Deathstroke 8

Today, Shelby and Peter are discussing Deathstroke 8, originally released April 11th 2012.

Shelby: Of all the titles of the New 52 I’m reading, I think the one that surprised me the most was Deathstroke. I started reading it at the recommendation of my comic shop; all I expected was a story with some hardcore, kickass action. What I got was an introduction to a character I like a lot, not only for his total badassedness, but also for the depth Kyle Higgins brought to the character. Peter and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Kyle at C2E2 this weekend, and we all shed a single tear at his leaving Deathstroke.

Issue 8 opens with a flashback from Slade. He’s reminiscing about his father, who was deemed “bad” for two reasons; he thought of himself as a conman criminal, and because he just wasn’t very good at it. The only time his dad was tough was when he was smacking Slade around (were I some sort of psychology expert, I would say he was projecting his own inadequacies onto the one person he can control, but I’m not so I won’t). We find out that, in order to pay off a debt of $10,000, Slade’s father traded him to the men he owed money to. I can only assume these men were the ones who would eventually turn Slade into Deathstroke. Anyhow, while Slade is recuperating from his fight with Grant, he takes on a cakewalk job to kill a demolitions guy. After he does so (naturally causing an explosion), he encounters the guy’s kid, gives him a knife, and in a very Kill Bill sort of moment tells the kid to come after him when he’s older if he wants to. Finally, we see Slade going to visit…surprise, his old and sick father, just to rub it in his face that he, Slade, is better than his dad, so there.

All in all, I thought this was a nice issue to close an arc. With the Slade flashbacks, Higgins gives us just a tiny bit more insight both into Slade’s personality and his relationship with his son. Whether it was Higgins’ intention or not, I think this issue also makes D.S. a character one can feel pity for. First of all, it’s pretty shitty to have your father give you to gangsters to repay a debt.

Secondly, the exchange between Slade and the nurse, Hemingway, I thought was really telling of his lone wolf sort of attitude. To really show off my nerdy side, it really made me think of the end of “Out of Gas, ” an episode of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. In the episode, the captain has just sent the crew away, and nearly died all alone on his ship. He wakes up to see the crew back, and just before he goes to sleep he asks, “You all gonna be here when I wake up?” Of course, they all reassure him that yes they will, and it’s a shining testament to the family-like nature of the crew and how even the toughest cowboy in space needs the people he loves, etc. This issue gives us a similar moment with a completely different outcome. When Slade asks Hemingway if she will stay with him, she says no. She asks him if he wants her to stay, he says no. This moment, paired with Slade’s abandonment by his father, really drives home the fact that, even though he might deep down want people around him, the only person he will rely on and fully require is himself. That, I think, is a trait worth feeling some pity for.

In the past, we’ve praised the art on this title for it’s exciting and totally sick action sequences, but this issue shows us a softer side of Deathstroke artwork. Because the action is a little light in this issue, Pansica and Thibert get more opportunities to show expression and emotion. My favorite panel is absolutely this shot of child Slater, having just been clobbered by his crappy dad.

That is beautiful! The expression on that kid’s face is just heartbreaking, and the lighting from the headlights with the soft lens flare is masterfully done. Not to get too excited about an image of a kid who was just hit by his father, but the art-wise, this image is lovely.

So, yeah: a nice conclusion to a great arc to introduce Deathstroke to the universe of the new 52. Peter, what about you, were you as pleased with this conclusion as I was?

Peter:  This issue, as you said Shelby, is really phenomenal. The last several books, leading up to the showdown with Ravager, were fairly action-focused. This is a very introspective book that reinforces some overlying themes that have been present in Higgins’ entire run of Deathstroke. (which has been awesome!) Obviously the most prominent theme is the father-son relationship. We see a lot of mirroring between Nathanial and Slade, and Slade and Grant. When we finally get to the end of issue 8, and Slade is pinning another newpaper article about his exploits onto the wall of his father’s bedroom, we finally see that Slade is ultimately torturing his father by just shoving his successes in his face, proving that he is obviously much more worthwhile than his father really thought.

I get the sense that Nathanial thought that Slade was stupid, but really it’s just childhood curiosity. We also see the same sort of thing earlier in the series, when Slade is commenting on Grant’s performance on mission. It’s this cycle of Wilson men having this extremely high expectations, and just thinking that their sons will never be good enough, followed by the son then trying to prove to the father that they in fact, are. This family needs counseling or something.

Also, take a look at what’s going on here. It’s really though provoking. When Slade’s father drops this bit of knowledge, it’s sort of a testament of things to come.

Just as Slade, an hardened assassin is now beginning to feel this age and battle scars, between being unconscious a bunch, and getting the shakes, he is beginning to wear down, not unlike the canyon.

As Shelby mentioned, this past weekend we had the distinct pleasure of meeting Kyle Higgins at C2E2. First of all, he is an incredibly awesome, and humble individual. Secondly, during our conversation with him, he told us that the original ending for this issue was that we see Slade on his first mission, which was to kill his own father. I love this. It makes a ton of sense with the story of Slade taking the job to kill ‘Kill Switch’.

When Slade tells that boy that most fathers like theirs deserve death does it mean that he believes that he deserves the same fate due to his treatment of Grant? Chew on that for a while.

While the details weren’t discussed in our conversation with Higgins, I think it would have been fitting for the payment for Slade’s hit on his father had been ten thousand. At the same time, the ending that is printed is incredibly funny; that Slade has surpassed his father in every way, and has risen to a point in his career where his worth obviously much more than his father valued him at. Rubbing it in his face, slowly building up the monument to all his sins on the walls of his bed room, are, in addition, obvious old age and illness are wearing him down, just like the rock.

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?

3 comments on “Deathstroke 8

  1. When you think about it, if DC had gone with Kyle’s original ending, where we flashback to Slade’s first job of killing his father, it would be an interesting mirror to Grant taking a job to kill Slade.

    • But then we wouldn’t get Slade’s snarky comment about how he wouldn’t even bother to get out of bed for $10,000.

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