Writer: Christopher Priest
Artist: Larry Hama, Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Jeremy Cox
There’s only so many superlatives one can throw on a book as consistently high-quality as Deathstroke, so I’ll avoid them for as long as I can. But the book has formulated a pretty exciting range and status quo over the course of these seven issues, and for a character that’s run the gamut from terrifying to misused to just plain boring, that’s a minor miracle. One of the benefits of having someone like Priest, who’s written characters who toy with amorality like Black Panther, is that the gloves are off. While everyone likes to remember Priest’s Black Panther as someone who didn’t suffer fools, or for knocking out Mephisto, one of the key things that defined his run was that he was also one of the most compassionate men on the planet–who gave up that role once his morality began to slip. Deathstroke suffers from no such restrictions: he’s a capital “V” villain and every issue reinforces that. While every issue does peel the onion by reminding you he’s a father, that he has relationships, and can make jokes: he’s still by no means a good man.
One of the smarter trends in the comic has been to derive insight into Deathstroke by his absence and how other people talk about him when they’re not certain he’s around. That comes to a head with the convergence of Rose and her half-brother Joseph “Jericho” Wilson. While I’ll avoid spoilers, the discussion of Jericho’s sexuality later in the issue takes an interesting turn, especially when previous issues have shown that while Slade is as terrible of a father as he is a human being, he’s still very possessive of his children. That control extends deeply into the revelation of Jericho’s relationship with Ikon, and the fear of his father finding out. This comic is so twisted, you don’t even blink at an ostensible hero attempting to kill to protect his secrets is a fascinating character study.
Of course, even a comic about a supervillain is going to have some follow-through on the action. Larry Hama and Carlo Pagulayan return this issue with Jason Paz on inks, and it’s a blast. Between Joe Bennett and Pagulayan, this comic has been a treat on the artistic front. While the comic is partly Deathstroke in jet boots vs a dude in a kitty suit, it doesn’t carry any less in the action. Deathstroke is as much a comic about intent as it is the act of violence. Pagulayan can distinguish someone as intense as Slade Wilson, from the base brutality of someone like the Red Lion, even in the talkier scenes. Either way, you’re getting a fantastic comic for your money. This is one of those cases where the bi-weekly schedule is a boon. Typically, Priest comics have to work on the slow-burn, but this comes at rapid-fire, and with one of the more intelligent and relevant plots a superhero comic can hope to achieve right now. If you really like comics that can transcend being simple pop art, you’re on the right track.
5 out of 5 Mind Swaps