As readers of DC's "The Lazarus Contract" crossover found out, the new "Rebirth" timeline incorporates New Teen Titans history, but with a few tweaks.
And the end of the crossover caused some changes for the DCU, including the elder Wally West facing the prospect that he might never be The Flash again.
The recent "The Lazarus Contract" crossover jumped between issues of Deathstroke, Teen Titans, and Titans, relating how the two Titans teams united to stop Deathstroke from changing history.
And as the young heroes were chasing the villain through the "Rebirth" era, the history of the current DCU was further defined - incorporating scenes and characters from both the post-Crisis DCU and the "New 52."
"We're talking about the merging of the modern, New 52 continuity and the old continuity," said Titans writer Dan Abnett said. "And there are inevitably going to be points where those things don't match. … They've sort of healed around each other."
By the end of the crossover, Deathstroke had decided to quit fighting, Damian had decided to kick Kid Flash off the Teen Titans, and the elder Wally West was unable to continue his life as the Flash. Because of an event that happened during the story's time travel, Wally now has a heart problem - and a pacemaker - and should not continue functioning as a speedster if he wants to live.
Newsarama talked to Abnett about how Wally's heart problem affects the Titans book going forward, how the writers dealt with changes to the "Rebirth" timeline, and what readers can expect after the surprises of "The Lazarus Contract."
Newsarama: At the end of the "Lazarus Contract," the Titans and Teen Titans have united to defeat Deathstroke. And although the overall story resolves, there are three different surprises at the end that carry over to three different titles.
Dan Abnett: Do you not think it's fun that a crossover event happens between three books, and every single one of those books is radically transformed in one way or another? I mean, Deathstroke, obviously, is going to be a very different title coming out of this. The shock waves in Titans are going to be considerable for Wally, as a result of the revelations there.
It's not just like, an event happens and then all the books go back to normal afterwards. This is a proper event that has changed things.
Nrama: Yeah, yeah. But I think one of the hallmarks of the event was embracing the past - and I mean, the past from before the start of the "New 52." Your book has been doing that for a while, so now, with "Rebirth" in full swing, do you feel like the rest of the universe is catching up to what you were doing in Titans Hunt? You were doing this sort of thing before it was cool…
Abnett: [Laughs] I think, to be perfectly honest, I was the test subject. I was the guinea pig. They told me to do that with Titans, and then I think they went, "OK, that's working… we can do it with everything." I think I was several issues in when they went, "Yeah, we're doing it all over the place." And I thought that was fantastic.
But yes, I was there, doing it, unaware that it was a template for what they could do with other books.
Nrama: "The Lazarus Contract" crossover went to the past quite a bit - did you have to coordinate what the new timeline is now? I know you had already set up much of this history.
Abnett: Yes. We're talking about the merging of the modern, "New 52" continuity, and the old continuity. And there are inevitably going to be points where those things don't match. But rather than trying to smooth those edges over, we're saying that's kind of where the scar tissue is between classic DC continuity and this new continuity.
They've sort of healed around each other.
So some things are different. We see, for instance, in the "Lazarus Contract," flashbacks to the Titans’ first meeting with Deathstroke, but they're not exactly the same as events we saw in New Teen Titans #2 - different costumes, different people. But essentially, the events are the same.
We're saying that the event itself happened. It might have been acted out by a slightly different cast of people, but essentially, the consequences to the world were the same. And I think that's the really important thing.
We're saying those historical events are part of a shared history which is now fused into one.
So there are certain things we could have spent hours trying to hide - to hide the cracks. I mean, I know the cracks are there for a reason. The cracks are there because of the fracture of time. So therefore we can acknowledge those and have the characters acknowledge those sorts of things.
Ben Percy, Christopher Priest, and I talked for hours and hours and hours talking about what things had to be different, what things could stay the same, and what things had to be preserved. For a long time, we were discussing the idea of the "Judas Contract" being a fixed point in time - that couldn't move, even if the continuity around it had moved. But then we went, "No, we can actually embrace it all, and we can embrace those differences."
I have to say, from a creative point of view, one of the nice things about the crossover is that everybody worked together so enthusiastically. We didn't get into sort of feudal disputes about whose characters were whose.
In fact, at the end of it, we sat back and went, wow, that was amazing. Priest wrote Teen Titans Annual: The Lazarus Contract, and he sent me an email saying, "I can't believe you let me do the things you let me do with your characters." And I went, "Isn't that the point of the story? Isn't the point a really good story? We concocted it together. I'm not going to be annoyed that you hurt Wally, for instance. That's part of the story."
The point of what we do is for the readers. If the readers get a great story and it continues on, it's not a matter of me saying "No, they're my characters; you can't touch them." It's that sense of sharing. And that doesn't always happen in crossovers. People are often more protective of their own characters.
And what you get with crossovers, quite often, is a story that is forgotten after a few months because it didn't change anything. I think those are the two things we really wanted to do. We wanted to make it a story where things happened and those events lasted.
Nrama: OK, so…as you mentioned, Wally got hurt. But it was a time travel thing, where the timeline was changed. He has a pacemaker. His heart is out of rhythm, I assume…
Nrama: And he has to have a pacemaker to keep it in rhythm. That's something you'll be dealing with in Titans?
Abnett: Absolutely. It has fairly big repercussions. What we're going to be exploring is, what defines Wally West? Dare I say, as a Flash, he's kind of redundant, right? We've got other speedsters. But what defines Wally West?
I think there's always been a sense that, although he's happy to be back and to be a member of the Titans and with his friends - he has no life. He has no identity beyond being a member of the Titans. Everything he knew is gone. He's got no personal life, no private life.
And now he's in danger of even losing the things that defines him, which is that he's a Flash.
So this is going to have fairly big consequences for him.
Wally's entire arc since he returned - being lost in the timestream, not knowing who he is, losing his life (in terms of his personal life) - are really going to start to play out in the next few issues.
Nrama: I noticed that when Wally was being forced to tell the truth about himself, he said he remembers a different world. And now, his history has changed again with this heart problem. Is he still remembering the life he had before the "New 52"? Along with this new, merged timeline?
Nrama: So he's got two different life stories in his head?
Abnett: Yes! He almost uniquely - the other person who has that sort of experience of the universes is Superman, actually; both of them can recall history before it was altered and re-written. They can sort of remember, if not perfectly, they can remember a lot of the post-Crisis continuity, because those are the things they lived through, even if they don't sort of technically exist anymore, they were things that they experienced.
I feel incredibly sorry for Wally as a character, because he's been through so much, and he has this intensely vivid memory and experience of a universe that he can't get back to - it's not that it's over and done with; it's literally never existed apart from the memories he has retained of it.
So Wally's struggle is getting quite existential, as I said. He's saying to himself, "Who am I? What purpose have I got? What is my life about? How do I define myself in this world?" And now this hammer blow has come where there's a very good chance that if he carries on being the Flash and using his powers, it's going to kill him.
Tough times for Wally, but we've got a really good story to tell about it.
Nrama: I assume you can't say much about Doomsday Clock, but Wally is obviously a big part of the "Rebirth" mysteries - or at least, he was at the beginning. Is he still going to be part of that, or are you exclusively dealing with his role in the world as part of Titans?
Abnett: A little of both. He's certainly a major part of that because the "Rebirth" event was focused around him. I think he was sort of the herald, the proof (if anybody needed it) that things had changed.
You're right - I can't say much about the Doomsday Clock storyline. But I've been constantly aware since I started working on Titans that this book is one of the closest to it. So we've had to be careful sometimes what we've said and done, because we don't want to transgress into spoiler territory within the pages of Titans as to what is actually going to be unveiled.
Nrama: So going forward from "The Lazarus Contract," what's next? What can readers expect in Titans over the next few issues and beyond?
Abnett: There's going to be an increasing sense that although each issue is an individual issue and individual adventure, there is a sort of cumulative effect that is adding story to story. I think readers that have been with us since Day 1 are going to say, oh my goodness, this is connecting back to that, and this is connecting with this.
There is a bigger meta-story evolving that I think will please readers.
I think if you're a new reader coming to this book, that doesn't matter. You're going to be able to understand what's going on. But if you've been around since day 1, I think you're going to be really delighted at the long-term strategic employment of meta-story that we're coming out with now.
The editorial team and myself and the artists have gotten very excited about the way the story is progressing. We've developed a way of telling this story so it's good, old-school comics, where each issue has got that individual quality, with each issue told from the point of view of different members of the team. So there's not a sense of readers getting lost in the long-term storyline.
I still believe it's one of the easiest DC comics to pick up and start reading with any issue, because we've constructed it that way. We tell you what's going on.
Yet there are these long-term things that have a thread running through them that are becoming more and more apparent. The issues I've been writing recently have really excited me.
The next couple issues immediately following "Lazarus Contract" are going to be very, very interesting. The Titans are put under great stress because of what's happened. They're already struggling to deal with earlier clashes they had with H.I.V.E., particularly regarding Bumblebee and the theft of her memory. So they're working very hard to resolve that problem.
It's going to put the team and their friendships under an enormous amount of stress.
I've got strong, well-known characters with Donna Troy and Wally and Nightwing, but I've been very please with the way we've been able to bring forward characters who are sometimes considered secondary, particularly Lilith and Garth - they've really come into their own as potent characters.
There's some very cool stuff happening, particularly with Lilith.
And more of the same interaction of friends. I think if you read the book because you like the idea of hanging out with these friends, there's all sorts of stuff, including, dare I say, romance going on in the pages of Titans.
They're dealing with some major threats and very major new threats, and slightly further on, some classic old threats will return to make things more complicated.
If you're a reader that's come in because of this crossover - if you're a Teen Titans or Deathstroke reader and you've joined the story reading "The Lazarus Contract" - these are great issues to carry on reading if you like the Titans characters, because there's an awful lot of drama happening.