Review: Titans: The Lazarus Contract (Rebirth) hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

After two so-so editions of the Rebirth Titans and a so-so edition the Rebirth Teen Titans, but three fantastic volumes of the Rebirth Deathstroke, I was optimistic for a good turnout in the crossover Titans: The Lazarus Contract. Unfortunately, the result is underwhelming, a story without much in terms of content, a truly anticlimactic ending, and which largely ducks the very questions about Titans history that it was ostensibly meant to answer. I give the gathered writers points for a story that does finish with consequences for all three of the teams, but hardly does this crossover live up to the greater story that its title alludes to.

[Review contains spoilers]

The supposed dark secret at the heart of Lazarus Contract is that Nightwing Dick Grayson, then Robin, made a deal with Deathstroke Slade Wilson that Slade would stay off the Titans' backs if Dick trained Slade's daughter Rose in combat (the "Lazarus" aspect being that Slade's contract on the Titans would be "reborn" if Dick didn't hold up his end). Indeed Dick did train Rose -- one of the more interesting parts of this story explored not at all -- so in the final tally, the opening pages of this book in which Slade's goons taunt Nightwing about breaking his deal are ultimately nonsense. If anything, it's Slade breaking his own deal here, not that the book acknowledges the discrepancy.

And among the great difficulties with Lazarus Contract is that none of that has to do with what this story is actually about, Slade trying to resurrect his late son Grant by way of stealing the present and former Kid Flashes' powers. My guess -- and I don't think I'm totally off-base here -- is that the utility of name recognition in tying this book to best-selling Titans story "The Judas Contract" mandated a similar naming convention, but that the title was conceived separately from the intentions of the story. The "Lazarus contract" part could be totally lifted out and this crossover wouldn't be much different.

The history of the Titans is a muddled mess in DC Comics continuity right now. Much of what was true of these characters in the New 52 (Rose Wilson working for Cadmus, Beast Boy as a member of the enslaved "Ravagers") has just recently been undone, not to mention the recently semi-restored "classic" Teen Titans and the elder Wally West's uncertain place in it all. To that end, pitting Deathstroke against the gathered Titans and referencing "Judas Contract" in the title suggested this book might help to smooth out and streamline some of that.

It does not. The events of "Judas Contract" itself are never mentioned -- among one of this story's most surprising missteps. Indeed "Judas Contract" would still seem not to have happened in this continuity, among other things because of Robin and Deathstroke's contract and also that Arsenal and Beast Boy don't seem to know each other here -- so even if there was a Teen Titans team with Robin, Wonder Girl, and others, that still doesn't include "Judas Contract" stalwarts Beast Boy and Raven (nor Cyborg, and who knows when Starfire was meant to have had a relationship with Nightwing since they barely share a glance here). We do understand that Deathstroke's son Grant died fighting the Titans essentially the same as he did in the old continuity. The status of the elder Wally West remains as convoluted as ever, however, since he seems to know Slade's other son Jericho when no one else does, whereas -- being the time-lost Wally from this and not the pre-Flashpoint continuity -- he really ought not to.

Deathstroke with Flash powers is certainly a cool concept (though we'll leave aside just how Slade could have a device built to steal the Flashes' powers that quickly). Among somewhat unremarked milestones in this book is that the younger Kid Flash finds out that the older former Kid Flash is also Wally West (though, don't get me started, the two are related in this continuity and the younger Wally ought have recognized the older Wally as soon as he took off his mask in Flash). Writer Christopher Priest, I believe, nods to a famous Titans image of Deathstroke stabbing (or being stabbed by) one of this sons, though this time he's hugging Grant. Art is generally fine throughout but it's a specific thrill to have Paul Pelletier draw the last chapter, given his work on this iteration's Titans Hunt. And again I did appreciate that this book had some consequences, perhaps especially the further timeline machinations now affecting the elder Wally West.

But for a story that mainly just involves the Titans standing around while the gathered Flashes run after Deathstroke, the end is largely a let-down. In good Titans fashion, rather than the elder Wally running into the Speed Force on a suicide mission after Deathstroke, his Titans friends pile into his head telepathically to support him. The writer, however -- seemingly the usually-strong Priest again -- shows us none of that, keeping the action largely out of the Speed Force and focused on Robin Damian Wayne and others also just standing around. There's a nice moment of grace written for Damian, but almost nothing in terms of blockbuster climactic moments, a waste of Pelletier among other things.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Titans: The Lazarus Contract

For lack of real character interactions -- not to mention clarity on Titans history -- I'd venture we're owed another crossover between these titles soon. Titans: The Lazarus Contract delivers not much of what I was hoping for. I am interested to see the fallout from this story within the individual books but I rather wish the writers had held less back and left more out there on the page.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Titans: The Lazarus Contract
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)


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