The Lazarus Contract, or Why Do They Make it So Difficult?

The Lazarus Contract, it turns out, is a deal made between Slade Wilson (as Deathstroke) and Dick Grayson (as Robin), a year after Slade’s son Grant’s (as Ravager) death. It’s a pretty nifty idea, Slade being Slade, doing his best to keep his loved ones safe and – because it’s better for everyone – at a distance.

The Lazarus Contract is also a crossover developed by Priest, Benjamin Percy, and Dan Abnett. The crossover starts in Titans #11 (written by Dan Abnett, penciled by Brett Booth, inked by Norm Rapmund, and colored by Andrew Dalhouse and Carrie Strachan) , continues into Teen Titans #8 (written by Benjamin Percy with Phil Hester on breakdowns, penciled by Khoi Pham, inked by Wade Von Grawbadger, and colored by Jim Charalampidis), then Deathstroke #19 (written by Priest and with Larry Hama-provided breakdowns, penciled by Carlo Pagulayan with Roberto J. Viacava, inked by Jason Paz with Sean Parsons, and colored by Jeromy Cox) and concludes in Teen Titans: The Lazarus Contract Special (written by Priest, penciled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Andrew Hennessy, and colored by Adriano Lucas, with the epilogues by the books’ respective creative teams).

The story starts off with a short flashback, a nightmare relived, where we see Ravager having the upper hand against the Teen Titans before the side effects of the serum H.I.V.E. supplied kills him. Based on that, Slade has an idea that involves going back in time to save Grant. And for that he’ll need a speedster.

Of course, things aren’t always as easy as they should be, or even how they appear, and with Slade, things are never straightforward. And that can makes things fun. And maybe a touch confusing. Which is par for the course in this New 52 and post-Rebirth world. Worlds. Multiverses. You know what I mean.

I won’t give away the ending, a lot of the fun in a Priest-written story is witnessing it for yourself, not merely reading or hearing about it secondhand. But I will tell you some of the players in this story are different at the end of it then they were at the start of it. Except Robin. Damian is still a dick.

The art is solid, too, and works for each chapter. The art teams complement one another. I enjoy seeing names like Phil Hester, Khoi Pham, Wade Von Grawbadger, Larry Hama, Carlo Pagulayan, Norm Rapmund, and Paul Pelletier.

I was totally on board for this crossover for a few reasons:

  • I’m a lifelong Slade WIlson, Deathstroke the Terminator fan
  • I was a Teen Titans fan growing up
  • Deathstroke plus Titans should be a no-brainer
  • I tend to enjoy short crossovers, stories that start in one title and continue in another
  • The “Contract” part of the title reminds me The Judas Contract
  • Priest

However…

As I was reading this crossover I was reminded that DC practically refuses to make life a little easier for an uninformed reader. Not a new reader, mind you, but the reader who isn’t familiar with the character or team they’re being thrown at when all they want to do is follow along and see the story to its conclusion. Don’t misunderstand me, there are some editor’s notes sprinkled here and there, letting you know something mentioned happened in an earlier issue of Titans and Deathstroke and even The Flash. But it seems like DC assumes you have read the preceding ten issues of Titans, the seven issues of Teen Titans, the eighteen issues of Deathstroke, plus their associated Rebirth issues. And that’s nuts.

A plotline that was running in the last six issues of Deathstroke gets resolved in about the first four pages of Titans. And that resolution isn’t mentioned in Deathstroke #20. So if you don’t bother with crossovers, or if you don’t care about the Titans – Teens or otherwise – you’re outta luck.

When we’re introduced to the Titans we’re also given their previous code names. Except Donna Troy who at present doesn’t have a code name. When we’re introduced to the Teen Titans we’re given their real names and their code names. Except poor Jackson Hyde. But we never know what everyone can do, what their powers and abilities are.

Look, I’m not saying I want the writers and editors to hold my hand. I enjoy the hunt, I enjoy the journey. But there are instances in this story where you’re left to fill in some blanks. And that might not be for the best.

Maybe that’s old man thinking. Remembering how writers would give you a few sentences about a character, making them feel like you’ve known them your whole life. Now it’s all about being in the moment, the here and now, and if you weren’t around at the start we don’t have time to get you caught up. On one hand, it’s written to some degree in a slight realistic tone. The way conversations flow, the way characters interact with one another. In real life we don’t talk to someone by constantly reminding them about something that happened hours ago. But in a comicbook, that often works. There are a lot of things characters say in comicbooks that would sound ridiculous in the real world. I think The Lazarus Contract would have been a smidge more enjoyable for me if the creators embraced the medium a bit more.

As I stated earlier, some of our heroes – anti or otherwise – are changed at the end of the fourth chapter. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get it. “We have you here, you got to know these characters over the past 100 or so pages, now find out what happens to them in Deathstroke #20, Teen Titans #9, and Titans #12.” And each epilogue ends with enough of a push where you should want to see where things are headed. But, and this is me being reminded of The Judas Contract, I may have preferred to see this crossover end with a period and not a comma.


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  • Keith C. Amaral

    I was also a little disappointed with the arc, myself. I thought Priest’s installments were the best, but couldn’t shake the feeling that he was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole — I don’t believe the other books in this crossover are on par with Deathstroke, which to me, has been the best title DC’s publishing.

    I read some comments Priest made, indicating that he had planned to revisit Judas Contract in Deathstroke, but because of editorial continuity concerns, they came up with this crossover instead. I’m just glad it’s over, as I’m anxious to see Priest return to business as usual on Deathstroke. Still hoping he gets to put his spin on Judas Contract eventually.