New Teen Titans: the Judas Contract

By Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Romeo Tanghal, Dick Giordano & Mike DeCarlo (DC Comics)
ISBN: 0-930289-3A-X   (2004) ISBN: 978-0-93028-934-8

Deathstroke the Terminator is a flamboyant cover identity for mercenary/assassin Slade Wilson who underwent an experimental procedure whilst an American Special Forces soldier. He was invalided out but later developed fantastic physical abilities that augmented his military capabilities.

He debuted in the second issue of the New Teen Titans in 1980, assuming a contract that had been forfeited when neophyte costumed assassin The Ravager died trying to destroy the kid heroes. The deceased would-be killer was actually Grant Wilson, a very troubled young man desperately trying to impress his dad. Slade’s other children would also be the cause of much heartache and bloodshed over the years…

That venerable squad of sterling sidekicks had first debuted in the Swinging Sixties, battling all manner of outlandish threats and menaces (see Showcase Presents the Teen Titans volumes 1 and 2 for just how “out there” they were) but had been cancelled a number of times before writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez found just the right tone and brought them back to become one of DC’s biggest sensations.

The New Teen Titans went from strength to strength, with its close continuity, tight character interaction and stupendous action quickly winning a loyal and dedicated following and this controversial extended storyline proved it to be one of the most innovative and daring superhero series of the decade.

If a comic book story garners death-threats you know you’re doing something right, right?

In 1988 The Judas Contract (re-presenting The New Teen Titans #39-40, Tales of the New Teen Titans #41-44 and Annual #3 from February-July1984) was one of DC’s earliest and most successful trade paperback collections and remains so to this day.

The compendium opens with ‘Clash of the Titans’ a contextual explanatory introduction from author Wolfman and an insightful remembrance from Pérez entitled ‘The Contract Begins…’ before the comicbook wizardry started to unfold.

By the time of ‘Crossroads’ (inked by Romeo Tanghal) the youthful superteam were involved in a life or death battle with Brother Blood, a seemingly immortal and diabolically subtle cult-leader who used media manipulation and religious zealotry to supplement his awesome power and fanatical army of followers to run rings around the politically naive heroes.

Moreover they had just admitted as a probationary member Tara Markov, a 14 year old metahuman girl who had been the captive of terrorist kidnappers for years. Terra was slowly being accepted by the team when a turning point arrived and founder member Kid Flash decided to retire. Moreover, team leader Robin was facing a crisis of conscience and had decided to abandon the costumed identity he had employed since he was nine years old…

The war against the cult continued in ‘Lifeblood’ as Dick Grayson went undercover in the Rogue nation of Zandia where the Brotherhood was engaged in a cold war with the Island’s ruler. When the rest of the Titans invaded the villain’s temple sanctum they were overcome and the concluding ‘Baptism of Blood’ found them fighting for their lives and souls before Terra’s earth-moving geo-powers turned the tide…

The Judas Contract proper began in issue #42 with ‘The Eyes of Tara Markov’ (inked by Dick Giordano) wherein the irascible temperament and short temper of the newest member was finally explained. As the novice was granted full security access and learned the secret identities of her team-mates, Tara was exposed – to the readers at least – as the lover and pawn of the Titan’s greatest enemy Deathstroke: planted as a deep cover agent within the team and tasked with learning all their weaknesses before the Terminator’s final assault…

‘Betrayal’ (inked by Mike DeCarlo Giordano) opened with Dick Grayson narrowly escaping an ambush in his apartment and learning too late that all his friends were gone. On the run from Deathstroke, the heir of Batman deduced what had happened to his team just as he was approached by Wilson’s ex-wife Adeline and her mute son Joe who revealed the truth about Terra and her horrifyingly psychotic true nature.

With the Titans at last in the hands of criminal cabal The HIVE, who had originally commissioned the doomed Ravager, Adeline also revealed the astonishing origins of Slade and Joe before ‘There Shall Come a Titan’ in #44 introduced Grayson’s new costumed persona as he became Nightwing for the first time.

With Joe Wilson, in his own new heroic identity of Jericho, Nightwing invaded the organisation’s stronghold and in ‘Finale’ (Tales of the New Teen Titans Annual #3 and inked exclusively by Giordano) freed the helpless heroes only to fall foul of the terrifyingly insane Tara Markov who wouldn’t let the Titans, HIVE or even her lover Slade stop her from getting what she wanted…

Stirring, imaginative, controversial and immensely entertaining, this stunning Fights ‘n’ Tights extravaganza set a new standard for superhero storytelling and stills ranks as one of the best Costume Dramas ever crafted.
© 1983, 1984, 1988 DC Comics Inc. All Rights Reserved.