Deathstroke continues to be a surprising comic. As always, Christopher Priest plays the long game, and one of the longest-running plots since the first few months of the title was the (metaphorical) telltale heart of the relationship between Slade Wilson’s son Jericho and his old friend Dr. Ikon. That relationship, its dissolution, and Dr. Ikon’s descent into a walking monstrosity have largely occurred outside of Slade’s usually-omniscient gaze. The question was always a matter of just when they would cross paths again and what would happen next. Given that Dr. Ikon was betrayed and unwittingly turned into a monster by Slade’s son, one could be forgiven last week’s cliffhanger featuring Dr. Ikon kidnapping Slade from the clutches of the Society would lead to more violence. What happens next is something more surprising and rather disturbing for the most part.
Slade Wilson’s sudden turn to heroism was always a tough pill to swallow in and out of universe, and Christopher Priest has always taken great pains to show just how absurd it is to believe it (even among people who know him). That incredulity gets put to its test with someone who has every reason to be affirmed of the idea that Slade is a monster who’ll hurt people again given how thoroughly their paths crossing ruined his life. For the most part, the issue is one that’s conversationally-oriented, but it builds upon the possibility that for all Slade’s pleas that he’s changed, his heroism is just a passing phase. And given his lethal attempts to escape, as well as to disavow responsibility for the people he’s hurt, that may very well be true. Though Priest doesn’t allow Dr. Ikon the moral high ground either, given the ambiguity of just whether his relationship with Jericho is culture (what with the familial undertones and all). Still, that and the issue’s surprise guest star are keeping the plot at the level of a pressure cooker ready to tip over.
Diogenes Neves and Jason Paz keep thing at a fever pitch in this issue, whether in the more dialogue heavy scenes, or the more action-intense scenes that play out in this issue. Jeremy Cox’s darker colors also work here as a suitable inversion to the more stark black and white morality of the earlier issues of the “Defiance” storyline. But that return to the darker colors of the earlier issues helps to herald what may be an inescapable fate for Slade Wilson. If you’re looking to jump in, now is as good a time as any. As far as examinations of moral ambiguity and the cost of waging violence go, as well as its blowback upon the self and family: this is pretty much the gold standard.
4 Ikon Suits out of 5