Tuesday, June 15, 2010

VINTAGE - Teen Titans, the Judas Contract

I know last week I revealed my love for the Boy Wonder, but today I'm going to spend some more time gushing over Batman's junior partner: Robin, and all his friends. I didn't really discover The New Teen Titans until I was well into adulthood. Marv Wolfman and George Perez were the creative team assembled to come up with a teen superhero book that rivaled Chris Claremont's unstoppable Uncanny X-Men. In this story, The Judas Contract, the came pretty damn close.

Tara Markov. Or "Terra" as she came to be known. the newest Teen Titan, a group of teenage superheroes mostly made up of some of the most notable heroes in the DC Universe. Robin, Wonder Girl, and Kid Flash are all on the team, along with some Wolfman and Perez originals Starfire, Cyborg, and Raven. Rounding out the team is Changeling, who contemporary audiences know better as "Beast Boy" from the popular animated series of the same name. Terra is not only the newest member; she's also the youngest as well as the most secretive. While most of the Titans embrace her, especially Changeling [who shares a pretty passionate kiss with early on], she fails to win over the emotionally crippled Raven who can sense some kind of darkness surrounding her. Raven isn't sure if her own innate evil nature is the real problem, so she fails to alert the other Titans until it's too late... and Tara is revealed as the partner and lover of Slade Wilson, better known as Deathstroke the Terminator.

Deathstroke is fulfilling his late son's contract on the Titans. Using the irredeemably evil Tara to infiltrate the team, they learn all the secrets and strike when they are individually at their weakest. The only one who gets away is Dick Grayson, who has recently given up Robin identity because he feels he's grown out of it. After being approached by Slade's ex-wife Adeline and her son Joseph, he adopts the new superhero identity of Nightwing. Joseph has his own considerable powers; he can become intangible and "possess" people after making eye contact. The pair join forces to rescue the Titans. They are initially defeated by Terra. However, "Jericho's" possession powers catch the villains off guard and when Joseph possesses his father and attacks Terra, he convinces the young villain that her partner has betrayed her. Terra then goes completely off the handle and tries to kill all the Titans. Barely escaping, the team watches in horror as Markov's powers consume her. Cursing them with her final breaths, she does from a landslide she herself causes. The Titans don't make betrayal public, and decide to honor her with a memorial commemorating her as a Teen Titan.

This story is kind of disturbing. Tara is introduced as a completely evil villain with nothing that redeems her in the end. Wolfman introduced her as sort of a dark version of the X-Men's Kitty Pryde. While Kitty was super sweet and everything that the X-Men embodied, Terra was the polar opposite of the Teen Titans: deceptive, manipulate, and crooked. She was also "involved" with Slade Wilson, a man basically old enough to be her father. This collection is notable for including the origin of Deathstroke and the first appearance of Grayson in his "Nightwing" identity. Some of the dialogue suffers from severe eighties, especially when the Changeling makes a joke. There's also a lot of cornball humor and colloquiums. The best single issue is probably when Tara visits all of the Titans in their civilian identities, using her "camera lens contacts" to document their lives and learn the frailties. You get insight into each team member here and actually feel kind of bad for them that they are trusting a person like Markov. The story was adapted for the second season of the Teen Titans cartoon, updating many of the elements to make them more current. They also make the animated version of Terra not completely evil, which definitely sits better internally with me.

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