‘The New Teen Titans: Games’: A Nostalgic Masterpiece from Wolfman and Pérez

Finally! After twenty-three years of waiting, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s original graphic novel is in the hands of die-hard New Teen Titans fans like myself. ‘The New Teen Titans: Games’ was originally Wolfman and Pérez’s swansong collaboration to the title which they created to box-office success in the good old eighties. Many thought that this story would never see the light of day had it not been for the efforts of DC’s creative team who pulled this off.

Good idea, bad timing

Having worked together for five years or so to make The New Teen Titans DC’s number one selling title (rivalling Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men), Wolfman and Pérez had to part ways after “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. ‘Crisis’, as many comic fans from the 80’s would know, is the multiverse-destroying 12-issue maxi-series that changed DC’s confusing history. With a new assignment from DC to plot and draw the revamped Wonder Woman, Pérez could only do so much and had to sacrifice the The New Teen Titans which he helped popularize. Wolfman, however, stayed on the series for some time despite Pérez’s absence. It was later renamed The New Titans after the characters became adults. The two reunited for a brief run on The New Titans but the magic was never the same as before. So when DC announced that they would do “The New Teen Titans: Games” graphic novel with Wolfman and Pérez working on the Titans for the last time, fans remembered how good their first collaboration was and started salivating at the thought of an original story in graphic novel form. But due to Pérez’s tight schedule and Wolfman going through an extended writer’s block, ‘Games’ had to be shelved time and time again. By 1992, the concept of ‘Games’ no longer connected with the current title’s continuity. So despite Pérez having drawn more than 70 pages of the book already, the project had to be shut down. In 2004, there was talk of reviving the dead project but it was just that: all talk. Now, in 2011, ‘Games’ is finally here! After Wolfman and Pérez reworked the story and the art (along with adding the final pages) to resonate with fans of today as well as the fans of yesteryear, I think it’s safe to say that ‘The New Teen Titans: Games’ was well worth the wait.

A roll call of the Teen Titans

In the graphic novel, most of our favorites from the hit series are back like Nightwing, Starfire, Troia (formerly Wonder Girl), Raven, Cyborg, Changeling (known more popularly in the cartoons as Beast Boy), and a new character which Wolfman introduced later on in the regular series without Pérez, Danny Chase (much to the chagrin of fans everywhere who disliked the character). Others who make a cameo appearance are Speedy, Lilith, Aqualad, and Wally West as the Flash (formerly Kid Flash).

The story

‘Games’ is a story which harkens back to the time when Wolfman and Pérez used to do a few mystery stories involving the Titans. The pace at the start is slow and opens with a mystery as to who the Gamesmaster is, one who seems to be playing a board game of sorts with Manhattan and a C.B.I. (Central Bureau of Investigation) agent named King Faraday along with the Teen Titans. The Gamesmaster wants to prove to the U.S. that its defense system is not enough to protect it from all terrorist attacks by killing off three million people from the Manhattan area just to prove his point. What a loyal U.S. citizen, huh? Obviously, he’s a lunatic but a very smart lunatic at that.

Despite the Teen Titans’ objection to helping Faraday stop the Gamesmaster his way, they are forced to join him after he threatens the lives of people they love. However, one of the Gamesmaster’s plan was to execute one of those loved ones after all. So now, the Titans are compelled to cooperate with Faraday because with his connection to the C.B.I., he has the means to help them. It was all for nothing though as the Gamesmaster gets what he wants: the death of someone close to the Teen Titans.

From there we see how good a strategist this antagonist really is. The Gamesmaster ‘moved’ different villains to do his bidding and, as defeat at the hands of the Teen Titans becomes imminent, he removes his pawns from the equation explosively! Not only that but when Nightwing finally discovers the strategist, he realizes that the Gamesmaster is not him. And just when you thought the game was over, it gets even more difficult as two of our heroes are left fighting for their lives after an encounter with their ‘assigned’ villains.

Suddenly, Manhattan is covered with a force shield that keeps everyone in and everyone else out. But more than that, it’s shrinking and destroying everything it comes into contact with. If this wasn’t bad enough, the Titans discover that the shield is powered by something very familiar to them. This, however, leads to the surprising identity of the Gamesmaster which they go on to defeat in the end.

The creators

Even though there is nothing overly spectacular about the story, it still brings a wistful remembrance to the simplicity and personal touch that these stories had over their audience, during its initial run.

Marv Wolfman still hasn’t lost the amazing way he crafts a story that intertwines with the lives of his characters with dialogues that remind us that these are the same characters we’ve grown to love over the years. Even if you’ve never read a single issue of The New Teen Titans, you’ll be able to understand the story because of Wolfman’s straightforward writing.

The art is a work of genius with George Pérez at the helm. The years have not diminished his storytelling ability and his pencils are at par or even better than today’s artists. I’ve always felt that Pérez is one of the three most influential and most dynamic artists in comics history. His work is always a sight to behold even after all these years.

Conclusion

For those of us who grew up adoring the characters, the creators, and the comic book itself, ‘Games’ is a trip down memory lane that you wouldn’t want to miss. It’s one final look at the world of the Teen Titans that Marv Wolfman and George Pérez created for us. But more importantly, it’s a story that needed to be told to close out one of the most successful pairings of all-time with the characters they have grown to love as their own. A truly masterful work indeed!

For me, I had always felt that Wolfman and Pérez‘s departure from the book came too quickly and abruptly. It was almost like a ride that suddenly stopped without bringing you to where you needed to go. It’s a ride from my adolescence that took twenty-three years to come to an end. And what an ending it was!

If you’re a fan of great storytelling and great art (and who isn’t?), “The New Teen Titans: Games” is the graphic novel for you. Yes, it reads like a mystery novel but once the action starts, it never stops! Get your hands on this one because it just might fly off the shelves soon!

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In Awe of Greatness

“Wow!” “Amazing!” “Whoa!” “Oh my gosh!” “What a shot!” These are words I often use to describe something out of the ordinary that I had just witnessed. Ever since I was a kid, I had always been fascinated with extraordinary feats especially those performed under the most impossible of circumstances which makes me a real sucker for people or characters that were the best in their field.

As a young boy playing with my two cousins who lived next door, I decided I would be Superman, mostly because he was the most powerful super-hero there was, while I convinced them to be Batman and Robin. As I grew older and learned about martial arts, I watched every Bruce Lee film I could because he was the best martial artist ever, even though Jackie Chan was so hilarious while being a good martial artist himself. Later on, I liked boxing and immediately chose the best heavyweight fighter at that time which was Larry Holmes.

Since then, I had gravitated toward several people or characters who I personally believe to be the greatest:

  •  Michael Jordan – arguably the best basketball player of all time
  • Bruce Lee – the best and most revered martial artist of all time
  • John Maxwell – the best leadership guru of our time
  • Andy Stanley – the best communicator I know
  • Pastor Jay Jackson – you may not know him but he’s the best teaching pastor and storyteller I know
  • Geoff Johns – arguably the best writer in comics today
  • Jim Lee, George Perez, and Alex Ross – the best artists in the comic industry today
  • Hal Jordan – the best Green Lantern of all
  • Superman – the first and greatest super-hero who inspired the creation of other super-heroes

And so on and so forth (I still have other favourites but they’re too many to mention. Plus, you already get my point, right?)

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were talking about Michael Phelps and how he easily outdistanced everybody in the swimming competitions in the 2008 Olympics. The guy was so good that there was never really any doubt as to who would win right from the start. He, along with everyone who was head and shoulders above his peers, brought in the fans that were never fans before he came along and appealed to everyone’s yearning to see greatness. Then I told her something I had always felt about greatness—that there’s always this wonderful feeling that comes over anybody who watches someone excelling in their world, whether it’s sports, acting, speaking, writing and the list goes on. It’s a feeling of awe and wonder when someone lives out what he or she was born to do. I’m sure you’ve felt the same way, too, at some point. Whether it’s seeing an artist at work, a musician playing an instrument, or a mechanic fixing a long-time car problem, everyone has felt this sense of awe at greatness unfolding before their very eyes.

You see, that’s God’s thumbprint in all of us, His creation. God is so great and so awesome that He created a universe as beautiful as ours without a template or someone else’s work to improve on! This same God made it a point to mold us from dust with His bare hands instead of just speaking the word to create us. We were created for greatness because we were made in the image of this great God.

So what makes you great? What makes you come alive and do something almost perfectly that people have no other choice but to say “Wow!”? Discover that and you discover God’s thumbprint in your life – the very reason He created you for this world so you can show the world that your God is great.