Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Judas Contract, Pt. 1

It was 1981, and I was living in Laredo, TX when I began reading The New Teen Titans and later, Tales of the Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Looking back, the stories of that era were not really tightly woven plots, but rather character development and exploration - Cyborg finding out his handicap opens new opportunities for him to help handicapped kids, Beast Boy/Changeling showing special wisdom and maturity as he organizes a huge banquet, Raven struggling with her evil side inherited from her demonic father, Trigon.

I think when men write from the heart it produces good writing, good stories, even if you disagree with them personally on some issues. But they have to end with a reason, or message, the "why" of the story or we leave dissatisfied. We want to know "why" a thing happened, especially if it is very evil.

The Titans had a great rogue's gallery, full of non-predictable villains. Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke the Terminator was dangerous and smart, a true anti-hero, and Brother Blood was one of the more scary "cult leader" villains I've even seen. The Brotherhood of Evil was another great collection of villains I remember. Each had something admirable - like self-control - about them.

Of all the storylines though, the best written IMHO was a subtle sub-plot that became a knock-down drag out and ended with real heart-break: The Judas Contract.

Here's the story: Tara, a sweet, innocent-looking, pug-nosed blonde-haired girl joins the Teen Titans, half-sister of a superhero named Geo-Force. They welcome her with open arms and accept her as one of their own. Over several issues, we see Logan's blossoming love with her and some hints all is not quite as it seems (hellllooooo - background check, anyone?). In the big "reveal" we find out she ain't so innocent, ain't so sweet and has been working for Slade Wilson, a.k.a The Terminator to find out all of their secrets.

He learns that Robin, the Boy Wonder is Dick Grayson, ward of Bruce Wayne. (Golly, think he'll be able to figure out Batman's true identity from THAT?! :P)

It gets uglier. We find out she hates the Titans with a passion.

She sneers at them, ranting about how they make her sick with their "do-gooder" attitude. Confused and bewildered to see this sudden change, they keep asking her why she is doing this, betraying them.

The answer: she is evil. Really evil. Deathstroke won't take credit for it, even when blamed by the Titans for it. "You're crazy! She was looney before I met her! She found ME!" he shouts back, letting them know WHO instigated the plan for their betrayal.

Again, Donna Troy, a.k.a. Wonder Girl asks, "Why?"

"There need not be logical answers," answers Raven, daughter of Trigon as she teleports in. "The girl is evil."

Not misinformed.

Not unaware and lost.

Not crazy. Just evil.

She doesn't want love, but hate.

With great power should come great fear of the possessor, of what they can do to you.

That's what Tara Markov believes and accepts. In fact, from several earlier scenes, we see that she willingly chose this path instead of being loved. That the Titans got under her skin in many good ways (such as when Cyborg presents her with a "Sweet 16" birthday cake).

But, as with all great villainy, Tara ends up destroying herself.

After her death, and with the Titans still grieving, Garfield Logan, a.k.a. The Changeling, decides to make Slade Wilson, the Terminator pay for "what he did to Tara!"

It is a pretty awesome fight, 'cause Logan is taking no prisoners! He uses his powers to the max, but Wilson, strangely - remember he's an anti-hero - won't try to kill Logan. He keeps himself alive long enough to reason with him [does he pin Logan? I can't remember.] - and he says "Kid - something was wrong with her way before I ever met her. She hated you all."

As they calm down, and Garfield realizes Wilson may be right, he asks what's burning a hole in his young heart:

"Did you sleep with her, Wilson?"

Long pause. "Would it matter if I did?" replies Wilson.

"No - I guess not..." admits Garfield.


However, we know Wilson did from an earlier scene:

This is an ugly scene, because it reveals Slade Wilson as a pedophile - but it also paints Tara as wicked to the core. She is no victim of, but rather in collusion with perversity. What Tara did was far worse than simply betraying Garfield's love. She betrayed everyone who loved her, who accepted her.

They part ways - Garfield ashamed he tried to blame Tara's evil on Wilson and Wilson - well, he himself had a hot-headed son who got killed - he lets Garfield live.

It was fine writing. It showed how our passions can blind us, even as we refuse to believe the truth. How we can be deceived by appearances and how even our worst enemy may have a bit of wisdom the day we lose it.

And evil? It is a real force, corrupting men (and women and boys and girls) and bringing insanity to them.

It was a powerful thing to read at such a young age, but I never forgot it.

Thanks, Marv and George.

Oh - I almost forgot: you can read the ORIGINAL 'Judas Contract' here.

Amen.

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