Terra 3 is a perfect genetic match with Terra 2, who was a perfect genetic match with Terra 1. Terra #1 (Jan. 2009)
2000s Continuity concluded.
Geo-Force: Walking a mile in his sister’s shoes? 2001-2010.
The seductive injustice of scapegoating goes a long way to explaining why Brion Markov’s unwavering loyalty to his sister is justified. If Brion is still in Tara’s corner after all this, even if it means his destruction as a hero, then we may have to ask again who Tara really was. We may have to look beneath the cardboard-cut-out ‘traitor-who-deserved-to-die’ label that’s been slapped on her, and question the double standard that condemned her, while forgiving others who have done the same or worse. DC is currently making Geo-Force, a clearly heroic character, relive his sister’s hellish descent. We have to go back to Markovia and ask: who are the Markovs and what is their legacy?
Through this period, Brion shows growing signs of mental instability followed by a frightening decline into madness. He has blackouts and acquires Terra’s powers. His wife Denise has already died under unknown circumstances. He begins wearing the same uniform that both siblings wore when they first appeared, signifying his growing identification with Terra 1. The same themes begin to surround him: insanity, drugs, Deathstroke, mental manipulation, brainwashing, memory wipes, and a loss of moral direction combined with a massive increase in his geo-powers.
-JSA #33 (April 2002): "Stealing Thunder Part 1: Wish Fulfilment"
-JSA #34 (May 2002): "Stealing Thunder Part 2: Troublestruck"
-JSA #37 (August 2002): "Stealing Thunder Part 5: Crossing Over"
GF is imprisoned, along with almost every superhuman except for the JSA, by the Ultra-Humanite. GF became a mind-controlled slave until the Justice Society defeats the Humanite. The Ultra-Humanite later does something similar to Terra 3.
Three mysterious cult suicides, one of whom dies in a Terra costume. BoP #72 (late Oct. 2004)
-Birds of Prey #69 (early September 2004): "Between Dark and Dawn, Part One"
-Birds of Prey #70 (late September 2004): "Between Dark and Dawn, Part Two: Huntress/Prey"
-Birds of Prey #71 (early October 2004): “Between Dark and Dawn, Part Three: High Hopes”
-Birds of Prey #72 (late October 2004): "Between Dark and Dawn, Part Four: Material Girl"
-Birds of Prey #73 (early November 2004): "Between Dark and Dawn, Part Five: Blood and Circuits"
Issue #69: Oracle is investigating the suicides of three wealthy teenagers from prominent families. All died wearing the costumes of dead superheroes: Donna Troy’s Wondergirl costume, Jason Todd’s Robin 2 costume and Terra 1. Terra is still known as a superhero because her betrayal was not made public. Oracle’s computer erroneously says “Terra II,” which may be editing or have something to do with Terra 2’s death being planned by editors much earlier than 2007.
Oracle's research lists Terra 2 as deceased - before Tara 2 died. BoP #69 (early Sept. 2004)
Oracle decides the kids were murdered and sends Huntress to investigate an Oregon cult the kids had joined. She sends Vixen as backup, but when Huntress arrives, she finds Vixen already brainwashed. Issue #70: Intermittently fighting with Vixen, Huntress uncovers a cell with drugged metas, hooked up to engines, whose blood has been replaced by oily fluid: Agent Liberty, Air Wave, Bumblebee, Claw, Flamebird, Geo-Force, Plasmus, Plastique. Huntress: “It’s like the Nazi experiments.”
Brion, captured, tortured and brainwashed by the same cult. BoP #70 (late Sept. 2004)
Issue #72: Canary rushes to stop another cult suicide of a costumed boy, who thinks suicide will bring him immortality among the heroes. The cult is worshipping superheroes. Vixen has regained her senses, but then she and Huntress confront the freed metas, with a brainwashed GF leading them. GF is already manifesting Terra’s powers here, and he's wearing his original costume that resembled his sister's. Issue #73: In the fight with Vixen that ensues, GF further shows he has Terra’s powers. Huntress goes after the head of the cult, which resolves the fight, and she and Vixen call in the JLA to rehab the captured brainwashed metas, including GF. This is one arc in which Vixen seems to line up opposite Brion, as Gar did with Tara, implying that geo-elementals are somehow bonded to those who can tap the elemental powers of the Animal Kingdom. The whole plot traces back to Brainiac.
Brion visiting Tara's grave, and temporarily back to his green costume. IC #6 (Jan. 2005)
-Identity Crisis #6 (January 2005): "Husbands and Wives"
After the death of Jack Drake, Robin’s father, and the death of Sue Dibny, various heroes think of their deceased loved ones. Geo-Force visits Terra’s grave.
-Justice League of America vol. 2 #4 (January 2007): "The Tornado's Path, Chapter Four: Being Human"
In a sign that Brion is connected to the fate of his sister and possibly to her doppelgänger, his madness begins as Terra 3 is introduced, and as Terra 2 is pegged to die (her death appeared in an issue from the summer of 2007, but it apparently pre-dated January 2007 issues). Brion is sailing on his yacht along Markovia’s shoreline when the boat mysteriously crashes into some rocks and explodes. Brion swims free and climbs the sheer cliffs along the beach. He thinks: “N-No this – this can’t – pl-please don’t let it...!” His servant, Declan, radios him. They’ve heard reports that Brion’s been attacked. Brion tells him to contact Black Lightning. Clues later indicate that Brion caused the accident himself, using Tara’s powers. There’s no sign or mention of his wife Denise – but is this when she died?
-Justice League of America vol. 2 #5 (February 2007): "The Tornado's Path, Chapter Five: Born Again"
A scientist examines GF in Markovia after his yacht was attacked. She is investigating how he could have sustained open wounds because he is supposed to be bulletproof. She makes a veiled allusion to Superman: that objects traveling faster than a speeding bullet might hurt him. (In Last Will and Testament, Deathstroke later mentions that Brion’s staff have told him that his name translates as ‘Superman’ to pad his ego; that means that this scientist is possibly employed by Deathstroke. But why doesn't Brion know what the word means in his own native language? Is a Markovian dialect spoken as well as Romanian in Markovia? And if so, why would Brion not have learned it?) Brion is regretting having a physical exam because he is in the lab where Jace gave him his powers, and his powers are changing. He thinks: “My powers are my heritage. My heritage gives me power. True power. The power to rule.” His mind drifts and he confuses the scientist with Dr. Jace, who died years ago. The doctor examining him is shaken by this and cautiously corrects him, repeating her own name. She’s not Dr. Kneidel, who served GF in the 1990s. He cuts her off before she can do a full scan of his powers, which now include Terra’s abilities.
House of Markov.
-Justice League of America vol. 2 #6 (March 2007): "The Tornado's Path, Final Chapter: Iron Man"
Castle Markov. Brion is about to retire for the evening and is discussing the investigation into his yacht crash with his servant Declan. There are no witnesses because the south side of the country’s coast is all cliffs and there are no leads on any attackers. Declan says something odd: “One woman thought she heard the chattering of chainmail, bu-” This could be a reference to Deathstroke. Brion comes out of the bathroom, towelling off. He has taken a shower while unknowingly wearing his old GF uniform, the one that resembles Terra’s. Declan: “Sire ... why’re you wearing your costume before bed? Especially ... especially that one?” Brion: “Costume? I’m not wearing m—” then looks down in shock. Declan offers to get him a prescription, but Brion tells him he must take his jet immediately to Gotham.
House of Markov.
-Justice League of America vol. 2 #7 (May 2007): "The Tornado's Path, Epilogue: Roll Call"
GF meets with Black Lightning in Gotham. He says he destroyed his own yacht, apparently by bringing up rocks under it as Terra could have – there were no attackers. He tells Jeff he’s had visions of Jace; blacked out and woken up in his original costume; and sustained skin wounds, even though he’s supposed to be bulletproof. Before Jeff can stop him, he stabs his own hand with a pointed rock – he wants to show Jeff that he has Terra’s powers, but they only appear when he is bleeding from an open wound. Brion: “I-I can’t control it ... it’s not me.” Jeff thinks to himself that Brion was always high strung, especially after Terra died; he could be obnoxious because he’s royalty; but this is the first time he’s ever seen Brion scared. Brion makes a giant hand out of earth. Now Jeff is frightened too: “H-her powers ... you’ve got Terra’s p-” Brion swears him to secrecy.
-Justice League of America vol. 2 #8 (June 2007): "The Lightning Saga, Chapter One: Lightning Lad"
Vixen is also having trouble with her powers – now she can manifest powers of the metas around her but can’t borrow powers from animals as she normally does. She steals Brion’s null gravity powers in a training session. The issue crosses over with the JSA. When Sandman meets GF he makes a reference to the Swamp Thing: “Could feel it the moment we got here – your connection to the earth –” GF: “That’s just how my powers are. It’s nothing.” Sandman: “Maybe – but to generate that high – you’re approaching Alec Holland levels.”
House of Markov.
-Justice Society of America vol. 3 #5 (June 2007): "The Lightning Saga, Chapter Two: Dreams and Fire"
-Justice Society of America vol. 3 #6 (July 2007): "The Lightning Saga, Chapter Four: Three Worlds"
-Justice League of America vol. 2 #14 (December 2007): "Unlimited, Chapter 3: Two Against Nature"
-Justice League of America vol. 2 #15 (January 2008): "Unlimited, Chapter 4: Unleashed"
Brion shows up for monitor duty at JLA HQ. Vixen is about to sign off. She says she’s aware of his secret – that Terra’s powers are creeping into him. She knows this because she’s picking up metahuman powers around her and her bond with animals is disrupted (there’s an interesting symmetry between Brion and Mari versus Tara and Gar). Brion and Mari are being observed on another monitor: “You’ve seen League history – our greatest challenges come ... from the secrets that we keep.”
Brion is later approached by Deathstroke to spy on the JLA, thus reprising the set-up of the Judas Contract with Terra and the Titans. Brion tells the JLA, then goes to meet Slade, who says: “It’s the simplest of trades, Your Highness – I get what I want – and you get what you want.” Presumably Slade wants JLA info in exchange for resolving Brion’s problems with his powers. Batman, WW and Superman observe the meeting between GF and Slade. Bats thinks of Terra and says: “I’ve known Brion a long time. His greatest fear has always been his family. And their legacy.” Batman is fine with GF acting as a double agent: “The more Slade thinks he’s learning about us – the more we can finally learn about him.”
JLA #15: GF appears as a prisoner of the Injustice League. Gorilla Grodd is pounding GF to a pulp until Luthor calls him off. Grodd wants to eat GF. When GF gets free, he opens up a crack in the earth under Grodd, then ruthlessly closes it over him. Brion to a shocked Black Lightning and Firestorm: “He said he was going to eat me.”
Final Crisis and Last Will and Testament.
Gar's Bible is a key symbol in LWaT. Grace Choi, one of Nightwing's Outsiders, visits Rocky Davis after Gar. LWaT (Aug. 2008)
House of Markov.
-Last Will and Testament One-Shot (August 2008)
This one-shot bookends Gar’s 1985 confrontation with Deathstroke over Terra 1’s death, by dealing with Brion’s response. GF knows he will die fighting Slade, and has already written his last will and testament. Again, this is retribution for what Slade did to Tara 1, but it only follows Tara 2’s death, indicating that GF thought they were the same person. Meltzer, like other writers, picks up on the criss-crossing destinies of the Titans, the Outsiders, the JLA and the Doom Patrol.
Those overlaps between teams converge in a scene with Rocky Davis, who now serves as spiritual and philosophical counsellor for the Doom Patrol, and other “capes,” as he calls them. On the last night before everyone expects evil to win and the world to end in Final Crisis , Davis is visited by several heroes. Gar Logan, who has just left the Doom Patrol and rejoined the Titans, visits him first.
Grace picks up Gar's Bible. LWaT (Aug. 2008)
Adam, Eve and the Serpent. Biblical symbolism around Gar, Tara and Deathstroke. The Bible's opening story in the Book of Genesis.
Beast Boy's discussion takes place off-panel. The fact that he leaves his Bible behind on the night before he thinks he will die says something about Gar's perspectives on faith and death. But whatever he says, given what this issue is about, we can guess that part of it concerns: Tara, Gar himself, Geo-Force and Deathstroke. Grace Choi visits Rocky next. She picks up Gar's Bible and begins idly thumbing through its opening pages (which has a strangely familiar opening story in Genesis about one woman (a pre-Christian earth goddess?) confronting three male figures (a man with the gift of communing with animals, a higher earthly creator, and a powerful, worldly tempter) – hmmm...).
Eve and the Serpent. Biblical symbolism around Tara and Deathstroke in the Judas Contract and Last Will and Testament.
Gar’s connection to and tensions with Dick are also symbolically touched on here: Logan’s Bible has been picked up by Grace, member of the troubled Outsiders team that Dick led. Rocky then meets Geo-Force, who wants to spend the last night of his life hunting down Deathstroke in revenge for what he did to Terra 1.
Brion: "Like a stranger living just beneath my skin." LWaT (Aug. 2008)
GF leaves Challengers Mountain and he and Slade face each other in the same alley where Jericho was injured many years before; the alley is erroneously located in the US – probably in Gotham. Originally it was located in Tangiers.
Partial retcon: Terra was drugged. LWaT (Aug. 2008)
As Slade wins the battle, he informs GF that he and his associates (does he mean the H.I.V.E.?) drugged Tara to control her and increase her powers, but “The problem with Tara was that we waited too long. By then, the psychosis was so bad, she tried to kill us all.”
Slade says he's been drugging Brion too. LWaT (Aug. 2008)
Deathstroke and his associates have already drugged Brion with a new formula for many years in order to turn GF into a puppet they can use to destroy teams of superheroes, “Then we’ll just have to aim you at the right target.”
Slade: "You're no different from her." LWaT (Aug. 2008)
Calling Tara “your whore sister,” Slade announces, “God, you’re just like her. So much to prove, but so damned weak. I can help you be strong.” He might be lying: the book opens with GF acknowledging that Slade wins by figuring out what makes his opponents tick and telling them whatever is necessary to destroy them emotionally. If it’s true, it’s a partial retcon of the Judas Contract. Fans who dismiss Last Will and Testament as a total retcon from Meltzer should reread the original NTT issues leading up to the Judas Contract. In the unretconned, original story by Wolfman, Tara 1 did claim she had been drugged (NTT #33). All the same, Slade’s two versions of what happened during the Judas Contract are dramatically different. He told Gar that Tara was insane – there was no reason behind it. He told Brion he (Slade) made Tara insane. Everything he says to Gar and Brion on the subject should be treated with caution. He commissioned the Judas Contract in the first place. And we still don’t know how he met Tara. Deathstroke has no reason to tell either Gar or Brion the truth about what happened. And they – and we the readers – have no reason to believe him. However, his reaction to what Brion does next indicates that at least some of what he says here is the truth.
Slade to Brion: "You're just like her." LWaT (Aug. 2008)
Brion flashes back to his training as a young prince and his lessons with Markovian generals. He says when he ascended to throne, he was given a special pistol that all Markovian monarchs keep by their bedside. The servant who hands it to him says: “For when all is lost.” He remembers seeing the same pistol by his father’s bed, and his grandfather’s. There are no instructions, but he knows what it means and what to do. Brion recalls – if Castle Markov were breached, if the country was irretrievably overrun, the king and his family would commit suicide. Driven by this code of honour that compels Markovian princes to kill themselves “when all is lost” in battle, and asserting his free control over his fate, Brion tries to kill himself with Deathstroke’s sword by slashing his own throat. Yet this moment teaches him a new dimension of the Markovs' suicidal code. Brion suddenly sees that suicide is not what it appears to be – an act of despair, or a coward’s way out of battle: for the Markovs at least, suicide is a desperate act that offers a hidden doorway to victory.
Brion fails to avenge Tara and tries to kill himself. LWaT (Aug. 2008)
Deathstroke catches GF as he falls, shouting: “This is my victory! You know how much I invested? You don’t get to take that from me!” Pushed to his final limits by Deathstroke just as his sister was, Brion has a vision of Tara 1 in the moment she committed suicide. He sees that she, too, was Deathstroke’s investment in a future victory, and hears her cry: “This is mine not yours!”
The Markov siblings' suicides overlapping - Tara: "This is mine, not yours!" LWaT (Aug. 2008)
GF perceives that although Tara saw that Deathstroke was controlling her, she killed herself – not by accident while trying to destroy Slade and the Titans (Wolfman’s version) – but purposefully turned her powers on herself so that Slade couldn’t control her fate. And he assumes that she followed the Markovs’ battle code of suicide as well. It was her only, tragic, way out of dishonour, defeat and despair. Her life and her death – and incredibly, perhaps the Markovs’ hidden, as-yet-unsettled victory against Deathstroke – belonged to her. This, too, would be a huge retcon of Tara’s motivations in the Judas Contract. But is her brother just projecting his own desperate thoughts and values onto Tara? Given that Wolfman likely drew on the Doom Patrol betrayal/death arc as a precedent for the Judas Contract, which made both Rouge and Tara turn against the heroes and villains around them, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. The Markovs walk the line of amorality. At the same time, it's hard to trust Brion's perceptions. If Brion has been drugged, in addition to already being pressed to the verge of death, his view is suspect. At this moment, Brion, lying bleeding in Deathstroke’s arms, sees that he has made the Terminator uncharacteristically vulnerable. He seizes the opportunity, stabs Deathstroke through the heart, cutting it in two, and wins the battle.
House of Markov.
If there’s one thing that the Judas Contract and Last Will and Testament should have taught everyone, it’s not to mess with the Markovs. They will do anything to protect their power – including turning themselves into metahuman weapons in the service of their ancient cause, namely themselves and their country. DC hasn't explained the full origin and nature of their powers. Why are the members of the House of Markov the only humans able to retain earth powers? This is true even in the Terra miniseries – all characters able to sustain geo-powers over time have Markov DNA. Jace also made hazy references to ‘legends’ about their forefathers. Are they really a family of latent metahumans or earth elementals – a Geo-counterpart to the Aqua-family? They are bound by uncompromising personal standards of power, love and duty, and if crossed, display boundless revenge. When driven to the wall, they’re unhesitatingly willing to die and take everyone down with them – friends and foes – in order to win victory and preserve their power and royal code. It’s that all-or-nothing sensibility that sets them apart from the superheroes they’ve worked with and from mercenaries like Deathstroke. Slade has a warrior’s code, but he still doesn’t understand the Markovs’ cryptic absolutist perspective. He just thinks they’re crazy, and so do several other characters.
In the final moment, the Markovs will cross the lines no one else will cross, to a point of death or transformation. In that regard, they’re almost a DC version of a protean House Atreides. Earth powers may grant the Markovs abilities to change themselves into something else. The Markov siblings may flip between good and evil, between sanity and insanity, and between life and death. They may reappear in new incarnations. But all this is secondary to the idea that their earth powers may allow them to respond to death as a process of transformation. Legends about our planet abound with metamorphosis metaphors, based on the obvious observation that the seasons change; the earth dies and is reborn in new forms every year. Thus, the Markovs’ powers may make them elemental metamorphs, enabling them to take on new bodies and new levels of existence.
This outcome was implied in Terra 1’s selection as one of The Chosen in the Millennium crossover series. The moral aspects of the theme of earthly transformation are described in Swamp Thing #50 – that the power of the earth binds its bearer to a higher vision of immortality, enabling a catastrophic change in the character so that they break through to a different plane, transcending easily comprehensible moral conventions. Glimpsing this larger truth as it relates to the cycle of good and evil derived from the power of the earth drives Gar’s already unhinged adopted father, Steve Dayton, insane for several years.
Meaning of Earth Powers. Last Will and Testament Aftermath.
-Batman and The Outsiders Special #1 (March 2009)
Batman is supposedly dead. At Bruce’s posthumous request, Alfred contacts the Outsiders and regroups them. The story shows each member up to the point when Alfred makes contact. Brion has returned to Markovia. To heal from his fight with Deathstroke, he digs a big hole with a shovel (although he could use his powers) near Castle Markov. He is deeply troubled: “Since my battle with Deathstroke I have been coming here for weeks now – digging deeper – one foot at a time. The Earth calls to me. Tells me that it is time to feel her loving embrace. Time to listen to my heart. To my core.” He blindfolds himself and buries himself alive for three days. He says the earth comforts, strengthens and heals him. Given he can survive like this, it’s obvious he’s not really human anymore. A servant, Sergei, digs him out and informs him that Alfred Pennyworth has arrived at Castle Markov and urgently needs to speak with him.
-Outsiders vol. 4 #15 (April 2009)
Alfred regroups the Outsiders and gives them time to decide if they want to rejoin. He says they will need to shut down their lives, with no contact with the outside world. GF: “I am quite familiar with sacrifice.” Brion also questions Pennyworth’s qualifications: “From serving tea to saving the world. That’s a mighty big leap of faith you’re asking us to take, Alfred.”
GF brings Katana to the alley where he fought Deathstroke (it is erroneously in Gotham – in the original Judas Contract story it was placed in Tangiers). GF says he has no one to talk to, no family left to say good-bye to before they go under to “fight the good fight” (his nephew ominously hasn’t been mentioned for awhile). Brion only has Sergei, the caretaker of the castle: “A simple call to keep the drawbridge up until my return is the extent of any outside relationships.” Tatsu: "You and your sister suffered a great deal due to Slade’s savagery and treachery over the years." Brion: “Tatsu, would you do anything to defeat someone who wanted to steal your soul?” She says yes, because in the end, souls are all we have, and they kiss. They rejoin the Outsiders. Alfred informs them that Batman for many years has been fighting one enemy – and they don’t know who this enemy is yet. But the Outsiders have fought the outer circle. Alfred says the enemies the Outsiders fought “were used as defense satellites ... never truly knowing that they too were being manipulated – used as decoys – diverting Batman’s attention from focusing on where the true power lay.” Black Lightning: “So, Bad Samaritan, Baron Bedlam, Duke of Oil, Blairman’s Force of July, The Masters of Disaster, the Fearsome Five were all –” Alfred: “Basically uniformed praetorian guards protecting a Caesar they’d never met or knew existed.”
Deathstroke: Twisted Families and Protégés, 2008-2010.
Deathstroke intensifies his villainy, while still regaining ground as a complicated leader of his own team of Titans. Having been spurned by his daughter Rose, he takes in Poprocket off the street – a super-powered Tara lookalike. He repeats his old line – likely first used on Tara Markov 1 – this is because he needs someone to mentor and love. Slade’s ‘love’ for a young character like Poprocket is disturbingly paternal, romantic and sexual all at the same time. But all of this goes back to his original entanglement with Tara Markov, proving that she left a lasting impression on him, despite what he says to other people about her.
Last Will and Testament Aftermath.
-Deathstroke: Faces of Evil #1 (March 2009)
Deathstroke recovers from his wounds from his fight with Geo-Force in Belle Reve prison. He’s haunted by nightmares of his dead family. He’s sedated but he can hear the medical staff: “The guy’s incredible. He takes a sword through the heart, literally slices his heart in two ... and he’s still alive. The tissues are repairing themselves at an incredible rate. He has a healing factor that makes him virtually immortal, but it looks like it may have reached its limits.” The doctor removes an artificial eye beneath Slade’s eye patch. Rose comes to visit him – to finish him off. As the doctors let her through security, they inform her that Slade seems to have lost the will to live. Rose: “Poor Daddy.” They only let her in because they think Slade is dying. He sees her, says removal of the artificial eye is making him see things more clearly, which is more typical Wilsons’ eye symbolism.
She tries to strangle him with a line of plastic wire. He tells her he’s all about control, and that’s why her precog power doesn’t work with him; and his body is actually fully healed. She says he’s lying the way he always does. He says he only lost fights where he let emotions override his logic. He says he won’t take any more contracts – he’s going to decide who dies. He escapes Belle Reve, blows up all his safehouses and weapons caches. Then his thoughts skirt around Terra. He wants a new family, someone who won’t betray him - as Terra betrayed him?
Slade and Poprocket: "Someone I can care for." FoE #1 (Mar. 2009)
He finds a new protégé hiding in an alley, a girl who looks eerily like Tara Markov, although she has dyed her hair pink (ironically, just like Gar's first girlfriend Jillian Jackson, who also resembled Tara). This is Poprocket, who later appears in Terror Titans along with Terra 3. Slade: “Someone I can shape into the weapon of my righteous anger. Someone who will follow me unconditionally. Someone I can care for. Someone I can love.”
Slade and Poprocket: "Someone I can love." FoE #1 (Mar. 2009)
Deathstroke’s Protégés: Poprocket.
-Outsiders vol. 4 #19 (August 2009)
Slade fights the Outsiders, with Poprocket backing him up in the battle. Slade taunts GF about Brion’s self-inflicted throat wound as he (Slade) prepares to slash Alfred’s throat: “Blades are all about degrees of sharpness ... degrees of pressure, the way the angle of the blade is held ... isn’t that right, Prince Brion?” This drives Brion into a frenzy of rage and starts a quarrel with Black Lightning, who says their priority is saving civilians, not settling personal scores with the villain. Deathstroke decapitates his victim with the intention of retrieving a piece of meteorite stashed in the man’s body, but GF gets the fragment at the last minute. Slade leaves the scene with Poprocket, and the body, thinking he still has the fragment.
Deathstroke uses his new apprentice Poprocket, a Tara replacement, to tussle with GF. Outsiders #19 (Aug. 2009)
-Supergirl vol. 5 #12: "Rock On!" (January 2007) First Appearance
First appearance of Terra 3 in the January 2007 issue of Supergirl (which, according to the Terra mini, postdates Terra 2’s death depicted in a June 2007 issue). This issue again shows potential similarities between Supergirl and Terra in their sequence of reincarnations (which I discuss here). Supergirl, now in her fourth incarnation, is one incarnation ahead of Terra. It seems that Kryptonians are tied to Atlee; also within two years, Brion will bring the Outsiders into the Super-family orbit by accepting the Eradicator onto his team in Markovia. There seems to be an ongoing effort by DC to tie earth elementals to Kryptonians.
Nightwing, who has been having Boomer monitor her, says the new Supergirl is lacking in direction and motivation. She’s shirking her responsibilities and going out partying. Terra shows up near a party where Supergirl is dancing; Atlee is fighting a dinosaur from the ‘under lands.’ More hollow earth stuff. The news has been covering Atlee’s heroics, and her selfless heroic code shakes SG up, who finds it easier to be selfish. Terra implies that she has to earn trust (because of Tara Markov’s precedent), but SG gets credit automatically: “I need to earn everyone’s trust. I don’t have an ‘S’ on my chest. You’re not really Supergirl, are you? Supergirl wouldn’t go dancing when there’s trouble.” SG returns home and talks to Boomer. Captain Boomerang: “People are talking about her. It’s kind of strange how similar her powers are to that Titan chick. What was her name ... Terra?”
Terra 3 in the Dark Side Club.
-Terror Titans #1 (December 2008): "Terror Titans, Part One: The Basis of Optimism"
-Terror Titans #2 (January 2009): "Terror Titans, Part Two: Making the Cut"
-Terror Titans #3 (February 2009): "Terror Titans, Part Three: Daddy Issues"
-Terror Titans #4 (March 2009): "Terror Titans, Part Four: Shock and Awe"
-Terror Titans #5 (April 2009): "Terror Titans, Part Five: The Great Destroyer"
-Terror Titans #6 (May 2009): "Terror Titans, Part Six: One Second To Midnight"
All well and good – but the next time we see Terra 3, she’s already in deep trouble, and picking up on a trope that appeared at the introductions of both Terra 1 and 2. In Terror Titans, Terra 3 is captured, drugged and brainwashed to fight in the Dark Side Club alongside former Titans, former Doom Patroller Fever and other metas. Fever is killed. Terra 3 is rescued by Miss Martian, who is somewhat aided by Ravager. She does not seem to suffer negative effects, the way Static does. But while brainwashed, she also gives in totally and shows no signs struggling against it, unlike other characters. Other key characters who were brainwashed in this arc: Static, Zach Zatara, Argent, Young Frankenstein, Aquagirl.
Terra 3 rejects Cassie's invitation to join the Titans. TT #69 (May 2009)
-Teen Titans vol. 3 #69 (May 2009): “The New Deal Finale”
After Miss Martian brings all the metas she rescued to Titans Tower, Cassie holds a recruiting drive. Terra 3 turns down Cassie’s offer to join down because she doesn’t want to be overshadowed by the history of the first Terra. But she doesn’t mention Terra 2, who was heroic. Her silence around Terra 2 is peculiar, since Terra 2 did exactly what Atlee claims to be doing, yet succeeded against much greater odds, because she was Tara 1’s double. Yet she was accepted as and died a hero. So why does Atlee refer constantly to Tara 1’s bad example and not Tara 2’s good example? Wouldn’t it make more sense for her to say that she wants to live up to the good things Tara 2 did – especially because there is supposedly a Stratan connection between the two girls?
-Terra #1 (January 2009): "Can You Dig It?"
-Terra #2 (January 2009): "Who Are You?"
-Terra #3 (February 2009): "Far Away Home"
-Terra #4 (February 2009): "For Those About to Rock!"
In the Terra mini, the character’s third incarnation reappears after her intro cameo in Supergirl two years earlier and her brainwashed sessions at the Dark Side Club. Issue #1: Terra pops up all over the world battling mysteriously agitated creatures that normally inhabit under world caverns deep beneath the surface. She can’t understand why they’ve made their way to the surface. They claim that surface dwellers are attacking them. The only evidence for this is an unnamed industrial R and D group that has developed a massive tunnelling machine called Earth Mover One. A manager from the group, Richard Faulkner, takes a group of investors down several miles below the New Mexico Desert. There they encounter a glowing silver pool of liquid metal that is presumably Quixium. Faulkner is splashed with it and becomes a solid diamond man. He immediately murders all the witnesses because he doesn’t want anyone to know about the Quixium or the origins of his marvellous new power.
Meanwhile, Terra is so exhausted from all her rescue operations that when Power Girl catches up with her, she passes out. PG takes her to Dr. Mid-Nite, who takes a blood sample and discovers that Terra is a metahuman with “considerably high levels of an unknown metal” in her blood. Dr. Midnite asks PG – who else had these powers? PG: “Terra, the girl who was with the Teen Titans. Or were there two of them?” Dr. M: “There were two, and apparently there is now a third.” PG: “But she didn’t call herself Terra.” Dr. M: “It doesn’t matter what she calls herself. I’ve fed her DNA information into the computers and cross-referenced them with the samples I have from the recently deceased Tara Markova [this is in fact the correct reference to Tara’s last name, because she’s female]. They’re a perfect genetic match.”
The retcon's weirdest moment: Mid-Nite says that Terra 3 helped the Titans defeat Terra 2? Terra #2 (Jan. 2009)
Issue #2: Terra 3 has secrets. The big secret she’s hiding seems to be her genetic link to Tara Markov. Mid-Nite questions her about Tara Markov: “You remember her, don’t you?” Terra 3: “Yes, the second.” Then Mid-Nite says something very strange: “You helped the Titans defeat her.” Atlee [speaking about Terra 2 – here goes the retcon, fasten seatbelts]: “Human physiology cannot sustain transplanted Terran DNA. Her death was unfortunate.” PG asks what the hell they’re talking about. Atlee: “She was doomed from the moment the Time Trapper captured her. The DNA she used ... the first, she was insane, and as a result, the second also suffered extensive brain damage.” Mid-Nite: “After analyzing your blood, I’ve determined your DNA is an exact match with Terra and there are large quantities of an unknown metal –” Atlee: “That’s none of your business.” PG says Atlee should explain her connection to Terra. Atlee: “I will explain eventually.” Mid-Nite: “You’re extremely powerful. Naturally we have concerns about your mental stability given that Terra –” Atlee: “That’s it. I’m leaving.” Her response is weird, considering she claims to want to earn people’s trust.
Retconning Terra 2. Terra #2 (Jan. 2009)
So what is else Atlee saying? As usual with Terra, the statements are unclear and can have several meanings. This hazy retcon superficially sounds ok, but it’s a mess.
(1) The big question here: why does Mid-Nite say Atlee helped the Titans defeat Terra 2? That has no context, no explanation, is bizarre, and is unrelated to everything in Terra 2’s history with the Titans.
(2) Atlee has secrets about DNA, Strata, Markovia, the two Tara Markovs, and we don’t know them. When she awakes in Mid-Nite’s infirmary she’s very upset that he’s taken a blood sample. She thinks: “I know that they meant no harm. I just don’t want them to know anything. At least not yet.”
(3) Atlee mentions “Terran DNA.” Is she talking about ‘earthlings’ (normal humans) in general? No, because Terran DNA is something special, a source of earth powers, and Atlee distinguishes Terrans from normal humans. Is Atlee simply taking Terra 1’s codename and turning it into an adjective? Are Terrans all clones of Tara Markov 1? Are Terrans all those who bear earth powers? Or are Terrans the people in Strata that are the last human-alien hybrids, unlike other Stratans who look like lumps, insects and gnomes? Atlee’s father, for example, is plainly inhuman. Her mother looks partly human. It seems that no other Stratans, other than Atlee, look like humans. Is Atlee a metamorph, and her real appearance is different? Or does this mean that people who are born looking like humans in Strata are closer to their human ancestors and somehow blessed with the ability to bear infusions of Quixium in their blood stream to channel earth powers? We are not told exactly who Terrans are. Atlee is called a ‘Terran.’ In Supergirl #12, the underground monster Atlee fights says she has a “feeble Terran brain.” Atlee: “Terran? You got that right!” Other underground creatures in the mini also call Terra 3, ‘Terran,’ rather than by her name. And they don’t call her ‘Stratan.’
(3) Why does Atlee say Tara 2 was exposed to Terran DNA? Tara 2 was only exposed to Tara 1’s DNA – so in Atlee’s terms that means Tara 1 was a ‘Terran,’ like Atlee.
(4) It’s hard to tell what’s going on because ‘Terran’ is not defined. BUT Atlee seems to say that earth powers come from Terran DNA + Quixium, not the Markovs’ DNA + Quixium. That would mean that Tara 1 was exposed to Terran DNA + Quixium; or she was a Terran already. Under Jace’s design, only Markov royals could bear her treatment. Why? The bottom line is, where are these powers coming from – from the Markov family via their genetic ability to harbour earth powers (accelerated by Quixium) or from Terrans? And what are Terrans? Terra 1 was the only Terra who was BOTH a royal Markov and a Terran.
(5) Tara 2 was exposed to Tara 1’s DNA but because Tara 1 was crazy on the genetic level the transfer wiped out Tara 2’s memory. That’s odd, because this whole series is part of a retcon of Terra 1’s madness not being innate. If Tara 2 was NOT a Markov, this retcon tries to explain how the Teamers stabilized Tara 2’s exposure to Tara 1’s DNA (bonded with Quixum apparently). Perhaps Tara 2 did not die because she was a Terran.
Terra Miniseries #2: After a strange Sumerian god formerly trapped in stone arises in the US, similar events happen in Markovia. The whole Terra mini is full of underground creatures wakened or threatened by some deep upheaval in the planet’s crust and making their way to the surface. The issue closes in Markovia. Brion is in the middle of battling a new villain named Deadcoil and a host of people he’s raised from the dead. This picks up on a common Markovian theme, namely, that the Markovs’ homeland - and the royal family - are haunted by whatever transpired there during the Second World War - there are several versions of what took place in Markovia during World War II. Different versions give radically different accounts. – In one version, Markovia was a Nazi protectorate. In another version, it preserved its freedom. In the former version, Hitler actually visited Castle Markov and hid a secret machine in a walled chamber that would ensure a Nazi victory; a clone of Hitler later committed suicide there on the same site. Markovia was then liberated by American troops and King Viktor, Tara's and Brion's father, was reinstated on the throne. In the latter version, the Markovs defended their borders and kept the Nazis out of Markovia. These themes of death and resurrection entangled with coups and wars – a secret evil on a razor’s edge with good, with suicides at the crux points – are the usual fare in Markovia.
Deadcoil is dressed like a Second World War tank commander and rides a WWII tank hung with skulls. Notice that undead monsters (vampires, zombies) constantly plague Markovia – people rising from their graves seems to be the national pastime, although in this case, the mini hints that the problem is more general. Jace hinted that the people of Markovia were tied to the land and their royal family were the ultimate expression of this bond.This might have something to do with Markovia’s connection to earth powers. Or it may reflect Atlee’s rising to the surface.
Atlee shows up to help Brion – she’s remarkably crossed the Atlantic in a few hours, apparently travelling underground. Brion is shocked when Atlee moves earth like Terra. Weirdly, he’s not shown being able to use Terra 1’s powers, although other books have established him as doing that by this point. Maybe his abilities echoing those of his sister dissipate in Atlee’s presence.
When Deadcoil manifests magic, Atlee encounters a magical, earth-connected entity for the second time in one day. This may imply that some kinds of magic derive from the earth, and elementals who harbour earth powers are distinct from the magic-users who wield earth powers. Deadcoil possesses Brion. This is a constantly repeated theme with him now. He’s always being violently attacked and turned into someone’s puppet. This proves that many powerful people and entities are drawn to him and want to use his earth powers. It also shows that Brion is very susceptible to being manipulated or taken over.
The mysterious "primordial genetic reservoir" of the metal Quixium. Terra #3 (Feb. 2009)
Issue #3: Atlee shows that she can create and manipulate glass. She traps Deadcoil in a glass ball. But Brion is still dying from his exposure to the villain. Terrified, Atlee takes him to Strata for healing. At the same time, Faulkner and his girlfriend have returned to the pool of Quixium (which was below New Mexico). Where it turned him into a solid diamond man, it turns her into a diamond statue. He then notices Atlee swoop past with Brion’s unconscious body, in a giant shaft tunnelled down from Markovia toward Strata. If it's not an editorial glitch, that would put Strata at or near the centre of the earth, with both tunnels (from New Mexico and Markovia) bored at extreme angles in order for them to lie on the same road to Strata. And it would place Strata near the earth's core, beneath the Atlantic Ocean's floor, and possibly underneath Atlantis.
Atlee brings Brion to Strata. Terra #3 (Feb. 2009)
Atlee arrives in Strata, a beautiful underground city filled with non-human entities. We see Aurla, a medic of the city. She rewires Brion’s neural interface with a flying brain thing. They have a cryptic conversation about Terra 1, 2, and 3’s purposes for working with the Titans. Aurla: “Have you begun earning their trust?” Atlee: “I hope so. I haven’t yet contacted the Titans.” Aurla: “It is only a matter of time.” They discuss some terrible impending disaster. Atlee: “Wouldn’t it do more good if they had time to prepare?”
Terra and Aurla discuss some unnamed future, fated event that Atlee must be part of. Terra #3 (Feb. 2009)
As of 2010, we don't know why it’s preordained that Atlee must work with the Titans and what big disaster will befall them after she joins them.
Watch the stone sculpture as Atlee changes it: the sculpture is Terra 1, 2 and 3. Terra #3 (Feb. 2009)
Atlee asks whether the madness that corrupted Terra will corrupt her. Atlee says it was a mistake to impersonate one of their heroes. Aurla doesn’t answer her, just tells her to focus on the task at hand and to go visit her family. Atlee visits her father, who is plainly not human, which again suggests that how Atlee looks may not be her real appearance and that she may be a shape-shifter.
Brion wakes up to the retcon of the decade. Terra #3 (Feb. 2009)
Brion wakes up and Aurla and Atlee give him a quick and dirty rundown of the latest retcon in a few panels. They tell GF that Terra 2 was a Stratan ambassador with earth powers derived from Quixium, like Atlee – however they made her look like Terra 1 because they thought her familiar face would endear her to the Titans. They are not telling him the whole story, though, because they are not explaining why the second Terra had to be genetically identical to the original Terra.
Brion's ok with the retcon. Terra #3 (Feb. 2009)
Aurla explains that the Stratans have to hide because humans are suspicious and dangerous - “look at how they viewed the Martian or the Kryptonians.” Aurla seems to say that they are protecting the planet, but they are not the source of its power. GF is rightfully skeptical about Aurla but weirdly fine about Atlee taking Terra’s name – unusual given his hot temper. In reference to the events of Last Will and Testament, he says he recently made his peace with what happened to his sister and it almost killed him.
Explaining the extra-terrestrial origins of Strata. Terra #4 (Feb. 2009)
Issue #4: Faulkner attacks Strata to get help for his frozen diamond girlfriend. GF and Atlee defeat him, take him and the fragments of girlfriend back to Aurla who promises to work on them. Aurla casually lets it drop that the Stratans are the inhabitants of the shell of a giant spacesuit of a huge alien astronaut who crashed into the earth. This was the meteor that ended the reign of the dinosaurs.
An Alien Astronaut God is the source of earth elementals' power? Terra #4 (Feb. 2009)
Over time the interior of the suit became the framework of the underground city, and the remains of the alien were discovered by cave-dwelling humans who changed and became Stratans. Brion: “This is too much. I think I need to sit down.”
Strata built inside the alien's corpse. Terra #4 (Feb. 2009)
GF lets Atlee take Tara's codename, then goes off to get mind-wiped again. Terra #4 (Feb. 2009)
GF is fine with all this, then the Stratans erase his memory, which seems dubious. This becomes yet another arc in which Brion’s brain is substantially messed with, so that you can never be sure how much of what he is perceiving and experiencing is actually happening. The mini closes with Atlee returning to NYC and befriending PG.
Power Girl: Atlee’s appearances.
-Power Girl #3 (September 2009): “Gorilla Warfare”
-Power Girl #4 (October 2009): “Girls’ Night Out!”
-Power Girl #6 (December 2009): “Space Girls Gone Wild!”
-Power Girl #9 (April 2010): “This City is a Zoo”
-Power Girl #10 (May 2010): “War on Terra”
-Power Girl #11 (June 2010): “Terra Alert!”
-Power Girl #12 (July 2010): “The Little Things!”
Most of Atlee’s sidekick adventures with PG have been light. PG explains cultural references in movies to her; they go to restaurants and go shopping (PG #4, #6). In PG #6, Atlee jokes that her new secret identity is that she’s a spy.
Joking about secret identities and alter egos. PG #6 (Dec. 2009)
Atlee has a friendly, innocent and fairly amusing personality. Her friendship with PG picks up on the writers’ attempts to make ‘good versions’ of the Terra character ‘good’ by virtue of their friendships with other women. Terra 2 was close friends with the Titan Mirage. By contrast, Tara Markov’s original personality seemed to be one that was defined almost entirely by the men around her.
Atlee threatening Satanna in a staged fight with Ultra-Humanite occupying Atlee? PG #10 (May 2010)
Terra 3 has enormous powers and is able to lift whole tectonic plates (PG #3). But her run-in with the Ultra-Humanite seriously jeopardizes her. Brion had a creepy run-in with the creature involving mind-wipes. The Ultra-Humanite removes Atlee’s brain and transplants his own brain in her skull. In PG #9, PG has a run-in with the villainess Satanna. Just as PG is about to be defeated, Terra 3 ruthlessly attacks Satanna. But Satanna and the Humanite are allies in this project. This is a parallel scene – that mirrors the fake fight between Tara 1 and Deathstroke during the Judas Contract. In PG #10, PG asks Atlee if she’s thought of joining the Titans, and Atlee says she heard the Titans had to battle a zombie version of Terra (see below for the summary of Blackest Night).
Judas Contract retread. PG #10 (May 2010)
Almost on cue, there is a low-key retread of Judas Contract memes, as Atlee spies on PG at her home and work. She acts more and more violently and out of character, until PG finally figures out what Ultra-Humanite has done and he reveals he’s inside Terra 3.
"This isn't you." PG #10 (May 2010)
The Spy/Betrayal Game. PG #10 (May 2010)
PG and Atlee discuss Terra 3's prospects of joining the Titans and Atlee mentions BL Terra. PG #10 (May 2010)
In Issue #11, Humanite uses Atlee’s body and powers to attack PG all the while taunting her because PG hurting him means she will hurt her friend. They have a huge battle, and PG is able to retrieve Atlee’s brain (transplanted into Humanite’s disintegrating body), after burning off Satanna’s arm with her heat vision. PG returns to Strata, arranges for Atlee’s brain to be returned to her body and saves her friend. Issue #12: We see Atlee’s parents in Strata, a happy family, and Atlee’s mother seems more humanoid than her father. PG and Atlee bond in a molecular pool of green emofluid that allows them to achieve the highest state of consciousness. In the midst of this healing process, where they exchange mental and emotional impressions of one another, the pool itself seems to house the ribcage of a giant skeleton. Although everything ends happily, we see how easily Atlee can slip into this type of plotline. As with Brion, themes of brainwashing, brain transplantation, spying and character reversal already surround her, although so far they’ve been quickly discounted in Atlee’s case.
-Titans vol. 2, #10 (April 2009): Origins and Omens
Origins and Omens foreshadows Terra 3 kissing Gar, the only link made between them thus far. It also foreshadows this Titans team being “torn asunder,” which occurred in 2010. Not all the omens are accurate.
Gar and Atlee: Origins and Omens. Titans #10 (Apr. 2009)
Plot Problems around Terra 3.
Plot Problem 1: Retcon of Terra 2 in the Terra mini.
Comment at Wapedia: “The mystery of the second Terra's origins was addressed in the 2009 Terra miniseries: she had been born in an underground world called Strata and sent away by its members to establish relations with the surface world. She allowed the Stratans to surgically alter her to resemble the original Terra, believing surface-dwellers would more easily accept her if she reminded them of one of their own. They used an element called Quixium to grant her earth-based powers similar to that of her predecessor, a process that had the unfortunate side effect of total memory loss.” This is a pretty clumsy retcon for Terra 2 and may be retconned in the future. All it did was make Atlee comfortable, without taking into account many of the nuances around Terra 2 that built up over her 16-year history. The 2009 version is Terra 2’s least logical origin. Yet that version now stands: Terra 2 was a Stratan like Atlee. However, Atlee never mentions Terra 2, which is odd, considering Terra 2 died a hero and was Atlee’s predecessor. This silence may lead to changes in Terra 2’s most recently retconned origin. Mid-Nite’s extremely peculiar comment that Atlee had to help the Titans defeat Terra 2 also calls this retcon into question. Other problems with Terra 2: her grave has never been shown; no statue to her in the Titan’s Memorial Hall – only a statue to Terra 1; Atlee is genetically identical to Terra 1 and 2.
Plot Problem 2: Location of Terra 1’s body.
-Terra miniseries (2009) [Retcon/Flashback not shown]
Whether the genetic ability to bear earth powers comes originally from the Markov family (which would make them mutants or elementals) – or from ‘Terrans,’ all three Terras are genetically identical to the first one. So Tara 1 still takes predominance here, and the origin of these powers are related to her. Because Atlee has DNA that matches Tara 2, and Tara 2 matches Tara 1, it appears that Terra 1 was removed from her grave and her DNA harvested by scientists in Terra 3’s underground city of Strata. Her DNA has been used twice, to enable Terra 2 and 3 to be given their powers through exposure to Quixium. Her DNA is needed since only a Markov can endure exposure to the element and maintain the geo-powers Quixium gives. This implies that Terra 1’s body is being preserved in Strata for these purposes. This in turn means that the Stratans are possibly not the nice types they seem to be.
Plot Problem 3: The Nice Stratans are not that Nice.
The Stratans are superficially nice but are: (1) alien-human hybrids tapping into the power of the earth, which is a source of several plot points in the Outsiders (The Deep arc) and Brightest Day; (2) have stolen (and presumably preserved) Tara 1’s body for their DNA experiments and apparently still have it, which is how Tara 2 and Atlee have Tara 1’s DNA; (3) did not know enough about Terra 1 to know her history, yet know enough about her to know they need her body on ice?; (4) erased Geo-Force’s memory as though this is a normal thing to do; (5) are not telling Atlee the whole story about Terra 1 or her (Atlee’s) ultimate mission with the Titans and some unknown coming apocalypse. She peppers them with questions, which they don’t answer: “Always the same questions.” They tell her to stop asking questions and focus on her task at hand. Her leaders make mysterious hints about her needing to join the Titans, but don’t explain why.
Plot Problem 4: Retcon of Terra 1’s madness in the Terra mini and LWaT.
-Amanda Conner Interview (2008). (Link here)
When Last Will and Testament came out, the Judas Contract was retconned so that Tara Markov was not fundamentally insane to start with, but was made psychotic by drugs Deathstroke administered. Terra 3’s creators planned Terra 1 to have been driven insane by being exposed to the Quixium that gave her her earth powers. Because Last Will and Testament came out first (scheduling mix-ups), LWaT’s retcon stands – drugs made Tara Markov crazy. This twist from Meltzer is not a full retcon anyway, because in the original NTT comics, Tara Markov told Wally West she had been drugged. It is a retcon in that it says that Tara 1 was not ‘rotten to the core.’
Either way, both retcons in Last Will and Testament and the Terra mini planned to state that Terra 1 was not ‘fundamentally insane,’ ‘rotten to the core,’ ‘born bad’ etc. – but made that way. This is huge, because it indicates that there was a general consensus at DC by 2009 that Terra 1’s evil was decisively retconned here. At present, the version that currently stands is that Terra 1 was not totally evil. She was drugged.
Some fans claim that Blackest Night altered that retcon, but it didn’t. Although Black Lantern Terra seemingly restored Terra 1’s evil character, the Black Lanterns were not the original people they impersonated. In addition, they are reflections of the deepest fears of the people they fight and from whom they seek emotional reaction. So BL Terra is Gar’s deepest fear of Terra 1, rather than an accurate mirror of Terra 1’s nature (compare to how Lilith, Pantha, Garth, Terry Long, Robert Long and Hawk 1 behaved as Black Lanterns). Because Gar mentions Terra 1 having been drugged at the beginning of BN Titans #1, we can assume GF has just told him this off-panel – so it’s at the top of his mind (with Brion having learned it from Deathstroke in LWaT). When Gar, battling BL Terra, says she was not drugged, then tears her apart, he’s attacking his deepest fears about those speculations about her. That is, he’s attacking his fear that she was pure evil and any mitigating circumstances around her are not true.
Amanda Conner’s interview confirmed that Terra 1 is still a mystery to the whole DCU, as are her successors. Her interview further shows that DC considers earth powers or drugs to be the heart of problems with Terra and GF generally. But if earth powers are a source of madness, why did Terra 2 not turn evil? I’ve argued throughout this continuity that earth powers are two-sided, which manifest in sanity/insanity; growth/destruction; death/regeneration. That would easily explain the duality between Terra 1 and 2: they are two emanations of one power.
However, if drugs were the cause of Terra 1’s madness (as established in 2008), then Terra 1 would again have had two sides to her personality – the original girl growing up in the US and Markovia (whom we never saw) and the maddened girl we saw in the Judas Contract. Either way, wouldn't it make more sense to see Terra 2 as Terra 1 who resurrected herself, and then displayed the flip side to Terra 1’s original, uncorrupted personality? So the retconning of Terra 1 affects Terra 2, and brings us back to Plot Problem 1.
Plot Problem 5: Where do the Markovs fit with the Stratans?
Atlee was originally developed as a separate, unrelated character, and editor Dan DiDio wanted to connect her to Tara Markov. Therefore, the links between Atlee and the two Tara Markovs are somewhat haphazard. But now those ties are there, and DC will have to explain them.
-Who’s Who in the DC Universe, vol. IX (Nov. 1985) “Geo-Force”
Comment on the 3 Terras and DNA manipulation: The acquisition of earth powers is a two-part process. Because Atlee is a genetic match for Tara 2, the Terra mini implies (without overtly explaining) that the recipient has to have a Markov’s DNA to bear the powers plus Quixium to get the powers. The need to have a royal Markov’s DNA explains why all 3 Terras are genetically identical – they have to be identical to Terra 1 in order to bear the treatment. So either (A) Terra 1’s original body has been stolen, has been preserved, and is being used to harvest her DNA for subsequent Terras; or (B) Terra 1 has powers that allow her to regenerate her life and new bodies, and the 3 Terras not only have the same DNA, but are the same person, who keeps resurrecting herself in new physical forms. Note that Geo-Force has come back from the dead through contact with the earth, which regenerated him, so either explanation, or even both, may be possible. The currently accepted version from the Terra mini is that (A) has occurred twice in order to create Terra 2 and Terra 3. That still leaves (B) open as a possibility.
This problem is vaguely explained in the Terra mini with a throw-away line that a tiny number of Stratans like Atlee are born with the ability to absorb Quixium and acquire earth powers. But if that is simply the case, then why is Atlee genetically identical to Tara Markov? That means that the need to have royal Markovs’ DNA is still an inflexible and necessary precondition for acquiring earth powers, which was what Jace said right at the beginning in BATO (see my blog post on it here). Atlee could not continue to survive with her powers without exposure to Tara Markov’s DNA. That means that Atlee’s story will sooner or later circle back to the Markovs, and her story depends on what happened and happens to them. Thus, the Markovs are still the prime movers as far as earth powers go – not the Stratans. Although that still doesn’t explain why only the Markov family’s genes predispose them to the treatment in the first place.
Plot Problem 6: The Power of the Earth is Derived from an Alien Being? Meaning of earth powers.
The Terra mini is one of the first attempts to build up a mythos around Geo-elementals in the DCU. It seems very, very wrong that comics metahumans who are archetypal descendants of ancient earth deities would derive their powers from an alien source buried underground. The meteor-as-alien-in-spacesuit as the source of Quixium and the associated alien-human hybridization of the Stratans is not a satisfying foundation for a geo-kingdom that is the heart of the Earth’s power. The alien may possibly connected to Krypton (although when Power Girl goes to Strata she doesn’t think it’s Kryptonian; but it is strange that Kryptonians keep popping up around GF and Terra 3). Simply put - earth elementals should channel the power of our planet – not someone else’s! The idea that aliens are the source of Earth’s planetary powers – especially with Brightest Day stating that all life in the universe began with Earth – is simply not convincing. Therefore, like the DNA question – Markovia trumps Strata.
Plot Problem 7: Strata Relates Less Well to Other Elemental Power Sources than Markovia Does.
Strata is depicted as a society in hiding, disconnected from the whole rest of the world, including other elemental sources of power. Strata’s location is also strange. It is supposed to be located miles under New Mexico, but Atlee has been shown accessing Strata by digging under Markovia when she needs to help GF. Is Strata so far underground that it is actually underneath both New Mexico and Markovia? That would place it near the Earth's core. Markovia, with its constant coups, supernatural upheavals, embattled engagement with the world, and its royal dynasty, seems a much stronger candidate to be a geo-counterpart to Atlantis.
The Markovs’ Links to Other Elementals.
The potential links between elementals in the DCU are still not developed. The Aqua-family is well-known. The Swamp Thing had a great run as a plant elemental. But earth, air, fire and animals (beings, like plants, that are secondary elementals directly connected to primary elementals) are less developed. A tie between a plant elemental and the Markovs as geo-elementals was touched on in a recent JLA issue (Justice League of America vol. 2 #8) where Brion’s powers are compared to those of Swamp Thing. Tara 1 was one of the ‘Chosen’ to become one of the New Guardians of the Universe in 1988’s Millennium crossover series, because of her elemental powers. In the 1990s, the planet’s elemental protectorate again declared that Tara 1 had been designated as the original earth elemental, and the protectorate tried to eradicate Tara 2 as an anomaly, until a mysterious time shift occurred and Tara 2 was deemed no longer an anomaly in relation to Tara 1 (another big plot twist that was never explained) (Team Titans #17-18). In Tara 2’s encounter with Wonder Woman during the Technis Imperative, Diana tells Tara 2: “you honor Gaia with your powers.”
NT writers considered pairing Tara Markov 2 with Aqualad because they were both elementals. Yet Gar Logan also potentially channels an elemental power – that of the Animal Kingdom. In the 2000s, elemental stories have started to pop up around Gar. A 2000s Doom Patrol story set in China (DP vol. 3 #18-19, 21) made one of the first mythologically-laden indications that Gar’s powers may connect him to the world of animal spirit elementals because he bridges the divide between humans and animals. To put a philosophical light on it, Gar uses his powers to resolve the ‘mind-body dilemma,’ one of the biggest metaphysical quandaries of human existence. Gar’s Doom Patrol origin story (DP vol. 1 #112-115), also touched on this theme, presenting him as a classic ‘feral child.’ He grew up in the African jungle alone after his parents died, although he still retained a human connection by being made a prince of the local tribe, whose shaman feared him as an evil omen. Gar told Niles Caulder when he joined the Doom Patrol that he honed his powers living with animals. He was orphaned at such a young age that he displayed a poor grasp of human language, while being able to communicate with the animals around him; this is typical of feral children.
Gar as magical animal spirit elemental, killed in mid-transformation. DP #18 (May 2003)
In the later Doom Patrol story (DP vol. 3 #18), “Once Upon a Time in China,” he’s again depicted as a feral child suckled by a tiger, and grows up to become a king in ancient China.
Gar portrayed as a prince in ancient China. DP #18 (May 2003)
This Jungle Book or Tarzan-type image of Gar taps into ancient and classical legends about famous heroes who were orphaned and raised by animals. Endicott Studio has a piece on this:
“The orphaned hero is not, however, a mere fantasy cliché; it's a mythic archetype, springing from some of the oldest stories of the world. This archetype includes not only those characters who are literally orphaned by the death of their parents, but also children who are lost, abandoned, cast out, disinherited by evil step–parents, raised in supernatural captivity, or reared by wild animals. ... In myth, when we're presented with children orphaned or suckled by animals, it's generally a sign that their true parentage is actually a remarkable one and they'll grow up to be great leaders, warriors, seers, magicians, or shamans. As they grow, their beauty, or physical prowess, or magical abilities betray a lineage that cannot be hidden by their humble upbringing. Rarely do we encounter a hero whose origins are truly low; at least one parent must be revealed as noble, supernatural, or divine. After a birth trauma and a miraculous survival always comes a span of time symbolically described as "exile in the wilderness," where they hone their skills, test their mettle, and gather their armies, their allies, or their magic, before returning (as they always do) to the world that is their birthright.”Ancient heroes orphaned and raised by, or descended from, animals were destined to become very powerful men, usually founders of great empires. Famous examples are: Enkidu, closest friend of the hero Gilgamesh in The Epic of Gilgamesh; Ashina founder of the Asian Turkic nomadic empires, was the son of a wolf and the lost human child she raised; the son of King Priam of Troy, Paris (suckled by a bear), destroyed his homeland through his love of Helen, which brought about the Trojan War; and Romulus and Remus, twin founders of Rome, were raised by a wolf. This archetype fits Gar Logan’s depiction as the step-son of the fifth richest man on earth, Steve Dayton; Gar’s a former Hollywood TV star (with looks to match). He is also heir through his powers and through secret family papers to his own father’s research legacy. Mark Logan had found the key to reversing evolution (DP vol. 1 #99-100). He granted his son the ability to de-evolve back to zero – to travel back in time along the evolutionary ladders – and then instantaneously evolve forward to a different branch. As an explanation for a super power, it’s an unbelievable concept – split-second de-evolution and re-evolution as biological and genetic time travel. This research was exploited by Gar’s guardian Galtry. According to the original DP series, Gar will inherit all his father’s papers with all these secrets and the Logan fortune when he turns 21 (which if DC would stop de-ageing him, should happen very soon).
The same animal elemental theme was touched on as well in a recent Titans annual (Titans vol. 1 Annual #1 (2000): “The Way of the Warrior”), this time in Japan, when Gar was possessed by a Tengu. In 2009-2010, Gar has increasingly been depicted turning into mythological creatures who often symbolize these types of legendary human-animal composites or animal deities (centaurs, dragons, phoenixes, for example). Looking at Gar and Tara as animal and earth elementals adds another dimension to the ties between them, for what older and more fraught love story could there be on the planet, than that between the earth and the creatures that live upon it? It’s a story of savagery and massive destruction on one hand, and harmony and creation on the other.
Terra 1 Cameos.
-Teen Titans vol. 3 #75 (November 2009): "Wyld Thing"
-Titans vol. 2 #17 (November 2009): "The Only Constant"
-Teen Titans vol. 3 #81 (May 2010): “Titans Together”
Terra 1 has flashback cameos.
The overall theme of Blackest Night (according to Geoff Johns) is "heroes facing their worst fears/nightmares.” The Black Lanterns are not the actual people they impersonate; they’re constructs designed to channel the emotions of their victims before they kill them, (yet somehow the real souls of the original people were held captive by Nekron and forced to observe everything the BLs were doing), this means that BL Terra is not Terra. Nor is anything she says or does reflective of Terra herself. Rather, she reflects Gar’s worst nightmares about Terra and this story is about him struggling with those nightmares. When she confronts Brion, he similarly confronts his worst nightmares about her. Many fans, however, incorrectly took BL Terra at face value, while not taking other Black Lanterns at face value. Terra is often subject to such double standards.
One of the most memorable covers from 2009. By Benes, Hunter, Reis. BN Titans #1 Cover (Oct. 2009)
-Blackest Night: Titans #1 (October 2009)
Terra comes back as a Black Lantern zombie, a construct of her body with her memories downloaded into it – it is not her. The theme here, strangely similar to the leadership conflict between Dick Grayson and Gar Logan, is head vs. heart. Black Lanterns want to stir up their victims and deliver their emotions to the BL power matrix. They do this by tearing out their victims’ emotion-engorged hearts, whereupon the victim will become a BL too. Normally emotions are Logan’s strongest point – except where Terra is concerned. So this is a mini where Gar is constantly rationalizing what’s going on, and when he fights BL Terra, he is literally fighting his own heart and tearing it apart. But the only way he’ll understand his encounter with her is through his feelings. It’s a Catch 22.
Kory voices the questions of readers. Gar mentions Deathstroke's drugging Ravager. Perhaps GF has just told Gar that Tara was drugged. BN Titans #1 (Oct. 2009)
Possible suggestion that Terra 1 and 2 were the same.
Only one Black Lantern appears, and acts and is treated as pure Terra 1. Either Terra 2 is not raised, or she’s here in the mix. Through the 1990s, Gar and Brion treated Terra 2 as if she was the same girl as Terra 1. Everyone else treated Terra 2 like a separate clone and accepted her on that basis. She thought she was a different person, but even she wasn’t sure. The Terra mini retconned Terra 1 and 2 so that they were different. The only way Terra 2 could appear in Blackest Night is if Terra 1 and 2 were the same girl, and different facets of a split or resurrected personality. Possibly aspects of Terra 2 appear because Gar and Brion both thought Terra 1 and 2 were the same girl, and Black Lanterns might be tangible halucinations stemming from Gar's and Brion's minds. It doesn’t look like Terra 2 appears, except in a couple of spots.
Gar, overshadowed by her statue, still seeking the good side of Tara. BN Titans #1 (Oct. 2009)
Black Lanterns want to rile and manipulate their opponents, so their statements do not accurately reflect the actual characters of the people they imitate. But the emotionally-laden comments BLs make still give the audience bits and pieces of their original host’s feelings. On the other hand, again, the BLs may not reflect their original hosts at all, but rather reflect only their original hosts as perceived by others. Does BL Terra arise out of Tara Markov's memories? Or does she arise out of Gar's and Brion's memories of Tara Markov?
Gar meets Black Lantern Terra in a disguised 'good' form. BN Titans #1 (Oct. 2009)
With BL Omen’s help, BL Terra may reflect Terra 2’s good personality and her love for Gar – before she flips to reflect Terra 1’s evil and scorn. In her ‘good’ form, she mentions Conner and Bart, whom only Terra 2 knew, and in Terra 2’s tone asks Gar why she can’t also come back to those she loves, just as they have. Except for the glaring comment about Conner and Bart (could be editorial error), the creature from then on seems pure Terra 1, and in her good form she refers to the Judas Contract.
BN Titans #1 (Oct. 2009)
Obscured by BL Omen’s powers, she hides her zombie appearance and kisses him. Gar loves her. Then the illusion disappears and the writer, Krul, borrows directly from Terra 1’s conversations with Gar (NTT, vol. 1 #30). She wants to toy with his emotions and kill him: “C’mon Gar you gave me your heart long ago. I’m just here to collect.”
Parallel scenes: how do you like the all-new Terra? BN Titans #1 (Oct. 2009)
Parallel scenes: how do you like the all-new Terra? The original panel had Tara don a new costume. NTT #30 (Apr. 1983)
-Blackest Night: Titans #2 (September 2009)
BL Terra returns with a vengeance, and there are some disturbing nuggets of twisted truth in the things she says. Is she talking about hidden dynamics between Gar and women he loves? Gar’s team psychology might explain BL Terra’s hatred of the Titans.
If Terra 1 could have been redeemed as “a great Titan” (Gar’s words), she would not just have saved herself. She would have restored Gar’s credibility. He vouched for her on the team, even as he fell in love with her. For him, these problems are sadly inseparable. He so badly wants to succeed as team leader following Dick’s example that Terra’s rep on the team and her love became preconditions for his rep. Dick still holds their relationship over Gar’s head as Logan’s biggest failure; Tara is the biggest stumbling block to the Titans trusting Gar’s judgment as a leader. But if Tara turned out to be drugged, excused or otherwise redeemed, Gar’s credibility would vastly improve. If Tara could return and vindicate herself, then all Gar’s faith, all these years, when everyone doubted him, would be vindicated too. He would turn out to have been right all along – and the whole picture of how the team looks at him would radically change.
Terra 2: Skeptical of Gar building his leadership with the support of Nightwing's ex-groupie. Titans Secret Files #2 (Oct. 2000)
Until now, Gar has not been able to become a Titans leader according to Dick's pattern, which relies heavily on shipping. That’s not such a failure, because Gar also desperately wants to get out from under Dick’s shadow, just as Grayson wanted to get out from under Batman’s shadow (and has failed to do so) (Beast Boy miniseries #3 (2000)). Both Terra 2 and Raven wanted Gar to become a team leader on his own terms. Terra 2 was skeptical of Gar and Flamebird (read: he was planning on running his team with Nightwing’s top fangirl as his second-in-command) at the Titans L.A. recruiting drive. Terra 1 simply wanted Gar to reject the Titans and destroy everything they stood for, although again we can never know if she would have had a different attitude prior to being crazy, seduced and/or drugged.
Raven: "Sometimes he reminds me of Nightwing." TT #37 (Aug. 2006)
Raven mentions that Gar is acting like Nightwing and that’s not like him. By stubbornly trying to co-opt the women he loves into supporting roles for his quest for respect and power on the team, Gar ends up ironically undermining both his love affairs and his place on the team, which are the last things he wants to do.
BL conflicts don’t just deal with the Lantern storyline. They rehash what makes these characters tick. Is BL Terra challenging Gar because he mixes up the women he loves with his team status? If the BL is partly Terra 2, she has a reason to be pissed off, since she died on his watch while he was trying to prove himself as leader. She demolishes the Titans’ Tower while Gar watches.
Weirdly, the Titans Tower is shown in subsequent TT issues to be undamaged. Does that mean this whole sequence took place in the Titans’ minds? And is BL Terra merely drawn from Gar's head? Is she an embodiment of Gar's troubled memories of Tara and his shipping problems associated with misfiring Titans leadership bids? Omen is shown spinning illusions that only Kory and Cyborg can see; perhaps Nekron or the Black Lantern does something similar, and the Tower crumbling is an illusion that all Titans can see, but is an illusion nonetheless. Gar: You might as well show your true selves. This Tara guise isn’t working anymore.” BL Terra: “Aw, Gar. Your head is saying no, no, no. But your heart is saying yes, yes, yes. You don’t know how long I’ve waited for this. I finally get to kill the Titans.” But her plan for Gar is different: “I want what I’ve always wanted. Your heart – hook, line, and sinker.” Is that what Terra 1 always wanted? BL Terra wants to rip out his heart so that she can kill him and turn him into a BL too. (This resembles what Gar tried to do with Terra 2 during the 90s’ storyline The Darkening, when he turned demonic and planned to transform her into his demon mate.)
The great Perez pays homage to himself. The other dead Titans are (clockwise from bottom left): Hawk, Phantasm, Baby Wildebeest, Pantha, Aquagirl, Omen, Tempest. BN Titans #3 Cover (Dec. 2009)
The original cover by Perez. NTT #30 Cover (Apr. 1983)
-Blackest Night: Titans #3 (October 2009)
BL Terra: “Gar’s always happiest when he’s a lovesick puppy dog.” Gar: “Tara, you’ve been gone a long time. I’m nobody’s puppy dog.” He transforms into a dinosaur and slices off her arm. It looks like the BL is channeling Gar's fears about Terra 1 sneering at his feelings for her – and his guilt that Terra 2 would be angry about his feelings for Raven? If BL Terra is partly drawing from Gar's perceptions of Terra 2, then she may reflect the fact that Gar was overly preoccupied with Raven while leading the battle in which Terra 2 died. Gar may be subliminally aware that his attachment to Raven involves manipulation - or worse. Compare Gar’s battle in Teen Titans #76 (Dec. 2009) against the Wyld, where the Wyld taunts Gar similarly about his attachment to Raven: “Dear lovesick puppy.”
Parallel scenes. BN Titans #3 (Oct. 2009)
Parallel scenes: Gar and Tara kiss on the last night before Deathstroke activates the final phase of the Judas Contract. ToTT #42 (May 1984)
Black Lanterns don’t have emotions. They reflect the deepest fears of their targets. That means that Gar’s fear is Tara being irredeemable. His deepest fear is Tara wanting him to love her, while she tries to kill him for it. But killing Gar means they would be together as Black Lanterns. Thus, he wants to be with Tara, but he fears that the only way to be with her is for them both to be monsters. That's consistent with his plan during the Darkening, when, under Raven's influence, Gar attacked Terra 2 and tried to turn her into a monster like him - so that they could be together.
BN Titans #3 (Oct. 2009)
She teases him: “You can’t get away from me, Gar. Stop fighting it. Why are you making this so hard on yourself? It’s you and me. It’s what you always wanted.” Gar wavers while Vic calls to him not to listen to her: “I ... I can’t, Vic. Anyone but her. I –” And here BL Tara indulges in a gesture that parallels the moment before they kissed in real life during the Judas Contract. What snaps Gar out of it is Donna crashing through the wreckage of the Tower and crushing the skull of the BL version of her own baby. When one of the BLs is damaged, it temporarily breaks the psychological hold they all have on their marks.
Gar: “What are you gonna say next? That you were confused? That you were controlled? That you were drugged?” Everything about Terra was fake: “Deep down, I knew. None of it was real!” Many readers assumed that Gar’s statement proves that Tara was insane from the start (that this scene returns the Judas Contract conclusion to primary continuity). They also took this scene to be a moment that overturns the 2007-2009 retcons of Terra 1 being drugged or driven mad by Quixium. But all this scene really shows is Gar’s shifting opinions on the matter. Even then, he’s ambiguous about it, from the beginning of Blackest Night (where he thinks she was drugged), and in the panel where he rips her apart (where still he loves her whether she was drugged or not).
Gar: "None of it was real." BN Titans #3 (Oct. 2009)
BL Terra thinks there’s a bigger issue here. They’re not fighting over what’s wrong with her or the rationalizations of why Gar fell for her (even if he’s right). They’re fighting to the death over how Gar felt and still feels: “I don’t care what you know, what you realize, what you believe. No matter what happens, you’ll always love me.” Gar, as he rips her in half: “I know.” She’s saying she is his heart. He agrees, but to keep her from destroying him, he has to rip her (that is, his heart) in half. This prevents her from ripping out his heart! Stalemate. Dove obliterates almost all the BLs except Garth, Terra and Hawk (Hank Hall) with a white light, which may indicate the three characters still have roles in Brightest Day and afterwards – something already confirmed with Hawk. BL Terra reconstitutes herself and escapes to go attack her brother and the Outsiders. Both Gar and his zombie ex survive to fight another day. Compare their conflict to what happened between Garth and BL Tula: Garth died and became a Black Lantern.
Gar decides he is finally over her and he’ll find the right girl – eventually. Most readers take this statement to be Gar definitively closing the door on Terra forever. As usual, there are several readings here. He’s just given a radically two-sided answer to the question of how he feels about her, mirroring Terra’s own duality.
Beast Boy: Blackest Night Aftermath.
-Titans vol. 2 #17 (November 2009): “The Only Constant”
In the wake of Blackest Night, Gar puts up with jibes from Wally and Roy about his old celebrity status. Donna and Raven are mysteriously unpleasant to Gar. Raven is hostile and rebuffs his romantic advances, declaring she is not his girlfriend. The female Titans leave the NYC Titans Compound in a huff. Their attitude may have something to do with Gar’s struggles with BL Terra. Perhaps Donna witnessed his conversation with the Black Lantern and informed Raven about the “you’ll always love me” – “I know” exchange.
Post Blackest Night, Gar gets a lecture from Vic about Tara. Titans #17 (Nov. 2009)
Cyborg tells him he has to get over Tara, whom he’s clinging to because he doesn’t want to let go of a time when he was happy. He says that he’s even replaced Tara with Raven to try to perpetuate these past times. Maybe it’s dawned on Raven that the ship is not all about her problems; rather, Gar sees her as Tara’s replacement! Cyborg says lingering in the past and associated past roles is eating Gar up.
Post Blackest Night, Gar's feelings for Tara are close to the surface. Titans #17 (Nov. 2009)
Gar goes to California for a convention. When a villain (Dr. Double X) who is also at the convention dons Deathstroke’s mask to attract people, Gar almost attacks him. His wounds caused by Terra are very close to the surface because of his encounter with BL Terra. Cyborg was right: Gar is clinging to his past. Gar knocks down a classic group shot of him with the old NTT (it’s a copy of an old Perez promotional page that was in NTT issues and on interview covers when the title was at its height).
Post Blackest Night, Gar's feelings for Tara are close to the surface. Titans #17 (Nov. 2009)
The iconic picture of the team gets trampled as people rush to photograph him lunging at a supervillian dressed as Deathstroke. He leaves and encounters the Teen Titans, helping them through a fight and letting them take the credit. He thinks that the younger Teen Titans need help, because they’ve been badly shaken by recent deaths in their lineup. He knows what would have happened if he had been alone when Terra died. He decides to mentor them; he fires his agent, bringing his Hollywood career to an end (again). This shows that his experiences with Terra continue to shape his development as a team leader.
Post Blackest Night, Gar's feelings for Tara are close to the surface. Titans #17 (Nov. 2009)
Gar returns to the Teen Titans, and revives his torturous on-off relationship with Raven that likely involves her secret problems. Under the guiding hand of new writer Henderson (who seems to prefer Cassie), the respect from the junior Teen Titans squad is wrecked by Gar’s entanglement with Raven (TT vol. 3 #75, 76). The TT see the ship skewing his judgment and affecting his behaviour, which destroys his bid to become a team leader and undermines his team standing. They have a point: in Henderson's run, Gar's attachment to Raven is raised to an almost hysterical pitch, and he behaves quite similarly to Wally when Raven forced Wally to love her.
Gar's second TT leadership bid shot down because of his distracting attachment to Raven. TT #76 (Dec. 2009)
But the Titans Tomorrow storyline (see below in the Elseworlds section) showed that if Gar chooses Raven, he ends up becoming Animal Man – a background character on the team, not the leader. And he will be subsumed as Raven's bestial familiar and supporting character – not an independent character in his own right. Therefore, Raven isn’t such a safe horse to bet on either. And because of constantly changing writers, this relationship has become a ‘token romance’ or a ‘Beta couple.’ It’s also likely that the ship with Raven co-opts Gar into her history with other male Titans, making him a supporting character in her drama with Blood or Trigon, while his own individual continuity and development get dropped in favour of that drama. Without the Terra 1 or 2 ship with Gar that 'should have been,' it looks like Logan just can’t find a Kory to back him up as he tries to become a Titans’ leader according to Nightwing’s example.
-Teen Titans/Blackest Night Crossover vol. 3 #77 (January 2010): “A Family Affair”
-Teen Titans/Blackest Night Crossover vol. 3 #78 (February 2010): “Tortured Souls”
Issue #77: Deathstroke’s mentor and servant Wintergreen rises from the dead as a Black Lantern. Panel cuts to Deathstroke’s library, where Slade, for some reason fully kitted up in his Deathstroke costume, is reading Wintergreen’s diary before a roaring fire. Flashback to how Jericho possessed Deathstroke and then forced Deathstroke to cut off Wintergreen’s head and mount it on his wall along with the heads of animals shot on safari. Thunderstorm outside: a flash of lightning reveals Rose watching from the other side of the library windows. She’s come to kill him. Rose is about to finish him off, when the Black Lanterns show up. BL Grant is about to kill Slade, when Rose comes to his rescue. She’s then attacked by a BL version of her uncle, while Slade faces his dead wife and mentor. BL Wintergreen: “Think of this as an intervention.” They tell him the only way to save Rose is for him to die. As Rose tosses BL Wade into the fire, he screams – and Joe emerges from him – alive.
Issue #78: Jericho returns. He recounts how he arrived on the NTT scene when Terra 1 fought her final battle against them. Terra, Jericho and Raven are shown as counterpoints to one another. He explains his history with the Titans through Deathtrap, and how his eyes grew back after the Vigilante carved them out. Slade, Joe and Rose are reunited in a showdown against Black Lantern versions of Adeline, Wintergreen, Grant and Wade. BL Wintergreen: “Look at all the lives that have been destroyed by your hubris, Slade. Your incessant drive to be the best. But I wonder – when it came to the contract on the Titans, you couldn’t even kill a bunch of teenagers.” Deathstroke: “It was never about killing the Titans. It was always about my children. I didn’t fail. It was always about my children. I didn’t fail. I could have killed Grayson or Logan or any of them whenever I wanted. But I knew my children would always be in danger if they were in my life. ... They couldn’t hope to survive with me. But with the Titans – they would be safe. They could have a future. They could have a family. The family I could never be.” He flashes love, the strongest emotion, which drives the BLs crazy. Joe possesses the BL version of his mother and sees terrible scenes from BL Titans: BL Terra attacking Gar, Donna collapsing, Dove radiating white light and so on. Jericho, working inside his dead mother, blows up Deathstroke’s house, while Deathstroke and Rose escape. In the midst of the explosion, the Black Lanterns are arguing. BL Grant: “I always knew your relationship with Mom lacked boundaries. But this is pretty creepy – even for you.” Joe jumps from one BL to another, making them turn on each other and severing their connections to the Black Lantern. Joe, back in his own body, makes his way out of the fire: “I have the chills – it’s like part of me is still inside them.” That doesn’t sound right! Slade announces that the Titans weren’t the best team for his kids – the Wilsons could make the best team ever. Rose rejects his offer; no Black Lantern of her mother appeared that must mean her mother is still alive. She’s going to find her and warns Deathstroke to stay away. Jericho accepts Deathstroke’s offer.
Markovia and the House of Markov.
-Outsiders #23 (December 2010): "The Hunt, Part 3"
-Outsiders/Blackest Night Crossover #24 (January 2010): “Matter of Trust”
-Outsiders/Blackest Night Crossover #25 (February 2010): “Turn to Stone”
At the very end of Issue #23, Terra breaks through the walls of the Outsiders base of operations in Gotham. "Hello Brother. Long time no see." Issue #24: BL Terra gives Terra 1’s history, although there are some conflicts with the original Terra 1’s account. For example: BL Terra claims that her mother lived through Terra’s birth. Also, Brion is depicted holding Terra’s corpse at her death, not Gar. Her costume in this issue and Outsiders #28 is coloured backwards. For my discussion on these inconsistencies and what they may mean, go here. We get a one-panel flashback to the original Titans/Outsiders crossover.
BL Terra visits Brion. Outsiders/Blackest Night Crossover #24 (Jan. 2010)
When BL Terra turns up at the Outsiders HQ, the ‘eye’ symbolism from the Deathstroke arcs is repeated. She is reflected in GF’s right eye, and he is reflected in her empty left eye socket. She admits everything that she did to Gar, although she neglects to mention that he ripped her in half to stop her from killing him. She also doesn’t bring up the fact that she was frightened away by Dove: “I went to the Titans Tower – almost did some terrible things to Gar – but somehow I was able to push away the darkness that was in my head.” The black ring can’t come off her finger. The Outsiders want to test her claim. Black Lightning to Brion: “Look, your sister Tara – who we all agree has been dead for awhile, right – is suddenly standing in front of us – which is a bit out of the ordinary even in our line of work.” Brion cuts off her ring and it rejoins her body. Owlman mentions her history. Brion snaps: “I know damn well what her history is, Roy!” BL Terra: “You see – whatever I do – I can’t escape my past –”
She says she has nothing to hide and mentions the other Black Lanterns. She says she’s being controlled by ‘someone.’ Her story checks out. Then she begs Brion to kill her: “I want you to save me, Brion. I want you to save my soul. I want to be buried. I don’t care if I’m remembered – despised or honoured. I just want nothingness. Your unconditional love was the only good thing in my life. You have to help me fight this. I need your strength. Your sense of purpose. ... You’re the only one I want to do it. ... To kill me. To make sure I’m dead. And you can all be my pallbearers.” By this point, the Outsiders are shining fear (Owlman); hope (Black Lightning); love (GF); and compassion and will (Metamorpho).
Issue #25: The conversation continues. GF refuses to kill BL Tara. BL Tara: “Don’t you want to see my suffering finally end?” GF: “I will not murder my own sister.” BL Tara: “LOOK AT ME, BRION! I mean really look at me! I’m dead already!” GF: “But your soul, Tara ... It’s inhabited your corpse – it’s somehow trapped here ... crying for help ... and I will not be the one to snuff it out.” BL Tara: “My soul is black, Brion. It’s always been black.” GF: “That’s not true.” BL Tara: “It is true! My heart was dead long before I died. You just didn’t know it. Didn’t want to believe it.” She then pulls her rotten heart out of her decayed body and hands it to him. Brion refuses to crush it. The Outsiders are shining love (Brion) and hope (Owlman, Metamorpho and Black Lightning).
Turning the tables, BL Terra mentions Terra's mother. Outsiders/Blackest Night Crossover #25 (Feb. 2010)
Seeing their emotional levels are at their limits, BL Tara suddenly attacks. She mentions her “disowned and disgraced mother” and captures the Outsiders. She creates four giant stone black lanterns: “Consider this your last round of applause ... for all the good deeds you’ve performed over the years. All the lives you saved ... and all the lives you didn’t!”
The last image of BL Terra. Outsiders/Blackest Night Crossover #25 (Feb. 2010)
Halo appears, glowing white light – she delivers an indictment similar to Kory’s and Gar’s: “You’re disgusting, Tara! And I never realized how ugly you were on the inside ... with or without this ring. But I never liked you from the first day I met you. So I think it’s time you stopped hurting people once and for all.” Brion turns Tara to stone, and Halo severs her connection to the Black Ring. Halo says the light is calling to her and disappears. Geo-Force buries Tara off-panel in Markovia and is filled with nihilistic despair: “My home – my subjects – I’ve long neglected them, and they have suffered for it. They have tried to adapt and change to the world, but perhaps it would be best if the world changed for them. There is a new dawn approaching, one that washes away the shadows and casts this land in a new light. Like the rock and stone that forged our every building and wall, we must – I must – be strong and unyielding. For true success to be achieved, compromise and compassion are weaknesses that cannot be tolerated. With the help of my allies, this can be the dawn of a new and greater Markovia. And heaven help those that stand in our way.”
Aftermath of Blackest Night. Outsiders/Blackest Night Crossover #25 (Feb. 2010)
Geo-Force: Blackest Night Aftermath.
-Outsiders vol. 4 #26 (March 2010): “Best intentions”
-Outsiders vol. 4 #27 (April 2010): “The Road Divided”
-Outsiders vol. 4 #28 (May 2010): “Hell on Earth”
-Outsiders vol. 4 #31 (September 2010): “Elements of Mass Destruction”
Haunted by Deathstroke and BL Terra, GF begins to lose it. Outsiders #26 (March 2010)
As LWaT and recent 2010 issues of the Outsiders show, Brion won the battle against Deathstroke, but he has not won the war. Brion is mentally unstable, driven over the edge by Deathstroke’s influence or drugs – and his despair after confronting Black Lantern Terra.
GF begins to lose it, haunted in Castle Markov by all that has befallen him. Outsiders #26 (March 2010)
In Issue #26, GF is haunted by feelings of exalted pride and internal worthlessness and nothingness, which is very similar to what Deathstroke suggested Tara experienced. Given that DiDio hinted that Brion’s problems continued from what was revealed in LWaT, perhaps Brion’s sufferings tell us of secret tortures that Tara went through: “I should feel pain ... but instead, I feel nothing.” Owlman comes in, and speculates on the angle of GF’s throat slash scar – it doesn’t seem that Deathstroke did it. GF reacts angrily.
GF begins to lose it, haunted in Castle Markov by all that has befallen him. Outsiders #26 (March 2010)
Questions from Owlman, strange machines in Castle Markov. Outsiders #26 (March 2010)
In Issues #27-28: GF’s aggression against the Outsiders, treaty with the Eradicator, and challenges from his long-time close friend Jefferson Pierce, split the team in half. Issue #28: Brion accuses Jeff of betraying him. He has a terrible battle with Black Lightning that destroys their friendship, in which Brion shows the full extent of his control over Terra’s powers. Throughout the battle, his self-justifications are Terra-esque – he has the right to exert power because he possesses power. His guilt over Tara has poisoned him; he feels that if he only could have saved her, her sanity and health would have been restored. But because she died once as Tara 1, again as Tara 2 – and now a third time as a Black Lantern – the triple disaster that has befallen her increases his deep feelings of powerlessness and mental decline, which go hand-in-hand with his powers over the earth increasing exponentially. This mental decline, matched by growing power, also happened with Terra. He lashes out, presumably in an attempt to reconcile the vacuum in his heart and soul with the power rushes he is experiencing. This seems very similar to Terra 1’s frightening descent into madness. But it’s not known what the cause of Brion’s decline is – be it hereditary madness in the family, illness brought on by earth powers, or Deathstroke’s mindgames or drugs – nor is it known whether that cause is identical to what afflicted Tara.
In this issue, Jefferson says that Brion’s wife Denise died. (How? When?) This is the first mention of her death. BL: “We’ve all known loss. Tara died, Denise died I know it’s hard, but you’ve got to deal with it, you can’t protect everyone.” GF: “Shut up! Don’t you dare mention my sister!” BL: “Your sister wasn’t well, and neither are you. This has got to end.” Brion almost kills Jefferson and Katana stops him. Brion expels Metamorpho, BL and Owlman from Markovia. In the background of the fight, something undead in a vault begins to break out. In the middle of the fight, Brion hallucinates that he sees Tara, with the colours on her costume reversed, which is how BL Terra recalled her costume. Brion: “No ... he’s wrong, wrong about everything. If Tara was here, she’d tell him. If only Tara was ... alive?!? Tara! Sister! It can’t be! Then I did save you ... I knew I’d saved you. I knew I’d saved everyone. I knew I’d saved my ... self. Tara. Why ... why are you screaming?” He snaps to his senses, realizing that the girl in front of him is in fact a terrified child of one of his subjects. Her mother begs: “Please, my king, don’t hurt her. She is loyal to you, we ... we all are.” Brion: “Not ... Tara? No, this is not what I intended ... my own subjects frightened of me. My God, what have I done? I ... I need to clear my head ... to stop and think ...”
More questions from teammates, more strange machines deep in Castle Markov. Outsiders #31 (Sept. 2010)
Issue #31: the team is divided. Geo-Force has a mysterious blue machine deep in Castle Markov that retrieves Halo from wherever she disappeared to during Blackest Night. Brion has isolated Markovia through an alliance with New Krypton: “If we’ve no allies on Earth then we will reach to the stars! Markovia stands strong and grows stronger!”
Deathstroke controls Robin. Batman and Robin #12 (Jul. 2010)
Deathstroke: Blackest Night Aftermath.
-Batman and Robin #12 (July 2010)
Deathstroke cooperates with Talia al Ghul to control the new Robin, Damian Wayne, in a battle against Dick Grayson. Through a virtual reality neural interface, Slade begins manipulating Damian to attack Dick, the new Batman, in a seeming ‘betrayal.’ Slade’s ‘control’ of others is becoming literal.
Deathstroke: egotism and secrets. Titans Villains for Hire Special (Jul. 2010)
Deathstroke: Blackest Night Aftermath. Deathstroke’s Titans.
-Titans Villains for Hire Special One-Shot (July 2010): “The Best Laid Plans”
-Titans vol. 2 #24 (August 2010): “Rude Awakenings”
-Titans vol. 2 #25 (September 2010): “Darkness Falls”
-Titans vol. 2 #26 (October 2010): “Suffer the Children”
Repeating his Titans East tactic, Slade sets up a Titans Villains for Hire team “for a mission only he knows” related to Brightest Day. He takes in a former Titan, Osiris, who has been revived during Brightest Day. He also manipulates Jade into joining. Roy joins his group (they are planning to kill Deathstroke) in Titans #26. In that issue, Slade thinks to himself that his secret aim is “cheating death itself.” This goal adds a new layer to Slade’s plots to control others. All this stuff – his manipulations of spies, planted moles on superhero teams, and creepy emotional entanglements with his apprentices – points toward the quest for immortality. This is odd, because he is supposedly already immortal. The writer Eric Wallace has stated, “everything that happens to Osiris and the other Titans will be Deathstroke’s fault, be it good or bad.” Picking up on the 'pater familias' idea, it’s likely that sooner or later, Slade will approach Gar or Rose about membership on his new Titans team, and he might have Jericho locked away in his new HQ, the Labyrinth.
Future Arcs, Elseworlds, Fanfic Stories about Terra and Markovia
Terra and Ravager Night Patrol (2007). © DC Characters. © Image by ROCINATE. Reproduced with kind permission.
Negative labels set Terra’s reality in stone. Then the shifting sands of lies, insanity, suicide, inverted sacrifice, death, resurrection, genetic and scientific experiments, mind-wipes, revenge, brain-washing, confusion, drugs, violence, sex, memories, hauntings, doublings, triplings, retcons and other plot devices (they haven’t tried dreams yet) obliterate every assumption we can make about her. The final trope that erases all certainty about her is love. Readers who are sure they know Terra 1 from the Judas Contract should ask themselves why the hopeless psychotic, who was a bottomless repository of evil and destruction, was loved by her father and is still loved by her brother and Gar Logan, for so long after they know the ugly truth about her. These facts make Terra’s story a love story as much as it is a story about inexplicable evil in the human heart. How can two morally opposite narratives like this co-exist around one character?
DC’s non-continuity or Elseworld treatments try to answer this question, mostly unsatisfactorily, by softening or hardening the character, or ignoring bits of her story. Through the 2000s, Terra’s alternate version on Elseworld or cartoon Titans’ teams was that of a troubled heroine. Making her more sympathetic lets audiences see what could have been. Other arcs refer to Terra as an earth mage, or to Terra 1’s evil character and enormous powers, often through side references to the Markovs and other versions of Markovia. Gaming and fanfics explore the Markovian mythos, or recast Terra as a good character. Everything comes down to the paradox: how to reconcile power, lies, manipulation, doubling, and evil – with a growing pressure in Terra’s story toward love, immortality and regeneration.
Titans Tomorrow. Terra 1? and 2 and 3.
-Teen Titans vol. 3 #17 (December 2004): "Titans Tomorrow (Part I of III) - Big Brothers and Sisters"
-Teen Titans vol. 3 #18 (January 2005): "Titans Tomorrow (Part II of III) - Tales of the Titans"
-Teen Titans vol. 3 #19 (February 2005): "Titans Tomorrow (Part III of III) - East Meets West"
-Teen Titans vol. 3 #51 (November 2007): "The Titans Of Tomorrow... Today! Part One: Futures Of The Past"
-Teen Titans vol. 3 #52 (December 2007): "The Titans of Tomorrow... Today! Part Two: Beat Yourself Up"
-Teen Titans vol. 3 #53 (January 2008): "The Titans of Tomorrow... Today! Part Three: Combine and Conquer"
-Teen Titans vol. 3 #54 (February 2008): "The Titans of Tomorrow... Today! Conclusion: Fight the Future”
In two separate futuristic story arcs, Terra returns to the Titans lineup. In the first (2004-2005), she is Tara Markov 2. Gar has become Animal Man, a villainous, bestial version of himself. He’s on a West-coast Titans team with Dark Raven, who revels in her heritage as Trigon’s daughter, has removed all hope from the West coast, and is actively worshipped as a malevolent, burgeoning goddess. Gar’s present self wants to know the cause of his evil transformation and his separation from the future Cyborg, who runs a good East-coast team. Terra 2 tells him it’s “because you refused to have anything to do with me.” She is a heroine working with Vic’s team. Once again, we see a future Gar assuming that Terra 1 and Terra 2 are identical. Although many fans believe that this panel means that Gar will continue to avoid Terra, this story implies more: the way in which Gar’s powers will develop, and his corresponding fate as a hero or villain, is tied to which woman he chooses to be with. If he stays with Raven, he may be destined to become this dark version of himself. In the Titans Tower of the evil West-coast team, the Memorial Hall is now a Hall of Mentors. It includes a statue commemorating (a dead?) Geo-Force, foreshadowing Brion’s turn away from heroism. The second Titans Tomorrow storyline (2007-2008), where the future has been changed and Terra 2 has died in the present, puts a jumbled Terra 3 into the story’s group shots, sometimes with Tara’s blonde hair, sometimes with Atlee’s dark hair, always with Atlee’s costume. The future East-West Titans teams have united and are now much more ambiguous. But Gar is still Animal Man and Dark Raven is unchanged. Given that Atlee is working with Gar, this may imply that Atlee has no impact on Gar’s heroic destiny, but Tara Markov does. Another possibility is reminiscent of the way Tara and Gar switched roles between good and evil in the 1980s and 1990s. This story could confirm that Tara’s and Gar’s moral fates are intertwined: when one is bad, the other turns good, and vice versa.
Terra as an earth mage in an alternate reality on Earth-33. Countdown To Adventure #4 (Jan. 2008)
Terra on Earth-33.
Countdown To Adventure #4 (January 2008): “The Home Front: First, Do No Harm”
In this mini spin-off from 52, Terra is an earth mage on Earth-33, a world where superpowers derive from magic and sorcery.
Countdown To Adventure #4 (Jan. 2008)
Terra: "I hope for a different outcome this time." Countdown To Adventure #4 (Jan. 2008)
She is allied with a female Flash character, reminiscent of Terra 1’s sympathetic stance toward Wally and Terra 2’s friendship with Bart. The two characters debate whether to ally themselves with former Titan The Atom, or with a corrupted former Titan, Hawk, now known as Monarch.
Tiny Terra's crush on Superman. Tiny Titans #2 (May 2008)
Tiny Titans. Terra and Beast Boy.
-Tiny Titans #2 (May 2008)
-Tiny Titans #11 (February 2009): ”Counting on Love Rocks!”
Gar, still trying in every universe. Tiny Titans #2 (May 2008)
Even in Tiny Titans, the title aimed at very young readers, everything about Terra can be interpreted two ways. Tiny Titans #2: The Tiny Titans girls see Tiny Terra throwing rocks at the boys. They gossip among themselves about how they hate her and how two-faced she is. She says hi, and they sweetly say hi. As she walks away, they say, see? Two-faced! Of course, they’re the ones being two-faced. Tiny Tara has a crush on Superman. Beast Boy dresses up as Superman to impress her.
More Terra Trouble! Tiny Titans #11 Cover (Feb. 2009)
Tiny Titans #11: Tiny Beast Boy sees Tiny Terra and asks, “Oh Terra, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!” And with each number he counts, she bashes him with a rock, until Tiny Cyborg tells BB he better stop counting. BB: “My love knows no boundaries ...”
Exciting X-Patrol #1 (June 1997)
Assassins #1 (April 1996): "Political Suicide"
Exciting X-Patrol #1 (June 1997): "The Curse of Brother Brood!"
In the X-Patrol, a 1996-1997 metamutant mash up of the X-men, Titans and Doom Patrol, Terra-X is an amalgam character combining Terra with Terrax the Tamer, who follows the Judas Contract story closely in terms of her betrayal of the X-Patrol to their enemy, X-Stroke the Eliminator. She is an earth elemental, daughter of Dare the Terminator. After her betrayal, she is killed and reborn in the service of Brother Brood. Her attachment to and attacks on the Changeling amalgam, Beastling, are also suggested.
Superman/Batman #60 (March 2009): “Mash Up”
Superman/Batman #61 (April 2009): “Mash Up Part Two”
Issue #60: This mash up between the Titans and the JLA features amalgamated characters in an alternate reality with a combined version of the two teams. Terranado is a proven hero on the team, a quirky android composite of Tara Markov and Red Tornado: “Terra Mark V if you wanna get technical.” Issue #61: Terranado betrays the Justice Titans. She is an android created by the Deathstroke amalgam.
Terranado (Terra Mark V), a mashup character. Superman/Batman #60 (March 2009)
The real question writers are toying with in these sandbox scenarios is – was there more to Terra than the Judas Contract? As usual, opinions are divided; these alternate realities are generally inconclusive and unsatisfying. That’s because it’s infinitely more difficult for writers and the audience to face the problem of Terra head on. The real questions are how to accept the Judas Contract and honour it, while asking what cryptic purpose the character still serves; why Terra continues to evolve; why her story still has momentum; and how all of these elements might explain Terra’s evil and good sides simultaneously. Perhaps all three Terras can be connected not only by DNA, but by a higher moral context for her powers or circumstances. This was what was implied in Swamp Thing #50 (see here).
Markovia. Gaming: Frantisek Markov.
TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons: Ravenloft (1995): “Neither Man Nor Beast”
Once part of the mainland, Markovia has become an island. The “Neither Man Nor Beast” scenario of this TSR game borrows from DC’s characters and picks up on the themes we know well. Set in TSR’s Ravenloft Gothic dimension, beast shapeshifters, stone men, vampires, poisons, drugs, horror, and insanity are all here. This is an alternate-reality, pocket-dimension version of Markovia from a much earlier period, set two hundred years after the fall of a fantasy-version of the Roman Empire.
There’s still a Markov running the country though, and he’s a dangerous character who specializes in charm, blood sacrifice, shape-shifting and deception. In this case, Markovia’s Dark Lord is Frantisek Markov and he is sort of a LOTR-merged version of Terra 1 and Gar Logan. He also has touches of Jace’s experiments and Deathstroke’s brutality: formerly a pig farmer and butcher from a neighbouring land who experimented on animals to turn them into humans, Markov eventually turned on his wife, experimented on her, and killed her. For doing this, he is cursed to become an animal shapeshifter. He retains his head while his body transforms into beast forms (exactly like the earliest DP and TT appearances of Gar Logan). He flees to Markovia and rules over it from a manor house, where he becomes stuck in his beast shape. He conducts more experiments, creating several ‘animal men,’ who worship him. His real aim, though, is to try to resolve the connection between men and animals, thereby healing his condition and regaining his humanity. His moral alignment is ‘lawful evil.’ The game borrows heavily from Romantic Gothic and early horror literature. Frantisek Markov is based partly on the character in H.G. Wells’s 1896 novel, The Island of Dr Moreau, which deals with themes of degeneration and vivisection. But there’s a bit of Mark Logan (Gar’s father) here – the only man in the DCU who ever resolved the metaphysical and physical connections between man and animal. There’s also something of Terra 1 in Frantisek’s arrogant hatred of lesser mortals: “he's become known as quite the philosopher - championing a doctrine of human racial-superiority, survival-of-the-fittest, and the idea of a ruling race of super beings. Nobles and learned scholars have taken a shine to the idea of being a race apart from the peons and peasants beneath them.”
Gaming: Sorin Markov.
Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering (1993 card game; 2002 online game).
Sorin Markov is a world-weary vampire, a sangromancy mage. He is also a powerful ‘planeswalker,’ who is able to travel between dimensions and different universes. Another related character is called Jace. Other than the names and the multiple universes, there are no obvious references to DCU lore.
Cartoon Network Animated Teen Titans TV series (2004-2006). Terra and Beast Boy.
The reworking of the Judas Contract in the CN TT series’ second season from 2004 gave Terra romantic ties to Beast Boy; softened her apprenticeship with Slade (eerily voiced by Ron Perlman); allowed her a metal suit that enslaved her while confirming Slade’s mind control; and let her sacrifice herself for the Titans.
The CN version of BB and Terra, before her betrayal is revealed.
Rather than committing suicide, she turns into a statue that is reminiscent of the comics’ gravestone bust, the statue in the Titans’ Memorial Hall, and her frozen stone form in Blackest Night/Outsiders.
BB's and Terra's last embrace after her betrayal is revealed on the Cartoon Network version of the Judas Contract. She has metal head implants and a metal suit she can't take off that confirm Deathstroke's mind control.
The story ended in the 2006 season. Terra had revived but denied her identity, her memories, her powers, and Beast Boy’s requests to rejoin the team. She was a character who did not know who she was – or did not want to remember. This conclusion is revisited in the comic book based on the series, Teen Titans Go! #51, in a story that includes Geo-Force. This version of the character appears most often on now-dated fansites, which are limited to Cartoon Network series appreciation. They do not generally probe the origins or continuity of the comics character or follow her ongoing evolution in the pulp genre.
Terra and Geo-Force. Teen Titans Go! #51 (March 2008)
-Teen Titans Go! #51 (March 2008): “Metamorphosis”
This is DC’s comic based on the Cartoon Network version of the Teen Titans. Its treatment of Tara continues to be softer. To date, it is DC’s sole attempt to show Tara’s life in Markovia before she got her powers, while she got her powers, and before she met Deathstroke. The issue opens with GF searching for his sister in Jump City. He encounters the Titans at Titans Tower and after a brief skirmish explains he is looking for her.
Altered and softened retcon of how Terra and GF got their powers. Teen Titans Go! #51 (March 2008)
Tara appears in his account as the fully legitimate daughter of Markovia’s king. Unlike regular DC continuity where Terra got her powers first, GF says the siblings both received their powers in Markovia at the same time; but evil people in the royal court tried to use Terra and GF for their own purposes. GF fought back and Terra ran away. The Titans explain what happened with Slade. BB thinks that she may have returned from statue form, that is, may have returned from the dead.
Epilogue to the Cartoon Network series. Teen Titans Go! #51 (March 2008)
This is a continuation of the closing episode of the Cartoon Network series, “Things Change.” In that episode, Terra reappeared at a nearby private school. She claimed she had no memory of her time as a Titan and rejected BB’s pleas to leave her school with him. The epilogue story here strongly hints that Terra faked her memory loss and rejected BB in order to lead a normal life. BB takes GF to where Terra is now studying; GF sees she is happy and he decides to leave her there because she’s better off. But as they leave, she sees them and knowingly looks into the sky after them.
Terra: Fan Fictions.
There are many fan fictions on the internet about Terra, most of which derive from the Cartoon Network version of the character. Fanfics derived from a solid look at Terra’s comics continuity are on the sites DC Nation and DC2.
DC Nation. Fan Fictions.
-Terra and Changeling: Strangers (2005)
This is a fan fiction site with its own alternate DCU continuity. The story involving Terra typically features a twist on doubles and imposters replacing original Titans, which provides the opportunity for strange cross-shipping encounters. A later installment revisits the Gar-Tara relationship, resurrects Tara post Judas Contract, and makes her even more evil. She returns to attack Gar and his new shapeshifting love interest, Aurora (codename: Fauna), and almost kills her. Even here, Terra’s and Changeling’s violent battle is tainted love turned inside out. Their exchange is laced with ‘almosts’ and ‘could have beens.’ After she stabs Changeling, Terra says: “Can't be anything but me, Logan. Another time, 'nother life, maybe we coulda been something.” Her powers are implied as being transformative – she has become a Goddess of Chaos. She also shows her trademark elusive quality of slipping away at the end, with her fate left undetermined. The story never departs from the basic characterization in the Judas Contract.
DC2 Fan Fictions.
Titans Resistance (2006-2010)
Titans Resistance is a sprawling, 40+-issue Elseworlds DC2 fanfic epic that shows the huge potential of these characters which DC, because it is so rigidly stuck on the Judas Contract, has not bothered to consider. You can read it here. This is the only treatment so far in any medium, anywhere, that departs from Tara Markov's inflexible character setting and looks at Tara, her powers and her family in a different way.
Titans Resistance, Page 1 (2009). © DC Characters. © Art by Dennis Metz/Jonathan Biermann (Knightreaver). Reproduced with kind permission from Knightreaver.
In this story, the villains are the Markovs, whose elemental and magical powers have enabled them to turn Markovia into an evil empire through the course of World War I. Tara, the Crown Princess, leads the resistance with a team of Titans against the rest of the royal family. Kudos to the writer, Arcalian, for regarding the Markovs as geo-elementals first and foremost, in a grand way akin to that normally reserved by DC for Aquaman and his huge Aqua cohort. Tara is paired with an Elseworlds version of Tim Drake, although an incarnation of Garfield Logan appears in the story.
Titans Resistance, Page 2 (2009). © DC Characters. © Art by Dennis Metz/Jonathan Biermann (Knightreaver). Reproduced with kind permission from Knightreaver.
Titans Resistance opens during the Great War:
"The great war... How inadequate that simple phrase is to describe the chaos that has engulfed the World.That's more like it! The Great War is historically considered the great watershed for European royalty (photos of them here). It hailed the onset of a new eras of imperialism, but the post-war empires were largely non-monarchical and the great royal houses marginalized into obscurity, except for a few families. In the Titans, Tara's, Koriand'r's and even Raven's stories are all tales about the perils of monarchical dynasties and associated systems of government. By the turn of the Millennium, however, monarchs and royal families have quietly started to come back into fashion. For instance, in 1998, the Romanovs were given official Orthodox royal funerals. Perhaps the story of Tara Markov will be revisited as the interest in empires and their ruling families revives.
The most painful part of it is, of course, that my country was not even involved to begin with. The tiny nation state of Markovia was caught in the middle as the Central powers and the Allied powers clashed.
In those days, the Markovian royals only wanted peace. Our nation only wanted peace and prosperity. But to the armies of both the Allied and Central powers, we were merely territory to be fought over.
Austro-Hungarian troops invaded Markovia on April 15, 1915. Allied troops, predominantly British, arrived and challenged them two weeks later. At first, the Royal family hoped to keep their heads down and let the two sides battle it out. But when it became clear that the land itself was being ravaged, they called their own troops and citizens to battle and prepared to unleash their own secret power. For the Markovian Royal family had long known the secrets of Elemental Mastery. Earth, air, fire and water were all ours to control, but most especially Earth.
King Biroc Markov led his people into battle on that fateful day in May 1915, and the character of the war changed in that moment. With the Markov family using their powers to shape the earth itself and conjure flame from nothing, Markovian forces made short work of the Austro-Hungarian troops.
Perhaps things might have ended there, but the British troops, seeing the strange powers of the Markovians, opened fire, killing King Biroc instantly. His son Prince Ivan, infuriated and vengeful, directed the attack against the British troops. Between his pyrokinetic powers and the fury of his troops, the British had no chance. They were decimated.
Crowned king two days later, Ivan declared that Europe must be made safe from the warmongering madness of both factions. In truth, pride and hate were mastering him. The death of his father had blinded him to all else. The people eagerly followed him into battle, and by 1917 both the Allied and Central powers had surrendered. But Ivan was not satisfied. He led his troops with his powers—aided and abetted by mercenaries bought with gold—and conquered the whole of Europe, officially absorbing the last independent nation, Ireland, on October 3, 1919. Ivan declared himself Emperor and the Markovian Empire continued its conquest and expansion throughout the 1920s. They paused in the 1930s, but only to solidify their borders and spend more time on weapons research and production. Of course, this also allowed time to retain the services of more mercenaries and allow another generation of Markovians to grow up and begin training to become soldiers. By 1944 they were ready to continue where they had left off, and by 1948 their war of conquest was back in full swing.
Today, the Markovian Empire controls more than half the landmass of the world, and our ships prowl the ocean. America and most of the New World is still free, but it is only a matter of time.
My name is Tara Markov. I am the Crown Princess and heir of the Markovian Empire. And I am horrified and ashamed of what my people have become. Though it breaks my heart, I must flee, give up the throne that would otherwise one day be mine, and help the rest of the world fight my family, and redeem the Markov name."
This version of the Markovs is almost like watching DC's proto-Atreides turned into Harkonnens. But this gets Terra off the hook in the sense that she doesn't have to play the villainess. Tara is the first-born, legitimate Crown Princess of the Markovian Empire. Brion is Tara’s younger brother. Tara flees the imperial palace to redeem the Markovs’ honour and name; for this, she is considered by her family to be a traitor. Meanwhile, the heroes in North America prepare to resist the Markovian invasion. In Gotham, Dick and Bruce send Tim Drake out to test his mettle as the new Robin. They tell him to be on the look out for Markovian spies. Basing himself in Philadelphia, he encounters Terra, whom he assumes is a Markovian spy. He is later paired romantically with her, showing again that shipping and love around Tara are mired with teamwork and trust. Many other familiar Terra themes here are cleverly revisited yet reworked. Issue #2: The Markovs’ ruthlessness is reaffirmed. Tara claims that royals who disagreed with her grandfather and mother met with ‘accidents.’ Tim takes this to be a lie, but Tara 1’s original credibility is stressed: “Robin shook his head, mind racing. He still didn't believe that she was truly a dissident, but the details of her family....yes, entirely believable. For a lie to work it must be shrouded in truth, that was another lesson he had been taught. A lie must be so convincing that the truth can hide in its shadow.” Tara’s mother, Arianna Markov aka Empress Petra, orders Tara’s capture and execution. The Empress designates Brion as Crown Prince. Issues #3-4: Ravager is introduced as leader of a fleet of cosair pirate ships, the daughter of Deathstroke, who was murdered by the Markovians. Drake and Terra encounter her and a Kryptonian, soon codenamed Supergirl, and Green Lantern, who join them. There is a sense “of kinship” between Ravager and Terra. Parallels between DC’s continuities for Terra and Supergirl resonate here only in terms of their team cooperation; but the similar paths of the two characters bears watching in DC and fanfics alike.
Issues #5-6: Terra and Drake establish the Titans Resistance movement and begin attacking Markovian forces. Terra and her mother engage in pitched battles, bringing in a classic Titans theme of generational conflict. Issues #7, 10: the shipping between Tim and Tara intensifies, with nods to some of her lines with Gar in the comics. Tara’s father’s name is revealed to be Illyich, not Viktor. Brion becomes Geo-Force, loyal Crown Prince to his mother and prime agent against his sister. Annual #1: Dr. Jace briefly appears, a top Markovian Science Ministry operative who is trying to recreate the genetic template that enables the Markov royal line to bear earth powers. She finds, as in the comics, that no one else can bear the powers without dying.
The story interweaves Italian crimelords, vampires (with Jason Todd leading the vampire hunters in London!), the Cult of Blood, and an Elseworlds Justice Society, the secret resistance movement in the Markovian capital, Petrovnik. Other characters include Argent, a V for Vendetta character codenamed Anarky, Dagon, Flash, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman and an Elseworlds Donna Troy. The Titans free Themyscria from Markovian domination, this in turn causes upheavals in the magical realm and reawakens good and evil magic on Earth.
A magik arc: Issues #21-22: Raven appears as ‘Crow,’ a servant of a magus called Deriven; they are accompanied by Gar in the guise of Changeling – he’s become a Puck or Oberon figure. In a magical dimension, the Titans encounter Deriven, Crow and Changeling. Deriven lectures the Titans on the nature of fate and informs them that the Markovian conquest pushed the “balance of magical power from Order to Chaos.” This imbalance has given power to the Elseworld version of Raven’s father, Trigon. The Titans travel to Changeling’s realm and visit the Seelie Court to begin a battle against agents of this Demon Lord. They meet the Elf Queen, Changeling’s aunt; and are soon joined by Elseworlds’ versions of Lilith, Kid Devil, Gnarrk and Herald. They later encounter the Atlanteans, Captain Marvel, Joseph and Grant Wilson, and Koriand’r. Changeling is commonly disrespected, reflecting the Titans books. There is a passage on Changeling that shows he and Tara share a common mentality, but their shipping is denied:
“It didn't take anyone long to figure out that the Changeling was well named. He was shorter than any of the Elves around them, and his skin was a paler shade of green than theirs. Given his comments about his mother earlier, it didn't require Robin's analytical skills or Anarky's merciless intellect to work out that he was a half-breed. Which, Argent supposed, was what the term ‘changeling’ had originally meant, instead of leaving a fae child in the crib.Issue #23: there is a reference to Terra as an unfree character who enables others to attain their freedom when she speaks to Kid Devil:
The Elves did not quite have the tribal, shamanistic look that Crow had, but certainly they were heavily tattooed and didn't wear much clothing. Again this was a stark contrast with Changeling, who wore close, form-fitting, elegant garments.
Also, the Elves seemed to nearly ignore them. ... Changeling had his head bowed and the occasional muttered grunt was heard. Terra supposed his mixed heritage accounted for much of his frustration; he truly didn't belong anywhere. She felt sorry for him; she knew what it felt to be out of place as well.”
“Terra stepped closer. ‘You want to be free of your demons, don't you?’
Kid Devil looked at her uncertainly, then nodded.
‘I....cannot promise that. But you can help to free others, at least. That is something, isn't it?’
‘Y-yes.....who are you?’
She smiled, ‘I am called Terra. I too fight for freedom.’”
Issue #23: another passage echoes DC’s elemental ‘flora and fauna’ meme between Tara and Gar:
“‘This place.....’ Terra walked around slowly in a circle, eyes wide, ‘The power of the Earth...it's here....it's truly here...I've never felt anything like it. Even the Elven realm wasn't like this.’ Changeling smiled sadly.”
This series makes several nods to major Titans’ arcs. It is the only attempt made so far, anywhere, to confirm the themes in Terra’s continuity, while treating those themes with genuinely new perspectives. For example, this Terra is perceived as a ‘spy’ by some and ‘traitor’ by others, but that doesn’t mean she’s ‘insane’ or ‘inherently evil.’ The Markovs’ trademark flirtations with insanity are hinted at metaphorically, as when Empress Petra plans to develop weapons on the moon: “It was always the plan to have atmospheric dome cities and underground warrens on Luna.”
Because the primary plotpoints that normally limit DC’s Terra arcs are removed, this fanfic series is able to probe deeper issues of Terra’s characterization, such as her confidence as a Titans leader; her awareness that her powers may have a magical derivation; her royal training and the legacy of her royal heritage; and her friendship with Ravager. As a result, this Terra is a much softer character than Terra 1 or even Terra 2 – but she still has many of the same brewing internal tensions. Like DC’s versions of the character, this Terra’s story ultimately concerns themes of falling and redemption (in this case, she is bound up with the fate of her fallen family, leading her to fight Geo-Force in Issue #33, something that’s never been done in DC’s continuity).
Like all the other Terras, this Terra has secrets that compel her to cross paths with the Titans. This Terra betrays her family because she has read histories of the empire, including forbidden ones. The content of those histories is not revealed, but they are frightening enough to prompt her to give up her claim to the imperial throne and everything she knows, in exchange for leadership of a rag-tag group of rebels. In conflict with her Empress mother, she mentions that the empire became “a charnel house” and in talks with the Pope (Issue #32) she says: “Carnage happens wherever the Empire goes. Believe me on that one.”
DC2: Teen Titans Mainstream DC2 Continuity. Fan fictions.
Titans Resistance writer, Arcalian, has also worked on Tara in DC2’s regular continuity. Her history is similar to Tara 1’s up to the point where she leaves Markovia with new powers and joins a band of criminals. She is captured by her brother and remanded to the Suicide Squad. She was a member of the Squad from issues #14-21 of that DC2 title. She has appeared in DC2’s Teen Titans since issue #27 of that title.
This DC2 TT series repeats some scenes from Tara 1’s period on the NTT up to the revelation that she was Deathstroke’s spy. It features several ‘unseen DC scenes’ from this time to speculate on the world Tara 1 moved in and what her choices meant; it overturns the betrayal with Deathstroke that the character in DC’s mainstream continuity made. But the series unflinchingly explores many of Tara 1’s ugly traits, while considering her opportunities for redemption. These are tactics more often used by DC with Raven – Tara’s terrible mistakes and crimes don’t prevent her from finding a way back to the light. Issue #28: Gregor, King of Markovia, dies with Tara and Brion at his side. Gregor’s and Brion’s mother is called Queen Zenobia; this issue actually shows her interaction with Tara, something DC’s regular continuity has never done. For her services to Markovia, Queen Zenobia formally acknowledges Tara as legitimate, although Tara is not her child; she makes Tara second in line of succession to the throne, after Brion.
Issue #32: Terra compares her time on the Suicide Squad with Gar’s time on the DP, and the two bond on their similar apprenticeships, having seen a lot of the world at very young ages. The storyline grapples with the fact that Tara 1 was depicted as a slut in DC continuity. The issue dares to go where DC did not dare to go and departs dramatically from Gar’s DC history with Jillian Jackson: Tara and Gar go out on a date and make love afterward – and it’s Gar’s first time. But Tara’s brash sluttiness softens as she and Gar travel in time for six weeks – they see past and future, alien worlds, parallel universes – she gains depth.
Issue #33: Deathstroke blackmails Tara into meeting him for the first time after she has joined the TT. Before she meets Slade, she thinks of Gar: “He loves me......I want to love him back.....but can I? Can I really?” This version changes Slade’s Tawaba story from ToTT #55. Slade: “I know you, Princess Markov. I keep my eyes and ears open in the underground. You first came to my attention when you saved the life of King T[a]waba during your tenure with the Suicide Squad. The contract to take him down was one I had passed on due to time constraints. The fact that the Squad saved him interested me. I was even more interested when I learned which specific Squad member it was. ... I got hold of your profile, then proceeded to get the Interpol, Checkmate, and Markovian records on you. Lithuania, Belarus, Russia, Italy, and of course, Markovia itself.....you've had a very busy criminal career, Princess. Especially for one so young." Slade offers her 14 million dollars as an initial payment to help him turn the Titans over to the H.I.V.E. for experimentation.
She says she’s attached to being a hero and attached to Gar. He asks if she thinks she could get Gar to join them, which throws her: “With a chill she realized it was actually possible that if she manipulated him into it, Gar would betray the Titans for her. To be with her. The idea was like a sick weight in her heart.” She attacks Deathstroke and tells the Titans everything. They accept her and she and Gar go the next morning to the Statue of Liberty to talk, confirming her association with that symbol. He wants her to meet the DP, which of course would legitimize her, changing her from being ‘that type of girl’ to one who meets the parents.
Issues #37-41: Deathstroke tries to replace Tara with Rose; Rose runs to the Titans Tower for help and he attacks the Titans. Rose recounts her story to the Titans and senses a common bond with Tara. In this storyline, she plays the spy that Tara 1 played in mainstream DC continuity, with some masterful Deathstroke-style internal monologues: “Rose frowned. Why did they pretend to care? Almost immediately she could hear her father's answer in her mind; They tell themselves they do. They pretend they are protecting people, instead of merely stroking their own egos. Unable accept the truth about themselves, they lie about their true natures to friend and foe alike, so they can sleep at night.” This was the kind of tricky thinking of Slade’s that sucked in Tara 1 in the mainstream Judas Contract. After the Judas Contract, Gar was also susceptible to this logic, which is seductive precisely because there is a grain of truth in it. Rose and Tara have a bonding session talking frankly about Tara’s experiences with love, sex and rape. The story follows Tara’s slow development in that regard, questioning whether Gar’s loving her can make an honest woman of her. Tara calls Rose “sis” – and this shakes Rose’s conviction. Issue #40: The Judas Contract betrayal replays, with Rose and Deathstroke capturing the Titans. Issue #41: Redux of the JC. The Perez-homage cover shows Gar holding Tara back while she pleads with Rose. Rose hovers between the Titans and her father. The twist is that Rose confided in Dick about Slade’s con job before they pulled it off. In the H.I.V.E. compound, she turns on her father. Deathstroke is ever ready with typical, ego-driven banter: “You’re smarter than this. Don’t let them manipulate you into denying your own strength.” Adeline and Joseph Wilson have traced everyone to the compound and rescue Rose. Deathstroke flees. This arc is an alternative take on what is a now-inescapable plot in Titans history. It proves the resilience of Tara Markov’s storyline and the themes that surround her. Any writer who tackles the Titans, in whatever form or genre, has to deal with the JC and Tara’s legacy in the NTT, sooner or later.
Terra 2: DeviantART Fan Fictions.
Arcalian has additionally revamped Terra 2’s continuity in stories revolving around Team Titans storylines, including time spent in Lord Chaos' future. And in this treatment of the 1990s stories, what should have, could have, or would have happened between Tara 2 and Gar finally happens!
Terra’s Continuity: Conclusion.
BN Titans #3 (Oct. 2009)
Brightest Day will bring the third decade of Terra’s continuity to an end. Terra 1 gets a good trashing at the end of Blackest Night, even though BL Terra’s fate in Castle Markov and her brother’s plans around her in Brightest Day are obscure. Gar: “She wasn’t worth it. She wasn’t worth any of it.” And Vic agrees: “Not by a long shot.” From her debut, Tara Markov has been slapped with every negative cliché about a female character possible. She is literally dirt. She was, in Deathstroke’s words, a “whore” (and seemingly the daughter of a whore), a liar, a spy, a traitor, probably an addict, a psychotic, a money-grubbing power monger, and a suicide. There was no reason for any of it. It was all her own fault due to her own sick, twisted corruption which she rationally (or irrationally? – which is it?), wanted. She was totally crazy and she was absolutely responsible for it (which makes no sense). She was a female teen version of the Joker. She’s a bitch who deserves whatever she gets. That includes having her identity and powers farmed out to clones and triplicates, ‘nice girls,’ whose good acts serve only to reinforce the damning of Tara Markov 1.
Tara’s not like Raven, who is always on a – by now, unfair and dubious – double standard granted an ethical choice between good and evil (and continually fails only to come back and try again). She’s unlike Rose Wilson, who has similar cards stacked against her but chaotically chooses good and is granted the benefit of sympathy through larger context, where Terra is not (because we were never told Tara’s larger context). Terra 1 was given no choice. The all-knowing narrator at the end of the Judas Contract says she was given a choice – while simultaneously stating that she was too crazy to make any choice other than, well, be crazy and evil. DC’s creative teams need her DNA to keep the powers and the mask going, so now all Tara Markov 1 is is a DNA farm and another Titans ghost.
Or is she? Ironically, Terra 1’s condemnation constituted her creators’ deal with the devil. By reducing her to pure evil, Wolfman diminished Tara into a mere story-telling tool. She was nothing but a flat plot device for breaking story-telling rules, not a character proper. This ‘traitor’ was the clincher in his reversed Kitty Pryde story. In addition, the Judas Contract justified the total destruction of a female character in order to build up the male characters around her – Slade (above all), Gar, Dick, Joseph, and Brion. Not great as far as sexism in comics goes, but it’s a standard superheroic narrative trope. Aside from the fact that five male characters were built up on her back, blaming everything evil in the Judas Contract on 15-16 year old Terra 1 is simply not credible. This was a very young female character who was completely alone in the world, probably drugged, deeply seduced by a dominant male thirty or forty years her senior. That is one of the most troubling aspects of the story. Fans and creative teams who unthinkingly accept Tara Markov 1 as a villainess should ask why the older man in this scenario who is having sex with her is stripped of blame. They should also ask why, in a story about teen suicide – a serious contemporary theme in what was once a socially conscious book aimed at teen readers – the suicide is treated as botched homicide. It’s not exactly a reassuring message to young fans who would find something compelling in Tara 1’s alienation, rebellion and self-immolation. Teen Titans should be a book about how much people can screw up in their youths; yet even the most broken person might find a way back from terrible mistakes. Instead, the JC is a highly conflicted and disturbingly ambiguous cautionary tale. It’s the story about the friend ‘who didn’t make it.’ The problem with that approach is that Terra 1 is surrounded with mitigating circumstances that could allow her ‘to make it after all,’ but these circumstances are denied. And they’re not denied because DC cares about superheroic values, although that was what her creators claimed. Tara does not go unforgiven because she was ‘evil’ and heroic ‘good’ had to be reasserted.
The initially plausible notion that the JC drew the line between villainy and heroism is suspect because Raven has committed far worse acts, and is let off every time. Raven is always readmitted to the team, always accepted, always loved unquestioningly when she returns from her latest foray into sex, murder, torture, brain-washing and death. And – to add insult to injury – she has recently been paired with Gar Logan, whose deep ties with Terra are continually shot down by writers. This demonstrates their idée fixe that the only way to tell a ‘profound’ story about Tara Markov is to uphold the JC’s conclusion and block that shipping trope.
Teen Titans ought to refer to characters finding fundamental distinctions between good and evil in a scary and threatening world. Are double standards on that score, wherein pedophiles like Slade and now-genocidal murderers like Raven are supported, really helpful? And if these distinctions between good and evil don’t matter in DC’s eyes, and mitigating circumstances automatically apply to fallen characters, then Tara 1 should be revived and easily let off, too.
That won’t happen, because the male characters around Terra were considered to be ‘worth more’ and because her creators wanted to prove the title was not an X-men knock-off. The character was created to be a villainess, and so she is not released from her fate. Once you scratch the surface, her villainy is a hard sell: the readership has never once been given a straight story, entirely from Terra’s perspective, wherein they can be sure she is not crazy, drugged, a clone or duplicate or triplicate, a ghost, a zombie, or is not expressing her feelings and motivations under other thoroughly questionable circumstances. DC has never, ever taken Terra right down to bedrock. She has never had a time when her powers, body, mind and soul are united and not jeopardized. For those reasons, Terra (in all her forms) was and is a mystery. Rather than manhandling her into the ‘villainess’ pigeon hole, it’s worth seeing that Terra 1’s untold story reveals what remains ‘unempowered’ in a seeming era of emancipated feminity. She’s the ‘anti-Wonder Woman’ – the character whose voice is constantly taken from her.
However, Tara has evolved into a full-blown character, when she was never intended to develop that way at all. All that abuse begins to generate a weird pathos around her. Tara Markov marked Wolfman’s introduction of dark Marvel themes into the DC universe, but Tara ironically was and is still a DC character; and DC characters resist Marvel conventions. DC characters represent something more, something higher, something archetypal. Because Wolfman surrounded Tara with question marks and then sealed her off, he inadvertently generated an archetype of the embattled female – she is a mirror of our times – we see our misogyny projected over a blank space. Yet we know all too well that the blank space just can’t be blank. There’s something there, and DC won’t go there.
After almost thirty years, there is only one story to tell, that is, how the daughter of a king became a broken, suicidal, homicidal insane monster in such an incredibly short time. All the other stories, the doppelgänger, the Wilsons, Geo-Force getting his sister’s powers, Gar’s love life, and Atlee’s adventures with Power Girl, are peripheral. After an initially heady success of the JC, the impact on the Titans title, one of DC’s main franchises, is obvious. The franchise has a few main pillars: the ‘founding five’ TT; Raven’s quest to stop her father; and the Judas Contract. The JC took the title to the top of the industry and then radically reversed its fortunes for a reason. Until DC gets to the heart of the Judas Contract – what happened to Tara Markov and why – there will always be something fractured and unresolved deep inside the Titans.
What of Terra 2 – the doppelgänger? If Terra 1 had died and her double had never appeared, then Wolfman’s reduction of her down to plot device would have had a better chance of staying intact. But Wolfman revived her in 1991 on editorial request. He thereby dismantled the Judas Contract’s boundaries. After that point, Tara Markov could no longer be just a plot device. Creative teams have tried to beat her back down to that status.
Terra 2 served her time in superheroic purgatory, a limbo between then and now where she slowly carved out a little patch of sympathy from her readership and creative teams. She quietly forced everyone to ask: if she was Terra 1, as Gar and Brion thought, then who was Terra 1? That would make Terra 1 a character who died in 2007, who stood in front of us all along, and we never knew her. Even if the second girl was a separate person, she still stuck as Tara 1’s doppelgänger. Saddled with the same face, name and powers, there was no other purpose for her to exist in Titans’ stories other than to replay Terra’s role, this time as a good character. While she did that very well, considering the stakes against her, she was continually dragged back to the main, untold story. If she was certain that she was a completely different person with another identity and life that had been wiped from her memory, why would she destroy the Time Trapper’s message? That act suggests that she was Terra 1 and vaguely suspected it, or knew it. How could the Titans not also suspect this? It seems they did, tacitly agreeing to tolerate her presence, and let her atone for the wrongs she committed. In that case, whether they were the same person or not, we may view Terra 2’s career as a period of atonement for Terra 1. That’s possible because DC never developed Tara 2 beyond being anything other than Tara 1’s doppelgänger. Her sole reason for existing culminated when she died a hero, thereby proving that ‘Terra’ could be a good and loyal Titan.
A character similar to Terra 2 appears in pop culture. Rheya Kelvin, plagues her husband, a psychiatrist, in Solaris, the American remake (2002) of the Russian film Solyaris (1972). Like Tara 1, the original Rheya is considered mentally unstable, also commits suicide, and also returns to her husband as a mysterious duplicate. The double, a composite formed from her husband’s memories and given life by Solaris (a sentient planet), complains that she is insane and suicidal because that’s how her husband perceived her in life and remembered her after death. But were his presumptions about her correct? He thinks, “I was haunted by the idea that I remembered her wrong, that somehow I was wrong about everything.” It’s implied that she killed herself not because she was insane, but because her husband did not see her – that he never looked beneath the psychological labels in order to see who she really was. The film hinges on the idea that love can transcend madness, death and the solipsistic problem of never really knowing those closest to you, based on repeated quotes of Dylan Thomas’s poem “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.” The poem has some romantic images that become familiar in the Titans scenarios around Terra 1 and 2: “When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,/ They shall have stars at elbow and foot;/ Though they go mad they shall be sane,/ Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;/ Though lovers be lost love shall not;/ And death shall have no dominion.” At the end, Chris Kelvin takes a leap of faith and sacrifices all to be with his wife’s double, accepting that he doesn’t know the answer about who she was or what she has become. He will never know if the double of his wife is really her, or someone or something else. But he accepts her. The turning point occurs when he says: “I don’t believe we’re predetermined to relive our past.”
When he finally takes the leap in the dark, he says: “Am I alive, or dead?” She embraces him: “We don't have to think like that anymore. We're together now. Everything we've done is forgiven. Everything.” Tara 2 and Gar were never granted that turning point. But it’s easy to see how the characterization of a woman as ‘simply insane’ may permit the writer to annihilate her, but that does not mean he has explained her; and that lack of explanation begs for her return and a higher resolution.
But because Terra 2 was never given leeway to provide that higher resolution we have Atlee, who has been sent to work with the Titans during an as-yet unknown coming apocalypse. Atlee is strangely silent about Terra 2, although they are supposedly both Stratans. Currently, DC’s writers and editors seem to be trying to work around Terra 2 as though she never existed. But that only reinforces duality between Terra 1 and 3. Each new ‘good’ incarnation brings up Tara I as her evil opposite number. This approach has permitted Tara 1’s ongoing debasement and exploitation for decades, while augmenting her weird resilience. Thus, although Atlee is a bright and charming character, she has already proved dangerously susceptible to Tara-Markov-derived themes, like brain-washing. Her brain transplantation episode allowed the writer to briefly subject her to other Tara-type echoes, such as Judas Contract-like spying, betrayal and attacks on her closest friend, Power Girl. The reason for her genetic match with Terra 1 and 2 hasn’t been explained. And her allies are alien hybridized humans who are tapping the power of the planet. They have: mind-wiped Brion a true earth elemental; created a fake version of Tara 1, his sister, another true earth elemental; are obsessed with secrecy; regularly engage in cloning; and may have possession of Terra 1’s and Terra 2’s bodies. None of this looks light, bright or promising. Originally conceived as an unrelated character, Atlee is inevitably subject to Tara Markov’s untold story, and to Terra’s good-evil duality.
Terra has a way of twisting against any writer who tackles her, especially those who treat her as a simple villainess. She reflects the spirit of each new decade, and seizes back her life. There’s a touch of The Bride in Tarantino’s Kill Bill (links here and here) films about her. Until Blackest Night, DC hadn’t given Tara a scene like the one The Bride gets, in which she literally has to punch her way out of her coffin and dig her way out of her grave, where she’s been buried 'alive' - even though she's certainly dead.
As far as non-BL Tara goes, the digging-out-of-grave scene was given to Jason Todd instead. DC is still coming to terms with the fact that the more the mountain of negatives is piled on top of Tara, the more the point is hammered home that she was worth nothing, the more dramatic life she gains as a dead or reincarnated character. These labels make up Tara Markov’s whole reality, and it makes sense metafictionally that she would be mad as hell about it, like she was in Blackest Night.
Out of Terra’s many incarnations comes a single thread. Terra does have a continuity. DC has done everything possible to obliterate Terra 1 short of dropping a nuclear bomb on her, yet she keeps coming back in different guises. And while fictionally Terra 1, 2 and 3 and BL Terra may be different people, metafictionally they are not. This allows the original Tara Markov to slip through the cracks again.
Marvel wrestles against the power of the shipping trope around Mary Jane and Peter. One Moment in Time Changes Everything (2010)
Like Marvel creators, who were puzzled by Mary Jane Watson’s larger appeal over their preferred character Gwen Stacy, DC writers and editors confront something about Terra that keeps escaping their mandates. Is Tara a dark Gwen for Gar – or is she really his Mary Jane? Worse – is she both? Terra is divided. Gar is divided. Readers are divided. Can a character who inspires so much love, hate, and turmoil, whose own motivations and (re)incarnations always keep everyone guessing, and who hops right off the page every time she (the ‘real’ one) reappears, even as a statue, really be worth nothing?
Even for readers who insist that Terra 1 died in 1984 and had no physical or moral connections with her successors, her story did not end there. The 2000s, while not dismantling the Judas Contract, gave it unusual new depths. What Terra 1 was and is, and what happened to her, emerged in veiled outcomes in the lives of the men who once surrounded her. The irreducible constants evident in Terra’s stories are repeated links to Brion Markov, Gar Logan, Deathstroke, the Titans, and Markovia, as well as the resilience of her powers. Those constants say a lot, providing an unacknowledged unity to ‘Terra’ as a character, whatever her incarnation. In the 2000s, storylines concerning related characters notably softened the conditions around Terra 1’s evil characterization in the Judas Contract.
In the Beast Boy miniseries, the decade began with a surprising twist as the writers (Raab/Johns) addressed the fact that Gar was still subject to Doom Patrol’s legacy. In the Judas Contract, Gar and Tara had fallen squarely into the biggest storyline from the Doom Patrol’s past and replayed it. Tara’s suicide flipped everyone’s destinies so that Gar and the Titans did not repeat the Doom Patrol’s horrific fate. In the Beast Boy mini, Gar picked up from that critical point and further struggled with his own part in Doom Patrol history, confronting Madame Rouge’s daughter and re-entering the Titans’ stage as a new leader. For her part, Tara’s suicide ensured that she would not repeat Madame Rouge’s final destiny, and become a surviving traitor hunted down by the Titans’ children. That generational shift in the Doom Patrol legacy, in which a terrible history was broken at the end of the Judas Contract, still left Gar and Terra locked in a new Titans legacy of the ‘team member as traitor.’
Gar’s encounter with BL Terra in Blackest Night may offer more than one resolution: since the Judas Contract, Gar and Terra have been stuck in a constant purgatorial aftermath of grief, resurrection, love, revenge, and rejection. It is this second fateful cycle which they may have at last broken at the end of Blackest Night, because Gar faced it, transcended it and survived.
Slade Wilson’s claim to being the anti-hero family man that he built up after the Judas Contract and through the 1990s – an image that partly depended on Gar and the readership accepting Terra’s abject failure as a human being – began to slip. The Terminator drugged his own daughter and took on a series of tortured protégés. Whether he drugged Terra or not, he saw Terra in her successors (a fact he acknowledged to himself). The cracks in his ego finally began to show. Whether Slade’s drugging projects are part of some larger, yet-to-be-revealed master plot, or a mid-life post-Lolita crisis, his fabled code of honour isn’t what it seemed to be. As the list of Terra’s successors grows, an ugly pattern comes to light, and it becomes harder for readers to condemn all of Slade’s victims before they will condemn Slade. Slade’s rival dark Titans teams reveal that his grip on reality loosens where the Titans are concerned. He wants to identify with them and be the father of their family, even as he violates and destroys them. Deathstroke’s paternal blind spots say a lot about what happened between Terra and the Terminator, how deeply mentoring her affected him, and how his dark obsession with the Titans affected her.
LWaT (Aug. 2008)
Lastly, in Brion’s descent down a path of insanity and violence that is frighteningly familiar, we see a sympathetic character, unambiguously sane and heroic, literally being made to ‘walk a mile’ in his sister’s shoes. Brion’s anguished entreaty to Rocky Davis, “Am I still a hero if I want to kill a man?” and the fact that he can feel another person, a stranger, moving beneath his skin, tells us about secret moments when Terra lost her own sanity. Unlike Tara, Brion is not someone we can just dismiss as hopelessly insane and evil, yet he appears headed toward exactly the same crisis point as his sister. If he is to survive, Brion must try to rewrite the history of how the royal family’s geo-powers will shape Markovia, and how that connects to Atlee’s world and Deathstroke. Brion’s difficulties might, in the end, make Terra’s mystery more comprehensible.
Another way of looking at the concluding panels in Titans: Blackest Night is that Gar has closed the door on the past and the Judas Contract, without denying Terra a future as a DC character. Even if he wanted to, could he really do it? What does it mean when the girl who symbolizes an entire planet is depicted as being a whore and suicidally insane – or is at best a pale, dislocated, benign copy of herself, split off from her core identity? If the male character – who represents the living creatures that occupy that planet – cannot make her whole again, then what hidden, symbolic hope still drives this classic comics story?
GO BACK TO CONTINUITY PART 3.3 TERRA IN THE 2000s.
SEE TERRA'S WHOLE CONTINUITY.
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