TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1 by Christopher Priest, Benjamin Percy, Dan Abnett, Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessy, and Adriano Lucas
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
"The Lazarus Contract" finale has all the right pieces, but it puts them together in a way that feels just a bit off. The art, however, leaves nothing to be desired.
83 %
Messy but still good
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TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1 marks the end of “The Lazarus Contract,” a storyline intended to remind readers of Deathstroke’s roots. The assassin was originally the archenemy of the Teen Titans, and this tale goes back to their origins. Deathstroke originally only took up the contract against the Titans after his son died. Grant Wilson, the original Ravager, accepted a contract from H.I.V.E. after Slade turned it down. They enhanced Grant, giving him powers akin to Deathstroke’s, but those abilities killed him. This happened all way back in the first issues of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s original NEW TEEN TITANS run. Even the title is a reference to this; the most famous Wolfman & Perez story is called “The Judas Contract” and also pitted Deathstroke against the Titans.

READ: Want to hear more about the origins of these characters? Check out our interview with their creator, Marv Wolfman!

In the previous issues of “The Lazarus Contract,” we saw Slade easily capture both Wally Wests. The Flash, or the older Wally, refuses to help him even though Slade promised to give up being Deathstroke if he succeeded. Succeeds at what, you may ask? Resurrecting his dead son, Grant. He’s spent the past eighteen issues of DEATHSTROKE ruining his relationship with his living children, so he’s decided to go all out to save his dead one. Because, as Wintergreen put it, “Slade struggles with intimacy.” In TEEN TITANS #8, he steals Kid Flash’s speed. He goes on a quick killing spree, before staring down the older Wally West. Wally runs away, and Slade runs to the past to save his son.

SPOILERS AHEAD for TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1

In TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1, we see Ravager’s origins and then, just before his fight with the Titans, Deathstroke grabs him. Ravager fanboys a bit until he realizes his idol is actually his father. He really hates his dad it would seem. They fight, Slade knocks him out, we find out this was his third try at saving Grant, and he travels deeper into the past.

TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1
TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1 page 9. Image courtesy of DC Comics.

Meanwhile, in the present, the two Titans teams bicker about a plan of action. Damian, the largest ego on the team, is the chief bickerer. Spoiler alert: Damian is a dick. This is a constant for the character, but especially prominent in this issue. They head to meet Wally (Flash), leaving Wally (Kid Flash) behind as punishment. This is a big issue between the older and younger Titans. The older Titans believe unity is important even after mistakes occur. Damian, again, is a dick, so he prefers punishment. They also leave Aqualad (the newest Teen Titan) behind, but by accident. They literally just forget him. To me, this seemed like a quick and easy way to get some scenes between Jackson and Wally. The writers don’t make much out of this opportunity, unfortunately.

The rest of the team heads off to the past where, despite Nightwing’s warning, they immediately interact with their past selves. Damian proves for the third out of five times that he is, in fact, a dick. In order to break Slade’s link to the Speed Force, Damian kills the past version of older Wally. For some reason, this causes a chain reaction that breaks Kid Flash’s connection, severing Deathstroke’s. In a heartbreaking moment, Slade watches as his son dies before his eyes again.

Back to the Future

The past versions of the Titans restart Wally’s heart, throwing everyone back to their proper times. Kid Flash regains his powers and meets the Titans just in time to watch Slade run himself into the Speed Force, trying to go back and save his son one last time. Everyone’s pretty much okay with letting Slade get lost forever, but Kid Flash is having none of it. While letting villains die might be in character for Arsenal or Tempest, for Nightwing or Raven this is uncharacteristic to the extreme. It might have been just a small moment, but it was jarring, and if done properly would have been a great way to contrast the heroes and Deathstroke. While it didn’t ruin the issue, it was one of a few moments that I think are wanting.

Kid Flash races off into the Speed Force, pursued by older Wally, possessed by Jericho, who is psychically linked to everyone else. Except for Damian. In his fourth instance of dickishness, Damian refuses to participate, since he’d rather Slade were dead. In the end, it works out since he’s needed to soothe Raven so she can pull everyone out of the Speed Force.

Three conclusions to TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1

Three speedsters may have entered the Speed Force, but only two come tumbling out. When Slade exits the Speed Force, he leaves his connection behind. He’s just a regular (super)human now. Next comes perhaps the most out-of-character moment of the issue. Throughout TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1, and all of “The Lazarus Contract,” Slade has threatened to kill the Titans for interfering. Just before he goes into the Speed Force, he promises to kill them when he gets out. Yet when he does, he just gives up. Just like that. He yells a bit, throws down his mask, and Deathstroke is done. I hope they dig deeper into this in the coming issues of DEATHSTROKE because for now it just seems off.

TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1
TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1 page 35. Image courtesy of DC Comics.

The issue then moves to Teen Titans Tower sometime later. Raven helps Wally calm himself after his ordeal in the Speed Force, and the two share a moment. Said moment is ruined when Damian, in his final and greatest instance of dickishness, kicks Wally out of the Teen Titans! It’s not like Wally’s the first superhero to make a mistake. I for one hope this doesn’t last, but we’ll see in TEEN TITANS #9.

The final ending vignette of TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1 features the Titans. Wally visits Dr. Villain and discovers that as a result of Damian’s reckless actions, he now has a pacemaker, and will die if he continues to be the Flash. It’s good to see some repercussions for the events of the issue. Maybe Damian will think next time. Probably not though. He’s a dick.

READ: Want to catch up on the Titans? Here’s our review of TITANS #10!

The Art of TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1

There’s not much that needs to be said about the art. That’s to say, no complaints here. Speedster-Deathstroke looked badass. His costume changes drastically, featuring a lightning bolt and a hue more yellow than his traditional orange, but it’s still clearly Deathstroke. This changes when he comes out of the speed force; he’s in his original costume again, a helpful distinction. The lines are sharp and clear, characters are distinct, and colors pop in all the right ways. The younger versions of the heroes are recognizable but different. The emotion on the characters’ faces is clear and well-portrayed, especially Wally’s on the final page.  A+ job, artists.

Final Thoughts on TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1 and “The Lazarus Contract”

The crossover was good overall. It felt a bit rushed, though, like it was setting up too many storylines. There were some moments that didn’t quite hit right, and some storylines dropped. Whatever happened to the titular Lazarus Contract? I really hope Dick faces some repercussions for his deal with the devil. I’m excited to see where these threads take us and, if they do it right, this story could be remembered as one of the greats, but for now it’s just too bland.

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