The New Teen Titans Volume 7 brings the reprint project to the story long-time fans have been waiting for.

“The Judas Contract” brought together threads reaching back to the earliest days of the series. Deathstroke, using information from his spy on the team, finally succeeded in capturing most of the Titans and then handed them over to the mysterious H.I.V.E. Only former Dick Grayson, the former Robin, escaped his would-be captor. Dick pieced together how Deathstroke overcame his friends, then garnered some crucial insights into the villain from someone close to him. Dick stepped into his new heroic identity, Nightwing, acquired a new ally in Jericho, a mute young hero with ties to Deathstroke, and rode off to the rescue. The saga of Terra came to a devastating conclusion, leaving the team badly shaken. While they were still reeling, old friends Aqualad and Aquagirl turned up, having barely survived another attack from H.I.V.E. that precipitated a final conflict, with the fate of Atlantis itself hanging in the balance.

“The Judas Contract” is the fondly remembered high point of the original Marv Wolfman/George Pérez New Teen Titans run, and for good reason. It was an intricately plotted, character-driven story that paid off almost four years of storytelling while pushing the cast through some devastating moments of loss and betrayal. More than anything, it stands a strong example of the canny mix of superhero action and young adult soap opera that the Wolfman/Pérez team assayed so confidently.

Deathstroke had always come across as more than a typical villain and the exploration of his past and motivations here helped shape him into the DCU cornerstone character he’d become. This stretch was a great spotlight for Dick Grayson, showing how far the character had come from his “kid sidekick” days, as Dick emerged into an adult hero with a distinctive persona; three decades later and Nightwing has endured as his primary heroic identity. Jericho proved to be a valuable, fascinating addition to the cast, while the story gave strong moments to Changeling, Raven, Terra and Cyborg. Even the fill-in story that completes this collection was higher quality than the typical inventory issue (with the great Steve Rude contributing guest pencils).

Pérez, working with ace inkers Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo and vital colorist Adrienne Roy, produced some of his strongest work during this stretch. He showed off his strength in using the traditional grid approach to page construction in dynamic ways that maximized dramatic impact and enhanced the flow of the action. When Pérez and company were given the chance to go big, they didn’t disappoint, constructing lavish splash pages and big ticket action sequences with aplomb. On the design side, Pérez’s Nightwing was an instant classic, borrowing elements of the traditional Batman color scheme to help usher his one-time junior partner into full-fledged adult hero status with costume elements whose influence is seen even in the character’s modern look. As for Jericho… the color scheme for the character made for an effective contrast with the mix of the cast at the time, but the look itself is one that hasn’t aged well. Pérez had better luck coming up with creative visual ways to portray Jericho’s unique power set.

Volume 7 isn’t really a jumping on point, as the power of the story is enhanced by having read the stories that preceded it. For fans who have absorbed the entire Wolfman/ Pérez New Teen Titans saga up to this point, however, it’s a powerful payoff.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting