Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Writer: Marv Wolfman | Penciler: Rich Buckler
Finishers: Dick Giordano & Mike DeCarlo
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Adrienne Roy

The Plot: Slade Wilson's trial plays out over the course of a few days. Changeling attacks him in the courtroom and is kicked out, but this seems to be part of his plan. Later, the Titans question Deathstroke's ally, Wintergreen, about the false Terminator who attacked Lilith, and are attacked by that same imposter, who escapes.

Meanwhile, Cyborg prepares to undergo a procedure which will replace his metallic parts with plastic replicating the appearance of human flesh. Lilith berates the Titans for scaring away the winged alien and reveals that she's developed new powers which turn her skin red hot. And Wilson is ultimately acquitted due to insufficient evidence, though Judge Chase rules that he will be bound over for trial regarding the illegal firearms found in his apartment by authorities.

At the Dayton Estate, Changeling reveals that he's been using Steve Dayton's Mento helmet to impersonate Deathstroke in hopes of getting Wilson off completely so he can kill the Terminator himself.

My Thoughts: First, I like Changeling's little scheme. It totally makes sense as the sort of impulsive thing a teenager -- especially one like Gar Logan -- might try to pull. Though I'm confused by Dayton's relationship with his step-son here. When last we saw them together, they seemed close, but in this issue Dayton calls Changeling a "stupid little jerk" and tells him never to touch the helmet again under penalty of learning just how powerful it really is. Is Steve Dayton on his way to another bout with villainy?

The sub-plots here are hit-or-miss. I have no investment in Lilith as a character, so her new power and her relationship with the winged alien hold little interest for me. On the other hand, Cyborg's potential return to humanity is intriguing, though I know it won't last. But it's a story arc that probably needed to be definitively done, if only to prove that it can never happen. Ideally, Wolfman will do just that -- show us that Cyborg can never be human again and leave it be. He can still mope about his cybernetic parts, but I hope this doesn't turn into a Ben Grimm thing, where the guy gets returned to normal every so often, only to have his humanity stripped away again.

And then there's the main plot. The entire issue is basically a courtroom drama, which is pretty cool. You don't usually see that sort of thing in comics, and I like that Wolfman has gone this route with Deathstroke, following him from crimes committed to capture to trial over the course of fifty-plus issues. The scene following his acquittal, where he gloats to the Titans that he's guilty, was maybe a step too far, as cliches go, but it can be forgiven considering how nicely Wolfman handled the rest of the courtroom scenes.

Writer: Marv Wolfman | Artist: Ron Randall
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Adrienne Roy

The Plot: Changeling tries to kill Slade Wilson in prison. Wilson is released thanks to contacts with the U.S. Government and Changeling challenges him to one last fight at the Ausable Chasm. There, Changeling can't bring himself to murder the unarmed Wilson. The pair goes for breakfast at a nearby diner, where Wilson reveals his plans to retire Deathstroke -- for now -- and tells Changeling the cold, hard truth about Terra. They part ways as Wilson informs Changeling that he can become one of the best of the Titans if he will allow himself to.

My Thought: A lot gets put to bed in this story. Changeling has been in denial about Terra for a long time, but Deathstroke finally sets him straight about her and he apparently admits to himself that she really was the horrible person she revealed herself to be in the end. And Deathstroke himself retires from mercenary work, having grown weary of his lot in life.

I've said before that the Wolfman/Pérez run reads almost like a novel in some ways, and this issue adds to that illusion. Deathstroke's arc, dating back to issue 2, comes to an end -- and it was a pretty consistent story all the way through, too. His only goal was to complete his late son's contract and turn the Titans over to the H.I.V.E., and he did it. So with this coda, he now joins the H.I.V.E., Terra, Wonder Girl's past, Kid Flash's doubts and Robin's insecurities as another plot point tied nicely into a little bow as we approach the finale of this "novel" and Pérez's swan song (which, techincally, already happened a few months earlier in the pages of THE NEW TEEN TITANS volume 2). The only major danglers left now are Brother Blood and Raven/Trigon. And while we won't see the first of those addressed before this review series reaches its conclusion, the second will be wrapped up in a major way very soon.

Speaking to the execution of the issue itself, I need to compliment Wolfman on handling Changeling's grief and grudge in a very mature manner. There's action here, of course -- it's a superhero comic. But when Logan and Wilson sit down for breakfast, the conversation is well-written and completely believable. My only issue with the writing is not related to this script in particular, but more to the fact that suddenly, beginning this issue, Wilson wants to hang up his costume -- while just an issue back, he seemed practically gleeful that he had beat the charges against him and even dangled his victory over the Titans' heads. Seems like an odd move for a guy who just wants to settle down.

Sadly the artwork doesn't quite support Wolfman's character work here. I'm not sure whether I've ever read anything drawn by Ron Randall, but I'm not impressed. This looks like what I thought of as the standard DC "house style" when I was a kid. Very flat and boring.

Oh, and lastly -- it seems Steve Dayton has been hitting the bottle, which is why he was yelling at Changeling last issue (and again here). I know it's about as cliched as you can get, but this would have been much easier to comprehend with some slurred speech, a few little popping bubbles spinning around his skull, and a bottle in his hand. Sometimes cliches are cliches because they work!


  1. "Is Steve Dayton on his way to another bout with villainy?"

    Steve Dayton is always on his way to another bout with villainy. Always.

    "Shade of Gray" was the first Titans issue I ever read (I got it in a weird grab-bag of random comics), and it sufficiently intrigued me to seek out the earlier stories. I'd rarely if ever seen a comic where a hero & a villain sort out their differences with a sincere conversation.

    1. It's always interesting to think about what issue won you over to a series when you were younger. Being a pretty action and costume oriented kid, I'm not sure I would've come back after this one. Good for you that you did; you must not have been as shallow as me! Nowadays I appreciate this sort of stuff a lot more, but back then I found it boring as heck.

  2. Great story, and it should have been the perfect ending for Slade Wilson. But no, DC turned him into a villain again, even retconning his association with Terra's mental dysfunction (!).
    I suppose his gleeful act at court was just an act; he didn't want the Titans to see how spiritually tired he is now. Seeing how Terra badly hurt Gar caused him to show his vulnerability and help the poor kid.
    Reading Slade's account on how Terra's vendetta on Gar was based on how his friend the tribal chief saw through her lies reminds me of how Terra hated Raven because she sensed her true nature. It seems Terra takes up a grudge when people see right through her, proving that she's not as clever as she think she is.
    Yes, Steve Dayton is heading for a return to villainy. Several issues come up: he gets diagnosed with cancer and tries to use his Mento helmet to control it. Later, in Alan Moore's SWAMP THING he becomes the mental link for HELLBLAZER Constantine (and Zatara, Zatanna, and Sargon) to see a battle between Swamp Thing, Dr. Fate, Spectre, and Etrigan vs. some dark Evil, the experience driving him mad. He begins hallucinating about the Doom Patrol blaming him for their deaths. He even uses Promethium to create sentient beings for a team and intends to use them to kill the Titans so Gar can be haunted as well. Eventually, with the help of Raven, Gar is able to get to Steve and help him overcome his madness and their own failings in their relationship and start over.

    1. Poor Dayton. I thought he'd found a happy ending when the Titans rescued him way back in issue13, but apparently not.

      DC released a trade of their nineties DEATHSTROKE series and, since I like the character from these issues and it's written by Wolfman, I picked it up. No idea when I'll get around to reading it, but I hope it's good. I could see him headlining his own series since he was never exactly a villain -- just a mercenary antagonist.