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Off The Page: The Judas Contract

By Patrick McNair Apr 24, 2017 - 7:26 AM print


DC Comics set the standard for comic book superheroes and the structure for the modern comic book. Readers could buy a monthly comic featuring their favourite hero in all sorts of fantastical adventures. These stories would focus on heroes, often with younger sidekicks that readers could identify with. By the 1960s, Marvel set about changing the mould by incorporating teenage superheroes like the Human Torch and Spider-Man into prominent positions within their respective comics, bringing in a new readership and leaving DC in the dust. In response, DC created a new team composed of younger sidekicks, going on adventures of their own. This team, comprising of Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Girl became known as the Teen Titans, debuting in The Brave and the Bold #60 in 1965. The series explored contemporary events for the time, such as inner-city racial tension and Vietnam War protests, with the series being praised for its urbane tone and attempts to reach out to youth culture through its light-hearted characters. After the series was cancelled in the 1970s and following a brief revival, the team was rebooted proper with The New Teen Titans in 1980, under the supervision of writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez, who expanded the roster to include Cyborg, Raven and Beast Boy. This partnership led to perhaps the most well-known Titans storyline, "The Judas Contract", involving the Titans arch rival Deathstroke.

The Setup:

It’s just another day for the Teen Titans, helping the good citizens of the world, while catching a tan on the beach. However, the Titans’ darkest hour is upon them. One of their own is a traitor and the Titans’ deadliest enemy is about to make their move. Dick Grayson, the former Robin, must step out of the shadow of the Bat and forge his own identity in order to save the team from certain defeat.

jud1.jpg

The Breakdown:

The Judas Contract was a four-part storyline, published in Tales of the Teen Titans #42-44 , concluding in the 1984 Tales of the Teen Titans annual. The Judas Contract implemented a number of significant elements such as Dick Grayson's debut as Nightwing, the introduction of Deathstroke’s second son, Joey Wilson, who would later join the Titans as Jericho and revealing Deathstroke's backstory, the culmination of a subplot going back to New Teen Titans #2 . All four issues were later collected as a trade paperback entitled New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract in 1988.

The Judas Contract opens up shortly after Dick Grayson and Wally West retire from active service. Though no longer on the field, Grayson is still heavily involved with the Titans, monitoring the progress of the team’s newest recruit, Terra Markov. During a training exercise, Terra, (who has the power to manipulate earth) nearly kills Beast Boy, after having endured a number of playful quips. While the Titans calm her down, Raven watches on with suspicion at Terra’s instability. Little do the Titans realise that Terra is secretly a plant, spying on the Titans for the mercenary Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke the Terminator. Once Terra has gathered all the necessary information on the team, Deathstroke implements his plan, systematically capturing the Titans, using their individual weaknesses against them. Grayson, having discovered that his teammates are missing, is himself attacked by Deathstroke in his apartment, but manages to give the Terminator the slip. Frustrated, Wilson returns with the remaining Titans to the headquarters of his employers, H.I.V.E, informing them that he has completed the contract left behind by his late son Grant. However, the organisation criticises Dearhstroke for not bringing in Grayson.

Grayson returns to Titans Tower and is met by Adeline Kane, the ex-wife of Slade Wilson, introducing Dick to her mute son, Joey. Adeline explains Terra's involvement with her ex-husband and that she has betrayed the team. Unwilling to believe her at first, Adeline gives the history of how Wilson came to be the Terminator (the US government injected him with drugs, giving Wilson, a soldier, enhanced strength and speed). After Grayson comes round, Adeline reveals that Joey (Deathstroke’s other son) has the ability to possess other people and is willing to help Grayson save the Titans. Realising that he can't escape his fate, Dick adopts a new identity, Nightwing (by this time, Batman had recruited a new Robin in Jason Todd), while Joey adopts the moniker, Jericho. Adeline gives the pair the coordinates of H.I.V.E’s base in the Rocky Mountains.

Nightwing and Jericho infiltrate the facility, where they find that the Titans have been strapped to a machine, slowly draining them of their life force. Nightwing and Jericho put up a valiant fight against the H.I.V.E troopers, but are eventually captured. Deathstroke is surprised to see his son and tries to bargain with the organisation to let him go. When H.I.V.E refuses, Jericho takes the opportunity to possess his father, freeing the Titans, who take the fight to H.I.V.E. Angered at Deathstroke’s sentimentality towards his son, Terra loses complete control and tries to bring down the facility. Beast Boy, having fallen in love with her, refuses to believe that Terra had been working with Deathstroke the entire time, however, she cruelly spurns him. The ceiling collapses, burying Terra. The Titans return to New York and give Terra a hero's burial, not wanting to reveal her betrayal to the superhero community, choosing instead to focus on her time as a Titan.

Summary:

The Judas Contract is recognised as one of the seminal storylines involving the Teen Titans and the creative peak between the collaborative efforts of Wolfman and Perez. Having been depicted as a mysterious hitman, Slade Wilson's character arc is fleshed out with a compelling backstory as well as depicting him in a different light as a father and a husband. The criminal syndicate, H.I.V.E that had been lurking in the shadows since the beginning of the series is brought to an end, including Deathstroke’s extended contract with them. Terra, who had been introduced in New Teen Titans #26 , had just been made a member of the team when her treachery was exposed, which resulted in a pivotal blow against the Titans as well as providing character development for Beast Boy, who was developing feelings for her. One of the more controversial elements of The Judas Contract was the implied affair between Terra and Deathstroke (Terra is around 16, while Slade Wilson is a middle-aged man). However, this was only an incidental detail and not the focus of the story. Other developments include the introduction of Joey Wilson, Deathstroke’s other son, who takes the name Jericho and becomes a Titan, while his mother, Adeline Kane would go on to become a trusted advisor to the Titans. Perhaps the most significant character moment from The Judas Contract is Dick Grayson's debut as Nightwing. The one-time Batman sidekick would now become his own hero, no longer in the shadow of his mentor (although the Elvis costume seems very dated). An animated adaptation of The Judas Contract was released in 2017, with the affair between Terra and Deathstroke significantly toned down and a number of other changes made to fit in with the established animated DC canon. The Judas Contract is a classic story and is well worth the read. If you're interested in the Teen Titans then this comic is a good starting point.



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