This past week marks the debut of DC’s first major event for the current Titan and Teen Titan teams since the launch of Rebirth. The Lazarus Contract is a call back to an New Teen Titans story titled The Judas Contract. New Teen Titans was written by George Perez and Marv Wolfman. The book was used to raise the profile of the young sidekicks as well as introduce a new villain, Deathstroke The Terminator. The Judas Contract is a very important story in the history of DC because it marks the end of Deathstroke’s contract with H.I.VE. and it’s when Dick Grayson adopts the identity of Nightwing. The events that launched the New Teen Titans in the 80s and the ongoing story in Christopher Priest’s Deathstroke are the driving forces behind The Lazarus Contract. Christopher Priest, Benjamin Percy, and Dan Abnett look to create story where Deathstroke can actually be seen as the protagonist given the circumstances.
The story opens with a reenactment of the first major battle of the modern Titan era. The mercenary Ravager (Grant Wilson) has been hired by H.I.V.E. to kill the Titans. They even provide him with powers similar to that of his father, Deathstroke (Slade Wilson). Due to Ravager’s inexperience, Deathstroke feels obligated to assist in a fight he really doesn’t want. Unfortunately, the powers that H.I.V.E. gave Ravager burned out his body and he ends up dying in his father’s arms. In his grief, Deathstroke blames the Teen Titans and takes up Ravager’s contract which leads to the long history of Deathstroke on Titan violence. Then the story jumps to Deathstroke waking up in hospital bed after the events of Deathstroke #18. While unconscious, it seems that he dreamed about is life’s biggest regrets which include the death of his son, Grant.
The story then takes the readers to check on the current team of Titans. DC has opted to run two Titans teams this time around with Titans being comprised of young adults and Teen Titans being made up of members who aren’t even teens for the most part. They spend most of the book wondering where Wally is. In case you haven’t been keeping up with Rebirth from the beginning, the original Pre-Flashpoint Wally West is back but he’s younger than when he left. This is very important to the overall mechanics of this story. Wally is missing because he’s being captured and interrogated by Deathstroke. Deathstroke almost gets him to spill the beans regarding the events of Flashpoint as well. Deathstroke is very interested in how Wally’s powers work because he wishes to undo his biggest regret which is the death of Grant. He wants to make a deal with Wally that if he helps him go back in time to save Grant that he’ll retire. Of course Wally refuses but Deathstroke hopes to change his mind by showing Pre-Flashpoint Wally his other hostage, New 52 Wally West. The only other important bit in this issue is an interaction between the Titans and Nightwing. Omen ask Nightwing about something a henchman said. The word “Lazarus” comes up and Nightwing plays dumb. Omen knows he’s lying due to her powers but chooses not to confront him about hit. However she does inform the team which will likely be a source of tension for the remainder of the story.
There’s a lot of moving parts going on with this story. For starters, you don’t know Deathstroke’s point of view going into this unless you’ve been reading Priest’s book since it launched. And I know most of you haven’t because it barely makes it on the top 100 list despite being nominated for an Eisner. Deathstroke has been a family affair since the Rebirth launch, and the events of the 18th issue was likely a wake up call. He has spent the entire run manipulating people who want to love him and it all came to a head at what was supposed to be the wedding of his son, Jericho. And the events of both stories build up to DC’s late summer plans for Deathstroke. Hopefully this will get readers to go back and get caught up what’s been a wonderful run.
The other concern with this story is how Pre-Flashpoint Wally was inserted into the lives of the New 52 heroes. This also has a little to do with what happened to Superman in Action Comics a few issues back. DC is using Rebirth as a way to stitch in pieces of what they feel the fans missed most about the Pre-Flashpoint era without resorting to a new Crisis. This started with the return of the original Wally West who struggled to get people to remember him and would have faded away completely if wasn’t for the love of Barry Allen. From there, we can only hypothesize that his presence and the Speed Force has essentially rewritten the past for the New 52 world. During the course of Wally’s interrogation, Deathstroke even brings up the fact that he has been missing and returned with no explanation. In the case of Superman and Lois Lane, DC ends up combining the souls of the Pre-Flashpoint and New 52 versions. This results in a combination of origins and both versions being canon.
The Lazarus Project represents DC’s first real test of this new combined history they’re running with. The writers do a good job of getting you interested and are trying to work with what they’ve been given. However, this can easily fall apart. I think they can make it work this time around due to the combined strength of the writers and this story doesn’t need too many call backs to be effective. The artistic talents of Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Josh Reed, Andrew Dalhouse, and Carrie Strachan continue to deliver. These days, you will often see 2 to 3 different art styles in a single monthly issue. It’s great that Titans has retained some sense of artistic continuity since its launch.
Overall, it’s good first chapter in what’s likely an action packed arc. And hopefully this gets Deathstroke’s solo title the love that it deserves.