One of the aspects of Deathstroke that’s really easy to appreciate is its willingness to experiment and tinker with the mythology surrounding the character, and that’s been sorely needed. A lot of what came to define Deathstroke in most of his appearances over the decade has been an attitude of over-the-top violence that traded in the character’s tactics and intelligence in favor of turning him into something resembling Kratos from God of War with hulking muscles and a huge sword. While it would seem that writing a character who’s an intelligent villain would be a simple adjustment, it’s been a very subtle process to change the Deathstroke we saw from the beginning of the New 52 to the one we have now.
One of those examples of intelligence was the one-on-one fight with Superman, and this issue picks up in the immediate aftermath of that. Slade Wilson is in jail and the gravity well his absence creates for his family hasn’t dissipated, whether it be Rose Wilson discovering more about her identity stemming from her mother’s side or Jericho’s own quest for identity outside of his father and former lover Dr. Ikon’s shadows. A task that is a bit difficult when the former is the title character, and you appropriated the latter’s identity. Jericho takes up the lion’s share of the focus in the present day of this issue with his meeting his father’s physician (and former Steel supporting cast): Dr. Villain. Being that this is a Christopher Priest book, there’s always room for a flashback, and it paints an elaborate picture of just what kind of relationship Slade Wilson and his pal Wintergreen share, but even a fairly low stakes (by Deathstroke standards) flashback can be a lot of fun, and those relationships form a core part of why this book has been interesting. Throwing all the action you can at a comic can neuter the power of it, but something as simple as a guy in a ski mask, on a horse, chasing a runaway Humvee can be high art if it’s baked into the emotional core.
Speaking of high art: this book has had a murderer’s row of artists, and Cary Nord is the latest person to take a turn. As always his art is fantastic. It also helps that Jeremy Cox’s color palette creates an astonishing level of consistency in what would normally be a problem with a revolving door of artists over nine issues. Nord injects a little light into what’s an otherwise serious book with small scenes that give different sides to the characters. It overall helps continue to make Deathstroke a prestige book in comparison to other books surrounding it, it cannot be said enough: this book is for people who want moral ambiguity that’s actually gray.
5 out of 5 Ski Masks