Trade Perspectives: Aalok Joshi remembers The Judas Contract

Thursday, December 23, 2010

[Indian Collected Editions reader Aalok Joshi sent these reminisces from Mumbai before the announcement of the New Teen Titans Omnibus editions]

After reading of The New Teen Titans Archives Vol 1 I felt that I needed another does of that Marv Wolfman/George Perez goodness from the 1980s.  When I discovered that the remaining Archive editions are out of print and the Showcase Presents volumes haven't caught up yet, I decided to start where New Teen Titans Archives Vol 4 ends and the paperbacks begin, with New Teen Titans: Terra Incognito. Just as I was about to buy Terra Incognito, however, I chanced upon a copy of New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, and I just knew I had to pick this up. Terra Incognito may come first, but I had such distinct memories of reading just parts of Judas Contract in single issues that I couldn't pass up an opportunity to read the whole story.

The oldest Teen Titans issue I remember buying is issue 54 of Tales of the Teen Titans, which had a Deathstroke on the front testifying in court with the words "The Trial of the Terminator" on the cover. The story title was "Blind Justice" where Slade is on trial for the murder of Tara Markov or the kidnapping of the Titans or something ... I was a kid then, and I forget easily.

What was odder is that it began with a simple courtroom trial, and ended with an attempt by the Changeling to prove that Slade is innocent of a crime committed while there's another Terminator on the prowl. Changeling goes so as to use Steve Dayton's Mento helmet to prove Slade's innocence, all so Slade doesn't go to jail so Changeling can kill Slade himself to avenge Terra. Twisted? You bet!

The issue that follows, "Shades of Grey," is probably the best coming of age stories I've ever read, and to a reader who had missed previous issues, made the past comparatively clearer. When I chanced upon a single issue with the words "The Judas Contract Part 1," I realized, "This is it." But that was the end of it. I couldn't find any more single issues, and trade collections weren't available, at least in India.

Nowadays, however, I was lucky enough to find Judas Contract just waiting in my local comics shop. The book collects New Teen Titans #39 and 40, and Tales of the Teen Titans #41-44 and Annual #3.

When I began reading these issues in order I was shocked. I had assumed that the fact that Tara Markov or Terra, whom the Titans brought into their midst recently, would be revealed as the traitor in the final issue of the arc. This is revealed to the Titans later in the arc but to the readers in the very first issue.

The first issue sees Kid Flash resigning, while Robin stepping out of the Batman's shadow and taking the first steps to becoming his own man. The following issues have little to do with the overall storyline, featuring the villain Brother Blood, but I'm glad they're collected here. As Wolfman and Perez didn't create this story necessarily intending it for a trade collection, much of it reads as an ongoing should, with plot threads dangling from every issue. Some get resolved over a period of time, while some do not, as was the fashion then.

Here are some other things I noticed while reading the volume:

- The story remains very compelling, despite that the reader knows about Terra's treachery from the beginning.

- No covers are included, and the chapter breaks are montage images. These days I think what we would see would be the covers.

- Part of me feels that they could have included a few issues more in Judas Contract, as I don't think they're going to publish a separate trade of "The Trial of The Terminator" [but with the Omnibus editions, you might get your wish. -- ed.]. They are charging $19.99 for newsprint paperback containing eight issues worth . . . come to think of it that's not as bad a price point as The Question or 52 Aftermath.

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  1. This is a must-have story for any DC fan.

  2. I agree. And even more so kudos to the deluxe editions announced!