Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day #3
June 27th, 2016
Turns out the diplomas got swapped out with death certificates by mistake.
Linkara: (glumly, with his head resting on his hand) Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Let's put this piece of crap behind us, shall we?
(Cut to black)
(A montage of shots is shown of the "Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day" series as Linkara gives a recap)
Linkara (v/o): We learned that actually knowing anything about the characters you're writing is really more of a suggestion than a hard rule, as evidenced by this miniseries. The characters are idiots, although mostly Nightwing, who exists merely to bemoan and whine every single thing around him, from offers of help to how much he himself sucks as a leader, and their histories have been completely mangled because Judd Wincik, Alé Garza, and man who should've been fired for his repeated sexual harassment of female coworkers, Eddie Braganza, as a guy and two robots in space so eloquently put it...
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang)
Joel Robinson: ...just did not care.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): As for actual plot details, the Titans and Young Justice were offered financial support, but before they could reach a decision, were attacked by a blue robot, who managed to easily trounce a bunch of experienced veterans not by being clever or anything like that, but because the story needed them to be beaten, and trying to make things good is (mocking whiny voice) really hard, you know? Said robot broke into a S.T.A.R. Labs facility and turned on a deactivated Superman robot.
Linkara: So, the robot who was supposed to be the main threat of this story had to subcontract out her duties to a completely different robot. That's how poorly put together this thing is!
Linkara (v/o): Just think about that for a second: the character who beat up our heroes in the first issue is the one that actually started these events that will eventually lead to the dissolution of these teams, is not the one our heroes are fighting, but instead a random Superman robot she just happened to switch on while looking for advanced technology. Meanwhile, our heroes whined about how much they sucked, despite all evidence to the contrary. And then, when they confronted the Superman robot, it killed the character Lilith Clay, AKA Omen, a character that, while not one of the original five Teen Titans, has been around since the original team from the '60s. And her death is an afterthought, because this was the only way to get books for these two teams, I guess.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up "Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day #3") "Titans/Young Justice: Bar Mitzvah #3". (beat) What? The title has nothing at all to do with the story, so why keep pretending that it does?
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "Pomp and Circumstance March #1 In D", played on kazoos (courtesy of Mister Tim and JibJab), playing in the background. Cut to the first page of the comic)
Linkara (v/o): We open where we left off, only outside the S.T.A.R. Labs facility in Silicon Valley, California.
Narrator: Contesto Incorporated. The false front for the Northern California division of S.T.A.R Labs.
Linkara: (as narrator) Currtenly handling ninety percent less fires and explosions than actual game companies.
Linkara (v/o): Outside the cops are conferring with Dr. Sarah Charles about how they've apparently been in the building for ten minutes. She's sure they can handle it... right before Tempest gets flung out the building and into a fire truck.
Narrator: The most able-bodied members of the Titans and Young Justice have entered the building to investigate. It's going very poorly.
Linkara: Aaand how is that different from anything else that's happened in this miniseries?
Linkara (v/o): Dr. Charles calls for a stretcher and neck brace for Tempest, who's rapidly losing consciousness.
Linkara: (sarcastically) Wow, it sure was worth it to ignore continuity from the actual "Titans" series so Tempest could just get knocked out in the third part and contribute nothing else to the story!
Linkara (v/o): Before he loses consciousness, Tempest manages to tell Dr. Charles what happened, naturally making her start yelling for everyone to get the hell back from the area and making a lot of her face rather pointy. Seriously, look at this face; pointy eye shadow, Romulan eyebrows, her sideburns, her chin is more angular, and even her nose and mouth seem pointier than usual. But yes, the Superman android is active and engaged in battle... or rather, engaged in awkwardly standing over Omen's dead body while holding up Impulse, as the Titans just kind of stand in the background, looking completely ineffectual and dumbfounded. Oh, and if you're wondering why the Superman logo has a black background, this is from a brief time when Supes adopted a black shield in mourning for those who had died in the crossover event, "Our Worlds at War".
Linkara: An event comic that was so important and huge that the Titans' tie-in issue to it... didn't actually show what they did. They did stuff off-panel while the issue focused on Argent on her own back at the Tower.
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, the Superman robot...
Narrator: Some time ago, Superman had built several cybernetic automatons to be used in his absence.
Linkara: (as narrator) Instead, people used them to have Superman make out with himself, fulfilling the dreams of many clone-cest shippers.
Narrator: They did not operate well. Pollution. Satellite frequencies. Sun spots. Electromagnetic pulses. The list goes on... All of the doppelgangers malfunctioned at some point.
Linkara: (as narrator) You don't even want to know what happened when they put Windows 10 on one of them!
Narrator: Most were dismantled...
Linkara: (as narrator) Others were turned into (shows Superman on back cover of comic book) glow-in-the-dark stickers.
Narrator: ...but a handful were stored safely for study.
Linkara: Why exactly did they have to be fully assembled for study? You just admitted they turned violent if somebody forgot to dust the things! STUDY THEM IN PIECES!
Linkara (v/o): Impulse tries his best to use his super-speed on the android, but it's too strong and fast, sending him flying into some rubble. And some purple goo fizzles out of something... Oh, so that's what the purple stuff from Sunny D commercials was!
Arsenal: Nightwing, do we have a plan?!
Nightwing: We have to shut it down -- now!
Linkara (v/o): Aaand clearly it was Robin who answered that, not Nightwing.
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang as they watch The Painted Hills)
Joel: They just didn't care.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): We can see Arsenal better now, and he indeed seems to be wearing some kind of protective body armor and not just his stupid techno chin guard thing. Yeah, you know those stupid giant earmuffs that Rob Liefeld always sticks on his characters? Arsenal's wearing them, too, instead of any kind of real protection for his head! He fires some explosive arrows at the robot, and while it does damage its skin, it's not enough to take it down. Despite the body armor, Arsenal still takes a heat vision shot to the arm. Donna leaps in with... whatever the hell this pose is. Seriously, try to diagram what her body is doing in this panel. Is that her leg down there? Is her upper body twisting in the wrong way? I have no idea. The point is that she tackles the Superman robot out of the area. And then Nightwing unhinges his jaw for some reason.
Nightwing: Everyone move it! No one get in close until I say so.
Linkara: (as Nightwing) Donna, good job not being close to the thing you're tackling!
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, he wants them to keep a distance, which is frankly good advice in this situation, but fortunately, some more help has arrived from an unexpected source: the blue robot. The Superman robot had been making repairs on it, including building it a new arm, and now it's functioning enough to talk to the Titans.
Blue robot: U-U-U-Unit's primary protocol requires the pro-pro-protection of humanity...
Linkara: (as blue robot) The best way to protect humanity is to attack any other machines and interface with them just to repair myself. (beat) I'm not very well programmed.
Linkara (v/o): The blue robot, who I will now be referring to by her character name, Indigo, to distinguish her from the other robot, offers to help shut down the Superman robot, but needs help finishing her repairs to do so, which is funny, considering she was able to wirelessly interface with it before while barely having any power or operating function, and now she's in better shape, but can't just do that now? Anyway, Arsenal decides to help.
Arsenal: I'm going to need your help. I'm only working with one arm.
Linkara: (as Arsenal) Huh. Why do I suddenly have the urge to talk to zombie ghosts of my dead daughter and set things on fire?
Linkara (v/o): Robin is reluctant to help, considering what it did before, but Arsenal thinks having her firepower is what they need in this fight. He holds up a flathead screwdriver.
Arsenal: I like the idea of having her on our side.
Linkara: (as Arsenal, holding up screwdriver) Now help me unscrew this thing on my face. It's really starting to hurt.
Linkara (v/o): Donna manages to tackle the robot half a mile away.
Narrator: They have just gotten lucky. The landing has disabled the faux Superman's internal gyros, making it incapable of flight.
Linkara: And here's another thing my viewers so helpfully pointed out that I missed in regards to how terrible this thing is: SHOW, DON'T TELL!
(Cut again to the MST3K gang as they watch Attack of the Eye Creatures)
Joel: They just didn't care!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Wonder Girl and Superboy fly in, but Wonder Girl gets a helping of freeze breath while Superboy gets a chokehold. Nightwing comes running up.
Nightwing: What did I say about getting in close?!
(Cut yet again to the MST3K gang as they watch The Painted Hills)
Tom Servo: Oh, throw that in my face!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): He attaches a bomb to the robot to get it to release Superboy, and once again when it feels the need to exposit to us what happens!
Narrator: Nightwing's thermo charge disrupts the robot's higher sensor functions and blows six power cells.
Linkara (v/o): And the robot hits him across the face, which... causes his mask to shatter...? Okay, maybe he's wearing some kind of armored mask instead of the regular one, but if it's armored, how hard is that thing hitting that it can shatter it with a backhanded punch that only looks possible because it's a robot?
Narrator: At full power, had Nightwing taken this blow a minute earlier, he'd be dead.
Linkara (v/o): Bullcrap! He should be dead already if it shatters the thing into that many pieces!
Narrator: Not that Nightwing is feeling particularly lucky at the moment.
Linkara: You're right, he's feeling very ironic, since he had earlier that day said, (makes an "air quote") "Masks stay on."
Linkara (v/o): While Arsenal assists with repairing Indigo, Robin suddenly smells an odd array of scents, revealing that the purple goo from before is this guy: the superhero Metamorpho, believed dead at the time.
Linkara: Why is Metamorpho in a book about the Titans and Young Justice? Oh, well, that's simple. Well, okay, it's not simple, it's actually incredibly convoluted, since this isn't Metamorpho, but a piece of Metamorpho named Shift, who thinks he's Metamorpho. And actually, the reason he's here is very simple and– (becomes frustrated) DEAR LORD, THIS BOOK IS STUPID!
Linkara (v/o): Okay, the reason he's here? Because Shift is going to be joining Judd Winick's "Outsiders" book. That's it. That's the sole reason he's here.
(Cut to the cover of "Outsiders", prominently displaying Shift)
Linkara (v/o): Judd Winick is just promoting the book he was gonna make in the wake of this, which I'll be talking about in a little bit. To reiterate: This character is making his grand return here... just to promote something else Winick was writing.
(Cut YET AGAIN to the MST3K gang)
Joel: THEY JUST DID NOT CARE!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): With Nightwing about to get his face put into as many pieces as his mask, Donna jumps in and manages to deal with the robot.
Narrator: She had been the first to be called Wonder Girl. She now is called Troia.
Linkara: (as narrator) And for some reason, people just call her "Donna Troy" instead of her codename nowadays. Go figure.
Narrator: Her life has been difficult-- fraught with confusion and pain.
Linkara: Mostly because writers keep trying to retcon her backstory. She's like Calvinball at this point; it's never the same twice!
Linkara (v/o): This story mentions how Donna was forced to live hundreds of alternate lives for herself because of the whole Dark Angel thing back in the day. And while this is going on, she just starts whaling on the Superman robot.
Narrator: Ask anyone who knows her well, and they will tell you of her generous heart. Her conscience and loving nature.
Linkara: I know, right? Watch as she generously gives this robot a beating!
Narrator: But it should never be forgotten what kind of fire burns within. She is a soldier. A combatant. A gladiator.
Linkara: Ask anyone who knows her well, and they'll tell you that's horse crap! (makes an "air quote") "A soldier"?! "Combatant"?! Asshole, she knows how to fight well! That's not her nature, especially when you just admitted she's generous and loving and stuff!
Narrator: She is an Amazon. She grips her sword handle hard enough to break it.
Linkara: Then she's apparently a crappy Amazon, since she just broke her sword by holding it!
Narrator: She brings her hand down with force so great that her own flesh tears.
Linkara: That sounds pretty reckless and stupid, and not the actions of a warrior. Seems more like you're describing someone who doesn't know what they're doing! But you know, (waves hand around) "dramatic" and stuff. And this is certainly the imagery to evoke in a book called "GRADUATION DAY"!
Linkara (v/o): But unfortunately, she... Wait, it was a clear day a second ago. Why the hell are there a bunch of random lightning strikes behind her? Erm, but yeah, unfortunately, the robot uses its heat vision with enough power and intensity to burn a hole right through Donna's heart, killing her instantly. And she collapses, with all of that dramatic purple prose now rendered utterly useless when she lays in a rather undignified pose, with her ass in the air pointed at Robo-Supes' crotch. Classy. And this, my friends, is, of course, misstep number two.
Linkara: Well, actually, allow me to clarify. It's not just the act of killing Donna Troy. See, she's not even really dead. The epilogue makes that clear. No, no, it's that they killed her... right after they killed Omen!
Linkara (v/o): In the events that followed this book, Omen is rarely mentioned. Lilith's death is completely pointless to the story. She had no reason to die! They just killed her to add a dramatic moment to the Superman robot reveal, which apparently couldn't have just been her arm breaking or something. No, no. Kill off a character because screw you, anybody who likes her! Hell, you can't even argue that either character nobly sacrificed themselves or something. The Superman robot isn't dead yet. Indigo has to pop up on the next page and finish the job! You killed off two characters for nothing but shock moments in a terrible miniseries that is even more invalidated because, as I said, DONNA ISN'T REALLY DEAD, BUT EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT HER LIKE SHE IS AND DOESN'T GIVE A CRAP ABOUT THE CHARACTER WHO IS DEAD!!! Oh, and to really highlight that, the funeral two-page spread.
Narrator: They buried Lilith the day before. She had very little family. And not many knew her well. Her service was kept small. Donna was a different story. She's touched so many.
Linkara: (mockingly) Nobody knew that Lilith girl. Who gives a crap about her? Hell, let's not even show any of her friends mourning for her! It's all about Donna! (flips off the comic) Up yours, "Graduation Day"! UP YOURS!!
Linkara (v/o): Cassie is heartbroken, despite Superboy trying to comfort her.
Cassie: We're useless-- you hear me? Useless.
Superboy: We're not usel--
Cassie: We don't know what we're doing! We never knew what we were doing!! So full of ourselves-- so sure! We got two people murdered!
Linkara: How? Nothing Young Justice did actually resulted in people dying! It's not even like Donna sacrificed herself to defend you or somebody else on Young Justice. Did I miss some pages?!
Cassie: Stupid, inept children, running around pretending to be heroes.
Linkara: You hear that, (holds up a "Young Justice" comic) readers of "Young Justice"?! All that character development and arcs and lessons learned by the heroes? (tosses it aside arrogantly) Nah, just a bunch of inept children! THANKS FOR ALL YOUR MONEY!!
Linkara (v/o): Cyborg hints that he's gonna start teaching the kids, but then that leads us to Arsenal and Nightwing. Hey, guess what Nightwing is doing? That's right, he's whining and yelling how this is all their fault and blah, blah, blah! And Arsenal is the one being restrained here, despite the fact that he was the one who actually had a relationship with Donna and the Titans, a crush on her since even the early days. It's not even that Dick wouldn't be emotional about this, but that Arsenal is so unemotional about it. But yeah, Dick says the Titans are finished, and thus, we move into our epilogue, where Donna suddenly wakes up on some planet with two suns and floating mountains, finds a sword and shield, and...
Narrator: She hears the battle raging on in the distance.
Linkara (v/o): Quite a significant distance, actually, considering I can't see any signs of a battle in this big open area. And so, our comic ends with Donna running off into the nonexistent battle. And I mean "nonexistent", because what's actually going on here requires an explanation in a moment.
Linkara: (angrily holding up comic) This comic SSSSSSSSUUUUUUUCKS!! But of course, let's talk about what happened after this, just to highlight how really lame and awful this whole thing was.
Linkara (v/o): First of all, what's going on with Donna and her dreams? Well, I'd sure as hell like to know what the hell is up with those dreams, since at best, it's a metaphor for what's actually happening. And even then, there's no explanation for where the dreams came from. You'll recall that in her post-"Crisis on Infinite Earths" origin story, Donna was rescued as a child by the Titans of Myth, trained to be one of the next generation of gods. Well, due to the events of "Infinite Crisis", which I briefly talked about in the "Blue-Skying" retrospective, the Titans of Myth were scared as all hell that the universe was going to end, and, thanks to a retcon about Donna's backstory that I won't get into, she is the key to escaping this universe and going into a new one. So the Titans of Myth resurrected Donna to help them fight in an intergalactic war, and erased her memories to get her on their side...
Linkara: And at this point, Donna Troy losing her memory, or other people losing their memories of her, isn't a bug, it's a feature. Hell, even the "New 52" version had this problem in the recent awesome "Titans Hunt" miniseries. At this point, we should change her superheroine name to ("air quotes") "Amnesia Woman".
Linkara (v/o): ...in order to reach a planet which had a device she alone could use to get them to safety. Now, that's all outlined in, of course, "The Return of Donna Troy", a four-issue miniseries that came out two years after this book. It's also a pretty good book. Not great, but enjoyable, if only for Donna's resurrection, and with considerably better artwork and writing, since it actually remembers who the hell these characters are and – shock of all shocks – is told from Donna's perspective, since it's her story! So yeah, the dreams of her fighting demons? At best, it's representative of her fighting in that war, except she doesn't wear anything like that string bikini she was sporting in the dream! "The Return of Donna Troy" is also notable because it premiered DC's logo that it had up until "The New 52": the "DC Spin", as it was called. It's actually my favorite logo they've had. It has character, uniqueness, and the idea of motion.
Linkara: What I'm trying to say is that, yeah, Donna's death pissed me off, of course, but it was pretty obvious they always planned to bring her back. What irritates me is that her death ended up overshadowing Omen's, which was just pointless and mean-spirited.
Linkara (v/o): Omen did not get some miniseries that brought her back to life. No, no, she was dead up until "The New 52", where she ended up as some kind of servant of Harvest from "The Culling"!! Or at least that was just someone with the name "Omen", looking exactly like her. But fortunately, the kinda-sorta end of "The New 52" brought her back properly. As I said before, the "Titans Hunt" miniseries kinda fixed things a bit. It was pretty awesome to see everyone back together, and hopefully, the DC rebirth version of this team will be pretty good. Hopefully; I'm not very enthusiastic when it comes to Brett Booth's artwork. What also followed in the wake of "Graduation Day" was, of course, two books: "Teen Titans" with Geoff Johns, which lasted one hundred issues of... varying quality. I know a lot of "Young Justice" fans hated it because it tended to imply the Young Justice years were embarrassing or something, as if the idea of them having fun – and still having dramatic moments, by the way; even I know that – was something that should be hated. For me, I was irritated because it seemed to try everything possible to forget that my favorite incarnation of the Titans had ever happened. It didn't insult it, it's just it was more interested in nostalgia for the Wolfman-Perez-era team, for a time. Things changed, creative teams went off, and they did their own things at times, but that was it. But, oh, there was Judd Winick's baby that came out of this fetid, rotting, moldy breadloaf of a miniseries: "Outsiders". "Outsiders" was... okay, at best. Nowadays, it's almost quaint in how edgy it's trying to be. It followed along that old, stupid idea of "try to stop crime before it happens", but was far more successful in illustrating that by actually showing our heroes stopping stuff like arms shipments or getting known criminals at large or stuff like that. However, when Winick was writing it, he was always trying to court controversy and prove how oh-so-mature it was. (sarcastically) This comic features sex – casual sex between team members! Look, an orgy! Oh, and hey, we're teaming up with John Walsh of America's Most Wanted, which at the time was decried for being ten years too late, but honestly, apparently, the show was still enjoying pretty good ratings, so make of that what you will. Oh, and that story involved Lian getting kidnapped by human traffickers and getting a branding tattoo! So thanks for that pleasantness, Winick! Speaking of pleasant, there was Nightwing, who only joined the team because Roy convinced him it'll (mockingly) "just be a job; he won't have to care about his teammates", which just meant "Hey, I can keep writing him as an asshole!"
Linkara: I'll grant Winick this: he stuck with the book for its entire run... which just happened to be fifty issues, same as "Titans". Actually, I tell a lie: 49 issues. The fiftieth was a setup for a relaunch of the title without Winick.
Linkara (v/o): Indigo would join that team, ostensibly having been reprogrammed by Roy so that she could walk around in miniskirts and boob hole tops and have a relationship with Shift that was kinda touching... until it was revealed in a crossover with "Teen Titans" that she was Brainiac 8 from the future and blah, blah, blah. What does it matter?
(Cut back once again to "Graduation Day")
Linkara (v/o): This book is what got that all started, and it is a terrible miniseries. In the end, they didn't have to have a big thing where both teams are devastated to inspire them to start new teams. You could have had a situation where the Titans realized they need to bolster their numbers and Young Justice deciding they're ready for new training and skills. No one has to die, you just have to write good characters. One could say it's not as dramatically interesting to have them just decide, "We can start a new team," but honestly, no one walked away from "Graduation Day" thinking, "Well, at least that was dramatic!" Readers walked away pissed off and with a bad taste in their mouths, feeling insulted and not really off on the right foot to start your big relaunch. People talk about the story, the characters that inspired them, and they love to read about. That's what they remember! But in this, they remembered, "This book was godawful, and they killed off two characters for no good reason, and everything I liked about this setup!" You've got to show respect for your characters, since that respect will carry over onto the audience. If you don't show respect for them, if you kill them, write them out of character, make them into idiots, not know who they are or their motivations, then you only send one message to readers...
(Cut one last time to the MST3K gang as they say, one last time...)
Joel and the Bots: (in unison) THEY JUST DIDN'T CARE!
Linkara: Next time, from one bad miniseries to another. While I still refuse to do a full review of this book, it's finally time to talk about Marvel's even comic, "Civil War"... and fifteen things wrong with it. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
The Titans tie-in to "Our Worlds at War" must have changed, since the original solicit for the issue specifically said it WOULD focus on a mission they were doing during it.
Outsiders pissed me off because they did this subplot concerning a traitor on the team... and all logical signs (and pretty subtle and well-written ones, at that) actually pointed to the character of Jade, but it wasn't her.
It was a book that required you to not think about it very hard.
(Stinger: In an episode of MST3K, Larry Buchanan is being confronted by Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank. Buchanan has the words "Judd Winick" covering his face)
Buchanan/Winick: You don't really care, do you?