Episode 0005: The Lazarus Contract

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Deathstroke kidnaps two speedsters so he can travel back in time to change the past, and in terms gets both the Titans and Teen Titans on his back in The Lazarus Contract.Affiliate link included in this post.

Transcript follows:
D.C. Comics’ greatest assassin heads to the Speed Force in a crossover called The Lazarus Contract. We’ll talk about it just ahead.

Welcome to the Classic Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here’s your host, Adam Graham.

The original Teen Titans began in the 1960s during the Silver Age but really hit the peak of their popularity in the 1980s. It began as a team of sidekicks of Superheroes. The original three were Robin/Dick Grayson, Kid Flash/Wally West and Aqualad but it expanded to include other teen heroes as well. In later years, many of the friends who stood together as Teen Titans became The Titans, but then came the New Fifty-Two and the wiping away of the D.C. Universe, as well as the efforts to alter the timeline. As revealed in D.C. Rebirth Number One, Wally West – a key member of the Titans – was wiped from everyone’s memory but he returned and he got the Titans back together with the team now led by Nightwing and headquartered out of Manhattan. At the same time, current Robin, Damian Wayne, has founded his own Team Titans headquartered out of San Francisco, and this book brings both teams together with Death Stroke, a foe of the Titans from the pre-New Fifty-Two era and a sort of anti-hero. The trade paperback collects Titans Number Eleven, Teen Titans Number Eight, Deathstroke Nineteen and Twenty, and Teen Titans Annual Number One.

The plot is that Deathstroke decides to travel back in time using the Speed Force to save his son. His problem is that he’s not a speedster so he tries to kidnap old Wally West, and I should make a distinction: there are actually two Wally West in the current D.C. Universe. Old Wally West was the main Flash of the D.C. Universe from the 1980s into the Twenty-First Century, and he’s the one who was apparently got wiped away by a nefarious forsooth being dealt with in other books. New Wally West is the son of Daniel West, the Reverse Flash and Iris West nephew. He’s biracial and was introduced in the new Fifty-Two Flash comics, and I think at the time they really wanted him to become the accepted version of Wally West, but fans were so attached to the old Wally West that they’ve kind of worked it so they have it both ways. They’re both members of the West family and Wally is a name that multiple people use. It’s a bit of a cop-out but it’s believable when you think about it. So, that cleared up, old Wally is kidnapped and doesn’t cooperate at all with Deathstroke. New Wally doesn’t fully cooperate when he is also kidnapped, but it’s enough for Death Stroke to steal some speed and be able to traverse the Speed Force while also bringing both the Titans – which old Wally’s a member – and the Teen Titans of which new Wally is a member down on him. And so the Titans and Teen Titans have to join together to stop him from his ultimate purpose which is to travel back in time and prevent the death of his son which could have major cosmic consequences. And it’s revealed in the course of this that Dick Grayson had actually made a deal with Death Stroke as Robin that was a Lazarus Contract which could be revived if either party violated it, and this leads to some distrust from all sides.

Alright, so that’s the basic plot. What are the strengths of the story? Well, as I look at it – and this is something as I’ve looked at reviews few have talked about – it’s the character growth for young Wally West. I’m a regular reader of The Flash and in that comic young Wally West has a lot to be upset about. There’s feelings of betrayal, which to be honest are justified because his father was a super-villain who died in a mission with the Suicide Squad, and he really didn’t even learn about who his dad was until after he was gone. And Barry Allen and The Flash kept this from him, and he also felt betrayed when he finally had Barry reveal that he was The Flash, a fact that he continued to hide from Iris until it was actually revealed to her. And young Wally wants a father figure, a male authority figure to care about and to be honest with him, and that’s part of what makes him susceptible to Death Stroke. But he does go through a bit of growth in the story. He makes a key decision about who he wants to be, to really be a good man and to be a good hero, and he makes a good start of that in this story. He really turns the tide in the last issue in terms of deciding how our heroes will act and behave. Even though Robin remained the leader of the Teen Titans, it was Wally who managed to rally the team to do the right things, and I was really proud of them at that moment and I hope that carries over into the Flash book.

Unfortunately, that’s it for what I see is the big positive of the story. There are some characters were not portrayed as well. Robin/Damian Wayne was one of them. He was simply awful in this a story. [missing audio 07:24] a lot of the comics that I’ve read in D.C. Rebirth tried to humanize him because the character comes off as abrasive, overly self-confident, a bit of a brat, but most D.C. Rebirth books have tried to give us a different side of him whether it’s in Nightwing or Super Sons or Superman or in the first volume of Teen Titans Comics. It gives you feel that there is more to this character. Unfortunately, here he lives down to kind of the worst stereotypes about him. Some of this does make sense when he goes after Dick Grayson as established in Nightwing, he sees himself as the heir to Batman and takes opportunities to cut Dick Grayson down to strengthen his own candidacy. Yet for others it’s just one case of cutting people down after another even when one of his own Teen Titans is going through a difficulty and he’s challenged to comfort her, it’s done in a really half-hearted, not particularly sincere way. The way that he handles Young Wally West in the story is pretty awful, and as for old Wally he manages to make his current existence in the D.C. Universe even more miserable, which has been an ongoing theme with old Wally’s return. The other members of the team are barely there. They contributed a bit of dialogue, a bit of action, but it’s really…they don’t stand out. It’s really Robin, Nightwing and the two Wally West, as well as Death Stroke of course. And there’s also some vagueness in the plot. I’ve read two or three times through the whole explanation of The Lazarus Contract and I still don’t get it. Reportedly writer Christopher Priest wanted to do something that was more a recreation of the Judas Contract and that had the kybosh put on it by D.C. high ups, so we end up with kind of the best he could do.

Also it’s fair to wonder why Deathstroke kept going slowly back through his son’s timeline because initially when he goes back his son doesn’t listen and he just keeps going back, you know, a few months at a time rather than going back to before the events started that would lead to a son’s death. Just go back as early as possible right away because this ultimately is what leads to the undoing of Deathstroke because he does this so slowly. I think you may also get more out of this book if you’re more into Deathstroke as he’s certainly not the type of character I enjoy reading about. I mean, he does get some pretty key moments in this story. Still this felt more like a crossover for the sake of having a crossover. There were some really good fan servicing moments which if you were more of a fan of the Titans and the Teen Titans from a long time you may have enjoyed, such as when they travel back in time and meet some of the Titans when they were younger. But overall this felt like a crossover for the sake of having a crossover. I think the good inter-book crossovers are as a result of something that’s been building throughout the year in the pages of all the comics. The Superman Reborn crossover was a very good crossover, but it answered a lot of questions that had been building up that really needed to be answered, so it was a crossover between Superman and Action Comics, which is probably easier than a crossover between three different books. But still I have no problem at all rating this collection Not Classy. It was certainly not horrible and the developments in Kid Flash/Young Wally are definitely appreciated, but it doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table to justify its existence.

Well that’s all for now and both of this week’s collections failed to garner a Classy label. Will next week be better? I hope so. In the meantime if you have a comment email it to me at classycomicsguy@gmail.com and we’ll see you next time. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

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