There are a lot of comics out there, but some stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This,” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we take a look at “Deathstroke” written by Christopher Priest. The book that coming out of Rebirth elicited the reaction: wait this is really good AND its Deathstroke. Now it’s just this is real good.
Who Is This By?
The current incarnation of “Deathstroke” has been written by Christopher Priest and has featured art by Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Denys Cowan, Cary Nord among others, with (some) layouts by Larry Hama.
What’s It All About?
Slade Wilson is a real jerk. His dysfunctional family, contractors, enemies, and Christopher Priest all know it. But he wants to be better person. Can the man with the death stroke become a better person, or will his past, family, occupation, and litany of other things stop him.
What Makes It So Great?
What makes this run of “Deathstroke” stand out is Priest’s commitment to treating Slade Wilson as a fully dimensional character and still eating his action cake. Past runs of the book ran more as a pure action book, but this one mixes in strong character work that gives the action meaning. Even when the action is itself kind of meaningless, see his fights with both Batman and Superman in the early run of this book, there is always a reason for it. The quality of the action also gets a boosts from Larry Hama doing layouts and artists like Carlo Pagulayan.
Priest’s fascination with the emotional dysfunction within Slade has led to the larger Wilson clan joining the book, and eventually his own proper superhero squad Defiance, turning it into the superhero equivalent of Arrested Development. All Slade wants is to spend time with the kids he has left and be “good” Dad. How he goes about doing that is, perhaps, a bit much. Such as the case early on in the series when he takes his daughter Rose on a road trip after someone puts a hit on her, a contract he initiated. His relationship with his son Joey isn’t the best either, but they’re working on it. All of them are working on trying to be better people, or, at least, not kill each other at dinner. And then there is his ex-wife Adeline Kane Wilson who always seems to be trying to kill him. By turning the title into more of a family drama, with superhero elements, Priest is able to manufacture understandable emotions and circumstance with a bit more flair. Who knew the best thing about “Deathstroke” wouldn’t be the action but all the family drama.
This full throated investigation of Slade is structured around Priest’s episodic and often non-linear style. This makes the book a bit dense and narratively confusing at times, much like an espionage story is full cloak and dagger antics, when read as a whole everything comes together in some surprising and impactful ways. The episodic style, with plenty of ironic titles, shows off Priests skill at writing 3-5 pages scenes, or less, that can stand on their own or be strung together to tell an overall story. This isn’t as dense or formally driven as say “The Wicked + The Divine.”
The creative team on “Deathstroke” take its lead seriously without removing the more eccentric elements of the character or world, often using them to fuel this super heroic family drama. How would Slade Wilson react to spending time in the speed force is explored just as vigorously as how he would defeat the Dark Knight or Man of Steel.
Another feather in the series cap is how self-contained it is. “Deathstroke” is approaching 40 issues, and barring a crossover with the Titans books for “The Lazarus Contract” everything you need to read is found in the series proper. “The Lazarus Contract” is really a story about Slade in the end and key to the emotional turn the books takes after issue #21. By comic superhero comic standards this book is such an easy read.Continued below
How Can You Read It?
Of the currently published 37 issues and 1 annual, 29 of them and the annual have been collected. The collections are as follows: Vol. 1: “The Professional,” Vol. 2: “The Gospel of Slade,” Vol. 3 “Twilight” “Titans: The Lazarus Contract,” Vol. 4: “Defiance” Vol. 5: “Fall of Slade.” The recently completed “Batman vs Deathstroke” arc will be collected and released March 19, 2019. The current storyline, “Arkham,” continues this week in issue #38.