‘The Lazarus Contract’ is picking up steam with part 2 and 3 taking place in Teen Titans #8 and Deathstroke #19 respectively. The story arc spanning 3 titles continues to create new possibilities as it positions DC’s top killer on the track towards redemption. Both issues answer the major questions that were created from the plot threads in part 1, which makes for a well paced story arc. But like part 1, part 2 and 3 introduce concepts and motivations that may put a strain on various relationships going forward.
In Teen Titans #8, we learn how Deathstroke was able to trap the New 52 Wally West. Also, Jackson Hyde who has recently joined the team has yet to become Aqualad. This issue seeks to tie up loose ends from part 1 while tieing the overall story together. After getting caught up on what the team is doing in the present day, you learn about Nightwing’s “betrayal” that was hinted at in part 1. Damian, being much like his father; decided to put a tracer on his teammates. We find out that Kid Flash’s tracer was removed by Nightwing and placed on Damian. Later in the issue, Nightwing confirms that he did in fact made a deal with Deathstroke. This revelation segways into the first meeting of both versions of Wally West. From there, Deathstroke slyly manipulates the younger Wally into helping him achieve his goal of going back in time to save Grant. This issue concludes with Deathstroke in possession of younger Wally West’s powers.
Deathstroke #19 picks up a little after where Teen Titans ends. The older Wally West is chasing down Deathstroke who has used his IKON suit to store the powers of the younger Wally West. The banter between Deathstroke and Wally isn’t what’s important here. Fortunately it only last about two pages before we’re taken to what we really want to know. What we learn in the mini-chapter titled “The Deal” is why Nightwing suddenly betrayed his friends. Roughly a year after Grant’s death which triggered the events of “The Judas Contract” in original continuity; Deathstroke captures Dick Grayson (then Robin) in order to make a deal with him. Deathstroke opens up to Robin that he just found out about his illegitimate daughter, Rose. If you’ve been reading Priest’s Deathstroke, you’d know that Rose recently found out that Deathstroke manufactured her entire childhood. What we’re learning now is that Robin apparently played a large part in her upbringing as well. Deathstroke did not want her following his path so Robin was supposed to be somewhat of a mentor to her. The deal is Deathstroke leaves the Teen Titans alone and Robin plays the big brother. Deathstroke converts his contract with H.I.V.E. into a Lazarus Contract. “Which can be brought back to life if either of us fails to keep our word.”
But wait, there’s more. The issue shifts back to Wally and Deathstroke, and once again the conversation goes into how the presence of the older Wally has changed the memories of the New 52 characters. A few more words are exchanged and Wally is met with the harsh reality that he is no match for Deathstroke by himself and is given the chance to retreat. Wally then runs to find Grant who he hopes will help him deal with Deathstroke. The next few pages are somewhat of a montage. Reprints from earlier issues in the series explaining the messed up childhood of the Wilson boys. The issue concludes with a series of assassinations that we can assume that Deathstroke was contracted to deal with before hand. And the final page is him using his stolen speed to go back in time to save Grant.
Teen Titans #8 moves at a quicker pace than Titans #11, which borders on clumsy. It reads almost like a bullet point list than an actual comic, which may have been its purpose. The writers collaborating on this story arc obviously wanted to hit key notes in order to get the story under a certain number of issues. Decisions like that are often made by the editorial staff. Priest, Percy, and Abnett will be credited for writing in each book of this arc regardless of name. However, these credits do not translate to the same quality across the board. And it becomes abundantly clear when you compare Teen Titans and Deathstroke. But that is to be expected when doing collaborative work. This also marks the issue where Teen Titans takes a completely different direction with the pencils Khoi Pham and inking skills of Wade Von Grawbadger. If you’ve kept up with this Teen Titans since Rebirth began, you’d notice that was almost manga like with very bright colors. Deathstroke gets a host of big names with Priest, Larry Hama, Carlo Pagulayan, Roberto Viacava, and Jason Paz. Both books introduce several plot pieces that may effect DC as a whole going forward. Older Wally’s presence re-writing history, the events of “Judas Contract” never taking place, and a secret history of Dick Grayson being among them.
Now with Deathstroke rewriting history, does the Lazarus Contract even exist? Has Deathstroke erased an entire timeline and how will this carry over into other titles if at all? Hopefully the answers to some of these questions are answered on Teen Titans Annual which concludes the story.