Deathstroke #13 “Serpent Strike”
Written by James Bonny and Tony Daniel
Art by Paolo Pantalena
Colors by Arif Prianto

Deathstroke is still going after Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad, so that means we’re covering another issue! First things first: this issue was a lot of fun! Along with Harley, and the new villain Snakebite, we also got to have some nice moments with Catwoman! It was nearly purrrrfect! (That was cheesy… I know… Give me a break! It’s Christmas Eve and I’m having a comic review/ reading marathon!)

For those of you that haven’t been tuning in, the latest arc of Deathstroke launched with the Suicide Squad attacking and kidnapping Rose – Slade’s daughter. To seek revenge and get his daughter back, Slade devises a plan to infiltrate Belle Reve, and kill Harley Quinn, believing she was the main person behind the abduction. Once he gets into Belle Reve though, he soon discovers that not only is Harley not behind the kidnapping, but he might have gotten in over his head considering all of the prisoners are loose thanks to his emp, including his old teammates that are looking to settle some scores with him.

Quickly overcoming these obstacles, he teams up with Harley, and shifts his attention to finding Waller, hoping she has answers pertaining to Rose. Time is against him though. He’s already been in Belle Reve nearly twice as long as he planned to be, and other inmates are also after Waller, but instead of answers, they’re looking for blood. Thankfully, Deathstroke has some backup that he hired for this mission while back in Gotham, and that person just happens to be Catwoman.

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My biggest fear with Catwoman’s reveal last month was that we were going to get a poor interpretation of her in this issue. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. Bonny does an outstanding job of portraying Selina, and reminds us how much of a badass she can be. I feel like there are moments when Catwoman is really on her game when working, and this was one of those moments. She’s swift, smart, and as tough as we would ever want her to be.

Despite Catwoman stealing a few moments, Deadshot is still the focus here. He continues to make his way through Belle Reve in search of Waller before Snakebite radios demands to help him free himself, or he’ll kill Waller. And with that, Deathstroke’s target changes again. The issue builds to the confrontation teased on the cover as Deathstroke goes against Snakebite, with the help of Harley. Action drives the momentum of this book, but there are some nice plot reveals and twists in the issue that will leave you wanting more! And, as you should know by now, if Harley is in the book, there will be some shenanigans.

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The Art: This issue featured art by fill-in artist Paolo Pantalena. I’m not too familiar with his work, but I was really impressed with it here! His work has a different feel than the nearly identical art of Daniels/ Kirkham, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s also not a distracting change either. Sometime the artist shift is so different that it pulls me out of the story, and that didn’t happen here. There are moments, specifically with female characters, that Pantalena’s art appears to have an anime type appearance to it, but I didn’t find it off-putting or distracting. In fact, I finished the issue hoping DC would give this guy more work!

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Spoiler

The Good:  The action. All of the action in this book is fast paced, high energy, good ol’ knock-down, drag-out fighting. This book has always succeeded with it’s action, but this issue felt a little different. Maybe it was the addition of Harley, Catwoman, and Snakebite that forced a different representation of fighting styles, or maybe it was that the art appeared to focus less on the brutality, and more on the sleekness… either way, it deserves high praise.

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Catwoman. Just to reiterate what I said previously, Catwoman shines here. Selina could’ve easily been out of place in this situation, but the team stayed true to the character, and played to her strengths, with nearly each panel highlighting some of her best attributes and characteristics. They also managed to capture her “sass” really well. There’s a fine line between being sassy and having an attitude, and this Catwoman was all sass and confidence with no annoying tude!

The reveal and twist. As it turns out, Waller and the Squad had nothing to do with Rose’s kidnapping. Harley’s lies about Waller taking Rose are easily explained – Harley’s crazy and wants Waller dead, but it’s how Waller handles the situation that nailed this for me. Deathstroke is stung by Snakebite and succumbing to the effects of his toxin when Waller confronts him about Rose. Maybe it’s just the way that Waller has been written lately that has lowered my expectation of her, but this type of transparency and bluntness is what I want to see from Waller, and it’s executed really well.

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As for the twist, our little Rose is alive! Someone, it’s not clear who, has tricked her into believing something, and at the moment, she’s going along with it. It would also appear that Snakebit is following the orders of whoever this is, and considering Snakebite escaped Belle Reve, it’s safe to say you’ll see him again in the near future.

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This reveal also managed to add momentum to a plot that was wrapping up. While the drive to find Rose will still be there, this book will be moving on from Belle Reve, and these last few pages could’ve easily convinced people that only picked up these issues to see Harley or the Squad, to continue to pick up this book each month.

 

The Bad: Snakebite. I know I loved him last month, and I still think he can be a formidable villain, but they tried to cover his backstory here, and it just didn’t work for me. Sometimes things are better left unknown. I would usually side with revealing more about a character to make them more relatable, but this attempt did the opposite to me. I could care less about who Snakebite was before he became the monster he is now. He’s so far gone from that person that it’s irrelevant. The best way for anyone to possible relate to this character would’ve been by driving home that he’s ticked off because of how he’s been treated, and run with it. He also lost some major cool points by revealing that he’s essentially just a lackey and puppet to some other guy. But hey, at least he’s still dangerous.


Recommended if:

  • You want to learn the fate of Rose
  • You’ve enjoyed Deathstroke’s fight with and against the Suicide Squad
  • You’ve been waiting to see the brawl between Deathstroke and Snakebite since last month’s issue
  • You’re a fan of Catwoman

 

Overall: This issue was quite a surprise. I’ve come to really enjoy this book in general, but this issue seemed more fun than most of the other issues, and it was the perfect plot to have fun with. The addition of Harley and Catwoman bring an added energy, but in the end, it’s Deathstroke that continues to carry this book. Considering many other Deathstroke titles have fallen short in the past, Daniels & Bonny’s run feels as though it’s getting better and better.

SCORE: 7.5/10