Friday, August 12, 2016

Tales of the Teen Titans #42 (1984)


Tales of the Teen Titans #42 (May, 1984)
"The Judas Contract, Book One: The Eyes of Tara Markov!"
Writer/Co-Creator - Marv Wolfman
Artist/Co-Creator - George Perez
Inker - Dick Giordano
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist- Adrienne Roy
Editors - Marv & George

Welcome to the endgame of The Life and Times of Terra Markov.

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We open with Starfire posing in a... creative bathing suit for a Donna Troy photo shoot.  As they call it a wrap, we see that fellow Titans, Dick Grayson, Gar Logan... and a very inquisitive Tara Markov are all present.  In their civilian guises... at Donna's studio.  This is just the first step in our (and Terra's) Titans Tour... hope you bought your ticket!


Next stop, the penthouse apartment of Donna Troy and Koriand'r.  Terra can't help but ask how Donna can afford to live in such opulence.  Donna comes clean about her Amazonian benefactor.  Tara also gets to meet... Terry Long.  It is decided (over cocoa and sandwiches) that the upcoming Long-Troy wedding will take place at Steve "Mento" Dayton's Estate.


Donna continues wedding-planning, and the subject of bridesmaids comes up.  Donna asks Tara if she would be in her wedding party.  Terra... doesn't seem touched, so much as surprised.  Gotta wonder if this might throw an unexpected kink in Deathstroke's plan.  We wrap up planning the nuptials with Dick accepting the responsibility of "giving Donna away".


After the cocoa party, Dick, Gar and Tara head out... with the latter two walking the former to his apartment.  I really like this scene... it's hard to explain, but Terra is no longer a novelty at this point.  She's just a member of the team.  She no longer stands out on the panel... she's literally and figuratively hiding in plain sight.  It just feels right... and it's a reminder (to me) of how gutsy this whole storyline is.  From what Wolfman and Perez have said... they planned this entire thing from soup to nuts, just so they wouldn't accidentally "fall in love" with the character, and change their minds at the last minute.  I can certainly see that here... it must have been pretty difficult.


Tara and Gar continue their winter stroll through the park.  Of note, Tara now has her arm wrapped around Gar's.  It's cute... and, speaking with the benefit of hindsight, painfully sad.  They come across Cyborg as he attempts to ice skate with his young friends from the special school (and Sarah).  We learn here that Vic ain't too hot on skates, and he falls flat on his metallic backside.


From there, Tara and Gar accompany Vic to his cruddy apartment.  Terra makes some snotty comments about the neighborhood and Vic's ability to read, yet he invites her up for cocoa anyway.  Upstairs, Vic gets a telegram from his grandparents who promise (or threaten, if you're Vic) to come out for a visit in one-month's time.


Last stop... Titan's Tower.  Now, this is a short (one page)... but very important scene.  While they wait for the barge to arrive... Gar and Tara finally share a kiss.  I'll go deeper into this during the rumination below, but this is among the most tragic scenes I can recall in comics.  This kiss means everything... and nothing at the same time.  There's really a lot that can be said about it... just look at the juxtaposition between the third and fourth panels on the bottom of the page.  In one, Terra's smiling... and Perez, being the master of faces that he is... makes her look, perhaps for the first time (in the Titan's presence) happy.  Now, let's look at the next panel... *click*... just a moment later, she still takes a photo to send to Deathstroke.  Heartbreaking.


Inside the Tower, Terra has a run-in with the one Titan who might just be on to her... Raven.  Lucky for her, Raven is currently being tortured by empathic overload... and can't say for certain that the "evil" is emanating from Terra herself.  Terra listens for a bit, before promising that Slade can have the rest of the Titans... but she wants Raven for herself.


The next day is "Training Day" for the Teen Titans, and we start with Cyborg.  He's nearly being crushed by several tons of steel... he struggles to hold it aloft.  When it appears he can't take anymore... he asks for... and then demands more!  When he overcomes the trial, he makes his ambitions clear.  He wants to push himself in his relatively new robotic form, the same way he had while he was a young athlete.


Next up, Wonder Girl and Starfire have themselves an American Gladiators style duel using sticks while floating on a raft in the pool.  I probably used about seven words too many in my description... I apologize.  The story here is, Donna has never beaten Kory during a sparring match.  This one proves no different.  Terra watches the two go at it... and calculates just how she'll take them out when the time comes.


Last, but not least... it's Terra and Gar's turn to spar.  Given their power types, it's decided that they practice out in the snow.  Now, here's another really cool scene.  I guess I've never given Gar his due... because he really handles himself well here.  Terra's powers are practically useless in this battle, as Changeling keeps changing shape to suit the attack.


Unfortunately, Gar being Gar... he takes his trash-talking a bit too far.  We find that Terra doesn't really have that great'a sense of humor when it comes to her super powers... and so, she loses it!  Raven is watching from her room... and now has a better indication of where the "evil" she was sensing is coming from.


The Titans do their best to defuse the situation, and Terra... thinking on her feet, blames the entire episode on her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from having been held captive by terrorists.  The Titans are cautious... but appear to shake it off... all save one.  Raven knows something's going on.


We shift to Deathstroke's chateau, where he calls Terra out for her foolish outburst.  Tara's like "Pshhh... Slade, you worry too much!" and they (with Wintergreen) all board a helicopter, ready to complete what may be their final contract.

Our view changes... to that of a video screen.  Somebody is watching Deathstroke and Company... but who?  A woman laughs that Slade must be getting sloppy to not realize he's being observed.  There's a curly blonde head peeking out from the chair next to her... hmm...


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As I've mentioned a few times on our trek down the Terra-trail... I've read this run of Titans a bunch... a whole bunch.  And yet, even today... after reading it again, I still hold out hope that it'll somehow surprise me, and have a happy ending.  This was the first time we get to see Terra and the Titans all civvied out.  What's amazing is... it feels right.  Like, really right.

The Tara and Gar "relationship" is special.  It's got that odd, uncanny ability to bring me back to my youth... there's that innocent romance that I feel many of us experienced in our youths... those days that just, I dunno... you lived for that one moment.  That one... maybe it was a minute... hell, maybe it was a handful of seconds.  Yet your whole life revolved around it.  You get that feeling from Gar... he's treasuring these moments with his (maybe more than a) friend.

The Titans tour we accompany Terra on is both engaging and horrifying, given the circumstances.  In just this one day, she was able to transmit the Titans home addresses to the Terminator.  None of this feels forced, or inorganic in any way... it all makes sense, which is part of what makes this entire endeavor so incredible.

Now... the kiss on the dock.  Ya know, with the cruel benefit of hindsight... this scene really makes my heart break for ol' Logan.  The entire day up to this point, he'd been engaging in some... uncharacteristic, honest self-depreciation.  Now, here he is... getting a full on (romantic?) kiss from the girl he's been crushing on for months at this point.  

Let's discuss what surrounds that kiss for just a moment.  Was this an instance of Terra "playing a character"?  Was this her just keeping up appearances to keep her teammates off the scent... or was it something more?  Did she just give in to her emotions here?  Was it the sunset... or did she really (unwittingly) find herself enjoying the day she spent with her teammate... her, friend?  I'm probably putting way more thought into this than is warranted... and I'm not even sure I'm getting my thoughts across.  This all leads to my favorite single-issue of a comic book ever... so, it's one of those more important bits to me.

I'll wrap up by posing the same question I've been asking for the past few entries... Has Terra crossed the point of no return?  Has she gone from person doing something bad to bad person?  She's certainly doing her part for the Terminator's contract... but, I still gotta say, no.  I personally don't feel she's irredeemable... yet.  Conflicted, yes... perhaps a bit unstable, sure... unaware of the ramifications of her actions?  Maybe?  Or, then again... maybe not.

I figure this is good a time as any to mention that this story is getting the DC animated feature treatment... I guess it was announced at Comicon, however, since I don't follow the news... I just found out about it this morning via a Facebook message!  Not sure quite how I feel about it... suppose it really doesn't matter.  I'm just not sure how they'll be able to ingrain Terra into the Titans and have her turn traitor in the same film, and have it mean anything.  Eh, that's for other people to worry about... we'll continue with the comics tomorrow!
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