New Teen Titans #39 (1984)

New Teen Titans #39 (February, 1984)

Writer/Co-Creator – Marv Wolfman
Artist/Co-Creator – George Perez
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Letterer – Ben Oda
Editors – Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, & George Perez
Cover Price: $0.75

It’s the last stop ’til Judas, as we continue our look at The Life and Times of Tara Markov!

We open in Alaska, where the Teen Titans have tracked the Church of Brother Blood.  After some chilly recon work, they launch an offensive on one of their bases.

The Brother Blood geeks are fairly easy for the team to take down.  It’s basically the superhero version of a wrestling “squash match”.  The Titans get to do their special moves, and easily wipe the floor with their foes.  Raven senses a “truer evil” elsewhere at the compound (and, she doesn’t mean Terra!) and takes off phasing through a wall.  Wally’s hot on her heels, vibrating himself through the same wall.  When the Titans give chase, they find themselves walking (or running) straight into a trap… an electrified cage!

Luckily, this doesn’t negate the Titans powers, and Gar is able to take the shape of an insect, and buzzes off.  This offers us an opportunity to watch Dick as a tactical leader.  He calls upon a play they used against Trigon around the time they came together as a team.  The Titans join hands, and Gar takes the form of a snake to complete the “circuit” between flesh and electrified metal… shorting out the whole works!

From there, it’s academic.  The Titans beat up the Brothers, and take a moment to reflect on their victory.  Terra’s there to… again press the subject of her being let in on all the Titans super secrets.  Yeesh, kid… give it a rest!  We then shift, not scenes… but view.  We close in on Terra’s baby blues, and transition into a black and white camera type view.  We’re seeing the Titans through her eyes… but why… and, more importantly… how?

Well, now we shift scenes… to Casa Deathstroke, where we learn that Terra has been wearing contact lens-cameras, that have been beaming what she sees to Slade’s video screen.  Terra is there, dressed rather… comfortably, and is enjoying herself a smoke.  I think a lot of us can read into what’s gone on moments before this scene… not that it takes much “reading into”.

What follows is an incredibly odd scene.  Both Slade and Tara accuse one another of “going soft” on the plan.  Terra notices a photo of Slade’s family prominently placed on an end table… and mocks him for it.  Slade mentions that Terra’s not nearly as acidic or sarcastic as she once was… and mocks her for that.  Only one way to settle this, to the Danger Room, my X-Men!

Slade and Terra head out to the nearby tundra, and engage in a scrimmage of sorts… just to ensure both of their heads are still “in the game”.  We mostly follow Deathstroke, as he really works up a sweat dodging earth at every turn… then, check this out… we get a shot at Terra, who’s slowly clapping at his efforts.  She’s exerting next to zero energy to take on Deathstroke the Friggin’ Terminator.

Later, she returns to Titans Tower.  As she approaches, she sees an unfamiliar carrot-top riding the Titans Barge.  The redhead identifies himself as Wally West… ya know, Kid Flash.  This is the first time Terra’s seeing a Titan in his civvies… which means… Deathstroke also now knows Kid Flash’s secret ID.

Inside, Wally breaks the news to his teammates.  Raven feels as though she’s somewhat responsible for his exit… a feeling that Wally isn’t quick to correct.  He says he’s going “all-in” on his college education, and for the most part… his fellow Titans are supportive.  He drops his Flash ring (don’t know that that is really necessary), and tells the gang to establish the Titans Archives.  He turns to Terra, and lets her know that she’s got his spot.

Next up… Robin says he’s done too!  Well, not done as a Titan… just done with being Robin.  Of course, his wording is (perhaps purposely) left nebulous… and the gang thinks their fearless leader is abandoning them.

He clarifies… and there’s a collective sigh of relief.  He then, begins literally stripping off his identity… right in front of his teammates, including his newest teammate, Terra.  Throughout this entire “event”, Wally notices that the Titans care far more for Dick than they ever did him.  When you stop and think about it… it’s actually quite sad.  Wally’s a founding member, after all… and here, he’s nothing more than an afterthought.

Donna is chosen as interim Titans leader, while Dick gets his head straight… and goes shopping for over-sized collars.  He turns his attention to Terra and pats her on the back for “proving herself”… he even goes so far as to give her a peck on the cheek.  What he is unaware of is that all the while, he’s been starring in Slade Wilson’s favorite television show!

We wrap up with Wally and Dick taking their last barge ride together.  Ashore, Fran is waiting to take Wally back to Blue Valley so they can start their young adulthood together.

This is an issue I’d have wanted to eventually cover even I wasn’t running this Terra special feature.  This is one of those iconic cover issues which just beg to be read.  New Teen Titans #39 is definitely one that would have stood out on the racks!

It’s strange, the more I revisit these issues, the more I conclude that outside of Deathstroke, I had very little interest in Titans villains.  Over the past several issues, we’ve seen the Brotherhood of Evil (not the fun version), H.I.V.E., and the Brother Blood Cult.  All pretty “meh” to me.  It’s a testament to the talents of the creative team that these books are still so compelling despite all of that (speaking personally, of course).

A new wrinkle in the terror of Terra is revealed in these pages… let’s talk about that.  This whole time, she’s been wearing contact lens cameras… beaming everything she’s seen onto Deathstroke’s video monitor.  Now, let’s think about this from Slade’s perspective.  Here, he’s watching his sworn enemies… keeping in mind, this isn’t a personal vendetta he has with them, it’s just business… and he’s watching them, take this bucktoothed child in.  Treating her well…

He’s watching them throw her a sweet sixteen birthday party… not because they have to, but because they want to.  They are just good people.  What we know of Deathstroke is that he’s, despite his profession, an honorable man.  I gotta wonder if he started having second thoughts throughout this process… and if not, wow… he’s a lot colder than I’d given him credit for.

Now… has Terra crossed the Rubicon?  Has she stepped over that line of no return?  I don’t think she has… yet.  She’s clearly on the “bad guy” side at the moment, however, I feel there’s definitely still time for her to redeem herself.  The fact that we see her enjoying, what is arguably (and oft theorized) post-coital cigarette while lounging at Slade’s place may indicate just how broken… or confused, she is.  At this point, I would wonder… who’s playing who?  And, is this just one strange game of “chicken” between Slade and Tara?  Are they each waiting for the other to blink?  The fact that I’ve read this skatey-eight hundred times, and still find myself conflicted speaks volumes about how incredible this bit is.

Let’s wrap up by discussing our departing Titans.  Wally’s stepping out, but don’t worry… I have a feeling a coming Crisis may put him back in costume.  Dick dropping the Robin persona is the big deal here.  At this point, he’d been Robin (in our time) almost a half-century.  This was (and is) important.  I gotta say, I love Wally’s observation during the Grayson hoopla.  He is totally upstaged by the former Boy Wonder… which draws a neat little line under his time as a Teen Titan.  At this point in his “career”, he is nothing more than an outsider… he’s alone, though surrounded by friends.  More excellent character work here!

Finally… Dick takes off his domino mask… in front of Terra… who is wearing cameras in her eyes… that are beamed to Deathstroke.  Slade Wilson now knows that Robin is Dick Grayson… it shouldn’t take a genius to connect a few dots, and figure out who’s behind the pointy-eared cape and cowl!  This would’ve rocked my socks had I read it “off the rack”.

Well, this was our final stop on the “Road to Judas”… from here, we jump headlong into The Judas Contract!

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