New Teen Titans #34 – Reviews Of Old Comics

blogheaderBefore I settled on this story of Terra betraying the Teen Titans, I really struggled figuring out what DC Comic to review this time around. My first choice was the infamous Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #106. My wife wanted me to review something from the Golden Age, perhaps even the very first DC Comic. Golden Age comics from before the explosion of super-heroes are a mish-mosh of genres and stories. Then I wanted to do an issue of Adventure Comics featuring work by Alex Toth. Unfortunately, that also featured three other stories that I didn’t care for. Finally, I decided on New Teen Titans #34.

This was truly the beginning of The Judas Contract. A case could be made that it began from the moment Terra first appeared, this was where the readers were let in that the Terminator had a spy inside the Teen Titans. At this moment, whatever other story was happening, readers were waiting for the moment when Terra would betray the Titans or turn on the Terminator.

I also need to note that I’m referring to him as the Terminator in this review. At this time, Slade Wilson almost solely went by the Terminator. He wouldn’t be referred to solely as Deathstroke until well after the Judas Contract was done. By then, it was obvious that the James Cameron franchise was stronger than the reputation of this character in the comics.

New Teen Titans #34

August 1983
DC Comics

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: George Pérez
Inker: Romeo Tanghal
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Todd Klein

Synopsis:

In the upper east side of Manhattan, a man discusses his investments and business matters with his butler. It quickly becomes apparent that this business man is Slade Wilson, also known as the Terminator. He is the best mercenary money can buy, but he’s failed at his contract to kill the Teen Titans. He has to finish that contract and sets out to do so, reminiscing about the old days with his wife Adelaide, whom he describes as “one helluva marksman.”
 
Terra is bored in Titans Tower doing monitor duty, but thinking about how the Teen Titans have yet to trust her with all of their secrets. The Titans surprise her with a sixteenth birthday cake. The frivolity is brief as Terra confronts them with why she hasn’t been trusted with their secret identities or even a chair in their meeting room.
 
Meanwhile, Robin is raiding the home of drug lord Scarapelli with District Attorney Adrian Chase. Robin worries because they don’t have a warrant. Scarapelli pulls a gun on Chase, but Robin easilly disarms him. Chase has Robin arrest Scarapelli for illegal possession of a gun, which is what the warrant he didn’t tell Robin about is for. Scarapelli tells Chase he’s a dead man for arresting him.
 
The Titans try to reassure Terra that they consider her part of the team and will share their secrets with her soon. Wonder Girl has to go see her boyfriend, but stops to talk to Kid Flash, who’s considering his place on the team. On Wall Street, the Terminator goes after a target.
 
As Terry Long finishes his college class, a student blatantly flirts with him. SHe is interrupted by Donna Troy (Wonder Girl) flashing her engagement ring. She has accepted his proposal, but wants to hold off on a wedding until after she finds her true parents.
 
Terra has started insisting that the Titans share their secrets with her. She is becoming emotional and belligerent. They assure her it’s simply that they have no rules for new members. She threatens to leave, but the argument is interrupted by a phone call from Sarahg Simms, whom Cyborg has feelings for, but feels betrayed when he discovered she’d had a fiance. He refuses to talk to her. After she hangs up, Sarah tells her fiance that it’s over, and has been over since before she met Cyborg. She throws him out of her apartment and tells him to stay out of her life.
 
Terra tells Changeling that she won’t quit. The Terminator makes a video call. He’s captured the stockbroker he was after, but having failed in killing the Titans, he offers a trade. The Titans give up their lives for his captive. Terra knocks Changeling unconscious and goes after Terminator herself.
 
Terra crashes into the office the Terminator and his captive are in. He doesn’t know her, but is able to hold his own against her attack. The fight is taken to street where Terra blasts him through the air. Terminator is able to save himself, and as he hears the other Teen Titans approaching, he stuns Terra with an explosive disk. She is conscious enough to recognize Kid Flash saving her from a fall with a speed-created tornado. The Titans attack Terminator as a team, but he gets the drop on Kid Flash and holds him as a bargaining chip for his escape. Suddenly he’s captured by Terra using a giant fist of rock. Rather than be captured, Terminator uses an explosive to apparently blow himself up.
 
The Titans congratulate Terra, who walks away needing to do something on her own. The Teen Titans resolve to share all their secrets with her the next day. Terra returns to her apartment. She’d told Changeling that she’d been a captive in here. However, she’s meeting her secret partner, confiding that he had hired the terrorists, and the Titans don’t have a clue that they’ve been set up. They don’t realize that Terra has been placed in their group by her partner, the Terminator.
 
Robin argues with Adrian Chase over the methods he’s used, including bending the law to arrest Scarapelli. He storms out and Chase’s wife mentions that his uncle Arthur sent their son a toy clown for his birthday. Chase immediately tells his wife that he doesn’t have an “Uncle Arthur” just before it explodes as Robin is riding away, just below their apartment building, witnessing the massive explosion.

Review:

This is probably the height of the quality of stories in New Teen Titans, if not the height of Teen Titans stories overall. Things are clicking on almost every level. Wolfman and Pérez meshed so well together at this point, that it bacame hard to separate the two. DC Comics would even make them the creative team on Crisis on Infinite Earths about two years later. When people talk about great comic runs from the 1980s, New Teen Titans almost invariably tops the list. This would also set the example for a great creative team taking a b-list title and elevating it to the upper levels of the publisher’s catalogue. It’s an example that creator’s strive for to this day.

Wolfman set the stage here for a subplot that would last for almost another year. With Terra’s introduction, the stage was set, but this is where it all was set into motion. He drops clues into the dialogue. Terminator uses the phrase “quite a show” when attacking Terra. When saved by Kid Flash, Terra’s thought balloon includes, “It worked!” This gives away that in attacking Terminator, Terra had a plan. I’m interested in going back to Terra’s first appearance to see if the clues were there as well.

The artwork is, as mentioned, the height of George Pérez’s reputation. there are some rocky points, most likely a combination of speed, economy of line, possibly inking, but the expressions are exquisite. The hands are expressive, which is something a lot of artists don’t get. Hands are fantastic storytellers, and Pérez makes use of his rendering skill to make them just as important as the faces of the characters.His backgrounds are detailed, making them feel absolutely real. Terra’s old apartment in Brooklyn feels old, despite it only briefly appearing. There are only a few hiccups, but they get quickly forgotten. Overall, this is almost a perfect comic, especially in getting someone to pick up the next issue, as it not only ends with a cliffhanger that goes into the introduction of the Vigilante, but has the lingering treachery of Terra’s betrayal of the Titans.


 

Notes:

This issue has been collected in The New Teen Titans: Terra Incognito, which can be found affordably. That volume should also be included with The Judas Contract, which needs to be in your collection, regardless. It’s also available online, if you’d prefer to read it digitally. An individual issue shouldn’t set you back too much, and could probably be found in a bargain box. Remember, though that this story includes Tales of the Teen Titans #44, which is not only Deathstroke’s origin, but the first time Dick Grayson becomes Nightwing.

Final Rating: 9.2 (out of 10)