Spoilers abound. I hold no responsibility, nor do I particularly care about you spoiling yourself.
DC Animated released their adaptation of The Judas Contract a few weeks ago, and no beating around the bush, I liked it well enough. Decent enough action scenes, on the high end for the latest slew of DC Animated releases, not too much in the way of narrative filler and Damian Wayne got punched.
I’m always down to see Damian get punched.
But as I’m watching trough this, I can’t but keep comparing this to the Teen Titans TV show from the mid 20-Zero’s. Specifically the finale (And the episodes leading up to) of Season 2, Aftershock, which was also an adaptation of the Judas Contract storyline, only at an infinitely more PG level.
So, on this weeks episode of “Jordan has an almost obsessive, possibly dangerous, knowledge of Pop Culture” we’re going to have a bit of a yarn about the 2 adaptations and how each succeed where the other fails in not only being an adaptation, but also in being a good watch.
So what better place to start, then the Original Comic?
The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
The Judas Contract is one of the most fondly remembered events within the Teen Titans history, in which a mercenary sends a psychotic little girl with a Daddy Complex into a den of Teenagers to infiltrate, observe and finally kill them all.
With no regrets, Terra does all of that, handing the Titans over to The Terminator and his employers, HIVE. Of course, a brand new member of the team, Jericho, uses his powers of possession to take over Deathstroke’s body and release his friends.
Terra throws a hissy fit thinking she was betrayed, Jericho’s powers are explained to her, but The Terminator refuses to end the Titans as he’s just been paid and Jericho is his son, so he doesn’t feel too compelled to pull the trigger.
Terra returns to her Hissy Fit, burying herself in piles upon piles of earth and rocks, breaking both herself and Beast Boy’s heart, all in one go.
Villainous Villains of Villainy
Tara Markov, in this telling of the story, is the illegitimate daughter of the King of a vaguely Eastern European sounding nation. Experimented on by the nations top scientists during her youth, Terra develops Earth Bending powers alongside some serious mental issues.
Kicked out of her Dad’s basement, so as to avoid the risk of a scandal, she makes her way out to the United States, where she makes a name for herself as a killer for hire.
It’s during this time where she both meets, and falls in sweet, messy lust for The Terminator.
The Terminator (Who at this point did not yet have the “Deathstroke” part of his name) decides to accept the contract to end the Titans in lieu of his Oldest son, who had previously taken on the hit, only to fail. So its a matter of personal pride at this point.
Using Terra’s attraction to him, Slade inserts her into the Titans as his own personal Judas Goat (Hence the title) so that when the time comes, he can easily slip into where he needs to be to take out those nerds.
Slade’s main investment in this, is his connection to his sons and his wife. In making up for his oldest son’s failure, he plays on his wife’s and second son’s consciences enough, that they go to see Dick Grayson after the rest of the Titans have been jacked, revealing where The Terminator has taken them and just exactly how he knew exactly how to counteract them.
Heroic Heroes of Heroism
The original comic includes both Donna Troy as Wonder Girl and Joseph Wilson as Jericho, who don’t show up in the later iterations, so we’re not going to talk about them a whole lot from here on out. What you need to know about them is that Wonder Girl is living with Starfire and is pretty nothing towards the ongoing plot besides being a Titan and some minor confidence issues over being the most senior Titan on deck now that both Robin and Kid Flash have left the team.
Jericho on the other hand is the son of The Terminator and has the ability to posses people, and does just that to his dad at the end, to free the team as Terra is distracted by Nightwing’s stupid popped collar.
So with that out of the way, let’s talk about the most important of our heroes to this story.
Garfield Logan, The Changeling has the most emotional attachment to the plot at large. Over the course of her stay with the Titans, Gar develops a puppy love for Tara, despite her unfortunate condition of being a gigantic dick. (No, not that one)
As such, while everyone is gutted at being fooled and thrown away with the level of don’t give a fuck that Terra puts out, Gar is the one who is the most thrown by the turn. Believing Tara to be under mind control or some sort of other coercion, initially, the heartbreak slowly becomes palpable and Gar ends the story sadder than the saddest boy that’s ever sadded.
I dunno, I wanted a joke here and couldn’t think of a good one.
Speaking of jokes, meet the first official Nightwing uniform!
Dick Grayson, Batman’s first Robin. For a long time, Dick was the leader of the Teen Titans, but at the start of Judas Contract stepped down as the leader, citing that he can’t be Robin anymore, he needs to be an adult. Find out who Dick Grayson, age 20, actually is outside of the persona of Robin.
After being the pimpiest pimp there ever was, and escaping the clutches of The Terminator, the only member of the team to pull it off even, he meets with Slade’s wife and son, Joseph, where he gets the skinny and the how and whos of everything.
Of course he immediately loses points by rocking that blue and yellow war crime, but together with Jericho, he rocks off to the lair of HIVE to spring his friends.
In the last few years Starfire has been courting a bit of controversy for an outfit she was rocking as part of the New 52 reboot in Red Hood and the Outlaws, (Not a good book) which I suppose is fair, the bikini was incredibly sheer, but it was more her attitude at that moment than her apparel that got me.
Star’s outfits have always skirted the decency line of whatever time the books were being published, hell even he PG Cartoon Network outfit is surprising just because of both the rating and where it was being aired, but, I digress.
Star is dating Dick at this point, and his resignation from the Titans makes her get moody, because they… don’t share a job? It’s stupid and angsty for the purpose of angst. She star bolts some peeps, is happy a cheery, gets grumpy at Dick and then forgives him because big collars… get her going? I mean, its probably because he’s got a new outfit and is doing the hero thing all over again, but I like to think its the big collar.
If Raven weren’t continuing across to Aftershocks and the JC Movie, I would have thrown her into the never mention again pile with Donna and Joey.
Throughout the comic, she’s pretty much just another Titan, heroic to a fault, friend to everyone even if a bit quiet, and just as pained in betrayal as everyone else. She gets a moment during the climatic fight scene, where she jumps into Tara’s head to try and calm her down, soothe her to the point of calm so that they can just talk or whatever.
It fails, of course, to take hold, and besides some moments in the B plot with HIVE, Raven’s contributions are done.
You’re right. That’s not an image from Judas Contract, how astute you are. You know what, I don’t care, because just look how cool he thinks he is. Swagger is something someone wearing a plunging metal bikini does not have.
So Victor Stone, Cyborg, he’s probably the least relevant of the Titans here, but much like Raven he carries over to Aftershocks, so gotta talk about him real quick. He, also, has some angst going on, but his is a little more relevant than “My Boyfriend doesn’t work where I work anymore.” He’s worrying that his robotic bits are slowly overtaking his fleshy ones, that sooner or later everything that makes him human is going to rot away, leaving nothing but an unthinking automaton.
He also has arm cannons. Specifically, his arms can BECOME cannons, and that’s pretty cool too.
ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE
Judas Contract is a really good read, even the HIVE subplot which is okay at best, is entirely saved because Brother Blood is a goddamn ham, and I love it.
Judas Contract is also a comic very rooted in the 1980’s, and if you aren’t a fan of the tropes and cliches of the day, then you probably won’t enjoy your sit with it.
The book also spoils the twist within the first 20 pages, which I guess is fine, bring your audience in on the scheme, and you can read on with unease and rage as the bad guy ingratiates herself with the group and the group falls for her.
The problem with that is Terra is a cunt.
She never does anything, personality wise, to try and play nice with the group, she’s constantly butting heads and insulting them at every turn.
Building a narrative where we know a character is awful from the get go is tricky, you need to sort of undercut the toxicity by making everyone around them think the sun shines from their various orifices.
Judas Contract doesn’t do that, and its all the more upsetting for the wasted opportunities.
Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the book, or even think that it’s good. This is simply a nitpick in the grand scheme of things, and I do think this is the best telling of the story, if only by a hair’s breadth.
Continued in a few days With Teen Titans: Aftershock
Quick Side Note. So this is going to be how I break down those Big Ol’ Mid Month Essays I mentioned on the front page. So as to not front load you with a metric fuck-ton of words right off the bat. I hope it works out like I’m picturing, I really do.