Or – “In This, The Season Of Giving, I Like To Give The Benefit Of The Doubt.”
Deathstroke The Terminator is a character that I’ve never really liked as a superhero. Sure, he’s got an awesome weird orange-and-blue Perez designed costume (or at least he USED to) and he has some great moments from the old Teen Titans series, but as a solo star, he always falls short for me. Will this issue be a treasured holiday memory or a white elephant gag gift? Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Writer: Justin Jordan
Penciler(s): Edgar Salazar/Amilcar Pinna
Inker(s): Scott Hanna/Sean Parsons/Marlo Alquiza/Jack Purcell/Ryan Winn
Colorist: Juan Fernandez
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously, in Deathstroke: Experimented on by the U.S. Government after a combat-related injury, Slade Wilson reinvented himself as Deathstroke The Terminator, an unstoppable killing machine who made a fortune as an assassin. In the New 52 reality, Slade served alongside Dinah “Black Canary” Lance and Amanda “Suicide Squad Hardcase” Waller as a member of Team 7 before striking out on his own. I haven’t read the Rob Liefeld issues of the book, but I imagine they went something like this: BLAM BLAM! Nudity, action, snarky one-liner BLAM BLAM! Slade was then sent to (unsuccessfully) take down the vigilante called Hawkman, but now an even greater threat looms on the horizon.
“DO I STRIKE YOU AS THE KIND OF MAN WHO ASKS QUESTIONS THAT DON’T MATTER?”
So, let’s talk for a moment about the problem with Deathstroke as a protagonist. As a villain, he had to be smart enough to overcome Cyborg’s versatility, Wonder Girl’s strength, Starfire’s wrath, Robin’s tactical maneuvers, Kid Flash’s speed advantage, Raven’s alien powers and the animal magnetism of Beast Boy/Changeling. As our “hero,” though, he has to be at least a little bit vulnerable or else it’s very difficult to care about his adventures. Slade Wilson is kind of fascinating when written well, but (like Wolverine, like Lobo, like Doc Savage) has a lot of pitfalls when written badly, and can easily fall into standard tough-guy assassin clichés, of which there are LEGION. This issue opens with Slade watching a video of a madman called “Koschei the Deathless,” a dictator who has taken over the small nation of Sarvenia by dint of his amazing healing powers. Slade comes across as very terse and professional during this segment (which is good) but ends it with “I always fulfill my contracts… My word is my bond.” This is not so good, and is one of the worst and most overblown clichés of the “manhunter” genre, making the opening a mixed bag of interesting and predictable, which sadly continues throughout the issue.
DEATHSTROKE VS. DEATHLESS
The art this issue (penciled and inked by half a dozen folks) is uneven, and while Slade’s new armor design is nifty and much less lumpy than under the pen of Robbie L, it’s still kind of a bland and amorphous thing that changes from panel to panel. Slade’s actions after taking the contract (specifically, shooting Koschei IN THE FACE to see what happens) are kind of brilliant, in a straightforward way, but there’s never really any tension or reason to worry about the safety of our main character during the events of the issue. He seems to be working a Batman gambit throughout the issue, but then ends by tossing a grenade down the bad guy’s pants and jumping out a window, which seems like it might possibly be a less-than-brilliant plan. The dialogue is okay (Koschei speaks in standard villain dialogue, pseudo-Russian version, while Slade does a Phillip Marlowe dialogue in his head) and the whole issue comes across as a game but flawed attempt to capture the spirit of ‘The Bourne Identity’ starring James Coburn.
THE BOTTOM LINE: MOSTLY JUST KIND OF THERE.
The New DC has not been in any way shy about cancelling books that aren’t quite gelling or selling, which makes me wonder about the continued publication of this title. This issue IS better than the #0 from a couple of months ago, but given that issue’s gleeful recycling of 30 year old material traced from George Perez, that’s only saying a little bit. All in all, though, it’s not a train-wreck, as Koschei has some interesting aspects to his character, the Macguffin is at least believable, and Deathstroke, while pretty two-dimensional, is at least tolerable in this issue. Deathstroke #15 doesn’t really hold up to heavy scrutiny, nor will it be held up as an example of shining storytelling circa the end of 2012 in the future, but it’s better than I expected, earning a slightly-below-average 2 out of 5 stars overall. Given a compelling enough story, this creative team could probably deliver some good stuff, even with Deathstroke as the protagonist…
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!