Tales of the Teen Titans #55 (July, 1985)
“Shades of Gray!”
Marv Wolfman – Writer
Ron Randall – Artist
John Costanza – Letterer
Adrienne Roy – Colorist
Cover Price – $0.75
I suppose I should get it out of the way upfront. As this issue may be my favorite single-issue of any comic book series ever published, this review/discussion may appear biased.
Tales of the Teen Titans #55 takes place following the trial of Deathstroke, wherein during the proceedings an angry Changeling causes enough havoc in the courtroom that most of the charges against the Terminator are dropped. Changeling’s antics damage the Titan’s credibility as expert/character witnesses toward Deathstroke, and he is ultimately only charged with possession of an illegal firearm. He is sentenced to one-year in a minimum security facility, though it is widely known that he will likely only actually serve a day or two.
The issue opens with Changeling getting an earful from his fellow Titans. They acknowledge that the public’s trust in the team was damaged and because of that, Deathstroke ultimately got away with kidnapping and murder. What they are not aware of was that the trial proceeded exactly as Changeling planned. He wanted Deathstroke to remain free, so that he could exact revenge himself.
Deathstroke and Changeling’s history goes back to the opening year of the relaunched New Teen Titans. Early in the series, Deathstroke was actually able to kill Changeling. It was only by the help of the Amazons that he returned to life. Later, leading up to and during “The Judas Contract”, Deathstroke planted a mole inside the team, the young Terra (Tara Markov) who was killed at the end of that storyline. Changeling loved Terra, and blamed Deathstroke for her death.
Following a televised interview with Deathstroke conducted by Titans opponent, Bethany Snow, Changeling loses control and decides it is now time to confront his enemy. Changeling breaks into the minimum security facility holding Slade and attacks him. The melee is discovered by the guards, and Logan is able to escape by shape-shifting into a small insect. Slade is released shortly thereafter, and plans to leave his life as Deathstroke the Terminator behind.
In the days that follow, Wilson receives a threatening letter from Logan, challenging him to a fight to the death at a chasm in upstate New York. Wilson appears to be at peace with the threat, and decides to go through with the meeting.
Upon arrival, Wilson finds that Changeling is waiting for him. In a powerful scene, Changeling is infuriated that Wilson arrived in his plain clothes and NOT in the Deathstroke costume. In his words, “It’s the damned Terminator I want to kill!”.
Wilson plainly states that he is only there to die. He will not draw a weapon, he will not fight back. He invites Logan to kill him… to “end it”.
Logan shifts into a large bird, and approaches his target, claws drawn. Just before reaching his prey, he returns to his humanoid form and falls to the ground. Logan is not a killer, he is unable to go through with such an act. He is a child, unable to process the severity and irrevocable nature of murder until that moment.
Wilson helps Changeling to his feet, and talks to him like a man. Logan was always the most “Teen” of the Teen Titans. He was ever the child of the team, always joking around and not being taken seriously. This moment captures one of the first times that he is spoken to as though he were somebody’s equal. Wilson tells the story of his son, Grant Wilson the Ravager. It was Grant who initially accepted the murder contract on the Teen Titans. A contract Grant was unable to fulfill… the contract the Slade was then honor-bound to complete.
In perhaps the most surreal scene, Wilson suggests that he and Logan grab a bite to eat at a local diner. It was quite interesting seeing Deathstroke the Terminator and Changeling sharing a booth and some greasy diner food.
It is at the diner that the two discuss Terra. Wilson tells Logan just how broken and for lack of a better term, evil, Terra was. He tells him not to romanticize such a person as, in his words, “Don’t ever think she felt anything for you but hate. She was incapable of loving anyone.”.
Slade tells Changeling that he envies him for the friends that he has, and further tells him that they will only take him as seriously as he takes himself.
As the meal wraps up, Logan asks the question that everyone wanted asked, but perhaps did not want the answer to. He asks Slade if he ever made love to Tara. After a moment of silence, Slade replies with, “Would that make any difference?” Absolute perfection!
Wilson leaves, telling Logan he doesn’t see their paths crossing ever again, and ends with a “Take care of yourself, kid.”
Okay, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. This was a gripping, emotionally charged issue that I must admit, I reread perhaps a bit too often. This is Titan’s perfection, from an era known for excellent Titans stories. The fact that this issue stands out from the rest, for me at least, is a testament to its quality.
The character of Garfield Logan was one that I had never taken seriously… until this issue. He was, just as he stated, “Joke-a-Minute Gar”, a character of comparably little substance, and little importance. He actively takes the advice of the one person on the planet he ever wanted to kill, in order to build character.
Logan’s relationship with Terra was interesting, to a point. As mentioned, Logan was the child of the group. He did share a kiss with Terra prior to her passing… very likely his first “real” kiss. His first passionate kiss. He felt as though he shared something special with Terra. Now he knows that it wasn’t.
Terra’s personality has been unfortunately retconned since this issue (although, post-Flashpoint that is nebulous-at-best and moot-at-worst). to having been brainwashed by Wilson. This (Judas Contract era) is the Terra I choose to remember. She was bad, Irredeemably so. She was so bad that Deathstroke the Terminator feared her.
If tasked with assigning this issue with an “Out of 10” score, this is easily at 10/10. Great writing and characterization and great art throughout.
Changeling: “I can’t believe I am sitting here talking with a man I wanted to kill less than an hour ago.”
Deathstroke: “I swear to God, Logan–She’s not worth crying about.”
Changeling: “C’Mon, Terminator–I want to kill you.”
Changeling: “Fight back so I can.”
Changeling: “Fight me, damn you!”
Changeling: “Don’t you care?”
Changeling: “DON’T YOU?!?”
***Edited 3/28/16 – Finally added pictures.