Don’t mind me, I’m new here – to the “Titans” line that is. I wandered over from a bi-monthly appointment with Christopher Priest because Deathstroke is dropping by for ‘The Lazarus Contract.’ Dan Abnett and Brett Booth’s title picks up the first shift in DC’s latest crossover. So the question I’m really asking here: is this a book that blows the bloody doors off in its own right or is it just a contractual obligation?
Plotted by Dan Abnett, Benjamin Percy, and Christopher Priest
Scripted by Dan Abnett
Penciled by Brett Booth
Inked by Norm Rapmund
Colored by Andrew Dalhouse & Carrie Strachan
Lettered by Josh Reed
“THE LAZARUS CONTRACT” part one! When Deathstroke discovers that Wally West’s return holds the key to bringing his son back from the dead, he’ll stop at nothing to do just that! Don’t miss the debut chapter of the epic crossover event that you’ve been waiting for!
After watching Slade Wilson make life hell for his own family over the better part of a year, it’s nice to see him finally branch out. Wally West(s) weather his storm this week, as the bulk of “Titans” #11 is devoted to Wilson’s ruthless investigation of how Flash and the speed force could be used to save his son Grant – the original Ravager. Dan Abnett captures just the right touch of nasty to ensure we’re getting the same old Slade we’ve all come to love to hate – or hate to love, take your pick.
The issue opens with a flashback to Grant’s fatal battle with the Teen Titans. This style of opening can always come across a little cliched, but here it’s effective in providing context for Deathstroke’s involvement with the Titans. And Abnett frames it as something of a fever dream Wilson has while recovering from the brawl that closed out the last issue of his own title. Abnett also tosses in a corneal-transplant-ex-machina to turn the page on the whole Slade-is-blind angle.
Brett Booth’s pencils are highly detailed throughout “Titans” #11, and they bring a polished sheen to the sight of Ravager succumbing to a heart attack whilst gripping Robin in a vicious chokehold. Deathstroke emerges from the dust and rubble just in time to cradle his dying son. Abnett and Booth manage a surprisingly poignant, albeit twisted moment, as Slade pulls back Grant’s mask to look upon that face one last time, while actual distress pours forth from underneath his own.
“D-Did we g-get them? D-Did we k-kill the Teen Titans?” Grant shivers.
“… Yeah. Yeah, you got them all. Son…” Wade answers, pulling his son’s forehead into contact with his.
It’s about as touching a moment as I can imagine in the Wilson family. And Abnett and Booth nail it. But it’s the only point in “Titans” #11 that has any real emotional resonance. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Since Deathstroke, cold bastard that he is, spends most of the issue as an interrogator, we shouldn’t expect any more touchy-feely instances from him. But when the scene shifts back to Wally’s teammates, there seems to a lack of urgency, or worry even, on their part. Tempest’s suggestion that maybe he just slipped back into the time stream – since his balance is kind of tricky like that – provides a reaction shot from the Titans that’s funny enough. But it doesn’t make it seem like they’re really all that concerned for their friend.
While Flash is attached to Slade’s ersatz cosmic treadmill/interrogation rack, Booth goes spastic with a crow’s nest of surges and lightning arcing off Wally’s body and sweat beading down his exhausted face. It sells the reality of just how much Slade is pushing him to his limit. And while the level of detail is admirable and evocative, it’s effect gets hindered by some overly-busy layouts.
Booth covers the majority of his pages with narrow horizontal panels, most of which are set slightly on angle. Now when several of these are stacked against each other, they do lead the eye quickly from one panel to the next to the next – which is, admittedly, a cool technique to use any time a story includes a speedster – but it’s leaned on a bit too often in “Titans” #11. And unfortunately, the cumulative effect comes across closer to an action movie edited with film cuts happening at machine-gun rhythm.Continued below
That being said, Abnett’s writing is brisk enough to keep pace. And while the issue never seems to sag, it could be smoothed out in a couple places. There’s one scene – an introduction to the Titans fighting some anonymous minions of H.I.V.E. – that could have been cut in favor of showing how Slade kidnapped Wally. It’s not that there’s some big question about how this happened, it’s more that the cut between Wally bantering with the Titans to him in capture is a bit jarring.
On the other hand, Wilson’s proposition to Wally makes for an interesting inversion on the dilemma of time traveler vengeance (i.e if you could go back and kill person x, would you do it?). “Help me bring my son back and I’ll stop being Deathstroke. Forever. No more costume. No more contracts. No more killing.” he says. “Save one life… Save thousands.” It seems like Dan Abnett can always find an unexpected tack on a rather familiar course. So, it’s great to see he’s found one here.
Overall, “Titans” #11 is a bit of a mixed bag. Artistically, Booth shoots for hyperkinetic, but hits hyperactive instead. And while Abnett has a really good bead on what make Deathstroke tick, I didn’t really get a sense for who any of the Titans are, outside of Flash. Can’t say this has really won me over as a “Titans” reader, but I’m piqued enough to chase it along to “Teen Titans”.
Final Verdict: 7.0 – Regardless of their execution, I am enjoying how DC is weaving together the overall Rebirth tapestry through these almost monthly crossovers. It’s making the total event feel truly universal, without having to put the entire line on hold.