The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artists: George Perez, Romeo Tanghal, Dick Giordano
March 5, 2005
By Avi Green
Back in the 1980’s, the X-Men had quite a rival in success coming
from DC in the form of the New Teen Titans, and one of their most
leading foes then was Deathstroke the Terminator, alias Slade
Wilson, who took up a contract against the Titans, sponsored by the
H.I.V.E terrorist organization, after feeling that his archnemeses
were responsible for the death of his son, Grant Wilson, the first
Ravager. And the most landmark story of all back then was the Judas
Contract, the culmination of the storyline that first began as early
as December 1982, when Terra, that being Tara Markov, the
half-sister of Geo-Force of the Outsiders, first appeared and soon
infiltrated DC’s top teen super-team, which she’d co-plotted on
bringing down with Deathstroke, who’d hired her.
Terra, when she first appeared, wore a very odd-looking mask that
almost looked like it had antlers on the sides. Her power, as
indicated by her own codename, was to control ground and earth
(which was also what Geo-Force could do). She was trying to pull
some sabotage and robbery stunts, all at the behest of a gang of
terrorists she was supposedly held captive by under the threat that
her parents, which included the king of Markovia, would be slain if
she didn’t cooperate. The king himself was already on his deathbed,
as was revealed in the Outsiders when it first began as a series,
while as for her mother, I am not sure just now. But as it all
turned out, this was merely a ruse in order to Trojan Horse ride her
way into the company of the Titans, where she took up a new costume,
and played her role very cleverly in deceiving all the goodies.
Terra’s duplicity had already been given signs of as early as the
34th issue at the time, but it was during the 39th issue that they
really showed us in full how much they were partners together, and
that the revelation of how far the partnership went that the really
shocking part was, if anything, implied.
And what was that shocker? That
Slade, as part of the agreement with Terra to get her to work with
him on this whole infiltration plot, may have slept with her, a
16-year-old, and it was certainly shown that she was dressed like a
teen hooker when she met with Slade and his butler, former British
army major William Wintergreen, during the 39th issue. And that’s
only the beginning for this story of a teenaged psychopath who
succeeded in tricking the best at what they are into thinking her
one of them.
This TPB compiles issues #39-44 and the 1984 annual of the New Teen
Titans from the time, which was changed to Tales of the Teen Titans
during issue 41. And among the most interesting developments that
take place here, were Wally West’s quitting as Kid Flash after he
felt that his powers were failing, and Dick Grayson’s hanging up his
tights and cape as Robin, until he could find a more suitable role
for himself to take as a crimefighter.
Even so, he most certainly didn’t quit
fighting crime, his being out of costume for a time notwithstanding.
During his time in plainclothes, he did his best to help out with
the problem surrounding Brother Blood and Church of Blood in the
outlaw nation of Zandia, an isolated haven for criminals it was back
then, and Bethany Snow’s attempts to distort the truth about their
sinister doings there. The Titans are invited to testify at a mock
staging inside Snow’s cable TV studio, WUBC in New York City, and
while even Starfire does her best to argue, one of the biased
senators present at the news conference asks in most pretentious
terms, “not to be disparaging, but why should we believe an alien
over a human?” This being Snow’s studio, nobody is likely to take
the corrupt senator to task for that rude question.
Dick organized a special trip to Zandia with a handful of senators
who’d been ousted by the corrupt ones who appeared in Snow’s studio,
and it was here that the Titans had one of their biggest face-offs
with Brother Blood, who hoped to slay them all, using Dick as his
pawn to pull the trigger with after capturing him and brainwashing
him into serving him. Luckily, Dick withstood the influence of that,
and Blood fell to his doom, presumably in hopes of dying to get what
he was after, which was recognition for the Church of Blood
worldwide. And which would be dealt with more in the coming years.
It was then that the buildup to the revelations on Terra came into
being fully dealt with. She spied on their residential locations, to
find out where they lived and help Slade figure out how to capture
them and hand them over to the H.I.V.E to fulfill their contract
with them. Gar Logan/Changeling was also on the list of targets, and
today, you could say that he most certainly isn’t happy about all
this. Dick Grayson however, escaped capture by Slade, and fled
through Battery Park in downtown NYC, soon discovering that his
fellow Titans had been captured, but not knowing how or why.
But soon he would. It was during this time that he first met Adeline
Kane Wilson, the ex-wife of Slade Wilson, and their other son, Joe
Wilson, the erstwhile mute Titan named Jericho. She’d been
investigating her ex-husband for some time, and felt it was time to
act, and her son, who’d hoped to join the Titans as well, got into
We get to learn all about the origin of the Terminator here, and
also how Joe lost his vocality due to Slade’s failure to stop some
terrorists who’d kidnapped Joe to Morroco from cutting his neck,
which damaged his vocal chords. Slade had gambled on being fast
enough, and that mistake would end up costing his son his speech…and
Slade an eye. Addie later confronted him with a pistol, and while
his power of quickness may have stopped her from killing him, it
failed to stop her from taking out his right eye, which led to
Deathstroke’s wearing the brown/black mask with one eye that really
makes him look quite scary indeed.
And it was here that Dick, having
left his role as Robin, which he handed over to the now late Jason
Todd, got into his new one as Nightwing. At that time, the costume
and role he took up was inspired by an old Kryptonian fable of two
characters named Nightwing and Flamebird, told once by Superman in
the pre-Crisis era. Today, it’s simply a name he took up that fits
the bill perfectly as a member of the Bat-family. Interestingly
enough, Flamebird is a name that would later be taken up by Bette
Kane, the part-time teen superheroine and honorary Titans member
who’d been a girlfriend of Dick’s years ago, who first began as
Bat-Girl, and yes, her name did have a dash in it, which
differentiated well enough from the former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon,
now known to the audience as Oracle.
Upon infiltrating the enemy’s HQ in Colorado, this is where at one
point, Jericho showed how, when possessing another human, he could
speak using their vocal chords, but in their own dialect and slang.
(Example: if it were someone with a think New York accent, he could
and would speak in that particular way.) And he took over his
father’s body when the latter protested his being taken captive, as
he was at one point, and freed the Titans, who had an impressive
trademark way of diving into battle united, with Gar shouting out
"Titans Together!", just like how Captain America can call out
"Avengers Assemble!". But this led to the quite surprisingly
psychotic Terra’s unveiling her truly mean personality, and she soon
took to wrecking the whole base, and when struck at one point by
Changeling…that’s when she ended up leading to her own death. She
was buried in Markovia, with the Outsiders, including Geo-Force,
attending her funeral alongside the Titans.
The Judas Contract still stands out today as one of
the most well-known Titans stories of its time, and really shook
them to the core of their personalities, as they couldn’t believe
how they’d been had for fools by this seemingly cute little girl who
turned out to be a psychopath, and who even showed how far she went
by smoking cigarettes. And best of all, when written, it was done as
a story only meant to affect the protagonists of this one single
title, in contrast to how DC – and Marvel – have since been going
out of their way to force a specific vision upon an entire universe.
As Wolfman’s made clear over the years, and talks about in the TPB's
forward pages, Terra was intended from the very start to be an
unlikable character, boiling over with hatred, even though there
were some people who didn’t like what was done and turned out to be,
and in the letters of correspondence they got at DC, one reader
actually sent a death threat letter against them! They sent that
letter to the police for investigation.
No doubt some of the audiences' reaction was mixed to a certain
extent at the time, but today, it's certainly come to be considered
one of the best of the Titans' storylines of the 1980s. And to say
the least, what I like best about how all this story was done is
that, in contrast to all the arbitrary steps being taken by a lot of
writers and editors today, including the hack job in Identity
Crisis, what Wolfman did here was to come up with a character
specially intended to be written as a villainess, and even more or
less indicated what she was like from the start.
That, to say the least, is just GOOD writing, and good premise
building. And that’s what makes the Judas Contract work so well.
This is one of the best trade books by Wolfman and Perez, which is
great for reading, more than once too, in fact.
Copyright 2005 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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