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By Thomas Wheeler

This will be mostly an observational review, as I've really only bought ONE of the new Teen Titans figures.

However, four new figures -- not counting the Aqualad figure that comes with a fairly large Titans vehicle -- have turned up in the 3" scale, and are being sold in two-packs.

There's really only two problems here to speak of -- one is that the two-packs are one new figure with one old one. So if you've been collecting the Titans and want the new faces, you're going to be getting duplicates of characters you already have. Fortunately, there's always eBay or the neighbor's kids or whatever, and the two-packs aren't especially expensive.

Secondly -- regardless of their relative size to each other in the TV show, the Titans figures are ALL the same height. I have no idea what Bandai's rationale for this was. Consider that their Gundam line is more than willing to make larger or smaller figures as the Mobile Suit demands, from the relatively slender Noble Gundam to the far larger and taller Sazabi or the massive Dark Gundam Final Mode, and still keep it all within the same two price-point ranges.

So it's a bit of a pain with regard to the Titans line to watch the show, and then see a massive character like Cyborg reduced to the same basic height as Robin and Beast Boy, when he clearly isn't. There's just no logic to this.

The four new figures include Slade, Terra, Thunder and Lightning. "Slade" is the name used on the show for the Titans' best known foe. The animated series is based to a substantial degree on the Marv Wolfman/George Perez incarnation of the Titans from the 80's, which made them so popular that they were not only on a par with a certain team of mutants from the "other" major comic company, they even teamed up with them once.

In the comic book, Slade Wilson is a mercenary better known as Deathstroke the Terminator. He even had his own comic book for a while. However, "Deathstroke" isn't a name that would work all that well on what is, to a degree, a more light-hearted and kid-friendly show than "Batman" or "Justice League", and "Terminator" would probably get them in trouble with the current governor of California.

Thunder and Lightning, in the comic book, were a pair of Oriental teenagers who could barely control their powers. I haven't seen the animated episode(s) which might have featured them, so I can't comment on what changes might have been made to their origins, but Thunder looks like Magilla Gorilla finally found honest work, and Lightning looks like the X-Men's enemy Pyro after spending too much time on the Slim-Fast diet.

Then there's Terra. In the comic book, the Terra storyline was, arguably, a reasonably successful attempt to create a storyline to rival the X-Men's Phoenix Saga. Certainly the storyline has become well-known and generally well-regarded among Titans' fans.

Terra was a young girl with the extremely powerful ability to control the ground. She could lift up huge mounds of earth and propel them through the air, cause landslides, mudslides, even volcanic eruptions by diverting lava flows underground. She was introduced in the Titans as, apparently, a young girl who had been captured and held hostage by terrorists. Eventually, she was allowed to join the Titans.

But Terra, whose real name was Tara Markov, had a dark secret. She was working for Deathstroke, who had a long-standing contract to deliver the Titans to a high-tech group of terrorists known as the HIVE. She was also pretty nuts in the head, basically a sociopath who could manage to fit in with the Titans even while planning to betray them -- except on those occasions when she lost her temper. Only Raven, the empath, suspected that something was not right with Terra, but given that Raven's own powers were acting a little quirky at the time, she didn't trust herself to draw any firm conclusions.

Across a number of issues, it seemed like Terra was fitting in better and better with the Titans. Was there a chance she might betray Slade Wilson and stay with the Titans?

Ultimately -- no. In a four-part storyline called "The Judas Contract", Terra fulfilled her obligations to the Terminator, helped deliver the Titans to the HIVE, and when things went sour there, she basically went totally nuts, attacked everybody, and was killed by her own power at the end of the story.

When Terra appeared in the cartoon, a lot of Titans fans wondered -- would the same storyline play itself out? There was a lot of intensity in that original story that wouldn't make the transition to the animated series all that well. But ultimately, it did -- or came as close as it could. Terra didn't die, but was instead transformed into a stone statue. The Titans vowed to find a cure one day. And it's not like she's going anywhere.

As important a presence as Terra was to the Titans, I was pleased that Bandai included a figure of her in the latest assortment. And unlike the Slade figure, she's not out of proportion with the others -- at least not as badly as some.

And Bandai has done a very good job with these figures. These Titans figures are about the only major DC action figure series NOT being carried out by Mattel these days, except for the DC Direct line. The Titans figures, despite the size problems, are well-sculpted, nicely detailed, and quite well articulated, especially in the legs. The only pre-posing in any of them, really, is the rather odd position of the hands, which seem designed to hold the handlebars of the vehicles, which these 3" figures are really designed for anyway.

If you're enjoying the TEEN TITANS animated series, and can get your head around the common height of figures who do not have that attribute in the cartoon, then I definitely recommend the TITANS figures, including the newcomers such as Terra and Slade!