Joshua Williamson and Paolo Pantalena continue the Shadow War story in Deathstroke Inc.’s “Revenge Never Ends.” It is an appropriate subtitle for this issue. Deathstroke truly became known as the “Terminator” following the tragic death of his son Grant Wilson, and the passing of Respawn has reignited a return to form as a cold-blooded killer.
In previous issues in the run, Deathstroke was dealing with the uncertain neutrality he exists in. First introduced as a straight-up monster hunting down costumed children, many will agree Slade has been written in later years as a far more “lawful evil” kind of villain. This mindset extended to the previous run of Deathstroke Inc. as he played at being a mentor to the same kind of heroes he used to terrorize and seduce. Now the so-called “King of Villains” he was still in a mindset of saving the world in his own way, even happily training and bonding with his new son.
Anyone who has lost a child knows it is not easy to bury your children. Two times is the charm for Joshua Williamson. Slade’s neutral streak is broken and sends him on the warpath. His post-traumatic anger over reopening that wound is absolutely deserved, but for the purposes of the event, it may not feel earned to some readers. To avoid sounding like a broken record in my Shadow Warzone #1 review, Shadow War is not quite a war but a hunt. However, this issue does revolve around rallying the “troops” for the impending conflict.
Paolo Pantalena’s line art is crispy and detailed. Not quite over detailed but noticeably stylized. It is reminiscent of the kind of sketchiness seen in The Amazing Spider-Man. Its colorfully wispy shapes and forms are not unlike Sideways creator Kenneth Rockafort or Justice League 3000‘s Howard Porter’s artwork. It is worth noting because Pantalena’s hooded take on the classic Deathstroke costume is almost a dead ringer for Marvel’s Hobgoblin “Kingsley” and so is his version of Black Spider for Spider-Man. All and all, the art is efficient in layout but pleasingly busy yet monstrously rendered.
What will divide fans is the confrontation between Ghostmaker and Deathstroke. Critical analysis on the costume similarities and differences alone could make for an interesting debate. Where Slade has a complex duality as an antihero, resulting in his dual sided mask and duotone color scheme, in contrast the all white Ghostmaker knows exactly who and what he is. What I don’t buy is Ghostmaker caring enough about his apprentice Clownhunter being threatened by Slade. It feels like a convenient cop out to end a fight no one wants to see so early in Ghostmaker’s existence.
In the background, Talia is still a character that isn’t written with very much critical thinking skills. Her purpose is to be mad that her father is gone, but also to try very hard to stay mad. They could not use Respawn’s death to affect a character that ordered his maternal clone’s death over and over, so Williamson writes her as a dull blunt object. Mother Soul is used to reinforce a yet unseen storyline brewing in recent issues of Robin and Shadow Warzone. Not to mention the toilet paper level battle strength Batman Inc. displays when trying to do their job makes them seem useless to include. Especially if they won’t mourn their own losses.
- You are an “old testament” Deathstroke fan.
- You think Shadow War is a better name than Shadow Hunt.
In isolation this may be the best single issue of Shadow War. It is clean and straight to the point. Bad guy hurt, angry, and ready for war. On the other hand, I expect the inevitable fanboy screeching that is sure to happen anytime Ghostmaker clashes with any fan favorite character. Does his inclusion ruin the story? No, but it doesn’t help. Ultimately, it is a perfectly fine read and lead up to Robin #14, where I’m sure some kind of War will begin.
DISCLAIMER: “DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.”