Tales Of The Teen Titans #42 – Review Of Old Comics

blogheaderLast time, I reviewed an early issue of New Teen Titans. In it, I remarked about some changes George Pérez made over the years. I decided that rather than letting those lie, I would go and see if I was remembering right. (SPOILER: not entirely)

The biggest difference is in the Inker. Dick Giordano inks George Pérez in a much different manner than Romeo Tanghal. Giordano was one of the best inkers ever in the history of comics. Whether or not he’s better on Pérez than Romeo Tanghal is a matter for debate. However, the heights in the early issues of New Teen Titans were a little different than here. There wasn’t much of an extreme as I remembered, but a lot of the difference is in how tall George Pérez draws Starfire’s hair. Changeling is definitely shorter, or Cyborg is taller, just based on this issue. 

Nevertheless, let’s get started by reviewing another comic from 1984, an influential year for comic books. This issue marks the start of the conclusion to a subplot that started in the second issue of New Teen Titans, marking a standard for betrayal stories in super-hero comics. Let’s look at part one of “The Judas Contract.” 

Tales Of The Teen Titans #42

May 1984
DC Comics

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciler: George Pérez
Inker: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: John Costanza

Synopsis:

Starfire is posing in a bikini for a film festival. Taking the photos is her teammate Donna Troy, alias Wonder Girl. Changeling and Terra enter with his standard flirting and joking. Unknown to everyone, Terra is secretly taking pictures of Donna’s studio with her contact lens camera. Later, in Donna’s apartment, they talk about her upcoming wedding to her fiancee, Terry Long. They’ll hold the wedding at Changeling’s estate home. Dick Grayson will give Donna away. Donna surprises Terra by asking her to be a bridesmaid.

Changeling and Terra walk home with Dick Grayson, with Terra taking photos of where he lives. After leaving Grayson’s apartment, the two walk into the park. There, Cyborg is helping his friend/ love interest Sarah Simms teach handicapped children to ice skate. Cyborg is doing poorly, despite some flirtatious coaxing by Sarah. He falls, expressing relief that Changeling isn’t there to see it. Unfortunately he looks up to see a green, cartoonish bunny quoting the line from Bambi, “Kinda wobbly, isn’t he?”

They go back to Cyborg’s apartment in a very bad neighborhood. Inside, Cyborg finds a telegram from his grandparents to let him know they’ll be arriving in a month. Cyborg dreads seeing them, but not getting into too much detail about them. Afterwards, Changeling takes Terra back to the barge to Titans Tower where she kisses him, much to his elation. When Terra walks to her room, she speaks to Raven, who confesses that she keeps her distance from Terra. She does so because she senses a great evil inside her., Raven does admit that it could be distorted because of her father Trigon’s influence. As she walks away, Terra swears that she’ll be the one to take out Raven when the time comes to betray the Titans.

The next day sees the Titans training. Cyborg pushes himself past his strength and endurance levels just to prove that he can improve himself. He wants to show that he is not defined by his mechanical parts. Starfire and Wonder Girl square off with staffs on floating platforms in the pool. It’s an intense fight that ends with Starfire knocking Wonder Girl into the pool. The two embrace and the Titans go outside so Changeling and Terra can combat train.

During the battle, Changeling constantly evades Terra’s attacks and taunts her. Raven watches from her room, musing that Changeling shouldn’t taunt Terra. Raven can sense the hatred building in Terra. Terra finally snaps and unleashes a vicious barrage, and almost kills him with a molten boulder. The Titans snap her out of her rage. Terra swears in a panic that Changeling’s taunting made her flashback to when she was held captive by terrorists.

Later, the Terminator tells Terra that she nearly blew her cover and ruined his plan. Terra assures him that the Titans are nothing for them to take out. However, with all of the information Terra has collected, the time to strike has come. Terminator says goodbye to his servant Wintergreen, while a mysterious duo with secretly watches from elsewhere.

At the pool, the new Titans bond, especially Starfire, who misses her family. Cyborg then arrives to inform them of the attack he just survived. In Terminator’s penthouse, he informs Grant Wilson that the powers that the H.I.V.E. gave him will kill him, as they feed on his body’s energy supply. Grant refuses to listen and storms out to find and kill the Titans.

Review:

There are so many panels that I want to show here, the art is that good. As a matter of fact, everything here is good. I usually start with the story, but so much is a blend of the writing and art working together. Marv Wolfman doesn’t explain what is being shown. He uses space that lesser writers use explaining the panel to explore the characters. You could drop a novice reader into this comic. Not a single Titan goes unexplored. Readers are left curious by the references that are dropped in about the history of these characters.

In the days before back issues were readily available, this was a way of getting readers to start buying the series. With Marv Wolfman, it worked exquisitely. Not only did it build an audience for DC Comics, but it created a generation of collectors, but not speculators. These collectors sought out back issues to read them, and learn the history that had been referenced. Wolfman wasn’t the only writer that did this, Claremont and Levitz spring to mind, but he was one of the best.

George Pérez’s designing of Terra is awesome. George drew her with an overbite and a round face. She looks like a kid. This disarms the reader as to Terra’s role in this story. The Terminator is not the villain of the Judas Contract. Terra is the real villain, but we see it only in those moments that none of the other characters are paying her any attention. When she looks over her shoulder at Raven, it’s a dead giveaway that this girl will betray the Titans, despite anything we’ve seen before this.

Dick Giordano can sometimes look a little scratchy, but he captures everything Pérez is putting on the page. Giordano is one of the most influential people in the 1980s, but it was a career that spanned decades. He started at Charlton Comics, rising to the level of executive editor and giving early work to many creators that would go on to become legends, like Denny O’Neil and Jim Aparo. When he went to DC, he took many of those artists with him, and even took the opportunities to ink over the pencils of legendary artists like Neal Adams. It was these relationships that would elevate the art form of comics and transform an industry.

Giordano left DC in the early 1970s. He was frustrated with a lack of opportunity. With Neal Adams, he founded Continuity Associates, which became the launching ground for many more careers in comics. This relationship also brought Giordano more work with DC as an artist on a variety of titles and covers. Jeanette Kahn brought him back to DC in the early 1980s where he quickly rose to become executive editor for a decade. He continued to ink, including this issue, and following George Pérez to the groundbreaking Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Notes:

As If you want to immediately read a digital copy, you can find it on Comixology

This issue has been reprinted in New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, (ISBN: 1401276911), and The New Teen Titans, Vol. 7 (ISBN: 1401271626). If you want a print copy of the single issue, it might set you back a few bucks for a copy in decent condition. In reading shape, it’s more affordable. It’s possible, but not likely, to find it in a bargain bin, especially if it’s well-stocked with 1980’s comics. Finding copies of all of the original issues will be challenging because Tales of the Teen Titans #44 is the first Nightwing and fetching significantly more, and is harder to find.

Final Rating: 10 (out of 10)

There, another comic that gets a perfect rating. This one is worth it. It is the first chapter of a longer story, but on it’s own, it stands as the perfect entry point to the characters. The art is astounding, and definitely worth having in a collection. There’s a reason that the Judas Contract is still referred to today. This issue’s quality is part of that reason.