Sunday, September 18, 2011

Deathstroke #1 - A Review

Fans of Deathstroke were nervous when writer Kyle Higgins gave his first interview regarding the character. Part of this nervousness stemmed from his stating that his favorite Deathstroke scene ever was the part in Identity Crisis where Deathstroke single-handedly fought the entire Justice League - a moment most die-hard of Slade Wilson fans agree severely overestimates his abilities. Another part of this nervousness came from Higgins’ statement that Slade’s children were not going to be a part of the book. But perhaps the most worrying statement of all was this one…

I always felt that, when I read the Rogues in Flash, at least some of them had a code of honor, that doesn't really exist among the people operating in this underworld.”

Honor was always at the very heart of Slade Wilson, at least back in his days as a Teen Titans villain. The portrayal has become somewhat skewed by various writers over the last decade but the core of Deathstroke was always meant by creator Marv Wolfman to be that of a soldier who always honored his word and the letter of his contracts, even when he was hired to do some questionable things.

But this is a new DC Universe. And ultimately any quibbling about past characterization is pointless because that Slade Wilson is not THIS Slade Wilson. And all the wishing in the world will not make him so. All we can do is look at the book before us and consider it on its’ own merits.

Sadly, this book has few merits. I can say that Kyle Higgins is quick to introduce us to Deathstroke and set up the concept of the book but there is little depth beyond that. All we need to know (and all we are told) is that Deathstroke is a badass metahuman who specializes in the jobs everyone else says are impossible. Beyond that, he is a generic action hero – Arnold Schwarzenegger sans puns.

The plot of the issue has Slade being paired up (over his protests that he usually works alone) with an up-and-coming mercenary team called the Alpha Dawgs. The mission is to kill a certain arms dealer while in mid-flight & to steal some undefined McGuffin. It spoils nothing to say that the issue ends with Slade successful, although it is surprising to see his agent tearfully confessing that he’s unable to find Slade work outside of bodyguard duty and team gigs because nobody thinks he can cut it in the field anymore. This after a whole issue telling us that Slade is considered the best of the best and respected for his ability to achieve the impossible.

At least the artwork by Joe Bennett is good but – as we say in Texas – you can paint a cow pie and try and make it pretty, but that won’t stop it from stinking. Bennett is a wonderful visual storyteller, managing to depict enclosed scenes without the artwork becoming cramped. He also does some mighty fine splash pages, like the one below.

Ultimately, Bennett’s fine artwork is propping up a story that is dead on arrival. Even ignoring every single past portrayal of Slade Wilson, one can’t ignore that the Slade Wilson we see here has less depth than Duke Nukem and the set-up makes no sense! You can’t be universally known for doing the impossible on a regular basis and then have trouble finding work because people think you can’t cut it!

To quote Linkara, “This Comic Sucks!”

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