The best way to describe Deathstroke, is fun and action packed! I typically refer to this title as the “summer blockbuster” because it reminds me of those big summer, action movies that are released each year. They’re usually not overtly deep, but they contain a lot of thrills and are quite entertaining. That’s pretty much Deathstroke for me. Simply put, it’s a lot of fun. But beyond that, this book has been consistent: never really reaching greatness, but always a far cry from being described as poor! It’s not the highest of praise, but there are a number of other titles I wish I could say the same about.
Another benefit to this title, is that it feels like it’s been on the same journey since its launch (minus the the “God Killer” arc). Slade has been getting played since the beginning, and often his family, particularly his children, have been at the core of his stories. This current arc is no different, as it features Slade searching for his daughter, who he believed had been kidnapped. His search sent him on a chase, pitting him against the likes of Amanda Waller, the Suicide Squad, Snakebite, Lex Luthor, Red Hood, and has now brought him at the feet of the mastermind, Lawman, after the betrayal of his intelligence provider, Victor Ruiz.
We also know that his daughter, Rose, has been coerced to side with Lawman and oppose her father. Given their history, it’s not hard to believe. To say Slade is a good father, would be a lie. He knows that, and he accepts it. The heart of this book centers around that notion, and his mission has been to find a way to do right by his kids. Unfortunately, he might be a little too late. Led to a remote location, Slade now finds himself standing alone against Lawman, his daughter Rose, Snakebite, and Victor. But not everything is as it seems.
Before jumping into an all-out slugfest, Bonny reveals that there’s a history between Slade and Lawman, and that their history has led Lawman to develop abilities. Driven by revenge, Lawman put a plan in place to push Deathstroke to a weakened state, so he could finish him. Is it a cheap tactic? Sure, but he’s evil, so what do you expect? Everything was manipulated in a way to strategically break Slade down: from Snakebite’s venom temporarily stopping his healing abilities, to battle wounds injuring him, preventing him from being at his peak during combat.
The tides are against Slade, and once the fighting begins, it’s clear he’s on the losing side. But Slade doesn’t just have his reputation for his combat skills, he also has it because he’s a strategist. From the beginning of this mission, he questioned certain outcomes and events, and those questions caused him to take precautions throughout the process by enlisting the assistance of Catwoman, as well as taking Red Hood captive after their encounter. Plans, that give him a second win and a fighting chance here.
One of the best aspects of this issue, is that it’s full of surprises. Deathstroke has tricks up his sleeve, and we are graced with quite a few character appearances. The real x-factor here is Rose though. Not only is she a key player in this issue, but there are characters that have an interest in her, which complete turns these events on their head!
The Art: I’m a huge fan of Kirkham’s art! There are times when I feel his characters are bulkier than I would like, but the guy consistently delivers great work. The action always looks good, appears to be strategic, and has a strong energy to it. Considering the amount of fighting that does occur in Deathstroke, I feel as though you really have to lay most of the kudos at the feet of Kirkham for creating a final product that actually works. If I could change one thing about his work though, I’d get rid of that damn scarf that Deathstroke wears! Seriously, what’s that about?
Breakdowns can be found in the spoiler tag.
The Good: The action. I mentioned this already, but I can’t stress how important the action is for a book like this to succeed. When you have a character that is defined by violence, skill-set, and strategy, you need to be able to represent those qualities. Bonny and Kirkham work really well together to deliver this. Bonny sets up a solid scenario, then Kirkham delivers a one-two punch!
Lawman. When Lawman was in the shadows and acting ominous, I felt like he was a cheap character. Even now, I don’t think he’s an amazing character. In Slade’s situation, he’s completely driven by revenge… Quite frankly, that’s a little boring. It works, but it’s boring. What makes Lawman interesting, is his ability. I don’t want to focus on how he gained his abilities, but instead that his approach with people as completely changed because of them. There’s a really interesting story to be told with this character away from Slade. While Lawman approaches Slade led by revenge, he’s led by coercion and manipulation with everyone else. I want to see more of that.
Outlaws. It was a lot of fun to watch Deathstroke and Red Hood team up together. I couldn’t help but feel that this is what Red Hood & the Outlaws should have been/ felt like. In fact, I’d love to just drop “Red Hood” from the title, and have a book called Outlaws that features various assassins, mercenaries, thieves, etc, doing their thing. It could be a lot of fun, and could allow a range of characters to be featured. You could even have a central crime ring/ organization (much like the Red Market in Suicide Squad’s Most Wanted: Deadshot) to serve as the over-arching constant for the title… I mean, these “outlaws” have to be hired by somebody, right?
Rose. I think we all knew Rose was being controlled. There were too many things that didn’t add up, and because of Lawman’s abilities, she’s more of a victim than her dad in some ways… But she’s a badass, so you have to be careful about taking advantage of her. I got pretty excited when I saw her sort out the errors and break free from Lawman’s control. I get even more excited when she jumped into the fray… and then I was shocked when she got impaled by a sword…
Family. There’s something incredibly sad about Slade’s thought “At least we’re together” as he and Rose lie on the ground bleeding out. Yes, it’s twisted and morbid, but Slade’s world is twisted and morbid. His entire journey so far in this book, has been to essentially win his kids back. He knows he can’t undo the past, but he hopes he can do better in the future. I can’t help but think that his dream was to die with his kids near him, and although he probably hoped for that under different circumstances, at least one of his kids are with him…
Just kidding, they’re both there. And this brings about other elements of family. Deathstroke’s love for his kids opened him up to be played by having his daughter used as a pawn against him. Jericho’s love for Rose resulted in him coming after her, and he has now brought his “father figure” with him, Ra’s al Ghul. As people sometimes say, “$#!& just got real.”
The Bad: The plan. I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but a lot of different parts had to go perfectly for Slade to go from the point of thinking his daughter was killed, to ending up in front of Lawman, Rose, Snakebite, and Victor… Just saying…
Slade is immune to Lawman. For whatever reason, Lawman can’t control Slade. There’s no explanation given, and this bugs the crap out of me! You’ve heard me talk about convenient storytelling (*cough* practically all of BvS *cough*), and this is a perfect example of it. Something happens in the plot simply because the writer wants/ needs it to…
Batman. I went back and forth with this. When Batman appeared, I immediately thought, “Come on! There’s NO REASON for him to be here! And am I really supposed to believe that Jason is leaving the situation to go look for the Joker because Batman said so? There Joker is out of commission now anyway! This is stupid!” Then I realized Lawman was using his powers, and said, “I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming…”
So this ended up being a bad thing, turned good… until I started wondering how long Lawman’s powers would work. Do they wear off after time, or is it a distance thing? And is Jason just going to come to his senses in the middle of the desert and return to the fight, or just leave? It’s a nitpick, yes, but it pulled me from the story, and left me out of the story for a little while.
- You want to read a high-energy, action story.
- You’ve been looking forward to seeing a Kilgrave-esque character in the DC Universe.
- It’s Deathstroke and he kills things.
Overall: Describing something as “fun” and “entertaining” typically means one of two things… It’s so bad that the person saying that can’t find anything detailed or nice to say about it, or they’re being honest and that thing really is fun and entertaining. In Deathstroke’s case, it’s the latter. With so many books missing mark, it’s nice to see Deathstroke remain consistent, while continuing to keep a pulse on other characters and events within the DC Universe!