The New Teen Titans: Games by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
In the early 1990s, my brother brought home a copy of The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans and the newly collected New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. At the time I was in the twilight of my absolute loyalty to Marvel Comics, so I needed the X-Men as a hook in order to get me interested. Unsurprisingly, since in many ways they were DC’s response to Uncanny X-Men, I enjoyed reading about the Teen Titans. The Judas Contract combined a modern (at the time) storytelling sensibility I didn’t associate with DC and familiar faces from my childhood (Robin and Cyborg from the Superfriends). When my unquestioning devotion to Marvel ran out, I gave this series a try, only to find the team’s glory days had passed.
The New Teen Titans: Games reunites Marv Wolfman and George Pérez to add one last chapter to their classic Teen Titans run. Nightwing (formerly Robin), Troia (aka Wondergirl), Changling (Beast Boy), Cyborg, Raven, Jericho, and Danny Chase must face down the Gamemaster, a foe determined to cripple New York through acts of super-terrorism. Happily, the creators who made this team great in the early 1980s have little trouble telling a compelling Teen Titans tale in 2011. Interpersonal drama (mostly squabbling here) is expertly interwoven into the plot. Fun new villains are introduced, and Danny Chase, the team’s abrasive telekinetic brat, gets some fleshing out.
Pérez in particular shines brightly. While Wolfman’s handle on these characters does not seem to have suffered over the years, George Pérez’s art has only gotten better. This is at least in part because of modern production techniques (especially coloring), but as I write this I’m comparing Games with The New Teen Titans: Terra Incognito trade (also by Wolfman and Pérez) and the refinement in the art is obvious. As a side note, to the modern reader the character designs and costumes in this volume (Danny Chase’s wardrobe, Nightwing’s “disco” costume) may seem off, even embarrassing, but Games is essentially a period piece, written as an extension of a story told in the early- to mid-80s. Changling’s horrible, horrible mullet certainly is an eyesore, but I must confess that at the time, my hair looked much the same.
Wolfman scripts a tense thriller of a superhero story. The concept may have seemed more original when it was initially written, but is still well executed. Adding to the tension is the fact the Titans of this era had recently suffered catastrophe, tragedy, and betrayal. If they seem angry and suspicious from the get-go, it is for good reason. Only the decades in between chapters make their behavior seem odd. Games certainly benefits from reading of previous collections of the series; however, new readers shouldn’t be put off by their unfamiliarity with the characters.
In a year when DC comics is overhauling their existing continuity, in some cases rebuilding characters and teams from the ground up, it’s refreshing (for an, at times, overly panicky fan) to see a graphic novel treat characters’ pasts with such respect. I would absolutely recommend reading Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s entire run on The New Teen Titans, but I have no doubt readers who only pick up Games will enjoy it.