WTF, DC? Terra II

team titans terra

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, and if you check the latter half of Team Titans #1, she’s written/drawn as being a tad on the butchy side, so this makes sense.

Until later, when out of nowhere she develops an annoying teenage crush on Changeling. Okay. Sexuality is a fluid and ever-changing thing for some people, sure, but…really? From gruff jacket-and-boots-wearing-no-nonsense tomboy to this?

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.

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2 Responses to WTF, DC? Terra II

  1. Nic Coay says:

    Having readd through all your articles, I have to say, I agree with most of them and you’re pretty entertaining. The fact that you actually support most of your claims with examples and images is nice. But one thing I have to disagree with you on is Atlee (Terra III). While she’s definitely not on the A-List of superheroes, she’s been a decently popular character, even earning her own 4-part mini-series. And to say that all she ever did was reveal Terra II’s origin is pretty inaccurate. During her four years in comics she managed to become Power Girl’s best friend (and play a significant role in that series), save Geo-Force’s life, help Supergirl, play a major role in the Terror Titans series, and eventually help Power Girl save New York from the Ultra-Humanite. In my opinion, she’s one of the most interesting new characters of the past 5 years. Not that there’s too much competition for that title, but still.

  2. No argument on her accomplishments. And the fact that she’s a product of Amanda Conner’s (and Jimmy Palmiotti’s and Justin Gray’s) imagination/pencil/pen goes a long way toward making her appealing. The problem is that she seems more like unrealized potential than anything else. She barely registered in Terror Titans and her appearance in Supergirl was sort of a tease – it hinted at this mysterious background, but the Strata origin seemed pretty contrived, particularly in light of the continuity problems created halfway between issues #2 and #3 due to DCU: Last Will & Testament (they all share the same DNA, but…wait, it turns out they don’t).

    Gray has that quote where he says, “We’ve been working with Terra for months and months trying to find and develop what’s special about her. In the end it was a very simple angle, make Terra a superhero with plenty of emphasis on heroism.” There’s a couple problems with this. One, they *did* work on Terra III for months. It felt like eons between her Supergirl appearance and her miniseries (and her generic, fleeting appearances in Terror Titans and Titans of Tomorrow…Today) at which point any momentum DC had built dissipated. Two, there’s not much that makes Terra III unique. She’s true-blue heroism, which is fine, but earnest nobility and a complete lack of flaws makes her boring. There’s nothing to relate to. I think Terra I’s appeal isn’t just that she pulled the rug out from under the rest of the team, I think it’s that she was duplicitous, smoked cigarettes, was violent, and carried a wicked grudge. She was completely unlikeable, but she was also such a dynamic contrast to the rest of the team that her awfulness was compelling.

    DC seems to have given up on Terra III (and a slew of other characters I really liked), but if they bring her back, they should a) stick her on the Titans and b) give her something more interesting to do than be cute and sweet.

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