There’s another version of The Three Musketeers hitting theatres this year, further proof, if remakes, sequels, and reboots weren’t evidence enough, that creative companies really enjoy going back to the well. First there was Crisis on Infinite Earths, then there was Legends, Millenium, Invasion!, Armageddon 2001, Bloodlines, et cetera. A new year, a new world-shattering tie-in event/money grab. Sometimes the effect is awesome (52) and sometimes it’s unspeakably horrible and embarrassing (Countdown).
In 1982, DC introduced a young rock-slinging heroine named Terra (Tara Markov), a spirited blonde 15-year-old that became the newest addition the popular title The New Teen Titans. She was surly, foul-mouthed, openly hostile, and a refreshing counterpoint to her noble, virtuous, and occasionally dull teammates. Turns out her contempt wasn’t just teenage hormones: she was actually a spy that infiltrated the team on behalf of their greatest enemy, Deathstroke the Terminator. She died trying to murder the Titans, received a memorable headstone topped with a stone carving of her actual head, and that was it for young Terra. She didn’t even live long enough to fight in the first Crisis, which was ramping up just as she was passing away. Five years later, in 1989, DC made the bold move of bringing Terra back from beyond the grave:
Terra II was physically identical to her predecessor, but this was explained via genetic alteration at the hands of a cruel futuristic despot, Lord Chaos, who created Terra II to be a spy who would infiltrate a group of Titans from an alternate timeline and basically do what Terra I did all over again. Turns out Terra II was a good girl underneath it all: she ended up betraying Lord Chaos and joining the Titans in their fight against him. This involved travelling back to present-day to murder Lord Chaos in the womb (Donna Troy’s womb, as it turned out.) It’s here that things get a little tricky.
First there was Terra II’s sexuality. Writer Phil Jimenez claimed Terra II was intended to be a lesbian. This went out the window pretty quickly when out of nowhere she develops an annoying teenage crush on Changeling. Okay.
Considering Changeling was in love with Terra I, to the point where he’s so haunted by his memories that she shows up as a zombie in Blackest Night to prey on his emotional connection to her, you have to wonder what kind of effect this has on the kid’s mental health. And let’s not forget how Terra II introduced herself to Changeling when she first appeared in the DCU:
Yikes. Jumping out of the bushes in full costume and implying heavily that she’s his dead girlfriend. Lovely.
Then there was the question of whether or not she was Terra I back from the dead. Marv Wolfman, who created the character, was insistent that Terra II was not Terra I. Other writers weren’t so sure, toying with the idea of empty graves, foreboding messages from the Time Trapper, and DNA tests that said otherwise. This sounds a lot more interesting in summary than it was in actuality; the is-she-or-isn’t-she storyline moved at a molasses pace, with Terra II moping and whining about not knowing who she is, but destroying every chance she got to learn the truth (smashing the Time Trapper’s message orb, walking away from the results of Geo-Force’s DNA test).
After Team Titans and then The New Titans were canceled, Terra II made sporadic appearances in the DCU, nothing truly significant until she decided to take on Black Adam during the 52 offshoot miniseries World War III. Unfortunately, this was the result:
She gets punched through the chest. What makes this needlessly brutal demise even worse is the fact that it was apparently a simple deck-clearing to make way for Terra III (yep, a third character named Terra, which means we’re entering our 29th year of Terra-related adventuring.)
The one thing Terra III accomplished (aside from boring readers into never wanting to follow her adventures again) was uncover the truth about Terra II’s mysterious past. Terra II and Terra III were both from a secret underground world called Strata. Terra II was sent to earth as a representative of Strata and Stratan scientists, believing surface-dwellers would more easily accept a familiar face, genetically altered Terra II to be identical to Terra I, because there’s nothing people love more than a psychopathic traitor who tried to single-handedly murder everyone she knew in a fit of apoplectic rage. Good job, Stratan scientists. Oh, and the procedure mistakenly erased Terra II’s memory, hence all the confusion about her past. So it’s all settled, then. Thanks, DC.