Saturday, August 13, 2016

Tales of the Teen Titans #43 (1984)

Tales of the Teen Titans #43 (June, 1984)
"The Judas Contract, Book Two: Betrayal!"
Writer/Co-Creator/Co-Editor - Marv Wolfman
Artist/Co-Creator/Co-Editor - George Perez
Co-Embellishers - Mike DeCarlo & Dick Giordano
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Letterer - Ben Oda
Cover Price: $0.75

As we head toward the senses-shattering conclusion of both The Judas Contract and our The Life and Times of Tara Markov special feature, let's look at an issue that features... very little Terra.  Perhaps the least we see of her, outside of her first appearance at the Statue of Liberty.


We open up with Dick Grayson sitting at a typewriter in his apartment.  This uses the "cinematic style" credits structure I like so much from Titans tales of this era.  Suddenly, Deathstroke the Terminator busts in through the nearby window.  Now this is insane... Slade Wilson is standing in Dick Grayson's apartment.  Also, of note... Dick has a "Grayson" nameplate on his desk, which is all sorts of precious.

A pretty awesome battle commences, and Dick... for the most part is able to hold his own.  When the going gets a bit too tough, however, Dick bails out the hole where his window used to be.  He uses his $300 leather jacket to slow his fall by hooking it on a railing, then drops into a pile of refuse.

Dick hightails it into a nearby park, and Slade squeezes a single shot in his direction.  Noticing there are too many civilians about, he decides to give chase by hoofing it.  The same woman we saw at the close of last chapter is watching from her car... and again mentions that Slade appears to have gotten "sloppy".

Lucky for Dick, there are hundreds of New Yorkers participating in a marathon at the park, and he is able to lose Slade in the crowd.  He activates his Titans emergency signal... and when nobody replies, he realizes that he was not the first of his team to receive a "visit" from the Terminator.

His first stop from there is the penthouse apartment of Donna Troy and Koriand'r.  He finds it in shambles.  Among the wreckage is a letter to Kory... from him?  From here, he flips into detective mode, and reconstructs what must have gone down.  Kory received a gift... which exploded upon opening, leaving her vulnerable to abduction.

Next stop, Donna Troy's studio.  It too is in a state of disarray.  There's a bottle of developing solution spilled on the floor... upon giving it a whiff, Dick realizes it's an alcohol mix-in, that caused a toxic ether to be created when added with the acid in the dark-room's tray.

He now heads to the apartment of Victor Stone.  We see the woman and the blonde fellow observing Dick's progress.  Inside, he comes across a chair gimmicked with high-voltage electrical charged cuffs.  

Last stop... Titan's Tower.  Inside Dick is surprised to find a giant pillar of earth going through the ceiling.  He immediately concludes that Terra must have been Slade's next target.  He continues upstairs and is surprised again... this time by the woman and her blonde companion.  She introduces herself as Adeline and her son as Joseph before breaking the news that Terra wasn't the victim in this melee... she was the aggressor.  Not only that, she's in cahoots with Deathstroke the Terminator.

Dick is understandably shaken... and extremely skeptical.  Who is this woman anyway... and why would she know anything about Titans business?  Adeline continues postulating what must have gone down during the skirmish.  She suggests that Terra wanted to take Raven out because, as an empath, she was the only one who could detect the true evil within her.

As Adeline continues trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together for Dick, he realizes that he'd neglected to check on Gar.  He calls Dayton's place and the maid goes to fetch the lad.  What she finds instead is a letter from the "Teen Titans Fan Club" with a stack of photos for autographing and envelopes for mailing.  Dick deduces that perhaps Gar shared a similar fate to Susan from Seinfeld.

Dick finally begins to face facts... this Adeline lady might just be on the level.  Dick notices that she refers to the Terminator as "Slade", and raises a quizzical eyebrow.  To which, she reveals that at one point in time, Deathstroke the Terminator... was her husband.

We wrap up with a bit of an epilogue.  Deep in the Rocky Mountains lay the base for H.I.V.E. (Hierarchy for International Vengeance and Extermination... that's hardcore).  Inside, the "worker bees" get a call from Deathstroke... who makes the weighty claim that the contract... is complete, and the Titans... are theirs.


What's that sound?  I think that's the other shoe dropping...

Here's where we really start ramping up.  The Titans have been picked off, one-by-one... with only Dick Grayson, who's sorta-kinda on the "reserved players" list at the moment remaining.

Here we also properly meet a pretty important character, Slade Wilson's ex-wife, Adeline.  We'll be learning much more about her in the coming issues, however, here is where she makes her presence known and felt.  I like that she, being Deathstroke's former wife, is able to theorize how he is feeling just by his body language.  She brings up some great points, which are echoed by the man himself.  This is the first time he's included any (potentially confounding) variables into his plan.  Terra, for as well as the Terminator may think he knows her... is still a complete and total wild card.

Deathstroke also shows us a bit of his honorable streak here... refusing to just open fire into a street full of civilians.  He squeezes off a single shot before realizing... and you get the feeling, just maybe his heart skipped a beat as he pulled that trigger.  His contract is for the Titans... there's no need for innocents to get caught in the literal, and figurative crossfire.

When Dick is finally clued in by the Wilsons regarding Terra's betrayal, he's adamantly opposed to it.  Not in the Batman, "there's no way she could have pulled this on me!" kinda way, but more in the "I want to believe she is a good person." way.  It's definitely a lot to take in... and Adeline's expression of patience is the perfect way to allow Dick to reflect and process this Earth-shattering information.

Dick-as-detective is on display throughout his tour of the Titans homes.  This is such a great way of using this character.  He can deduce what occurred to several of his teammates by just analyzing the environment.

So... has Terra officially crossed the line at this point?  Well, if this wasn't comics, I'd say... Yes, of course.  For all we know, the Titans are dead.  With this being comics, I'm more of a mind of... ehhh... she might be able to turn this around.  She could always still turn on Deathstroke, save the Titans, and truly take her place as a hero.  Of course, we've got that cruel hindsight to deal with... but, let's indulge and play along for just a little bit longer...


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