One of the earliest things established in Christopher Priest’s run of Deathstroke is that Slade Wilson is Slade Wilson. A is A, the sky is blue, and Slade Wilson being who he is are immutable facts of the universe. However, the Defiance arc asked the question that whether given the right circumstances: Could Slade Wilson change who he is and maybe even become a hero? The answer was always going to be no, but the execution was made as slow and painful as possible as the Defiance story arc unfolded. As Priest made a point of repeatedly showing: Slade Wilson had despite his intentions ultimately changed very little about himself beyond his costume and quoting scripture, after all if you’re still murdering and manipulating people, how are you good?
That being said: as is always with Slade, he isn’t alone in making bad decisions. Defiance was always marred by the fact that it was composed of people who barely understood or trusted each other, the Wilson family dynamic represented by Adeline that’s haunted the series made itself known here: spreading even to the fresh faces like Kid Flash and Power Girl whose innocence has been tainted by contact with the Wilsons. Not understanding just what kind of people they’d worked with hit them back hard, and ultimately they’ve been the sad face of what it costs to trust Slade Wilson in Priest’s run on this book. In the end, even without Slade’s own intent it was inevitable that Defiance would tear itself apart from the inside. Owing to a lack of purpose, a lack of trust, and a lack of belief in each other and it’s all the more tragic given what happens next.
The Chicago issue was one of the best stories of Deathstroke to date, a stark look at the gun violence plaguing Chicago, and a depressing one at that with the infinite loop that allows it to continue. It’s only fitting that Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz would return to close out this era of Slade Wilson’s life in style and tragedy. Having a more superheroic look fit Deathstroke for the time Slade tried in vain to be a hero who saw the world as black and white as his costume, but returning to a darker style for a grey man is fitting. And as a team: Cowans and Sienkiewicz are pretty much perfect, I sincerely hope they return to do more on this book given how much they fit the tone it’s shooting for. Jeromy Cox has been a boon to this book for ages now and his ability to shift with the rotating art teams has created sort of a grand unified theory for this book, being able to draw a line between artists with such disparate styles is and will continue to be fascinating to watch.
So the question is where does Deathstroke go from here. That was the same question one had to ask when the game board was initially shuffled by Slade’s finding enlightenment and attempting to start fresh. But when enlightenment isn’t enough, when you continue to taint people you care about, and backslide into behavior you’ve rejected, there’s nowhere to go but down. this take on Deathstroke is something of a masterwork and this is about as insulated a book as it gets in comics, watching to see where it goes next will be fascinating.
5 Bolts out of 5