The Underaged Infiltrator

The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract TPB
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 gear.

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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