Hawkgirl is joining the Nursing Corps.

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