Monday, 10 January 2011

Teen Titans #33. The caveman and the Flasher.

Teen Titans #33, Gnarrk the caveman
First of all I owe an apology to Dr Strange. In my recent review of Super Spider-Man and the Super-Heroes, I declared his story therein to be incomprehensible. Clearly I didn't know what "incomprehensible" was back then because I hadn't yet read Teen Titans #33.

As far as I can make out, Kid Flash and a friend named Mal -  who rather unfortunately keeps calling him "Flasher" - are stuck in some weird medieval land with a wizard who seems to be a bad guy - not to mention a skeletal caveman and a sorceress. At some point Kid Flash has to fire an arrow into a lock, which, by some means unexplained, he manages to do despite being Kid Flash and not Speedy the Robin Hood wannabe. Then again, why's Speedy called Speedy when it's Kid Flash who's the fast one?

Clearly not bothered by such concerns, the bloke who keeps saying, "Flasher" grabs a helmet from a very odd bunch of characters who seem to have appeared from nowhere and, erm, that sort of sorts everything out.

Then the evil wizard starts acting like a good wizard. Then they drink some crystallised water and they're suddenly fighting a real-life caveman who they have to stop without killing, in order to put right whatever it is that's been going wrong. I'm sure this all makes complete sense to anyone who's read the previous issue, but coming to it cold it really is amongst the most disorienting things I've ever read.

Those who've suffered the long dark night times of this blog's soul will of course know this is one of the very first American comics I ever owned and that all I could remember about it was that its last panel featured a caveman bursting out of a van. Happily, thanks to the wonders of eBid, I've now got a copy of it and, sadly, my memory of that ending's turned out to be somewhat inaccurate, as it's a camper van the thing bursts out of and it's not actually at the story's very end.

But from where did this camper van caveman appear?

Having sorted out things in the past, Mal and "Flasher" return to the present, only to discover they've brought the caveman back with them. A man called Mr Jupiter won't let them send him back. He insists they instead keep the caveman in one of the iron cages he just happens to have handy. Personally I'd be a bit on the suspicious side of anyone who just happens to have some cages handy. Still, his ownership of cages aside, the Titans seem to trust him and he otherwise seems a kindly soul.

After christening their captive "Gnarrk", the Titans set about trying to educate and civilise him.

Sadly, the Titans'd make a total a pig's ear of it if not for a girl called Lilith.

I must admit I'm not at all familiar with Lilith but she's some sort of witch-come-psychic and I have to say she's rather nice. Thanks to Lilith, they manage to make some moves towards civilising Gnarrk but then, while on the loose in the city, he spots a local politician committing an act of criminality, meaning Gnarrk's needed in court. Will our heroes be able to turn him into a credible witness in time?

Of course they will. They're heroes. And by the end of the tale Gnarrk isn't only a civilised man but appears to now be Lilith's boyfriend. So, well done to them, well done to her and especially well done to Gnarrk.

I can't deny it. My total confusion over the earlier section aside, I really do like this tale. It's got a wholesome amiability about it that sort of rubs off on you. I even like the fact the Titans have an adult boss. While having an adult boss never did the early years of the X-Men any good, here it works, possibly because the Titans are already long-established as characters in their own right and therefore there's not the same problem of them being seen as mere puppets of their leader.

But there's more. Not only do we get this groovy tale of teens and caveman but, in lieu of a letters section, we get a full page bio of arguably DC's greatest ever cover artist Nick Cardy, revealing his activities in the war years. Judging by the events recounted in that, it looks like we were even luckier to have him around than we thought.

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