Today, Spencer and Shane are discussing Convergence: The New Teen Titans 1, originally released April 22th, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence. For our conversations about the rest of Convergence last week, click here.
Spencer: I think most of us take on certain comfortable roles when we’re among our friends. Sometimes, though, things change, and those roles no longer suit us, but they’re so firmly entrenched among the group dynamic that they can be impossible to escape. Marv Wolfman and Nicola Scott’s Convergence: The New Teen Titans finds this happening to the Teen Titans. After a year spent under the dome, the Titans are attempting to take their relationships to new places, but find themselves caught up in the same old roles and conflicts that have always defined them.
Most prominent in this regard is Wonder Girl. Donna Troy has always been a peace maker and dispenser of advice for the other Titans. It’s a role that she’s generally well-suited to because of her maturity, but since the Titans so often look to Donna to solve their problems, they can often overlook that she faces adversity herself. This was an issue even back in the original New Teen Titans series — where Donna spent years despairing over not knowing who her family was before Nightwing finally helped her track them down — but it’s become more of a problem under the dome, where Donna’s been separated from her husband, Terry Long, for one long year, watching her friends pair up all the while.
The most prominent of those pairs is Nightwing and Starfire. These two had been an on-again, off-again couple since the very first issue of New Teen Titans, but once sealed under the dome, they decided to make things official and get married. Despite their marriage, though, things are still rough between Dick and Kory, who clash over Kory’s temper and willingness to kill and, likewise, Dick’s seeming inability to trust Kory not to kill. As he so often does, Dick turns to Donna for advice, but she might not be in the best state to offer romantic advice right now.
Donna’s advice isn’t exactly wrong here, but it’s so colored by her own experience of losing Terry that it doesn’t really account for the actual friction between Dick and Kory. Of course Dick should be thrilled to have Kory and remember why he loves her, but it’s a short-term solution at best, as it doesn’t address the core of their conflict at all.
The core of that conflict is, of course, Dick and Kory’s ultimate inability to fully trust or understand each other. Part of the charm of their relationship is the “opposites attract” angle, and I’ll admit it’s a huge part of why I’m so invested in their relationship even to this day: Starfire helped Dick become more open-minded, compassionate, and less repressed, while Dick helped Kory adjust to life on Earth, which follows far more rigid rules than Tamaran. But maybe Dick’s right to question whether they should have gotten married at all — in the original continuity, they made it to the altar but never sealed the deal (as their wedding was interrupted by an attack by a possessed Raven), and a few years later realized that, as much as they still loved each other and probably always would, they just weren’t meant to be a permanent couple.
Under the dome, though, Dick and Kory don’t have the room to come to that realization, as the sudden change of circumstances has led them to do what they never could in the original continuity, even if it might not be the best move for them in the long term. I’m not as familiar with the Tangent universe’s Doom Patrol — the Titans’ opponent in this issue — as I am the Titans, but they seem to be in a similar situation. The events of Convergence have drastically altered their plans, both tactically and ethically, leading to Firehawk working against her parents by reaching out to Nightwing — a situation I imagine would never have happened in the normal Tangent universe.
All this focus on relationships, though, does leave the other Titans a bit lost in the shuffle. Cyborg’s a central character to the issue, but because of his mechanical body, not his personality. Kole and Jericho, meanwhile, are defined only by their relationship (or lack of one). Admittedly though, both of these characters are tough nuts to crack — Jericho is mute and Wolfman never uses thought balloons or internal narration for the character, meaning it always takes more space than usual to delve into his head, and poor Kole was never a particularly deep character to begin with, considering that she was only created to die in Crisis on Infinite Earths, and had a relatively short tenure on the team as a result.
Still, Jericho and Kole’s romantic plot is frustrating because we never see Jericho’s perspective on it. Maybe we’re meant to be as confused about Joey’s feelings as Kole is, but it’s unfortunate that this pushes Jericho into the background of the issue. In general, there’s just an awkward handling of their relationship, from Donna’s strange reaction when Kole wonders if Joey’s gay (he’s not: [see “Sexuality”], not that it matters) to the way Wolfman and Scott seem to want to boil the issue down to “men vs. women” even when the real conflict is far more complex.
It’s moments like these that keeps Convergence: The New Teen Titans from being as deft of a farewell to the franchise as 2011’s The New Teen Titans: Games was, but I’m still happy to see these characters under Wolfman’s pen one last time, and especially to see his take on “what could have been” with Nightwing and Starfire — Shane, how about you? Also, I unfortunately ran out of room to discuss Nicola Scott gorgeous artwork — can you help me make up for this grievous error?
Shane: I’m more than happy to sing Nicola Scott’s praises, and I’m ecstatic that you set me up with that last image there, because when I was reading the comic, I stopped to just stare at that for a bit. In some regards, it’s such a simple shot of the cast, and a minor part of the page — but the use of negative space, combined with the extended use of blacks for the costumes, and the juxtaposition of male and female (regardless of how that may play out in the issue’s context, it makes for a great visual) — it’s just one of the many chances Scott takes to shine in this issue. One of her strengths, in fact, has been her ability to tell so much story in her artwork, eliminating the need for excessive text, and I feel that Marv Wolfman has really taken advantage of this.
This entire sequence is an important representation of the strife between Nightwing and Starfire, and is our first glimpse into the differences between the couple, but it’s the middle panel that absolutely sells it. An entire story is told in that slight sliver of an image, with the raw fury on Starfire’s face as she prepares to assault the criminals. That level of passion absolutely sums up Starfire’s character, and any new reader would instantly be brought up to speed on the fundamental problems with this relationship.
That’s not to say that the issue is entirely new-reader friendly. For a longtime Titans reader, several long-simmering subplots are brought to the surface, including the notion of a relationship between Jericho and Kole, which gets just about the same amount of resolution as it did in the comics themselves. As Spencer mentioned, Kole died in Crisis right after her debut, and although the character has been briefly brought back a few times, she’s never gained any sort of a genuine narrative. It’s obvious that Wolfman has a fondness for her: her inclusion in this issue is perhaps telling of that.
Although Convergence is theoretically tied to a specific instance in comics where a specific continuity came to an end or was otherwise adjusted, the tie-ins have played with this rule loosely, striving instead for more iconic representations of characters, so it must have been incredibly tempting for this comic to feature a line-up with Raven. Instead, we have Kole. And I’m personally happy with that! I found her to be a fairly intriguing character in Crisis on Infinite Earths, which led me to seek out back-issues, and I was saddened to realize how little development she’d had. I actually wouldn’t put it past Wolfman to use this as an opportunity to finally give her character a little substance… but if that’s the case, he has a lot of work to do in the second part of the miniseries, because she’s arguably even more irrelevant in this issue than she was in the overall Titans series.
Actually, much more than I expected, I’m loving Wolfman’s last chance (well, we’ll see) at writing the Titans, because it seems as if he’s really stepping back into the series. Games was fun — and a dream come true for a longtime Titans fan to see it finally completed — but it was very much mired in past history, whereas this, while spinning off of said history, is a chance at something new, almost like an epilogue. Sure, Wolfman’s run continued past this era in the title, but you could easily argue that after Crisis, the title began to go downhill. For Convergence, it’s almost as if Wolfman is stepping back to when things really worked — when the title thrived, especially in concert with the mega-event Wolfman was orchestrating at the same time — and writing a new ending. We have many of the major relationships and character beats represented: the friendship between Changeling and Cyborg, the longtime partnership between Wonder Girl and Nightwing, and his tempestuous relationship with Starfire.
It’s not a perfect issue, and I could probably build up a few strong tangents about certain beats in the issue that didn’t work for me, but they’re fairly minor, overall. Thematically, I think the issue worked very well. There’s also something fitting, I think, about how if this is Wolfman’s last statement on the characters, he’s doing it with Nicola Scott, heralded by many as a modern successor to New Teen Titans co-creator George Perez. If he can’t be a part of this, at least there’s similar artistic sensibilities involved.
I’m not entirely sold on the matchup between the Titans and the Tangent Doom Patrol, but it’s also been several years since I’ve read the Tangent line, and I don’t really remember much of what makes this Doom Patrol incarnation tick. Maybe they’re a perfect matchup on some level, or maybe there just wasn’t a better pairing…or maybe they’re just who Wolfman wanted to use. (I just did a quick check to see if maybe he wrote their one-shot years ago, but, nope, that was Dan Jurgens.) Either way, I thought that the cliffhanger, with a line extended between the teams, was one of the more intriguing endings of these first-month Convergence tie-ins that I’ve seen so far, and I’m really anxious to see how it plays out. Given how conflicted both teams seem to be about fighting each other to save their cities, this olive branch could provide a fascinating dynamic to change the entire playing field. If any tie-in miniseries (other than Booster Gold, of course) were to seriously impact the main event series, it wouldn’t shock me if this was the one.
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