Deathstroke 1-6

Today, Shelby and Peter are discussing Deathstroke 1-6, originally released September 14th, October 12th, November 9th, December 14th, 2011, and January 11th and February 8th, 2012.

Shelby: I picked up Deathstroke at the recommendation of my local comic shop. I was looking to broaden our pull list with something the guys weren’t reading. Plus, Deathstroke is a virtually unknown character to me; I first encountered him when I read Identity Crisis last year, and I what I learned from that book was the limit of my knowledge of Slade Wilson. He’s classified as a meta-human, with enhanced strength, speed, tactical abilities, and a regenerative ability allowing him to heal faster than your average blogger from nearly all wounds. I have, in previous posts, compared titles to action movies, but I have been forced to take it all back. Deathstroke is the ultimate killing machine; he does so with precision, accuracy, and impunity. It’s almost kind of refreshing; so many superheroes make a point of not killing their enemies, enough so that on the rare occasion when they do, it’s shocking (Wonder Woman, I’m looking at you). There is something really appealing about a character who exists solely to kill others. Moreover, if this character isn’t a villain, isn’t someone I despise, then I think we’re onto something interesting.

Deathstroke is a fucking badass. The second page of the first issue is a 2-page spread of him leaping into a group of armed guards, decapitating a guard and the man they were protecting. Deathstroke works for a man named Christoph, who finds him jobs doing whatever anyone is willing to pay him to do, which has lately been mostly bodyguard stuff. His first mission is to team up with a bunch of dumb teens to jump onto a plane in flight, kill the arms dealer on board, and destroy whatever weapons are there. Except that it’s not an arms dealer, it’s a man with a briefcase with MYSTERIOUS AND UPSETTING CONTENTS. While the team is celebrating the success of the mission, Deathstroke suddenly shoots and kills them all. To him, they represented what people thought he had become. This is the point that latches on to a major theme of this title: perception and respect. Deathstroke decides he needs to do something to boost his image to what it used to be.

The entire second issue is a huge firefight on a freeway with tons of people dead and expensive equipment blown to pieces. The whole point of this fight? Publicity. It’s just a way for Deathstroke to show the world what happens to people who screw with him.

In the third issue, we get a little clearer idea of Deathstroke’s perception of himself. During a fight with a random guy in purple and green, Deathstroke considers history’s great warriors before him. According to him, “The greatest warriors that worked for the greatest kingdoms earned the greatest respect. And I am the greatest of them all.” He throws the guy off a building, and heads out on a routine assassination. While fighting his way through the guards, he encounters another of the purple and green guys, who is calling himself Legacy. After D.S. kills Legacy, he finds the target, who is already dead with his left eye gouged out. INTERESTING POINT: Slade is missing his right eye. The issue closes with a couple interviewing a man to be the new Legacy to go after Deathstroke; turns out, it’s the parents of the teen-aged girl on Deathstroke’s team in issue one.

In issue 4, we begin see a chink in Deathstroke’s armor, as we discover the contents of the briefcase from issue one: the mask and blade of Ravager, otherwise known as Deathstroke’s son Grant.  Grant was a super soldier/assassin/badass like his dad. He was supposedly killed in an explosion years ago, but the blood on the weapon is a few weeks old at best. As Deathstroke heads out to gather some more info, Christoph is surprised in his office by someone he knows and didn’t expect to see. The attacker kills him, gouging out his left eye and leaving the knife behind. This hits pretty close to home; D.S. has been working for Cristoph for years, and no one should have been able to find him. D.S.gets lured into a fight with the third Legacy who gets the better of him; he hits him with a god-damned submarine.

Somehow, D.S. is not dead, learns this is all about the girl from issue one, and manages to disable Legacy. Meanwhile, the couple who hired Legacy is watching the fight with…DUN DUN DUN, none other than Ravager, who appears to be the mastermind behind the whole thing. What exactly that thing is, we don’t quite know yet.

I have to say, I really enjoy this title for 2 reasons. Reason 1: The action is exciting and ridiculous in it’s bad-assedness. I mean, in issue 4, Deathstroke kills the warden of a prison for meta-humans by horking up a grenade and shoving it down the guy’s throat.

Not only is Deathstroke the definition of “action-packed,” Kyle Higgins has done a great job with the story. Higgins has kept Deathstroke from being just a two-dimensional killing machine, which is the second reason I like this title. D.S. is a complex character with his own set of morals and standards. They are set a great deal differently than what we generally see, but they exist. He believes in respect, loyalty, and duty. There are little moments when we see that Slade is actually a man. This is also shines through in the art; I think my favorite moment is in issue 6, when Deathstroke is too late to stop the explosion he believed killed his son. Eduardo Pansica draws three simple panels: the first is a huge explosion, and the last is D.S. with his head bowed, but it’s the middle panel that drew me in. Deathstroke has dropped his weapon. As a gesture from the greatest warrior of all time, this is HUGE, and the simplicity and clarity of it is very appealing to me.

This also pairs perfectly with what we’ve seen of D.S. and Grant in earlier flashbacks. Slade was a driven man, who expected better than perfection from his son. That didn’t change the fact, though, that Grant was his son, whom he loved. Shortly before the explosion, we are treated to a little exchange between the two about Achilles. Slade delivers this as a lesson to his son about the importance of hiding his weaknesses. Clearly, his love for his son was a weakness exploited by his enemies, and is currently being exploited by Grant for reasons unknown.

Art-wise, I think there’s some great talent in this title. Both Pansica and Joe Bennett, who drew issues 1-5, as well as colorists Vicente Cifuentes and Art Thibert, have a very clean and clear style, which keeps the action visually exciting without getting muddy and hard to follow. I’m looking forward to seeing where Higgins takes this story. I did a brief background check on Deathstroke before I started reading; turns out, basically the entirety of his family has at some point gone crazy and tried to kill him. It looks like Grant is heading in that same direction. I mean, D.S. is missing an eye because his wife went crazy and shot him. He had another son who was crazy and a mute (the after effect of having his throat slit) who has tried to kill him, and he has a daughter, also crazy and has also tried to kill him. Slade Wilson is ultimately a tragic figure, forced into a solitary lifestyle by violence and crazy. I can’t wait to see what the inevitable confrontation with his son will bring.

Peter: As the first panel of the first page of issue 1 says, Deathstroke is a bad ass. He is the baddest ass in all of DC. That being said, he has not had his own book where he is the central character since the mid-90s. He has predominately been a Teen Titans villain, but he also has shown that he can be a major player on the supervillain scale, using his vast wealth, skills and knowledge to pretty much do whatever he wants, has been involved with Checkmate, Lex Luthor’s Secret Society of Supervillains, among others. Hell, he’s even helped the Titans a couple of times, as a ‘good guy’. Slade Wilson really has done it all, he is a true renaissance man, as long as everything has to do with killing in some way.

I will agree, I have been really enjoying this title. However, I do think that it is going a little slow. I get that Slade needed the first issue to really decide who he is going to be for us to read, but the following issues are sloooooow, and well, a little predictable. I can always predict that there will be some pretty gratuitous violence in this book, and it doesn’t disappoint. The introduction of a new villain is nice, but overall, Legacy leaves something to be desired at this point. I hope that now we know we are up against Grant Wilson, also known as Ravager, son of Slade, things can start to move a little bit more. Part of the allure of Deathstroke has always been his crazy family ties with a vast array of people. From Jericho, a mute Teen Titan, to Grant who is dead a lot of the time, to Rose who dances with good and bad line more times than I can count, and in the middle of it all Slade. So when Grant was going to be the main enemy focus of this first arc, I was thrilled, and made me excited at the prospect of also exploring his other children in some capacity. So, I hope that happens.

I don’t really like Slade’s costume redesign. I understand why it looks the way it does, and I can see that it is obviously functional and all Nth-y, but it still feels kind of weird.

Slade has always had a sleek look to him, more ninja than solider. I always like the ninja look, because it showed me that Slade was as confident as I wanted him to be. With his super powers, durability, strength, and a regenerative healing factor, the sleek look oozed confidence that said “I don’t always get shot, but when I do, it doesn’t really matter.” With his new armored look, I don’t get that same feeling. He feels bulky, and clunky, with a distinct Iron Man feel. Now this was probably done to distance him from people like Marvel’s Deadpool, with whom he is often compared. That makes sense, but I still can’t wrap my head around it. Hopefully I’ll get there.

Slade’s character development in this is great. He is the best at what he does, and I love that he has decided to take an antihero approach rather than just doing whatever job pays the best. I also like that we can see he is fallible, with the shakes and a love for whiskey. I hope more of this continues, but in a reasonable fashion that doesn’t get too incredibly out of hand. If you don’t see it, just wait, because it could.

I do like this book, don’t get me wrong, I just think it needs to be something more than the Michael Bay of comic books. Yes, it’s fun to read, and full of action, but it is lacking in some areas. They aren’t major things, and with a small amount of tweaking and reworking, this could be a great book. It just needs to see that it could be a better book.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

11 comments on “Deathstroke 1-6

  1. Is it just me, or does the art, while great in this book, not really fit the feel/story of this book? I sort of equate Deathstroke with a dark antihero, not unlike the Punisher, and I guess I expected the art direction to be a little more dark in these books. But the bad guy is GREEN AND PURPLE? I know there is a story link to that, but still. At first glance, Legacy looks like a Mysterio knock-off.

    • True, true. But look at what we’re working with. Dark anti-hero or no, Slade is in blue and orange. You can’t beat Punisher for anti-hero costumes: pants, black t-shirt, black trench coat.

        • I dunno, that looks pretty blue to me. You’re right, it’s probably comic book black, heavy on the blue highlights.

          Also, I’m super glad you included that image of D.S. killing the guy in Moscow. It’s awesome, and I was sold as soon as I saw it in the first issue.

  2. I am a bad nerd, so I have a hard time separating Dead Pool and Deathstroke in my head – which is dumb because the characters are so very, very different. But they look the same and swing ninja swords.

  3. Pingback: Commentary Track – Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel Discuss C.O.W.L. 6 | Retcon Punch

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