Tales from the Dark Multiverse: The Judas Contract #1 – Kyle Higgins, Mat Groom, Writers; Tom Raney, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 3/10
Corrina: A Shallow Tale of Rage
Ray: The Judas Contract #1, the final Tales from the Dark Multiverse special, at least for now, is the first to go back to a story before the modern age of comics. We’ve had two from the 1990s and two from the 2000s, but The Judas Contract was one of the most important 1980s DC stories and its impact is still felt today.
Artist Tom Raney does an impressive job of mimicking the general style of George Perez’s Titans, although he doesn’t duplicate it to the impressive extent that Brad Walker did with the Death of Superman issue. The art is strong and the first segment of the story by Kyle Higgins and Mat Groom does a good job of pulling us back into the world of this formative Titans team. It has a compelling divergence point, where Dick Grayson’s detective skills tip him off to the fact that Terra’s hiding something. But that’s the only good thing I can say about this issue.
The problem is, Higgins and Groom largely dispense with all the work done with the character of Terra over the last few decades. Even though the original Terra was a monstrous villain and died as one, she was still a child who was manipulated by a sadistic pedophile and turned into a weapon. Writers like Priest have done an amazing job of giving her more layers and even a redemption arc in some cases. This book seems to view her as a simple monster that needs to be destroyed. When Dick’s compassion for her leads her to fight back against Slade, it’s certainly understandable that she rips him apart. But her immediate treatment of Wintergreen afterwards indicates that something is still very wrong inside her. And once she takes Slade’s serum to upgrade her powers, the issue takes a truly ridiculous turn.
The bulk of the issue is just watching the upgraded Terra, now calling herself Gaia, tearing her way through one hero after another. Why does she want the Titans dead without Slade manipulating her? Why does she go after Superman next? Why does she literally crack the world so she can rule over its ruined ashes. This issue doesn’t give any satisfying answer beyond “she crazy”. Azrael was a brainwashed cult survivor. Ted Kord thought he could tame a dark power rather than be used by it. Sinestro was a coward who didn’t realize what his experiments were doing. Watching those downfalls was tragic. What’s the downfall of this world? Dick Grayson reaching out to a girl in pain? It’s a take on Terra I can’t get behind, and it’s a bitter end to this intriguing and twisted series of one-shots.
Corrina: The most problematic aspect of the Marv Wolfman/George Perez Teen Titans (much as I loved it then and love it now) was the treatment of Terra as an unhinged, underage sociopath being manipulated by Slade. Yes, there are underage girls who are unrepentent villains but that era of Titans almost made one feel bad for Slade, who had no problems sleeping with someone underage, who he also employed.
So what does The Judas Contract #1 do? It doubles down on all the problematic aspects of Terra’s story.
It makes you feel bad for Slade, as he’s destroyed, even though he was her abuser. It makes you feel bad for Wintergreen, who was somewhat complicit in her abuse. Because why? She’s cray, that’s why, and just wants to literally watch the world burn. There’s no nuance here, nothing but destruction, much like Lois’ becoming the Eradicator because she’s full of rage. Many of these Dark Multiverse tales seem to equate “dark” with gore and violence, while I would have liked to see more of them deal with despair, but that would require some more nuance as well.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.