“Teen Titans: The Judas Contract” is a sequel to “Justice League vs. Teen Titans” which was a sequel to “Batman: Bad Blood” so don’t worry, it all ties to Batman. Like pretty much everything DC Comics these days, it’s all about Batman, and “The Judas Contract” compensates for the lack of Batman by including both Robins. Not only do we get a look at Dick Grayson as Robin when he led the Titans, but we also go to modern times where Grayson is now Nightwing. Damian Wayne is Robin now, and is a member of the Teen Titans. So that Batman flavor DC banks on is still there, even if Batman never shows up. “The Judas Contract” is an adaptation of one of the most iconic comic book storylines of all time, as the Teen Titans confront a traitor in their midst. Sam Liu’s animated adaptation is weak and limp, and often times bereft of entertainment value. And I say that as someone who genuinely loves the character Nightwing.
After spending many years trying to fight the evil Brother Blood and his cult of followers, the Teen Titans realize they’re being infiltrated and watched. Little do they know that Brother Blood is working with Deathstroke, who has a bone to pick with Damian Wayne. What’s worse is that he’s recruited Metahuman Terra, who has been a Titan member for many years and has gained the trust of the team. When Damian learns of her identity, he’s captured by Deathstroke and held captive. Meanwhile, Terra has a crises of conscience when the team attempts to welcome her, and enacts a plan with Deathstroke to begin systematically hunting down and kidnapping various team members. Of course, Nightwing isn’t having any of that, and is the only person who can save the team when Brother Blood has the entire group in his grasp.
Much of “The Judas Contract” is just teeming with filler, which is shocking considering most of that filler and fat could be used to build on characters and motivations so much more. Did Deathstroke actually have an affair with an underage Terra, or is she some delusional assistant with Stockholm syndrome like Harley Quinn? Why did we need to know the origin of Starfire? What is the point of Blue Beetle’s sub-plot? Is there an upcoming Blue Beetle animated movie or series that DC is working on? Either way, “The Judas Contract” has only eighty minutes to unfold the entire storyline, and while it’s very faithful to the source material, it lacks the heart and emotion we saw in the Glenn Murakami animated series. At least we had thirteen half hour episodes of build up. The movie itself tries to use graphic violence and heavy sexual content as a means of evoking emotion or shocks, which fails at every turn.
The animation is at least sleek and a nice substitute for Bruce Timm’s once trademark DC style and it adds to the attempted realism in depicting a very truncated version of “The Judas Contract.” Nightwing also comes off much better than previous animated appearances, even giving a classic Martin Riggs moment when he snaps his dislocated shoulder back in to place by smacking it against a pillar. There’s also some very good voice work from folks like Sean Maher, the late great Miguel Ferrer, Christina Ricci, Taissa Farmiga, and Meg Foster, respectively. “The Judas Contract” is yet another lackluster entry in the DC Animated Universe library, one I wish had much more excitement and light hearted fare. It has a neat cast, and the writers at least give more spotlight to Blue Beetle, I just wish the movie had more room to breath, and a better sense of excitement and fun.
The Limited Box Set features the release, along with a miniature figure of Blue Beetle. Would have made much more sense if we had Deathstroke, or even Terra, but I’m glad we at least got a figure of one of the only minority characters in the movie. There’s “Titanic Minds” which brings together the original team for the comics Marv Wolfman, and the amazing George Perez, both of whom have a good time with a shared conversation, and separate interviews discussing their collaboration on the “Teen Titans” comics, the new team, and the creation of “The Judas Contract.” If you’re a fan of the run from these two brilliant artists, then you will definitely enjoy this twenty five minute feature, which celebrates the Teen Titans.
“Villain Rising: Deathstroke” is a look at the despicable and calculating villain Deathstroke/The Terminator/Slade who was introduced in the Teen Titans comics. Mr. Wolfman and Mr. Perez return again to discuss their vision for the character, and how he fit in to the arc of “The Judas Contract.” Folks unfamiliar with Deathstroke would be wise to watch this. As with all the DCAU releases, there are two vintage episodes of classic DC animated shows, with two episodes from the Glenn Murakami “Teen Titans” show featuring Terra, and previews to DC animated movies, including the upcoming “Hey Everybody! We’re milking two very in vogue characters, again!” aka “Batman and Harley Quinn.” At least we’re going back to the classic Bruce Timm style, even if Paul Dini and Arleen Sorkin aren’t returning. Fingers crossed.