Forget drugs, man! Gimme more COMICS!

by

COMIC REVIEW:  Teen Titans Lost Annual #1 

(Editor’s note:  For those with no appetite for self-indulgent meandering, limited time, or both please skip ahead roughly 600 words to get to the actual review.)

I’m told by scientists… 

Okay, okay, I’m not told by any scientists.  Scientists and I aren’t really on speaking terms since that party at Dave’s house and the whole Bunsen Burner Bake-Off Incident of ’98.   But, just go with me here.  I’m told by scientists that all of us dream every single night whether we can remember it or not.  Not sure how they know that but I’m sure it has something to do with charting brain activity in sleeping simians!  (Alliteration!!  Yes!!) 

The reason I’m dubious of that fact is that on the rare occasions I do recall a dream it is in such furiously intricate detail that I just can’t imagine that that kind of stuff is going on in my brain every night without me knowing about it.   Anyway, Sunday night I had one of those dreams and it really shook me up.  In it my wife and I were living under a very ominous cloud brought on by the recent news that I had contracted a mysterious and soon-to-be-fatal brain disease and had maybe a month to live.  My wife, ever anxious, booked an appointment for us with this doctor who we found working out of a crumbling underground lab straight out of “Jacob’s Ladder.”  Flickering fluorescents, peeling walls, water stains, exposed wires.  We made our way through upturned office furniture and eventually found him in a grungy back room.  (Note:  In one of those odd dream gaps I can’t describe the doctor to you.  Though he was talking to us we couldn’t actually see or hear him.)     

So, Doctor Nobody explained that he had a very experimental yet extreme treatment to recommend but one that had been proven successful on other patients.  Since my brain was inoperable he would have to decapitate me.  That’s right – a complete head amputation.  But, not to worry, he’d be able to keep my body alive while administering a full work-up of chemicals he had developed which would slowly regenerate a new head on my body within a couple of months.  The downside (as if complete head loss didn’t qualify) would be that head regeneration is exceedingly painful without the benefit of consciousness to work through the pain.


Despite that unfortunate side effect and the overall foreboding sense I got from the doctor’s “offices” my wife was enthusiastic about the procedure and was begging me to get it done.  Neither she nor the doctor could understand my reticence.  I wanted to know whether my head would grow back in baby form and if I’d have to wait another 30 years to get it back to where it was.  And what of ”Cogito, ergo sum?” (I think therefore I am.)  If mind and soul are truly interconnected, wouldn’t it be the head of a brand new man that would grow back and take charge of my body and my family?
 

The dream ended with those doom-filled philosophical ruminations and my Monday morning was filled with a queasy feeling of existential dread.  Sure the dream sounds utterly goofy now.  But, it was completely real to me and ruined the day’s first cup of coffee. So, why do I tell you of this dream?  Well, for one, I had to tell somebody.  That’s one crazy dream!  But, for another, if this mundane life of mine is a novel being written by God, then that dream could be considered a bit of ham-handed foreshadowing on the part of the Big Guy.  For, not more than six hours after escaping near head removal by the greasy hands of Dr. Nobody I read a 48-page comic book that tore my head off anyway!  And, frankly, I’m not sure it’s ever going to grow back no matter what chemicals or electrodes are applied to the exposed brain stem that’s been left flapping about my open neck.  

The comic in question is the nearly 5-year delayed 60’s-era Teen Titans story written by the late Bob Haney (co-creator of the original Titans) with pencils by Jay Stephens (and inks & colors by the illustrious Allreds to boot!).  DC has unleashed this most bizarre and beautiful book under the title “Teen Titans Lost Annual.” Originally created as an Elseworlds story back in ’03,  DC editorial threw it in a bottom drawer somewhere to collect dust as they had apparently decided to phase that line out.  That seems an unlikely explanation to me.  What seems far more probable is that the comic that was delivered them was so head-scratchingly weird and borderline subversive that they just didn’t know what to do with it. 

Well, whether this was dumped as a little bit of New Year’s housecleaning in their editorial offices or DC decided they were just one universe short of 52 I don’t know but it’s out on stands now.  And, what I do know is that I might just have to read this bad boy another 6 or 7 times until the ink seeps into my blood-stream and transports me to whatever hallucinogenic cloud Bob Haney is sitting on right now in the Fourth World.  “You’re all wrong!  That’s not really JFK…That’s a very cunning shape-shifter who’s imitating the president!”Robin 

Mere synopsis will not do this justice.  But, I will try.  You see, it’s the 60’s and Robin reveals to the other original Teen Titans (Wonder Girl, Speedy, Kid Flash & Aqualad) that President Kennedy has been abducted by the Ullustrians, an alien race (a very Mod race to be sure) that is in the throes of an endless war with another race of suspiciously hippie-ish aliens called the Violators.  Their goal in this kidnapping is to get Kennedy, who they understand to be a great leader from WWII, to help them finally win the war and put their enemies down.  Robin only discovers this after spending the night in the Lincoln bedroom at the White House and discovering that a shape-shifter has been left behind to take JFK’s place!  (Yeah, I’m serious.)   So, the kids get into their Galacti-Porter (Sans Aqualad who is left behind to supposedly “mind the fort” – but we know what’s going on, right?  How embarrassing would it be to bring the kid who talks to fish on a space adventure?) and shoot off to the Ullustrian planet to save JFK.  What they find when they get there is that the Prez, as they keep calling him in the hip lingo of 60’s youth, has been brainwashed and now believes himself to be the Ullustrian leader. 

Do I really need to keep going here?  I had started to feel the flesh above my neck-stub tingle with the bubbling regeneration of new growth and then went over the synopsis I just wrote only to have it pop again like a pustule and drain back into my chest cavity.  This book was insane;  a glorious mash-up of silver age comics, Ed Wood movies, 60’s head films and good old-fashion komic kraziness!  And, you know I’m not joking when I spell that with k’s instead of c’s.   

What’s truly interesting about this book and makes it something I’ll revisit over and over again is that while it is completely a throwback in terms of the artwork, coloring, page design, plotting, and scripting it is also completely unique.  Haney and his stellar art team have taken the 60’s comic milieu and used it as a metaphor for…um…gosh, I don’t know.  But, it sure seems like a metaphor for something and would make this a much more intelligent review if it were. 

Seriously though, this was written in a post-9/11 world and has direct references to a “war without end” where the participants in that war have been at it so long that no one knows what they were fighting for to begin with.  I’m not gonna get all didactic or anything but suffice it say that there’s a lot of stuff there under the surface if you want to enjoy the book in that way. 

The good news is that if you don’t want to enjoy the book that way or think I’m really stretching to find meaning in all of its madness you don’t have to.  There’s too much else to enjoy here that you don’t even need that.  The book pops off the page and every panel is filled with a life and energy that is all too rare in modern comics.   

January is way too early for calling anything the best issue of the year so I’m not going to do that.  But, what I am going to do is use my Galacti-Porter to slingshot myself around the sun and return back to Earth just around December at which point I will then post about this issue again and tell you that it’s the best single issue of 2008!   

That’s they way Bob Haney would have done it!

Post Script w/Spoilers: 

Billy, my friend and co-founder of this book club, has long subscribed to the theory that JFK was not assassinated by Oswald, LBJ, the Mob, the Cubans or any other nefarious secret organization in our own government.  He believes that Kennedy was killed by a tiger.  That’s a fine theory and one I respect.  However, this comic posits an alternate theory that I’m more inclined towards.  Kennedy is still alive.  While JFK was away on the planet Ullustro having an adventure with the Titans the shape-shifter who took his place was actually in that motorcade in Dallas and took the loss for our leader.  Upon his return Kennedy realized that it would be too much for the country for him to appear during a time of such mourning and he decided to go back to Ullustro to fight for freedom with his new alien comrades.  Like I said, pretty subversive stuff.  And, if I might use a completely overused word, pretty genius stuff too. 

“Well, we’ve had quite a wild ride Titans!  But we can all take pride in the fact that we saved the life of President John F. Kennedy…Wherever he may be!!”

–Robin

POSTED BY:  Major Thom

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2 Responses to “Forget drugs, man! Gimme more COMICS!”

  1. earthgbilly Says:

    I still say it was a tiger.

  2. ogreadmore Says:

    Okay, I’ll concede that it was a tiger. But, the tiger ate an Ullustrain shape-shifter and not the real JFK.

    There going to have to updated the Warren Commission Report.

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