So Deathstroke, World’s Greatest Assassin™, has super-speed now? That can’t possibly be good.
And possibly be good it is not, as we learn more about the Lazarus Contract, what it entails, and the lengths to which Slade will go to ensure he comes out on top in the bargain. If you’ve been waiting for this issue to find out what the contract is, its terms and what it entails… you’re going to be disappointed. On its own, this is an ok issue of Deathstroke, but it doesn’t do much to advance the crossover.
On the one hand, it can hardly be blamed for being obtuse. I’m sure they’re waiting until the conclusion in next week’s Teen Titans Annual to explain everything, but if that’s the case, why even have a full crossover? Christopher Priest does that thing he always does with Slade, but as an installment of “The Lazarus Contract” it hits pretty much the same beats as the previous entries: something with the Speed Force, Slade and Dick making some sort of agreement years ago, and Damian being a little punk. Pretty par for the course.
On its own, though, this issue is pretty fun. Priest wrings some good dialogue out of the characters, as he is wont to do, and at least manages to make the ill-defined proceedings interesting. That’s the true strength of this title, in fact: Slade seems like a real person. He may not be likable, and yeah, he is genuinely terrible in pretty much every way, but he’s still a father. He still wants what’s best for his children, even if it’s coming from a pretty twisted place.
A lot of it is self-centered, as he wants to make up for previous sins, but at the very least he’s seeking redemption. Slade wants to right wrongs he committed and make his living children better than him, even if that means alienating them so they want nothing to do with him. Proof that even for the world’s greatest assassin, a cold, unfeeling man like Slade Wilson, the loss of a child bears the worst possible pain anyone can feel.
Given that he’s tapped into the Speed Force now, Slade can finally do something about his tragedy. He doesn’t need to try and make things right for Rose and Joseph; he can go back in time and prevent any tragedy to begin with. His strained relationship with his son Grant, who died as Ravager, has been a slow-burn since the first issue of this series. Slade was stern and unfeeling toward the boy, belittling him for not having the strength Slade felt he should have. Now that he’s died, Slade has been on a downward emotional spiral, so why not keep Grant from dying altogether? Terrible idea, we all know, but in an act of desperation who wouldn’t take that chance? If you could prevent the death of your child, wouldn’t you?
It’s some pretty heavy subject matter, and it gives this series serious emotional heft. Deathstroke is a lot of things, and I see it first and foremost as an exercise in bad decisions and how they shape us. Now, Deathstroke can undo a bad decision.
First, though, Slade’s going to murder a bunch of people in under a minute.
The… misusing super speed part, not the actual murder of several people part. That’s terrible.
It’s one of those isolated scenes that makes the issue work, though. As I said before, this whole crossover has yet to gel, and this issue doesn’t make many strides in correcting that. It is fun to read on its own, though, with some great dialogue and some genuinely funny one-liners. Slade may be a brilliant tactician, but seeing him not quite understand what a “gravity sheath” is is pretty priceless.
Damian is also, thankfully, a stupid little butt. His voice was a little off in the last Deathstroke issue he was in, so I’m glad Priest figured out how to write him.
He and Dick are about the only Titans, Teen or otherwise, to make an impression, though. Kid-Wally is going through some turmoil and guilt that will doubtless be explored later on, but he’s overshadowed by Dick’s own guilt and Damian’s delusions of grandeur. The rest of the teams are effectively window dressing and nothing more.
It’s good looking window dressing, though. Generally speaking, this is a consistently great looking book. The fractured storytelling structure allows for some really interesting layout choices, which Larry Hama excels at. The cleaned up finishes from Carlo Pagulayan and Roberto J. Viacava make even the driest of scenes look visually arresting, aided by some lovely colors from the always excellent Jeromy Cox. Besides a few neat speed effects there isn’t a lot of action here, but what is there looks good.
I’ve really come to appreciate the panel layouts and “chapter headings” that have become a series trademark too. At first I thought it was needlessly confusing and too esoteric in nature, but now I can’t imagine this title without them.
On the whole, this is an enjoyable read, though even a good entertainment can’t justify a pointless crossover. So far, that’s what “The Lazarus Contract” is: pointless.
- You like emotional weight in your funny books.
- You like Deathstroke.
- You’ve been reading “The Lazarus Contract.”
Overall: Priest does what he can with a crossover that hasn’t even gotten off the ground, fashioning a solid issue of Deathstroke around the trappings of “The Lazarus Contract.” The crossover may not amount to much, but the individual issues can still provide a decent entertainment. Besides being entertaining, Deathstroke tackles issues like trust, redemption, and what it means to be a father. The parts are greater than the whole, and they’re pretty good parts.