Review: Teen Titans/Deathstroke: The Terminus Agenda hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

December 29, 2019

Though ostensibly a Teen Titans/Deathstroke crossover, Christopher Priest's Deathstroke is somewhat tertiary to Teen Titans/Deathstroke: The Terminus Agenda. Indeed, Priest does move Deathstroke from point A to point B here, setting up the final volume of Priest's run, but in large part Deathstroke is a bystander who happens to get drawn into the Titans' web; the real drama here is how Deathstroke's presence reveals the long-standing secrets of Adam Glass's Titans, bringing that team to a crisis point.

Though the final cliffhanger gives Glass's Titans other things to worry about, it'll be interesting to see where the team goes from here. The aforementioned secrets have always been bound to come out, bound to change the team; the question is, will this launch a new iteration of Glass's Titans or will the team be able to stay together, and in what ways will they be changed — especially as it comes to Robin Damian Wayne's leadership? As I've written before, in loosing some of the tropes of DC's Teen Titans past, Glass has created something new, unpredictable, and often dark; I'm interested to see how that trend continues.

[Review contains spoilers]

Christopher Priest assuredly gets his licks in here. The first Deathstroke chapter, not even a part of "Terminus Agenda" proper, is another one of those exceptional single issues in Priest's run, in which Slade's mere presence causes an innocent(ish) man to take his own life. Priest parallels this with a conversation between Slade's confidante Wintergreen and Commissioner Gordon that gets to the heart of some of the ironies inherent in Priest's Deathstroke universe — that Wintergreen is honorable, might prefer Slade not to kill, but has stuck by him through numerous murders for the chance of encouraging Slade to change.

These ironies pervade this book, as they do most of Priest's Deathstroke volumes — that Rose Wilson again tries to injure her father, and failing that, teams up with him; that Jericho assists the Titans to capture Deathstroke because Slade "could use the exercise" and then offers to help Slade get free again. The fluidity of love and hate in Priest's Deathstroke has been riveting from the start, one of the reasons this is among DC's best, most mature Rebirth titles. That it's coming to an end is a shame, but I hope it means some other dynamic project from Priest to come; were Priest to do a DC Black Label title, all the better.

But this story is really Glass's Titans, in which Kid Flash and the other Titans discover that Robin's been keeping their enemies in a secret prison. In the book's final chapter (in which Glass and artist Bernard Chang give each of the Titans their own spotlight page), it's not even the fact that Red Arrow seemingly murdered Deathstroke that roils the team so much as the imprisoned villains that remain in the basement of their headquarters. This has been the central tension of this book all along and its revelation was inevitable; that the revelation involved Deathstroke is fitting given the Titans teams and Deathstroke's long history, but indeed Slade was just the catalyst for what was bound to happen sooner or later anyway.

What continues to be interesting about Glass's Titans is that we clearly have a group of kids in over their heads — by the absence of any mentoring figure like Cyborg or Starfire, plus Chang's general depiction of these Titans as adolescents, they really are "kids." And even as the team debates what to do with their prisoners, no one is suggesting throwing themselves at the feet of the Justice League, for instance (at which trouble really would hit the fan). Instead, with something like Lord of the Flies overtones, here's a group of kids making their own amoral decisions and even debating how to rectify those decisions on their own, and that's a sharp paradigm for Teen Titans after so many years of Young Justice-esque kid sidekick teams that always came out on the side of right.

As this volume closes, the debate seems more whether to release the prisoners or not than necessarily to disband the team, though Kid Flash's parting words that Robin no longer makes decisions for the team seem particularly ominous. Better than team members bowing out, it would be interesting to see the team under the lead of Kid Flash, presumably, who's been second fiddle long enough that he deserves some spotlight and also it'd be interesting to see him struggle with the kinds of decisions Damian had to make. But looking forward, obviously the arrival of Lobo and the mystery of his relationship to Crush is the most immediate problem, followed by the revelation of the identity of the Other — possibly this team's status quo won't change (yet) due to simple busy-ness.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Teen Titans/Deathstroke: The Terminus Agenda

Teen Titans/Deathstroke: The Terminus Agenda succeeds where the previous Lazarus Contract crossover failed at least in part because Terminus didn't over-promise; there were not meant to be grand revelations about the Titans and Deathstroke's past history (nor secrets of Rebirth) and there weren't. Instead, Terminus is more a sequel to Christopher Priest's Batman vs. Deathstroke, more of Slade and Damian's antagonistic relationship, and also a Titans story where Deathstroke just happens to float through. That, if anything, seems a more authentic return to form for the Titans/Deathstroke relationship than something more expansive; with Deathstroke about to lack a title of his own, maybe a supporting role in Adam Glass's Teen Titans might be the best place for him.

[Includes original and variant covers; cover pencils, sketches, and page layouts]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Teen Titans/Deathstroke: The Terminus Agenda
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4 (scale of 1 to 5)

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