Your Guide to Infinite Crisis:

Dr. Light in Teen Titans

Identity Crisis left Dr. Light remembering what he was once capable of and thinking how next to act. In the wake of that mini-series, DC sought to turn Dr. Light into a major villain — not only with enhanced powers due to his increased mental control of his potential but with a very personal reason to hate super-heroes. In Identity Crisis, the lobotomized Light’s attack on the Teen Titans of an earlier era had been cited to demonstrate his ineffectiveness — he even got beat by the kids. Now, with Light newly ascendant, it made sense for him to go after the kids once more — or, at least, the Teen Titans in their present incarnation.

The storyline wasn’t just important for Dr. Light, however. It was also important because it showed, in its conclusion, knowledge spreading about what the Justice League had done to Light. The conclusion also serves as aVillains United tie-in, one of those issues before the mini-series itself that showed the recruitment of various characters to Lex Luthor’s Society. In this case, it’s Dr. Light who’s recruited.

Teen Titans#21
“The New Kid: Lights Out, Part One”
Geoff Johns script; Mike McKone pencils; Marlo Alquiza inks; Mike McKone and Marlo Alquiza cover; cover-dated April 2005

In the last two pages of the previous issue of Teen Titans, Dr. Light attacked Green Arrow Oliver Queen. As this issue begins, Dr. Light has tied Oliver to a statue. Large and reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial, though only perhaps twice the scale of a regular human, the statue invokes patriarchy — evoking the way the Justice League rules over things.

Dr. Light wakes Green Arrow up with a little blast of light in order to explain that he’ll be attacking the Teen Titans. The villain chastises Ollie for the League’s mindwiping, but Ollie won’t justifies what he and the League done. Dr. Light taunts Ollie by saying that he’s going to kill Speedy, Green Arrow’s new teenage sidekick Mia Dearden. He’s chosen to take Ollie at that time because it’s the day that Speedy joins the Teen Titans.

InSan Francisco, Mia gets out of a cab, enters a building on a dock that recognizes her handbint, and boards an automated underwater vehicle to take her out to Titans Tower. She’s nervous.

Outside Titans Tower, the team is apparently fighting one of their own: Cyborg. Then an arrow hits Cyborg’s hand, and it explodes, covering Cyborg in quick-freezing ice. It’s Speedy who has fired the shot, having seen the fight and assumed that Cyborg was malfunctioning. The Titans quickly inform her that the fight was only a training exercise. Mia explains that she hit him with a cryonic arrow, causing him to freeze. Mia’s clearly embarrassed as Cyborg wakes up.

Later, Mia and Cyborg talk. She repeatedly apologizes, but Cyborg kindly talks instead of the role of the Titans in providing a family for young super-heroes. Cyborg shows her the team’s locker room, which has a locker set aside for her. A room has also been prepared for Mia, including her favorite books. Cyborg says that Green Arrow told him everything about her, which she says isn’t cool. The issue doesn’t tell us, but Mia’s probably worried about whether Ollie told them that she has HIV, a fact she recently revealed in the pages ofGreen Arrow. As Cyborg recounts what Green Arrow told him, it’s just how she left an abusive home and lived on the streets before Ollie took her in. Cyborg then gives Mia a gift: a quiver of trick arrows left behind by the original Speedy, a founding member who later became known as Arsenal. One of the arrows is blue and marked “use in emergency only.”

It’s a nice character-driven scene in which Cyborg plays the kindly den mother to Mia, but it can’t last forever. Kid Flash speeds into the room and summons the two to the monitor room, where the rest of the Titans are already watching a news report about how Dr. Light has seized the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

The news reports how Dr. Light was last seen when the Ray captured him after he tried to shoplift from the First Food Market. A shot of the Ray and the store owner standing over the unconscious Dr. Light cements the idea that Dr. Light was a total goof. The news explains that Dr. Light fought with the Justice League (as seen inIdentity Crisis) just a few weeks before.

Dr. Light then emerges in a flash of white light that blinds the assembled reporters. He shows them Ollie, tied to the state. He calls for the Teen Titans and only them, saying that if anyone else comes, he’ll kill Green Arrow.

As the Titans consider their options, Superboy asks how “an idiotlike Light” could capture Green Arrow. Clearly, news of Light’s mindwiping and the return of his memories in Identity Crisis has not trickled down to the Teen Titans. The Outsiders, run by former founding Titans Nightwing and Arsenal, contact the Titans. Flash gets on the monitor and says that the Justice League is busy with the Crime Syndicate, referring to the storyline that ran in JLA just prior to “Crisis of Conscience.” Flash warns that Dr. Light isn’t a joke anymore, but won’t say why. Others call, but we don’t get to hear the discussions — we only see the concern.

Cyborg orders the two blocks around the Franklin Institute evacuated and the Titans take a rebuilt Tamaranian fighter — from Starfire’s people — to Philadelphia. On the way, the group discusses Flash’s warning. Robin reports rumors that Dr. Light wasn’t always a joke but got “messed up” somehow. Then Wonder Girl asks if Robin “think[s] the rumors are true.” It’s a telling moment, indicating that rumors of the League’s mindwiping have been going around. Robin says that he asked Batman, but Batman didn’t know anything. Superboy adds that Batman “said he didn’t” — a good indication of the distrust between super-heroes already going around at this time.

The Titans land at the Franklin Institute, but no sooner have they disembarked their craft than Dr. Light sucks all the light out of the air, plunging the Titans into darkness. Cyborg turns on a flashlight in one of his cyborg arms. Then Dr. Light appears behind Raven, Wonder Girl, and Speedy, blasting them in the final splash page.

It’s a solid issue, especially in terms of characterization. Mia’s more the star of it than Dr. Light. Where Dr. Light comes through most, however, is in the effects he’s had on the super-hero community. The Titans’ lack of trust for the Justice League, and the rumors about Dr. Light, are far more important than Dr. Light’s threat as a villain, despite his newly enhanced powers.

It’s in this issue that, for the first time, we hear how Identity Crisishas already caused ripples of distrust through DC’s super-heroes. It’s a different world.

Teen Titans #22
“Lights Out, Part Two: War and Peace”
Geoff Johns script; Mike McKone pencils; Marlo Alquiza inks; Mike McKone and Marlo Alquiza cover; cover-dated May 2005

As part two opens, Dr. Light is blasting all of the Titans, tossing them through the air. He calls them his children, and says that they’re more moral than the Justice League. The Titans struggle to see, their eyes blinded by Light’s attack. As they muster an attack, Light blasts them again. He warns them that, if they “threaten to replace yourmentors,” those mentors “might do it to you too. They’ll take yourmind.”

Light stands over the downed Superboy and coaxes his heat vision out of him. He manipulates the blast, molding it into a ball of red light. Wonder Girl ropes Light with her magic lasso, but it won’t work on Light, who pulls its power out and sculpts it into a yellow ball. He seems unbeatable.

Mia gets the first shot in, sending an arrow through his shoulder. Beast Boy, in the form of a giant lizard, attacks and seems to bite Light’s chest. The other Titans swarm, but Light unleashes the ball of heat vision, blasting them back in a burst of red.

Kid Flash attacks, but Light blasts his right knee, sending him to the ground. The mystical Raven hits light with her shadow self, but Light uses his powers to blast her into the ceiling. He strangely lets light flow from his mouth into hers, kissing her in a burst of light.

The Titans are down, apparently all unconscious. Light picks up Mia by the ankle and begins dragging her up the stairs into the Institute.

In what looks like the Batcave, Batman and Batgirl watch the news reports of Light’s victory. The power is still out in Philadelphia, and the new is reporting that some rioting has started in the city. Batman says that Starfire has a plan and that, as for Dr. Light, “they wanthim.” As he says this, he pulls out a sword — unusual for Batman.

Back at the Institute, Dr. Light wakes Green Arrow, who sees Mia unconscious before the villain. Light propels an arrow into Green Arrow’s shoulder, then begins to speculate about who else the League mindwiped. “Was it only the villains?” he asks. “Or did other heroes get in your way too?” Light speculates if the League has used mindwiping to “keep your kids in line?” He alludes to how the original Speedy became a drug addict, and — hovering over Mia — says that Oliver can find a new Speedy.

Green Arrow calls Light a coward, and light strikes him. Then he’s interrupted by two girls who say that they’re not afraid of Light and mention, ambiguously, that they refused to wait for the others. They transform into the new Hawk and Dove, the most recent incarnation of the longtime Titans allies. Light blasts at them, but they flee. In another room, Light bursts up through the floor and carries them up, through the roof of the Institute and up into the air above it, where a couple news helicopters are flying. Dove kicks Light, but he throws Hawk into the blade of one of the helicopters. Hawk uses her hands to protect herself from the blade, but the helicopter is disabled.

Dove and Light go crashing to the ground. As he prepares to kill her, he hears a sound behind him. It’s nothing short of a massive assemblage of heroes, including all the living heroes who ever belonged to the Teen Titans. Captain Marvel, Jr. has caught the disabled helicopter. Starfire seems to lead them, explaining Batman’s mention of her earlier.

Light’s not intimidated. He asks Nightwing what he’s waiting for, adding “I know you’re dying to say it.”

“Titans together!” cries Nightwing, issuing the Titans’ rallying cry.

It’s a great cliffhanger, even if the rallying cry seems a bit outdated. Any time all Titans past and present are assembled is a significant event. The face-off between Dr. Light and the assembled Titans, promised for the next issue, is the real action here.

Still, as the middle issue in a three-issue arc, this chapter’s not bad. The battle with the Titans isn’t as interesting as Dr. Light’s vague talk about mindwiping and his taunting of Oliver Queen with a helpless Mia Dearden. The page with Batman and Batgirl is also interesting, and will play out at the end of the next issue.

Teen Titans #23
“Lights Out, Part Three: Secrets and Lies”
Geoff Johns script; Mike McKone pencils; Marlo Alquiza inks; Mike McKone and Marlo Alquiza cover; cover-dated June 2005

As the third and final chapter opens, Superboy and Captain Marvel, Jr. are catching one of the helicopter Hawk hit in the previous issue. This actually occurs a few moments before the end of the last issue, which saw the helicopter being lowered to the ground as Dr. Light saw the assembled Titans. Captain Marvel, Jr. explains to Superboy that Starfire summoned the others because Dr. Light had commanded that only Titans had specified that he wanted only the Titans to come, lest he kill Green Arrow. Light hadn’t specified that they had to be current Titans. Hawk is hanging onto the helicopter as it’s lowered to the ground.

On that ground, the assembled Titans attack Light, instinctively following Nightwing’s orders. Flash tells Kid Flash that he needs to stay still because of the wound to his knee. Tempest, the former Aqualad who became a magician, freezes the water in Light’s eyes and Starfire slams into him. Bumblebee blasts Light while Mal hits Light with a sonic blast.

Light strikes back, however, knocking some Titans about. Nightwing, Cyborg, and Robin notice that Dr. Light seems stronger and more competent, as does Arsenal a moment later. Raven heals a wounded Dove, left where she landed with Dr. Light. Mirage causes an illusion of Superman, but Light blasts through it and hits her. Superboy gets a punch in, but Light blasts back. The Russian hero Red Star attacks, taking Light’s blast and bursting into flame but still managing to punch Light.

The Titans swarm on Dr. Light, but he sucks in all the ambient light and then explodes, sending them blasting through the air. Apparently victorious, he strolls confidently back inside in the eerie half-light.

Mia has gotten Oliver Queen off the statue, but Dr. Light interrupts them with a flare of light. Mia draws the mysterious blue arrow, seen in the storyline’s first chapter, but Cyborg arrives and tells her to save it. He hits Light, sending him through the wall and crashing to the ground outside.

As he gets up, Light promises to kill Cyborg’s friends and family. “You just did,” Cyborg says, and activates some solar shields in his armor. Light blasts Cyborg, but it has no effect. Cyborg just lifts Light up and slams him to the ground. Starfire blats Light, apparently while he’s down, as the rest of the Titans stroll over. Seemingly on the edge of unconsciousness, Light asserts that he’s already won.

Later, the police and paramedics have moved in. Hawk and Dove thank Raven for healing Dove. Superboy congratulates Cyborg on taking out Light pretty much single-handedly — a nice inversion of the beginning of the storyline, when Mia took out Cyborg with one arrow.

Then Batman and Batgirl arrive to claim Light and take him to the metahuman holding facility called Belle Reeve. Batman’s terse, perfectly in character, and the two leave quickly with Light.

Later, Green Arrow thanks Cyborg, but Cyborg only asks “Is it true?” — referring to the rumors about what the League did to Light. Oliver only answers, “Does it matter?” Cyborg says it does, adding “you created a monster” that endangered the lives of “these kids.” Mia interrupts them, changing the conversation, but Cyborg just stares. Nightwing soon says that he has to leave because there’s been a break-in at the Outsiders’ headquarters.

As the Titans return to Titans Tower, an angry Cyborg says that the rumors were right. He’s apparently continued his conversation with Green Arrow, because he knows exactly which of the Titans’ mentors were there when the decision was made. Beast Boy asks who they look up to now, to which Cyborg can only answer “each other.” Cyborg says that he doesn’t know what will happen when this information comes out, and he doesn’t want secrets within the Titans.

It’s then that Mia announces that she has something to say. She starts to talk about how she was on the streets for a few years, but the story trails off. After a moment, she just says “I tested positive.”

The scene is fantastically well handled. As the rest stand silent, Beast Boy can only ask, “Like… ?” Looking down as if in shame from having to confess this, Mia only replies “Yeah.” They stand, starting. Mia looks away, unable to meet their gaze. She begins to speak about how she imagined this would go, about how she’d find it easy to tell them and enjoy being with the Titans she admired. Now it’s the others who look away, uncomfortable, as Mia dares to look over.

It’s Beast Boy who changes everything, volunteering that the disease that gave him his powers made a number of kids sick in a storyline published almost a year earlier. In the recent “Titans Tomorrow” storyline, concluded just two months before “Lights Out” began, the Titans met their possible future selves, who had become quasi-evil. Beast Boy confesses his fear that his disease will turn him into his future counterpart.

Raven jumps in, confessing that she still can’t control her powers, which feed off emotions. She’s been absorbing the other members’dreams while they sleep.

Wonder Girl confesses that the evil Green god Ares has been watching over her and gave her the magic lasso she wields — referring to events going back to the current series’s early days. Ares said that it was to prepare her for a coming war, and she’s been unable to throw it away.

Mia asks if the others are uncomfortable about her revelation, and Cyborg explains that they are but that they’re not going to kick her off the team. He says he wants to keep her and the team safe, and that they’ll have questions, but that she’s a Titan. Wonder Girl, Beast Boy, and Kid Flash all affirm this statement, and Mia’s touched by the idea that she’s now a member of the group she so admired.

Superboy stands apart and silent. Though it’s not stated here, it’s because he’s discovered that he’s a clone created from the genetic material of both Superman and Lex Luthor. He’d long known that he was a clone of Superman, but had only fairly recently learned that Lex Luthor’s villainous DNA was a part of him. He’s only told Robin, who stares at him as if hoping he’ll be brave enough to tell the others. He isn’t.

The final page sees Dr. Light wake up on board Batman’s plane. Batman and Batgirl take off their masks, revealing themselves to actually be Deathstroke and his daughter Rose, the new Ravager. Deathstroke tells Light that he’s been invited into a society — a clear allusion to the Society that Lex Luthor has been forming in response to the Justice League’s tactics in Identity Crisis.

Dr. Light’s next appearance would be in the pages of Countdown#1, where he would burst in on the core members of the Society as they had a meeting. He would go on to be seen with other core Society members in the pages of Infinite Crisis #1.

As exciting as the battle between the Titans and Dr. Light is, the Titans’ confirmation of the rumors that the Justice League mindwiped Dr. Light is far more interesting and far more important in the long run. The Titans’ confessions to one another at the end is beautifully done and suggests that there might be a way in which the League’s indiscretion could be redeemed, if only through inspiring other heroes to be more open with one another. Of course, this is nicely moderated by Superboy’s refusal to come clean.

Superboy’s secret would lead into “The Insiders,” a crossover between Teen Titans and The Outsiders that would begin the following month and see Lex Luthor take control of Superboy.

It’s worth noting that this issue was the last illustrated by Mike McKone, the series’s original penciller. He was hired away to Marvel, where he joined writer J. Michael Straczynski to comprise the new artistic team on Fantastic Four. His work is always exceptional and would be missed in the pages of Teen Titans.

Read the Rest

“Your Guide to Infinite Crisis” attempts to spell out and outline the whole of this sprawling, complicated crossover. It has several other installments, organized by the narrative thread under discussion:

The OMAC Project

Day of Vengeance

Villains United

The Rann-Thanagar War

The Return of Donna Troy

Crisis of Conscience

PowerTrip

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 1996, while still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization. After graduating magna cum laude from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin), he obtained his M.A. in English, authoring a thesis on John Milton and utopianism. In 2002, he moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M.A. in French (high honors) and a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he founded Martian Lit, which publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics. He currently lives in Illinois.

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