Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tales of the Teen Titans #44 (1984)


Tales of the Teen Titans #44 (July, 1984)
"The Judas Contract, Book Three: There Shall Come a Titan!"
Co-Creators/Co-Editors - Marv Wolfman & George Perez
Finishers - Mike DeCarlo & Dick Giordano
Letterer - Todd Klein
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Cover Price:  $0.75

The finish line is firmly in our sights... welcome to the penultimate chapter of The Life and Times of Tara Markov... in which Tara Markov makes zero appearances, but still looms large.

I hope you've been enjoying.

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We pick up right where we left off last issue... Adeline has told Dick Grayson that she was at one time, the wife of Deathstroke the Terminator.  Dick's still not completely convinced... he doesn't know Adeline from a hole in the wall, and frankly, her mute son kinda skeeves him out.  Dick discribes the way Joseph stares at him as though he's "some sort of disease".


Adeline reveals that her son isn't remaining silent out of disrespect or disdain... but because he had been rendered mute, which she blames on his father.  From here, Adeline casually takes a seat and begins sharing her history with Slade Wilson.


We go into flashback mode... to the early 1960's, at Camp Washington.  A young Slade Wilson arrives, and it isn't long before he becomes something of a legend.  We learn that he lied about his age when he signed up, and became the youngest decorated Korean War veteran.  While there, he caught the eye of a fresh-faced Captain by the name of Adeline Kane.


She was interested in Slade... for a project of sorts.  Kane was on the hunt.  She didn't just want the best of the best... she wanted the best... of the best of the best.  And so, she ran some of the best and brightest through a "course"... which is only completed by one man... Major Slade Wilson.  At the end of the course, however, Adeline herself is able to get the jump on him.


Some time later, it is made clear that there is not only a mutual admiration... but also a mutual respect between the Major and the Captain.  Kane takes Slade to a "special" training camp, some distance away from the camp proper.  Here we see her uncanny firearms acumen.  It's an incredibly silly panel, if I'm being honest, but it definitely gets the point across that Adeline Kane ain't nobody to mess with on the field of battle.


The next year, Slade graduates with honors.  We find out his middle name is Joseph, and that he has no family or friends... barring one.  Major Wintergreen of the British Army.  Adeline comments that she'd never seen Wilson smile so easily as when he was with Wintergreen.


Six months later, Adeline and Slade would be married... not long after, Slade ships off to Vietnam.  While he is gone, Adeline gives birth to their first son, Grant... who would grow up to become the Ravager... and kinda get us into the whole mess we're currently reading about.


From here, we learn that Slade had volunteered for medical experimentation.  The Army sought to test an adrenocortico-tropic-hormone to see if it would help captive soldiers resist truth serums.  It clearly had some adverse affects here.  We see Adeline receive a visit from a traveling Wintergreen, who informs her that something had gone wrong... Slade is in a coma.


He eventually (and obviously) comes out of it, however, is taken off the "front lines".  During the Vietnam War, Slade receives word that his buddy Wintergreen had been taken captive by the Vietcong.  He goes against orders and rescues his brother-in-arms.  Adeline can't for the life of her figure out the bond between the two... we will learn more about that next issue.  Shortly before this, Adeline gives birth to their second son, Joseph William... who we'll be learning more about pretty quick.


Slade is discharged from the Army after this, and is forced to settle down at Adeline's parents family home.  Not content with the mundane, Slade enters a new chapter in his life and undertakes the challenge of big game hunting... and shock of shocks, finds himself quite adept at the sport.


Slade becomes quite famous for his hunting prowess, and becomes a member of high-society.  We watch as his sons grow up... taking diverging paths in their adolescence.  Grant follows pretty firmly in dad's footsteps, while Joseph appears to enjoy things like painting, music, and singing... especially singing.


One night while Slade was away, Adeline heard a trampling of leaves from outside their home.  A trio of mercenaries bust through their front window demanding Deathstroke.  This is Adeline's first time hearing the words "Deathstroke the Terminator" and hasn't quite put it together that the men were demanding her husband.  She is able to handle herself well against the home-invaders, however, one manages to escape with his life... and their son, Joseph!


Slade returns, and Adeline pleads with him to rescue their son... while asking who or what a "Deathstroke the Terminator" is.  It is soon made clear, when Slade dons his battle suit, complete with wildly cuffed boots.  Adeline doesn't even seem shaken by this... she just wants her son back.


They meet with the kidnapper who is holding Joey with a knife across his throat... and Deathstroke stops his wife from begging for their son's life.  The man wants information... but Slade ain't spilling.  Rather than break his professional bond, he begins unleashing a ballistic assault on the abductor.  In the fracas, young Joseph's throat is slashed... not fatally... but enough to cost him his voice.


Some time later, after Joey stabilizes, Adeline and Slade finally discuss the Terminator.  Slade tries to reconcile his behavior... he refuses to call what he does "killing", preferring to describe them as "executions" instead.  Addy's heard enough... and decides it's high time to put Slade down... so she fires a shot at his head... at point blank range.  Thanks to his super keen reflexes, this only costs Slade his right eye.


Thus concludes the flashback... Dick's willing to give Adeline the benefit of the doubt for now, if it means he'll be able to rescue his fellow Titans.  He realizes he's spent long enough without a code name and costume, and heads to his quarters.


Moments later he reemerges... Nightwing.  His reveal is (unfortunately) shared with Joseph sporting his own costume and code name... Jericho.  He intends to join Dick on his mission.


At first Dick's like "Nahhh... Titans only, mutton-chop" before falling victim to Jericho's mutant power (a side effect of the serum injected in his father before he was born).  They make eye contact, and Jericho inhabits Dick's body.  At his mother's command, he causes Dick to punch himself in the face.  This was to demonstrate just how powerful he is... and to prove that had they really wanted to harm Dick, they could have much earlier.


This is good enough for Dick... Jericho, welcome to the club.  The pair heads out to the H.I.V.E. while Adeline watches from the tower... smiling.


--

As we reach the penultimate issue of not only The Judas Contract, but our The Life and Times of Tara Markov feature, we find ourselves witness to one hell of a history lesson, courtesy of Adeline Kane.  Of particular interest, Terra doesn't appear at all (barring the character portrait in the Titan's HQ).

Not a whole lot to say about the story.  It's perhaps the "quiet" chapter of The Judas Contract... and really doesn't tug on my heartstrings all that much.  It's a vital piece of the story to be sure, however, I will admit during my (many) rereads of this storyline, this is the one that I often "skim".

One thing I do appreciate, is the art.  George Perez, to the surprise of absolutely nobody... is pretty good at drawing comics.  What I'm discussing specifically is Adeline-through-the-ages.  This is so fantastic... we see her age through the flashbacks, and in each step... her face hardens a bit more.  We can see what a difficult life she's lived.  From fresh-faced Captain Kane, to the chain smoking hardened mature Adeline.

Perhaps the big deal about this issue (and what keeps its prices aloft) is that it is the first appearance of Nightwing.  A reveal... which, I'm sorry... shouldn't have had to share the page with Jericho in his goofy outfit.  Kinda takes the "oomph" out of the reveal.

Not that I have any problem with Jericho... in fact, my only Jericho complaints come much... much later.  I feel he was a welcome addition to the team... perhaps an odd fit at first, but it doesn't take too long for him to find his place.

That's really all there is to say about this one, I suppose I could ruminate on the Slade Wilson/Wintergreen relationship, but that's more for next issue... our senses-shattering conclusion, which we will be discussing tomorrow.

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