Slade Wilson is messing with the time line; it’s like he doesn’t even watch The Flash.
Plotted by Dan Abnett, Benjamin Percy, and Christopher Priest
Scripted by Christopher Priest
Penciled by Paul Pelletier
Inked by Andrew Hennessey
Colored by Adriano Lucas
Lettered by Willie Schubert
“THE LAZARUS CONTRACT” finale! The conclusion to our epic crossover is here, the consequences of which will be felt for years to come! What does the future hold for the Titans teams after this game-changing run-in with their greatest enemy? Find out here as we set the stage for the next era of Titans, Teen Titans and Deathstroke!
Don’t be fooled by this issue’s gangly title, “Teen Titans: The Lazarus Contract Special” #1, it is, for all intents and purposes, formally and emotionally, another issue of “Deathstroke,” with series writer Christopher Priest scripting the conclusion to this May long crossover. That cohesion helps bring ‘Lazarus Contract’ to an emotionally satisfying conclusion after a first half built around plot machinations more than character. The finale to ‘Lazarus Contract’ is the culmination of Priests “Deathstroke” run thus far, and it sets the series in a very different direction come June. Fellow crossover titles “Titans” and “Teen Titans” are, of course, similarly affected by the events, but to what degree is unclear.
Slade Wilson doesn’t do feelings. If he weren’t so inebriated by time travel, and emotionally damaged by recent events, he would have likely never hugged his son, Grant. Deathstroke’s empathetic shallowness has been a consistent talking point in interviews, such as Multiversity’s recent one, and an area of interest for the Christopher Priest series thus far. Priest literally brings that commentary to the text with Greek Chorus and Slade Wilson companion, Billy Wintergreen who is, once again, in a gambit to save his friend, and potentially all of existence. It contextualizes Slade’s actions in the tenor of Grand Romantic Gestures, but for the world’s deadliest assassin and worst Dad. Instead of doing the normal thing like calling up his daughter to spend time with her, he puts a hit out on her so that he can protect her. Instead of trying to rebuild his self-imploded relationships with his remaining children, he decides to steal the speed of a Flash to save the son who hated him the most and first. If it weren’t so evil, it’d be comedy.
The segmented style Priest has formatted his “Deathstroke” series in, and the efficient art provided by the art team of Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessy, and Adriano Lucas, gives this oversized issue a sense of girth. As the beautiful credits spread denotes, this issue features 12 Titans of various ages, Deathstroke, and a supporting cast. That is a fair number of people and threads to balance. Fragmenting the book into largely single digit strips, at first, compartmentalizes the issue and lets individual scenes, tiny moments, to breathe and feel dramatically important unto itself and still reinforcing the issue as a whole. This format also allows for the creative team to show the arbitrary nature of that compartmentalization when dealing with something like time travel, it all tends to come around.
As potentially arbitrary as the structure is, it still gives a sense of fulfillment for the reading experience. By making each scene distinct, it allows the creative team to do a variety of scene types. Priest peppers the book with dialog driven dead pan and black humor. If there is one area where Priest gets repetitive it’s when he’s writing Damian, just letting the son of Batman be an unrepentant little shit. I’m sure this take on Damian is a few degrees off the more “mature” Damian that’s been developing over the years, but Priest never passed up a chance for Damian to slag just about everyone in order to prove his superiority. The majority of these moments land, one bit is undercut by Pelletier and Hennessy’s art being awkwardly cropped. The art team manage to work in a surprising number of visual gags as well.
The use of humor, along with Pelletier and Hennessy’s art give this comic an aesthetic reminiscent of the Bronze Age, the era Marv Wolfman and George Perez helped define with “The New Teen Titans,” with a bit of contemporary sensibilities. While not every moment is predicated on an exaggerated character reaction, that rhythm and sensibility of the early 1980s is in place. By fragmenting the structure of the book this way, the pages become incredibly lean. What is shown is what dramatically matters, not the spectacle that is strung together by a Daisy chain combination of powers off screen. Much like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2., the finale of ‘The Lazarus Contract’ eschews blockbuster spectacle for an emphasis on its colorful characters.Continued below
Artistically Pelletier and Hennessey create this aesthetic by sticking to the basics. Page layouts are largely constrained by strict borders, with the point of view akin to a medium shot. Which is the kind of decision that allow for an emphasis on facials and emotive reactions. The spread pages aren’t Bryan Hitch styled ‘wide screen’ comics with incredible depth and density, they’re big cast pictures. Sticking to this style also makes the moments on the page when the borders are broken, or stretched, land with impact. The power of seeing Kid Flash burst out of a car works because the following panel is a cramped cutaway to Jackson Hyde, once left behind by his teammates. Hennessey’s inking of the figures gives everyone a somewhat staid appearance, which is reinforced by the clearly defined, layered, color pallet by Adriano Lucas. What would have really made the Bronze Age echoes sing is if Lucas had cut down on the color pallet more. Normally, with a book revolving around the Speedforce a sense of movement in the imagery would seem like a given, but with the throwback melodramatic nature of the issue these production choices synergize nicely.
In a recent blog post, Priest talked about the writing process for ‘The Lazarus Contract.’ Part of the original pitch revolved around revisiting/retelling ‘The Judas Contract.’ They were going to “J.J. Abrams the thing in order to build a firewall around the original story–so it can never be retconned or ignored–while re-telling it with the post-Rebirth continuity.” Of course, continuity reared its ugly head and made the whole idea a lot messier than it seemed. It would’ve turned the pitch into what Priest defines as a “process story,” a narrative to explain aesthetic or continuity change not actually tell a story. I’m glad what was originally proposed didn’t turn into ‘The Lazarus Contract,’ that wouldn’t have been a very interesting story no matter how well it was told. While the first half of this crossover left me somewhat wanting, the creative team more than makes up for it with this finale. It gets to and completes the heart of this story: it’s about a lonely Dad driven to his breaking point, doing something stupid, until the only stupider thing to do is do the sane ‘normal’ thing. With a whole bunch of superhero comic hand waving that allow for externalizing emotions, metaphors, and support that realized emotional heart.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – ‘The Lazarus Contract’ doesn’t totally rewrite reality, but it does reestablish a link between Slade and the Titans, and tells a surprisingly human story for the Terminator.