Be careful kids… This is some shallow water you’re treading.
Here’s the deal, for DC Comics, “crossover” or “event” essentially means nothing more than “bridge” these days. This remains true for “The Lazarus Contract.” This story (much like the recent “The Button,” Justice League vs Suicide Squad, Robin War, Trinity War, etc), hypes itself up as a major event, but fizzles out in the end by failing to tell a complete story (well). And considering this Annual is meant to be the conclusion of said story, it’s somewhat ironic that there is no apparent conclusion… just more questions and set-up.
I understand these titles are on-going, and I know that there most likely won’t be a full conclusion unless it’s the end of a series (and even then, it’s questionable), but that doesn’t mean a story can’t have a sense of closure. Even if it’s the closure of a “chapter,” I want to have some sense of resolve. I don’t feel like we get that with “The Lazarus Contract.” In fact, I don’t feel like we get much of anything out of this story.
The more I think about the narrative as a whole, the more riddled it becomes with problems. First, and foremost, the story is rushed. Everything that’s taken place since the first issue has essentially just been glided over. There’s a focus on the big moments, but that’s about it. The characterization and attention to detail are nowhere to be found. All we’re getting is big moment, big moment, big moment. Similar to a number of other DC titles, this feels more like an outline of a story rather than the actual story. And this should go without saying, but readers deserve a full story.
Seriously though, nothing is fully realized over the course of four issues. None of the teams feel as though they play a relevant part – there are just key players: Deathstroke, Wally, and Wally. The next two characters that have remotely any presence in the story are Nightwing and Robin. Everyone else essentially received the “X-Men: The Last Stand treatment” where it is basically an inflated cameo of, “Hey! Look! Here’s ______ character! Oh yeah! They used their powers!” and then they do nothing else… Even Dick and Damian’s roles throughout all of this were rather pointless in the end. Yes, they’re both the leader of their respective teams, but that appears to be the only reason they’re really here.
What I’m trying to say, is that this never should have been a crossover. I know… I know… It’s cool to have a crossover between Teen Titans, Titans, and Deathstroke… But only if the story doesn’t suck. This story did, unfortunately. There’s no reason this couldn’t have been an arc in Deathstroke. Forget Titans and Teen Titans. The heart of this story is with Slade Wilson, and all these other two titles did, were take away from that. The point of “The Lazarus Contract” is that Slade wants to go back in time to save his son, Grant. It’s an overly simplified breakdown, but it is the foundation of the narrative and that should have been the focus from start to finish.
Hell, you could have even kept a Wally West (or both). I found the idea of Slade gaining access to the Speedforce to be fun… But we don’t need either of the Titans teams for that. I would have much preferred a more personal story between Slade, Wintergreen, Rose, Jericho, and a Flash. The story could have been more focused and tighter that way, because it wouldn’t have required the need to feature a dozen characters in random panels and pages…. It’s just a bust all around.
The only redeeming aspects of any of this, are some of the potential set-ups for future stories. The most interesting (and also infuriating) is a set-up involving Wally West (from the Titans). The other Wally is a character I couldn’t care less about, and his conclusion is rather obvious if you’ve read solicitations. There’s also an interesting potential for stories involving H.I.V.E. and Deathstroke in the future, but that remains to be seen. My vote is to skip this story… I mean, unless you want to pay for three issues and an annual for the equivalent of a trailer, then by all means, go ahead.
The Art: Man, this art did not help things for “The Lazarus Contract.” As if the story burning out on it’s own weren’t enough, they had to make it worse by having the worst art for the crossover fall in the last issue… What a sham! Could DC not find a better artist than Paul Pelletier? Any of the original artists would have been better. The work looks rushed and is inconsistent. There’s not much emotion, and the presence of each character feels off. Definitely a poor choice.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
Wally West. Ok… First off, how to you respectfully differentiate these two without being politically incorrect. The easiest way is to say “black Wally” and “white Wally,” but that would undoubtedly piss some people off. Anyway, Wally has the most interesting part of this issue in that he now has a heart condition because of what Damian did to his past self. This also pisses me off, because Wally hasn’t had a single chance to be normal yet…
Yeah… that’s about all I’ve got…
Characterization. The characterization, all around, is bad. None of the characters feel true to themselves in the end. It feels more like the story was determined, then the characters were forced into those roles… I hate when that happens. Granted, I’m a character driven guy, so this might bother others less. An example of this is Slade quitting as Deathstroke. Yes, he offered to quit killing if he got Grant back. Well, he doesn’t get Grant back. You’d think this would make him angry… but instead he gives up. I don’t see Slade giving up…
Who do we root for? For a few issues now, I feel like roles are reversed. Deathstroke is trying to do something noble by undoing bad things. I mean, think about it: Slade wanted to save his son, prevent him from going under H.I.V.E.’s control, and lead him down a good path for the future. Yes, he has to alter the past by doing that, but I don’t think it needs to be met with the opposition of two heroic teams claiming that he’s potentially destroying the world. I mean, how many times have the Flash altered history? Plus, the heroes all kind of act like jerks… It makes it hard to find yourself feeling satisfied with the outcome.
Damian’s grounding words. Yeah… So the speech below is what helps ground Raven and pull everyone out of the speed force… I call bull$#!&!
Battling focus. “The Lazarus Contract” feels manic, because the story doesn’t know where it should be focused. You can have multiple plots, but there needs to be one single plot that overrules the others, and that’s not completely apparent – especially in this issue.
- You want to buy 3 issues and an annual for the equivalent of a trailer.
- You read all three titles anyway.
- You actually liked the first three chapters of “The Lazarus Contract.”
Overall: Honestly, this entire story is skippable, especially this issue. The payoff isn’t here, and comparing “The Lazarus Contract” to “The Judas Contract” only makes it even worse. DC gets a big thumbs down for this story. When there’s no point to a story, then there’s no point to read that story.