(This review may contain spoilers for the story content.)
Introduction: For my first review, I wanted to cover a comic that means a lot to me. I love the entire era of New Teen Titans/New Titans era of Titans titles (1980-1996) from DC Comics, so I wanted to choose a comic story from that era. I am a major Titans fan in general (I could name all 91 official members in the order that you joined if you asked me to, haha). I hold a love for every Titan, but my favorite Titan is Jericho (Joseph Wilson), the heroic son of long-term enemy/ally Deathstroke the Terminator (Slade Wilson). Well, Jericho had a four-issue solo story in Teen Titans Spotlight #3-6. The story is written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Ross Andru. Now, here is the review.
Plot Summary: The story takes place after Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-1986). During the event, Titans member Kole—with whom Jericho was beginning to be romantically involved—was killed. As a result, Jericho decided to stay home and take a break from active duty as a Titan. Joseph reflects on his past, and we learn through flashback how two years prior (one year before Jericho joined the Titans; the year the NTT formed) how Joey met Penelope “Penny” Lord and fell in love with her (his first love). In the past part of this story, Joey’s mother Adeline Kane, who runs a company called Searchers Inc., is hired to fake the deaths of Penny and her father Arthur, the latter of whom was trying to leave the villainous organization known as the H.I.V.E. so that he and Penny could live a better life. Joey did not know, so he was left to believe Penny, whom he had just proposed to, died. Now in the present, Penny reveals herself to Joey to ask for his help in rescuing her new husband (ouch) and her father from Quraci terrorists. Jericho, still feeling deep love for Penny, agrees. With the help of a suspicious Adeline, Jericho helps the Lords. Ultimately, though, the Lords (including his beloved Penny) end up being villains that Jericho has to stop.
Plot Analysis: As far as my thoughts on the plot go, I think Wolfman did a remarkable job with providing some in-depth backstory for Jericho. The use of flashbacks were well-placed as to best coincide with the events in the present. Not a moment was wasted. Each scene and segment of dialogue was used to progress the plot or provide greater characterization. While some people may have been able to predict Penny’s betrayal, I think Wolfman managed to counter the potential cliché factor of that plot device by having Adeline tell Joe that Penny could be bad and by having Joey agree that it was a possibility, even if he did not want to believe it. I really enjoyed the plot, but the plot was used as a device to augment the aspect of the story that I believe is its greatest feature: the characterization.
Characterization: Something that I really admire about Wolfman’s writing style is his ability to write three-dimensional characters, characters who are rich in humanity and personality. This four-part story was not simply a solo story for Jericho. It was a genuine spotlight that illustrated who Jericho is, from multiple perspectives.
- For one, the story showed how capable of a hero Jericho is. Every function of his power set was exhibited. We saw (a) that Jericho can possess others by making eye contact with them, thus gaining control of their motor functions; (b) that when he is about to possess someone or leaves a body he was possessing, his body becomes astral, allowing him to bypass physical barriers; and (c) that by touching someone asleep or unconscious, he can speak through them, even though his actual body is mute.
- Not only were his powers showcased, Jericho’s skills were illustrated well, both his professional skills and his personal ones. Trained by his mother, Jericho is skilled in espionage. He has investigative and steals training. He is proficient in hand-to-hand combat, often incorporating acrobatic flips and such into his fighting style. He is trained in weaponry, as shown when he blocked shuriken thrown by a professional with a thin piece of wood and when he effectively used a spear in combat. And he displayed other abilities that make Jericho a capable hero. Besides his heroic skills, Joseph’s skills that he uses in his personal life were exhibited as well, including his painting, poetry, musicianship, and dancing.
- Finally, and most importantly, Wolfman portrayed who Jericho is on a personal level. Wolfman, along with long-time creative partner George Pérez, created Jericho, and Wolfman was consistent in this story regarding Joseph’s characterization. Joey is easily one of the most compassionate and empathetic human beings I have ever seen in comics, and his presence in the Titans gave the team a lot of heart. While I know Jericho’s portrayal in later stories differs from this description, Jericho’s first and most prominent characterization fits this description, and I love how this story showcased that personality. Joe is a romantic and an optimist.
- How was his compassionate soul shown? We learn that when he thought Penny had died, he was so crushed, he gave up painting for a whole year (taking it back up when he joined the Titans). Joey is stunned speechless (okay, so just stunned then) when he learns Penny is alive, but his joy is crushed moments later when she tells him she has married someone else. Still, he offers to help her because of his strong love for her. When Adeline confesses to Joe how she faked Penny’s death and thus caused Joe’s heartache, Joe forgives and hugs her as they both shed tears. His hopefulness is apparent in how he wants to believe in Penny’s innocence, yet his hope does not make him naive. Joe investigates and learns the truth before confronting the Lords. After Arthur and Penny have been defeated and Jericho has collapsed from a wound, Penny taunts Joey, telling him that she never loved him, that she laughed behind his back, that she would not rest until he was dead. Joey cries, but he ultimately is not defeated. In the epilogue, when Adeline tells Joseph that she is sorry about Penny’s betrayal, Joey signs to his mother, “I have you, my painting, friends. Nothing else is important.” And the two have a teary-eyed special moment.
Art: While I am not very well-versed when it comes to artwork, I must commend Ross Andru for his work during this story. Because Jericho cannot speak, it is crucial that his expressions and body language reflect what he is wanting to say/express. When George Pérez jointly created Jericho with Wolfman, Pérez made sure to have Jericho be expressive even if he could not use his words. Andru did an excellent job following in Pérez’s footsteps in this story. Jericho looked like Jericho. Sometimes characters’ facial features change when different artists draw them, but Andru’s Jericho was recognizably Jericho, and I give many kudos for that. But Andru did a phenomenal job expressing Joe’s feelings. This story was an emotional one, so physical emotion was important. And Andru stepped up. In the flashback, when Joseph first sees Penny “die,” even though Joe could say no words, Andru’s drawing of Joey’s posture and countenance was very clear: Joseph was screaming. It was very emotional, and Andru gets multiple high fives from this reader. In addition, I would like to praise Denys Cowan for the powerful covers of issues #3-5 and Kevin Nowlan for his cover of issue #6. Adrienne Roy’s colors gave the art vibrance. And inkers Pablo Marcos, Larry Mahlstedt, and Frank McLauglin gave solid contributions.
Final Remarks: All-in-all, I would say that this story is well worth reading. This story may not be as widely famous as “The Judas Contract,” and its significance may be more localized to the one hero than to the whole DC world. But. The story itself speaks volumes of the talent that went into it. Anyone who has an appreciation for Titans and/or for Jericho, specifically, may find deep enjoyment from these issues. I could not have imagined a story that better let readers know who Jericho is. By covering the many facets of Joey’s character, the story was very friendly toward new readers who were just learning about Jericho—as the story gives readers nearly every angle of who he is. Even if readers do not have a prior knowledge of or appreciation for the Titans or Jericho, this story is a powerful, emotional adventure. And lovers of romance may find it worth checking out as well.
Closing: I know I have said a lot about this story, and I hope you have enjoyed what you have read. If you have any thoughts on the comic or on my review, feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have an amazing day.