The Judas Contract, by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, is the most famous story arc of the Teen Titans franchise.
Once upon a time, Changeling met Terra, a teenager with a lovely face, the metahuman ability to manipulate rocks, and the social skills of Wolverine. He immediately fell in love with her, despite the fact that she was a villain robbing banks, and believed he could redeem her. The Titans discovered that she was forced to commit crimes by a terrorist group that claimed they held her parents hostage, though it turns out that her parents had actually died. Changeling noticed a few lies—things that did not make sense—but the Titans eventually accepted Terra as one of them anyway. Terra took issue with the Titans concealing their secret identities, so as they came to trust her, they revealed their true identities to her.
A week after that reveal, Deathstroke captures most of the Titans by setting traps at their homes. Dick Grayson, who had resigned from the Robin persona and become Nightwing, manages to escape the trap. He soon confirms that he's the only free Titan left, and while at Titan Tower, he's surprised by Adeline, Deathstroke's ex-wife, who reveals details about Slade's activities - including Terra's betrayal of the Titans. Adeline's son, Jericho, joins Nightwing and travels to the country where Deathstroke has taken the Titans for H.I.V.E. While Nightwing saves the Titans, Jericho possesses the body of his father and attacks Terra with it. Thinking that Deathstroke has turned against her, an enraged Terra goes on a literal earth-shattering rampage and eventually kills herself.
The original Teen Titans animated series dedicated the bulk of its second season to a version of this storyline. After years in Development Hell, a stand-alone Animated Adaptation—Teen Titans: The Judas Contract—was released in 2017. The third season of Young Justice also incorporates elements of the storyline. 2017's The Lazarus Contract, a crossover between Titans (Rebirth), Teen Titans (Rebirth) and Deathstroke (Rebirth), serves as a Spiritual Successor to this storyline.
The Judas Contract contains examples of:
- All-Encompassing Mantle: Raven's cape, in the cover used above. See all that blue area? That's supposed to be her cape.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Deathstroke. He has a contract to capture the Teen Titans and deliver them to H.I.V.E., and he accomplished it. Now, what happens with the Titans after that (even if it means a case of Bond Villain Stupidity and the escape of the Titans), it's none of his business. If H.I.V.E. wants the Titans again, they'll have to pay him rather than hide behind Loophole Abuse. No refunds.
- Battlecry: This is the story where the iconic "Titans Together!" is first used. Gar announces it while the Titans rally to escape after being captured by the H.I.V.E..
- Big "NO!": In the trial of Slade Wilson, when his relation to the crimes cannot be proven (see Secret Identity). Gar doesn't take it lightly.
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Wilson family. Before this, we only had Deathstroke, his quiet assistant, and that son that died on their first appearence. Now we have the ex-wife and the son crippled thanks to Wade's mercenary career to contend with.
- Bond Villain Stupidity:
- Well done, H.I.V.E., the Titans have been captured, and they are held at that machine. It is time to kill them... what? Wait a whole day for the chief to appear? Well, let's wait then, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
- Downplayed with Deathstroke, who painstakingly entraps nearly every member of the Titans... and then barges headlong into Dick Grayson's apartment to duke it out with him mano a mano.
- Character Shilling: Part 2 does a lot to show off Dick Grayson by having the Wilson family buff his reputation up as they interact with and spy on him. Unfortunately, the reason Dick gets to be so awesome relies on Deathstroke playing Idiot Ball — the Terminator makes a point of tricking or sabotaging the superpowered teenagers and then raiding Grayson's apartment for a one-on-one fight, and when Dick successfully fights back, Slade starts going on about how this makes Grayson "the best" of the Titans. (As an excuse, both he and his ex-wife figure he's personally going through Villain Decay, but Adeline goes on to give props to Dick's detective skills to salvage Slade's dubious judgment).
- Eyedscreen: Raven feels that Terra is evil, but she's still unsure, because her powers aren't working correctly at the time. And one day, during a training session, Terra briefly reveals her true colors and tries to kill Gar. She claims it's because his pranks reminded her of the time with the terrorists. She begs them to believe her, as Raven stares at her with a deep and deep vision, ending in an eyedscreen... but no: Raven doesn't realize Terra's intentions before she carries out the plan.
- Fatal Family Photo: If Slade didn't spend so much time looking at his family photos when Terra was around, she wouldn't have recognized that blond guy that came with Nightwing. He may have had a chance to convince H.I.V.E. to let him take that guy, and leave before they killed the Titans or the Titans escaped and turned everything into a big mess.
- Foreshadowing: Raven's empathetic abilities being on the fritz both blinded her to Terra's intentions, and foreshadowed that she was starting to slip, as seen in The Terror of Trigon.
- For the Evulz: The ultimate reason why Terra did all the things she did. Future writers be dammed, Terra shows absolutely no redeeming qualities in this arc. Every time she did something good, it was a calculated masquerade.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: When the Titans are not watching her, or when she has dropped the masquerade, Terra is always smoking. Because she's evil.
- He's Dead, Jim: After she covers herself with rocks, Cyborg, Gar and Wonder Girl begin to remove the rocks. With her powers, Terra may still be alive! And then, the end: Gar finds her corpse. She is most definitely, certifiably dead. And she stays that way.
- How We Got Here: The first of Deathstroke's attacks seen was on Dick Grayson. He escapes from him, and discovers the fate of all the others while visiting the places where they were captured.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: Finding out that Terra was The Mole was a big surprise in its day. Nowadays, after a pair of decades with her betrayal as a recurring past plot element for the Titans (including new Terras), and an animated series where Terra also joined the Titans to betray them, nobody should be surprised to read that.
- Leave Him to Me: Terra wanted to kill Raven herself, not let Deathstroke take her because Raven could sense that Terra was evil.
- Meaningless Villain Victory: Slade succeeds in delivering the Titans to H.I.V.E. and avenging his son but isn't paid for it since Grant was paid in his upgrades, not money. He escapes with his life from Terra's rampage but knowing his surviving son and ex-wife hate him. While he manages to convince a jury to acquit him after a semi-reduced prison sentence, Slade talks down Beast Boy from murdering him while knowing the Titans won't hold back the next time they meet. By the end of this, Slade understandably says that he's tired that after all this because he gained nothing and lost his family.
- Military Maverick: Wintergreen, in the flashback. A major that hated Slade sent him on a suicide mission, but Wintergreen defied the orders to stay back and rescued him.
- The Mole:
- Terra, of course. Deathstroke feared that she may become a mole after staying with the Titans, but no, her hatred for them (and for everything else, for that matter) was too high.
- Changeling was dead sure that it has to be a trick, that Terra had to be a mole (or mind-controlled, or whatever), even as she insults him and openly denies it. He even kept attacking Slade after all this, blaming him for the death of Terra (which, in a sense, is correct since Slade had hired Terra to act as part of his plan to bring down the Titans and thus put her in the situation that eventually led to her death, but he had no direct part in the death itself.)
- Not So Different: Gar and Slade have such a moment sometime after this story. Gar challenges Slade to a fight to the death, and he accepts. Both of them want to put an end to the whole thing. On one side, Gar is at Terra's grave, thinking that he must do this for her, to avenge her, so she can rest in peace. And on the other side, Slade is at Grant Wilson's grave, thinking that he must do it for him, to end the whole thing started by his unfinished contract, so that he can rest in peace.
- Origin Story: For Deathstroke, Jericho, Adeline and Wintergreen, delivered by Adeline to Nightwing.
- "Ray of Hope" Ending: It's a pretty bleak arc. While the Titans manage to break out from the H.I.V.E. and gain a new team member in Jericho, Slade got away with kidnapping them and will suffer no legal consequences, apart from a few months in jail. Changeling has been completely broken by the betrayal and sheds his Cheerful Child tendencies. The only consolation is Slade got nothing out of the contract apart from a bunch of teen heroes on his case, his wife and living son turned on him, and knowing a good amount of people want him dead. But...Slade in a Pet the Dog moment challenges Changeling to kill him unarmed, knowing that the Titan could have easily mauled him if he felt angry enough, and treats him to breakfast when Gar can't hurt a defenseless man. He also admits the Titans have every right to hate him, and at least for now isn't going to hurt them again, while advising Changeling he is a hero and to not forget that. And before the 2003 reboot, Slade stuck to that promise.
- Retired Badass: Adeline, after having two sons. But she still knows how to dispose of a terrorist gang.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: When Wintergreen was captured by the Vietcong, Slade asked the military to take him again: he was sure that he would be able to rescue Wintergreen, even if he had to make the mission alone. He was rejected. So he created the "Deathstroke" persona, headed to the Vietcong, and rescued Wintergreen all by himself.
- See also the Military Maverick entry for Wintergreen, who was in the military at the time of his own incident.
- Secret Identity: Exploited by Slade Wilson in court. He openly admits that he was Deathstroke once, but that he wasn't the same Deathstroke the Titans fought, and the "second" Deathstroke had taken his secret identity and costume.
- Selective Obliviousness:
- Changeling will always believe that Terra was a mole or that she was being controlled by Slade, despite all the evidence of the contrary, including Terra's own explicit remarks.
- Cyborg, on the other hand, is not so naive. When they're all captured and Deathstroke announces that Terra aided him, he believes it immediately: now it all fell into place.
- Spotting the Thread: When he meets Terra, Beast Boy questions how the royals of Markovia could be held hostage and no one would know about it, as she claims her reason for being blackmailed into terrorism. Terra dodges his questions by saying she was captured and drugged. Unfortunately, Beast Boy should have followed that line of thinking especially when the Titans meet her brother.
- Super Window Jump: Deathstroke made one on Dick Grayson's apartment, to make the reveal that he knows his secret identity much more dramatic.
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Exaggerated. Deathstroke watches the Titans though the camera in Terra's lens, and in turn, he's being watched by Adeline.
- Villainous Breakdown: When Jericho possesses Deathstroke and forces him to attack Terra and free the Titans, she immediately snaps and accuses Slade of betrayal, cutting loose with her powers. Even when she figures out Jericho's ability, she's too far gone in her breakdown to care anymore, and wants to kill them all.