For six months, my graphic novels sat lonely in a basement in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while my cats and I wandered around New England doing very non-comic booky things. I let my websites lapse, stopped reading comics every week, and yet, somehow, still did not end up being a productive member of society. So I now have a new apartment, with many places to store my immense graphic novel collection. Arranging my graphic novels always proves difficult, but I thought it would be fun to turn one of my closets into a Batcave filled with only the graphic novels for this Batchronology, plus the Elseworld books.
Step two was getting back into reading comics. I first punished myself by reading the complete run of Jim Valentino's Shadowhawk. I then washed the taste out of my brain with the complete run of Warren Ellis's Transmetroplitan. You should read that, if you're into non superhero comics that are amazing. (Please note, I did not link to Amazon for Shadowhawk. No sin you've committed can possibly warrant you having to read that terrible, terrible series. Stay away. Stay far...far...far away.) Starman came next. And then, I decided I was ready to immerse myself in some comic book themed cartoons.
A friend of mine just got me into Young Justice, a DC Universe cartoon that doesn't involve Bruce Timm, yet manages to be equally amazing as his work. It's a reimagining of a Teen Titans-esque team of super sidekicks set in a universe different from the Teen Titans cartoon. It's fun, filled with running gags, and excellent character design and artwork. And it got me feeling all nostalgic for the Teen Titans. So, imagine my joy at realizing that the next two books for the Chronology project were the two most famous Teen Titan collections of all time.
I am not including every issue/collection of Teen Titans as part of The Batman Chronology. Teen Titans Year One was in the last entry, and you'll just have to imagine that in the time that you read that the team lineup has changed to include Dick Grayson Robin, Kid Flash, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Changeling (a.k.a Beast Boy from the cartoon).
I've never read the first 25 issues of the series, so I can't tell you of their quality, but for an early 80s comic (this run starts in 1982) the storytelling is excellent, and the art is damned fine. Marv Wolfman does an excellent job of introducing the Titans as they enter the story. Unlike the happy-go-lucky (sort of) child glee of the animated series, these Titans are in their mid teens and bristling with hormones. Changeling/Beast Boy uses all the swagger he can muster to win over the villainess Terra and convert her to the Titans team. Hormonewhile, Robin and Starfire have lots of feeling for each other that they converse about between make out sessions. And Raven tells Kid Flash that she would love him but that being in love will release the Trigon portion of her (man, the back story sounds so intriguing that I may go out and buy the Teen Titans Omnibus).
While this collection is a complete and insular story, it's clear that it's also part of a larger story arc involving the villains Brother Blood, and a separate, and opposing, set of villains called The Brotherhood of Evil (no relation to Magneto. Wolfman (no relation to Jack) is a master of making each issue feel complete in and of itself, while making it a small piece of an overarching story. This collection is so dense with plot and interpersonal drama, to try and recount all of it would be a disservice.
The major themes of the collection are the struggle of the Titans to control their powers and to master their interpersonal relationships. Each of them have a major love life issue that has them thinking whether or not they should remain on the team. And Wolfman makes very salient points about the eighties that you wouldn't think would have been noticed as the 80s unfolded. It almost reads like a really well written mocking love note to the 80s, complete with snappy patter, faux commercials, preppy humor, and lots of references to the lawsuit happy culture that was beginning to unfold.
As an important Batman note, we learn in this volume that Bruce Wayne has taken on a new ward, Jason Todd. There aren't many Jason Todd era Batman comics collected in graphic novel, so it's a shame we have to learn about it in such an offhand fashion, but, get out your hankies, Dick Grayson ceases to be Robin in this volume, and his replacement isn't nearly as cool as Sarah Chalke.
There are also a different set of villains in nearly every issue. While the large drama unfolds, the Titans are distracted by Thunder and Lightning, the death of Trident, a mobster named Scarapelli, and Deathstroke The Terminator (who appears to be part of a new unfolding drama). We also witness the debut (and not just in this chronology, but in the entire DC Universe) of The Vigilante.
I'm tempted to say that this collection is right up there with Year One and The Long Halloween, but really this is an entirely different creature. This is not just a solid run of a few issues but part of dense continuity that is above and beyond what most people are doing now, certainly above and beyond the other comics of 1982/3.
Story: Perhaps a 6, but we'll call it 5, Art: 5