RETRO REVIEW: Marvel and DC Present – Featuring The Uncanny X-Men And The New Teen Titans (1982)

by

Or – “Wha HUH?”

The 1980′s were a watershed for comics as we know them, and most of what we love (and a majority of what we HATE) about the modern comics industry sprang from that well.  Shooter’s Marvel and Giordano’s DC were wildly divergent places in terms of output and characters, but what they shared was often much more fun than what they clashed on.  After Superman met Spider-Man, and Wonder Woman met the Hulk, where else could the intercompany crossover train stop?  How about Westchester by way of Manhattan, Apokalips and CUC–

–AMONGA!

Marvel and DC Present Featuring The Uncanny X-Men And The Teen Titans #1
Script: Chris Claremont
Pencils: Walt Simonson
Inks: Terry Austin
Colors: Glynis Wein
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Published by:  Marvel Comics and DC Comics

Previously, on The Uncanny X-Men And The Teen Titans: Professor Charles Xavier was born a mutant, and founded a school for those with similar powers, in the hopes of fostering a dream of equality for all mutantkind.  His most lasting legacy, though, has been his students, the costumed mutant strikeforce known as The Uncanny X-Men!

Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash may have shared their mentors’ super-powers, but the sidekicks still enjoyed the company of kids their own age instead of square ol’ Bruce, Art and Barry.  After several years and lineup changes, Robin still leads a team of his fellow young heroes in the fight against evil as the New Teen Titans!

We begin our adventure in deep space, at the edge of the known universe, as two godlike beings come together in congress to make a deal.  Metron of New Genesis has always been the most inquisitive and analytical of the New Gods, and is even willing to make a deal with the stone-faced devil of his people, the creature called Darkseid of Apokalips…  This, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the DCU, is a very…

BAD…

IDEA.

With Metron dispatched, Darkseid is able to harness the power of his Psychon Wave and Mobius Chair (not to be confused with his Moebius Chair, which would look like this) to put into motion his own evil plan.  Sending out his Parademons, Darkseid begins gathering a peculiar frequency of energy that will allow him to play his endgame.  Big D himself makes his way to a small mansion outside Westchester, New York, where he begins siphoning psionic energy from the sleeping students of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters…

Young Kitty Pryde wakes up at precisely the wrong moment, and screams in utter terror at the sight of the Lord of Apokalips.  Her phasing power kicks in, and she instinctively falls through her bed and into the parlor, where her X-Men pals all awaken and race to her aid.  But it quickly becomes clear that there’s more than just a nightmare in play, here…

The sight of his long-dead lady friend (this is before she resurrected and they got married, mind you) puts Scott “Cyclops” Summers in the mood to bust some heads, and he and the X-Men suit up for action.  In Manhattan, on Titans Island, the empath known as Raven is also having difficulties sleeping, dreaming of a giant flaming bird-of-prey that tears her soul to pieces.  Her teammates likewise come to her aid, and the lovely Starfire makes her some tea to soothe her nerves…


The sight of the Phoenix sets the alien Starfire’s nerves on edge, and she quickly calls in her teammates on the priority alarm system, remembering the stories her people tell of the Phoenix and it’s destructive ways.  Wonder Girl and Kid Flash arrive in nearly an eyeblink, while Cyborg takes a bit longer to get there (and his internal monologue reveals that, in whatever universe this is, the X-Men and the Teen Titans coexist, but have never run afoul of one another.)  As for team leader Robin, he’s distracted by reports that Intergang is back on the streets of New York, and also by an impending savage beating from an old foe.

Deathstroke The Terminator (in one of his earliest appearances, with some sources noting this as the first appearance of the Deathstroke nomenclature) slaps the taste out of Robin’s mouth, and leaves with his alien flunkies in tow.  While the X-Men interview Jean Grey’s parents, the Teen Titans compare notes about Phoenix.  Robin recalls that the X-Men used to have a girl by that name on their squad, and uses his detective skills to track down the X-Men’s headquarters…

Having quickly disarmed Professor X, the Titans are surprised when they are attacked by armored aliens much like the Parademon Robin found in the alley.  The heroes are taken down, and the leader of the flunkies trumpets his victory against the superheroes he believes are the X-Men!  But where are the REAL X-Men?  With reports floating in of alien attacks, Cyclops has pieced together the missing component:  All the attack sites are places where Phoenix used her powers, and so they’re off to the next site, where they find Deathstroke already waiting…

If you’ve ever wondered what a Deathstroke/Wolverine fight would be like, I’ll guarantee you that Bendis and Johns wouldn’t do it in three panels (though I don’t necessarily guarantee that to be a good thing.)  Of course, Deathstroke plays dead long enough to sneak attack the entire X-Men force and spirit them away to his boss, currently hanging out in deep space by the Source Wall.  With the X-Men in his clutches, Darkseid uses them for the final boost he needs to channel the energy through Metron’s equipment to coalesce into a human form…  A human form that has a few questions for old Stone-face.

Man, but Walt Simonson can draw.. The Dark/Dark team comes together nicely, and Darkseid reveals that his plan is to turn the Earth into a new Apokalips, complete with fire-pits and dead heroes heads on spits and like that, and Dark Phoenix agrees to help him out of pure malevolence.  They teleport away, leaving the heroes alone with a universe-spanning crisis situation.  What’s their plan?  Stop and have an ice cream social, apparently…

Cyborg looks like he has an Eddy Guerrero mustache in that panel, which is kind of funny.  The sight of Wolverine and Raven giving one another the stinkeye is also wonderful to me, as they are the two heroes LEAST likely to not murder each other violently.  With no apparently way home, it’s up to Changeling and Kitty Pryde to accidentally discover the powers of Metron’s chair.  Channeling the psionic might of Professor X, the heroes are teleported home by the Mobius Chair, and engage in some hero bonding (Changeling shares with Wolverine that his name is Logan, too; Starfire and Wolverine bond over love of a fight; Cyborg and Storm kind of flirt weirdly) before attacking Deathstroke and his parademon army head-on…

Phoenix and Darkseid set a chain reaction in motion that will ignite the fire-pits and transform the Earth into Apokalips II: Electric Boogaloo, and all seems lost.  Raven and Professor X channel a bolt of pure emotion into Phoenix’s mind, forcing her to feel the X-Men’s love for her, and remember her love for them, causing her body to start to come apart.  Robin tricks her into absorbing her Phoenix power back from the machine, but it still isn’t enough.  Darkseid warns her that she needs to steal a physical form, and Phoenix picks PRECISELY the wrong person to inhabit…

The enraged Phoeniclops fires the entire essence of the cosmic firebird in one screaming eyebeam, which strikes and completely annihilates the (seemingly bemused) Darkseid in a huge conflagration of power and emotion and the glavin…  The Phoenix is seen streaking away from the Earth (which a nearby concert crowd mistakes for fireworks) and the heroes are left to watch and nurse their wounds (and, not coincidentally, wonder what in Hala’s name just happened) as the Phoenix force races back to the Source Wall…

Storm has one question for Cyclops, though, and it’s a real doozy:  “If Phoenix was just Darkseid’s creation…  then, who, WHAT, appeared to us and the Greys to warn us?”  It’s an unsettling question, but one that has comforting aspects as well.  It is not, however, as unsettling as the green-haired pink-skinned Changeling in that last panel.  Deep in space, Metron’s chair appears again at the edge of the known universe, materializing as if on cue, as it’s owner steps out of the shadows.  The New Genesisian (Geneseean?  Genosian?  Susan?) muses that in Darkseid’s own evil way, he has revealed one of the greatest mysteries of the Source without even realizing it…

One of my biggest complaints about Superman/Spider-Man and other crossovers of this timeframe was a seeming lack of scope.  Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus teaming up is serious, sure, but it’s not the earth-shattering crisis that one would expect for the initial crossover between the two widest-spanning comic book universes.  This book really delivers the high stakes, thanks to some Jack Kirby backstory and the X-Men’s own sturm und drang (which, to be honest, was one of the influences that spawned the New Teen Titans to begin with.)  Overall, though, this book suffers not from being too much of a crossover, but from not being ENOUGH of a crossover.  Marv Wolfman and George Perez, architects of the Titans’ success, are entirely absent from this, and as wonderful as the art of Walt Simonson is, he’s not associated with either team.  Think of how bizarre and wonderful a Byrne/Perez pairing would have been on this.  Chris Claremont’s dialogue is truly painful at times, and the storytelling is weirdly compact, with key plot points taking place in a single panel, requiring you to reread the book a couple of times to get the nuances.

‘Course, when the battle involves a New God and the embodiment of Cosmic Squish, nuance isn’t always your primary focal point.  The book has aged a bit better than either the regular Titans or regular X-Men books of the same vintage, though, and it’s still a fun piece of work all around.  Marvel and DC Present The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans #1 is a real mouthful, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall, and reminding me of all the things that I liked about comic books in my wanton youth.  It’s one of the rare crossovers that end up being more than the sum of the parts involved, even if that means not being very much like the books crossing over in the first place…

Rating: ★★★★☆