By Jarrod Jones. It has been an entire year since DC Comics kicked off its highly successful Rebirth initiative — and ushered in a bold new era for all things Titans in the process.
“The Lazarus Contract”, the latest Rebirth crossover event, seemed designed to royally muck up the lives of the Titans, the Teen Titans, and Deathstroke in one fell swoop. The event also loosely aimed itself at the temporal antics that have been taking place within the megastructure of the DC Universe for the past six years or so. (Something that was touched upon, briefly, during “The Button” event that just ran through Batman and The Flash.)
Titans #11, Teen Titans #8, and Deathstroke #19 played out quite succinctly: Deathstroke, bereaved by the death of The Ravager (after Rebirth shook loose the memories of his untimely demise), decided to break his way into the Speed Force, travel back in time, and save his son. The Titans and the Teen Titans teamed up to talk ol’ Slade off the crazy train before he utterly wrecked the timeline in a way that not even Dr. Manhattan himself could repair.
Teen Titans Special #1 has hit the stands, so it’s high time we took a moment to evaluate “The Lazarus Contract” — what it was, and what it means for the future of the DCU. Needless to say, big time spoilers ahead.
Teen Titans Special #1
Written by Priest with a story by Priest, Benjamin Percy and Dan Abnett.
Art by Paul Pelletier.
Inks by Andrew Hennessy.
Colors Adriano Lucas.
Letters by Willie Schubert.
What’s Special about this Annual? We were teased with the “epic conclusion” in “Teen Titans Annual #1” at the end of Deathstroke #19. And since its release occurred the following week — which just so happened to be a dreaded Fifth Week, where Annuals and a heaping amount of trades get dumped into the back of rickety Diamond rickshaws — it was natural to expect that the first post-Rebirth Teen Titans annual was forthcoming.
Well, that wasn’t the case. Teen Titans Special #1 fell into our laps instead. DC Comics also released annuals to Trinity and Wonder Woman this week, and for a minute it appeared that the publisher would follow suit with Teen Titans. Why the sudden, and seemingly arbitrary change?
Did this change occur simply to avoid confusion? If so, what was the confusion everyone was worried about, and was it any less confusing than this? What is the fundamental difference between a “special” and an “annual” anyway? Will there ever be a Teen Titans Annual #1? Are other DC books getting a “special”? Does “getting a ‘special'” sound particularly awful to anyone else? *rubs temples* I’m… I’m going to go take a nap.
Crossover Conundrum. It wasn’t so long ago that an involved crossover like “The Lazarus Contract” would demand its own mini-series, an array of tie-in issues, and maybe even a one-shot thrown in for good measure. Fortunately for us (and our wallets), DC Comics has stuck to its guns and kept all of its events self-contained and, perhaps most crucially, brief.
While an event featuring fourteen characters might require some breathing room — and “The Lazarus Contract” certainly did — the contained, four-issue format spanning Titans, Teen Titans, Deathstroke, and this Teen Titans special made absorbing it easier. But in true event fashion, the compressed format made the already convoluted story even more so.
The major impetus behind “The Lazarus Contract”, aside from giving Titans fans a case of the nostalgic warm ‘n’ fuzzies, was to radically alter the post-Rebirth landscape for Titans, Teen Titans, and Deathstroke. In that regard, it certainly got the job done.
Let’s take a look at the big-time changes that occurred in Teen Titans Special #1, one at a time.
‘Titans’ Twist. For Titans, superficially at least, not a whole bunch looks to have changed here. The book will be moving on from “The Lazarus Contract” directly into Titans #12, where a new dilemma faces the team.
One of their very own is destined to betray them… and it could be anyone! was the hook in DC’s June solicits. Who will betray the Titans, and how does this tie into “The Lazarus Contract”? Perhaps the ending of Teen Titans Special #1 holds a clue.
During the Titans’ trip into the past, Nightwing, The Flash, Donna Troy and the rest confronted the younger versions of themselves. An awesome twist for any DC fan to be sure, but one that turned out to be perplexingly severe.
With Deathstroke marauding through the Speed Force, changing the past at the risk of everyone’s future, Robin decided the easiest way to put the kibosh on the Terminator was to destroy the one person who made all of this possible — Wally West. Specifically, the pre-Flashpoint version of Wally West. (And not, say the post-Flashpoint Wally West, who actually helped Deathstroke. But it’s fine, everything’s fine.)
Damian used some creepy League of Assassins methods to stop the young Kid Flash’s heart, thus “killing” him long enough to remove Wally from the timeline yet again. *reaches for the Advil* Once Deathstroke lost his superspeed — not to mention his wanton desire to terminate things for money, in keeping with the eponymous Contract — the Titans revived Wally. The damage, as Yo La Tengo once said, was done.
An epilogue sequence revealed that Wally had developed a heart condition courtesy of Damian Wayne. Fitted with a pacemaker, poor, put-upon Wally was warned to give up being The Flash; otherwise that big ol’ heart of his would eventually give out.
Will Wally take this personally? Did DC bring Wally back to us just to have him turn heel? Should Damian move to the next multiverse over? Answers, for Titans anyway, will have to wait.
Teen Titans NO! Wally West — the Wally West from New 52 continuity, that is — ostensibly put everyone in the universe in danger. A case could be made that Wally betrayed the Teen Titans and their whole “we punch Deathstroke; we don’t help him” credo by providing Slade Wilson with aid. “Paved with good intentions”, and all that.
This is perhaps the most predictable consequence of “The Lazarus Contract”. Since DC solicits have already told us that Wally lands on his feet and joins another team (more on that after a bit), it wasn’t a matter of if Wally would leave the Teen Titans — it was a matter of when. And, for the sake of drama, how.
Damian, who holds a tenuous leadership role in the team at best, flexed his moral superiority and bounced Kid Flash the heck out of the Teen Titans. What does this hold for the Flash Family, and specifically, this increasingly complicated Tale of Two Wallys? Only time will tell.
The Defiant. Slade Wilson will endure more changes following “The Lazarus Contract” than anyone else.
“The Lazarus Contract” featured Slade making a deal with post-Flashpoint Wally West: if Wally helped Slade achieve his goal — to save The Ravager from his fabled death all the way back in New Teen Titans #2 — then Deathstroke would give up being, well, Deathstroke. Wally fulfilled his end of the deal, though Slade ultimately did not get what he was after.
Rocketing through the Speed Force has a tendency to lend perspective to anyone insane enough to try it. Deathstroke was no exception. Walking away from the Titans with the weight of the multiverse on his shoulders, it appeared that Slade Wilson was keen on keeping his word to Wally.
That means big changes are coming to Deathstroke. The “Defiance” storyline is on its way, teaming Slade (and his new, altruistic world-view) with Wally West, Power Girl, Terra, and his two surviving children, Rose and Jericho. This new team will certainly kick up controversy within the DCU, and Slade’s good-guy persona (complete with a brand new, not-at-all subtle black and white costume) will doubtlessly get tons of chatter on the internet.
We’ll see how this new direction plays out in the next few issues of Deathstroke. While Team Defiant certainly looks awesome (especially in that Ryan Sook piece above), “Deathstroke: The Super-Friend” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
6.5 out of 10
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