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Since the beginning, I’ve found Deathstroke to be a rather enjoyable book. Under Tony S. Daniel, it was incredibly violent and depicted with quite a bit of realism, but the edge fit. This is the world’s greatest assassin after all. As the Rebirth train started coming into play, the title shifted from Daniel to James Bonny writing the narrative, with Tyler Kirkham/Paola Pantalena taking art duties. Since that shift, Deathstroke has cut down on the realistic gore factor, lightened in tone, and has become more fun. That’s not say that I prefer Bonny’s “fun” interpretation over Daniel’s take (I prefer Daniel’s), but it was nice to shift into a high energy, action-packed story that resembled a summer blockbuster… until this issue.

After taking us on a journey through the DC Universe to oppose the likes of the Suicide Squad, Lex Luthor, Red Hood, and more, we’ve now come to the point where we are strictly dealing with the villains behind it all: Snakebite, Lawman, Mystasia, and Victor Ruiz. Last week, I made fun of the character’s names because they all sound “hammy.” I felt ok making fun of just their names, because at that point, they still felt like an actual threat. Deathstroke had managed to survive or beat each of them individually, but together, they posed a much greater threat, and Slade couldn’t take them alone. With Rose and Jericho at his side, he attacked his adversaries, and still encountered set-backs when a psychic blast from Jericho nearly kills Rose.

Concerned for the life of his daughter, Slade is given the choice to take an offer from Ra’s al Ghul. He can either forfeit himself to the League of Assassins to save Rose, or his daughter will die. I don’t want to focus on that plot thread though, so don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away. What I do want to focus on, is how cheap the villains become in this issue. Slade makes Jericho remove an unconscious Rose from the immediate danger of the fight, and places himself in harm’s way by taking on all four villains on his own… and he manages to stand his ground with relative ease.

I can’t convey how much this bothers me. I’ve gotten to where I refer to situations such as this as the “Court of Owls” syndrome. When Snyder first introduced the Court of Owls in Batman, they were an incredibly dangerous threat that our heroes were barely able to beat in one-on-one battles, and at times even needed assistance. Then, stories like Forever Evil: Arkham War and Robin War came out, and the threat of the Talons were drastically cheapened because a single hero would beat a horde of them on their own, or kids that barely had any training would beat them… Ummm, no!

In that same fashion, Deathstroke takes on Lawman, Snakebite, and Ruiz, as if they’re barely a threat! Two months ago, Lawman had the upper hand on Deathstroke on his own. Roughly six months ago, Snakebite nearly killed Deathstroke on his own. Now, Slade is fighting both men on his own, plus Ruiz, plus Ruiz’s gang… and there’s no apparent struggle at all. It isn’t until Mystasia – who was just introduced last month – enters the fight that it even remotely looks like Deathstroke is challenged. It just killed the arc for me.

To make matters worse, where Bonny has won my graces by progressing the plot at super speed, this issue fails any real progression. There are some new “reveals” in this chapter, but they’re really just a restatement of everything that was set-up last month. I literally feel like we’re at the exact some point as we were two months ago, except the stipulations are slightly different. Unfortunately, it’s an obvious change, and did the opposite of exciting me. I guess you can’t win them all…

 

The Art: Pantalena continues to provide solid art. Personally, his style isn’t my favorite because it resembles anime, but I can’t deny that he provides quality work. Honestly, if Daniel and Kirkham weren’t the artists that preceded Pantalena, I’d most likely be praising his work. The guy is undoubtedly good, but his art pales in comparison to the men who came before him.

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Breakdowns can be found in the spoiler tag.

Spoiler

The Good:

The action is still a high point for this title, and that praise should definitely be directed at Pantalena. Where the plot may be failing at the moment, the action is holding strong… even if the villains are turning into a complete joke.

Ras. The one interesting plot thread for me at the moment, is that I’m curious to see how Slade responds to Ra’s inheritance of Jericho and Rose. At the beginning of the issue, I found myself wondering if Slade’s inclusion into the League of Assassins would serve as one of the major changes leading into Rebirth. Now that Ra’s has announced Jericho and Rose, I can’t help but think that Slade will somehow free himself and his children from Ra’s grasp. Either way, it could be interesting if executed correctly.

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The Bad:

The dialogue. Look, the dialogue hasn’t been great by any standard, but it’s mostly been good or excusable when it was bad… This issue suffers from bad dialogue though. Between the cheesy, heavy-handed threats, to the bit with Rose and Jericho on the astral plane, even to standard conversations… Bonny, just wasn’t on his A-game here.

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The villains. I mentioned it above, but the “bad guys” transitioned from an actual threat to weak tea in a single issue… At this point, I’d rather Slade just chop their heads off and deal with Ra’s… but that apparently won’t happen since all of Deathstroke’s opponents escaped…

[caption id="attachment_30653" align="aligncenter" width="768"]IMG_1893 Actually… they can’t hide because they told you exactly where they’re going… Nice try, though![/caption]

 

Rose’s pending death. I didn’t have an ounce of concern for Rose at the end of last month’s issue, nor did I when I opened this issue? Why? Because her injury only happened to serve as a plot device for conflict between Ra’s and Slade. That’s it. There’s not even a full explanation of what happened to her, or how she’s even being “saved.” If it hurt her this badly, then it should’ve hurt Lawman to the same degree…

Recommended if:

  • You’ve been along for the ride since Rose’s supposed death.
  • You enjoy mindless, action stories.
  • It’s Deathstroke and he’s slicing people up.

Overall: Easily the worst chapter of Deathstroke since its launch, Bonny is in desperate need to regroup if he wants his story to be viewed fondly. The issue isn’t terrible, but I’m wondering if it will be worthwhile to finish this book, or just imagine my own ending before diving into the new Rebirth story…

SCORE: 5.5/10