I have always been a massive fan of Deathstroke ever since he first made his in New Teen Titans #2 with quite possibly the most badass codename ever: Deathstroke the Terminator. If that name did not get your six-year-old self excited about a character then I do not know what would! Slade was a cool character for numerous reasons. He had a great costume. He was much older. He had one eye. And he had a pretty cool power set. My favorite was Slade’s ability to use up to 90% of his brain. That was such a cool and unique power.
At any rate, after the New 52 reboot I lost nearly all interest in Slade’s character. Gone was his fantastic costume design and instead he received a crappy Jim Lee 1990’s Image styled costume. Gone was his missing eye. And, because the New 52 is downright offensively ageist, Slade was de-aged back to his 20’s. Gross. Despite all of this, I decided to give Deathstroke #10 a try due to the new DCYOU directive. I keep hoping that DC will bring Slade closer to his awesome pre-New 52 self. Given some of the changes we have seen since Convergence concluded I do believe that just about anything is possible. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.
Words: Tony S. Daniel & James Bonny
Art: Tyler Kirkham
Colors: Arif Prianto
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Slade giving us a recap of the story arc up to this point. Deathstroke was hired by Hephaestus to kill the Titan Lapetus. Hephaestus forged a god-killer sword for Deathstroke to use against Lapetus. Even though Hephaestus was the one who hired Deathstoke the identity of the person who placed the contract on Lapetus was still unknown. There was a large battle on Paradise Island between Lapetus and his Onyx army versus Deathstroke, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Amazon army.
The issue begins with Paradise Island in ruins and most of the Amazon army has been defeated by the Onyx army. Lapetus has gained access to a magical spear that has now given Lapetus the upper hand in his battle against Deathstroke, Superman and Wonder Woman. Lapetus says that now that he has his spear that no one can stand against him and that he shall kill the entire Pantheon of Greek gods.
Superman flies at Lapetus, but Lapetus counters with a massive energy blast from his spear. The spear is magic based so the blast easily takes down Superman. Wonder Woman is distraught that Paradise Island is in ruins and her Amazonian sisters are dying in battle. We learn that Lapetus has created a massive breach in a volcano that is going to erupt and destroy all of Paradise Island. Our three heroes decide to split up in order to maximize their potential. Since Superman is invulnerable, they decide that Superman will fly into the volcano in order to seal the breach and save Paradise Island. Since Wonder Woman is a warrior, they decide that she will join the Amazon army in their battle against the Onyx army. That leaves Deathstoke alone to deal with Lapetus in a one-on-one battle.
Deathstroke and Lapetus lock horns and we officially have a braaaaaawl! Deathstroke’s god-killing sword enables him to feel Lapetus’ emotions. Deathstroke says that he can feel Lapetus’ druistration of not being able to easily defeat a mere mortal. Lapetus says that “We” are just savoring the moment before killing Deathstroke. We then see the energy from Lapetus’ spear taking a form of a female. Deathstroke then realizes that the spear is not just a weapon. That the spear is a vessel containing this woman’s spirit.
Deathstroke asks who is the woman in the spear. Deathstroke asks “Who was she? Mother? Wife? Whore?” (Damn! That escalated quickly!) In fact, the woman’s spirit that is in the spear is Lapetus’ “beloved” sister. (It is kind of a creepy incestuous relationship that Lepitus has with his sister.) Deathstroke does this on purpose because his strategy is to get Lapetus angry so that Lapetus will fight sloppy and give Deathstroke an opening to deal the winning blow. Deathstroke’s plan works. Deathstroke lunges forward and his god-killing sword slices the spear in half.
The spear is destroyed and Lapetus’ sister’s spirit leaves the spear and is cast into oblivion. This further enrages Lapetus who then attacks Deathstroke in a blind rage. Deathstroke takes advantage of this and stabs Lapetus through the chest. Deathstroke pulls the god-killing sword out of Lapetus’ chest and we see Lapetus’ beating heart on the end of the sword. With Lapetus’ death his Onyx army suddenly turns into ash and vanishes. Lapetus’ body turns into ash and blows away but his heart keeps beating. Superman flies out of the volcano after having successfully sealed the breach and saving Paradise Island. (Convenient timing. I love it when a plan comes together. *lights cigar*)
Hephaestus appears and congratulates Deathstroke for doing what no other mortal could do. Deathstroke asks who ordered the hit. Hephaestus reveals that it was his brother, Apollo, who ordered the hit to be taken out in the event of his death. Evidently, Apollo believed that it would safeguard the pantheon from Lapetus’ threat in Apollo’s absence. Or so the gods thought. In fact, an anonymous source told Hephaestus that it was an elaborate trick to free Lapetus so that he would kill all of the gods. Apollo was selfish and decided that if he ceased to exist then he wanted his family to cease to exist as well. But, Apollo did not anticipate on the contract being carried out by a perfect killer. Hephaestus congratulates Deathstoke on saving the Pantheon.
Suddenly, the Pantheon of Greek gods appear in the sky above. A glass vase appears in the air around Lapetus’ heart which then floats up to the gods. Deathstroke asks what is going on. Hephaestus replies that it is Slade’s judgment day. That killing a Titan disturbs the natural order. That such an action necessitates a blood sacrifice from the person who killed the Titan. Slide says that this was not part of the deal. Hephaestus shrugs and answers “God-politics.” The god-killing sword disappears from Slade’s hand and appears in Hephaestus’ hand. Hephaestus says that he now has his god-killing sword back in his possession. That Deathstroke no longer has the ability to slay the divine. Therefore, resistance by Slade would be unwise.
An image of Slade’s son and daughter appear before them. Hephaestus says that one of Slade’s two children will do fine for the blood sacrifice. Slide responds “I will kill you and everyone here before I let anything happen to them.” (Ah, now there is the Slade Wilson that I know and love.) Hephaestus replies “Then you will sacrifice yourself in their stead? How very honorable.”
Slade rips off his mask and says “You want blood, you bastards?” Slade stares at the gods assembled above him. Slade jams his fingers into his right eye. Sale rips his right eye out of the socket. Slade holds his eye forward and says “Here. Take it or leave it.” (Hell, yeah!! That’s what I am talking about! One-eyed Slade is back once again!) End of issue.
The Good: Deathstroke #10 is a great read! This issue has the proper vibe for a Deathstroke title. The emphasis is placed on badass action and violence. No doubt that this issue is not all-ages or kid friendly. And it shouldn’t be. Not a Deathstroke title. Yeah, I do believe that the vast majority of the super hero comics that DC publishes should absolutely be all-ages. But, there are certain titles that should be for a more mature audience. And Deathstroke is most decidedly one of those titles.
Daniel and Bonny nail Deathstroke’s personality in this issue. First and foremost, Slade is a complete badass who will tangle with anyone without hesitation. Even against a god. This issue succeeds in getting over that aspect of Slade’s personality. Now, getting Slade over with the reader as a stone cold killer is the easy part. And the writers definitely succeed in that aspect. But, what impresses me the most is that the writers give Slade some depth and nuance to his personality rather than presenting him as a one-dimensional hitman. The writers use Slade’s children and his relationship with them in order to show a different side to Slade’s personality.
I like that Slade’s children are used as a literary tool so that the writers could demonstrate to the reader how Slade is a fiercely protective father. Slade’s paternal instinct is strong and his willingness to tear out his own eye in order to protect his children shows his love and dedication to them. For a reader to truly become emotionally invested in a character they have to see more than just the character’s badass side. The reader needs to see a range of emotions. Since Slade is the type of character that is cold and calculating and will kill anyone it is important to show some genuine emotions and a more compassionate side to his personality. The writers effectively did that with the ending to Deathstroke #10.
The writers also did a nice job balancing Deathstroke the villainous hitman with Deathstroke the anti-hero. It is a tough line to tread. In order to get the reader invested in this title the writers must make Deathstroke a character that the reader finds interesting and cares about in some fashion. If Deathstroke is nothing more than a cold villain then it will be hard for readers to get invested in Deathstroke’s character and root for him.
The writers avoid that problem by still having Deathstoke remain a killer who owes no allegiance to anyone other than himself however, they also manage to make him likable enough for the reader to root for him. By having Deathstroke work with both Superman and Wonder Woman the writers are able to show that Deathstroke at his own moral code and has no problem working with heroes when their goals coincide with his goals.
Having said that, I like that the writers still kept Deathstoke as a lone wolf who engenders little sympathy from the mainstream heroes like Wonder Woman and Superman. Wonder Woman’s comment at the end of the issue when Slade was being judged by the gods that Deathstoke was getting what he deserved was well-played. It is important to show that Deathstroke is not going to be on the same page as DC’s heroes even if they may work together from at some points in time. And it is important to show that DC’s heroes do not like Deathstroke as a person. This helps keep Deathstoke more on the villainous side of the ledger which is where he needs to remain. There is no need for Deathstroke to pull a full face turn and become a hero. I do not even want him to become a hero who uses tactics that others disapprove of like we see with the Punisher.
The dialogue in this issue was solid. Yes, the dialogue was nothing spectacular, but it did not have to be masterfully crafted dialogue. This issue is not a character heavy issue that leans on the dialogue to carry the story. This is an action comic and the style of dialogue that is in this issue matches the style of the story. The dialogue was good enough to get the job done. The most important aspect of the dialogue was to make sure that Deathstroke got enough cool lines to fire out during the action scenes. And the dialogue succeeded in that endeavor.
From a technical standpoint, Deathstroke #10 is a well constructed read from start to finish. This issue was well plotted and paced. The story has a pleasant flow and progresses forward in a logical fashion and culminates in a great ending that brings the reader to the edge of their seat. The story moves forward with a purpose and the writers never lose their focus.
Deathstroke #10 has tons of action. Readers who demand plenty of fighting in their super hero comics will be more than satisfied with the brawling that Deathstroke #10 delivers. I was impressed with how well choreographed the massive fight scene was in this issue. The writers did a fine job splitting up Superman, Wonder Woman and Deathstroke so each character had their assigned task during the battle in order to save the day. It is a basic and time-tested approach to handling a fight scene.
The writers employ some excellent psychology during the fight between Deathstroke and Lapetus. I loved that the two adversaries sought to use each other’s loved ones as a means to rattle the other’s concentration and confidence. Deathstroke gets it rolling by trying to pick at Lapetus’ ego and pride by talking about how frustrating it must be that Lapetus is having to struggle in a fight against a “mere mortal.” Deathstroke amps up the psychological warfare by insulting Lapetus’ sister. Lapetus responds by threatening the lives of Deathstroke’s children in order to get Deathstroke off his game and get him to break his concentration. The mental warfare that Deathstroke and Lapetus engage in during their physical concentration makes the fight scene so much more compelling.
Now, I have to take a moment to talk about the ending to Deathstroke #10. I loved it. Anything that gets Slade back to being a one-eyed bastard is fantastic in my book. Also, this ending got over in an emphatic fashion Slade’s dedication to his children and his status as DC’s biggest badass. I loved it.
Tyler Kirkham delivers some solid artwork. Kirkham’s style is a nice match to the story. No doubt that Kirkham can deliver some exciting looking fight scenes. The brawl in this issue nearly leaps off the page at the reader. Kirkham’s dynamic style of art helps to bring the battle in this issue to life in a vibrant fashion.
I certainly like Deathstroke’s costume more than what he used to have earlier in the New 52. I am glad that they junked the ridiculous 1990’s Image look with the massive armored shoulder pads, the helmet, the giant metal gauntlets and the ludicrously oversized swords. Deathstroke’s costume is still has unnecessary pouches and other way too busy design elements. But, the costume is getting closer and closer to the much more elegant and simple design of Deathstroke’s pre-New 52 costume.
The Bad: Deathstroke #10 is not an issue for readers who prefer complex stories that employ strong character work and engaging dialogue to power the story. This is not a cerebral issue. I would not recommend this title for readers who crave substantive reads.
While Deathstroke received some nice character work, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of the characters in this issue. Superman and Wonder Woman were nothing more than mere window dressing. They served no real purpose and came across as simple props for the writers. In fact, Deathstroke #10 could have been the same read without the inclusion of Superman and Wonder Woman. They were not important to any of the main story beats. Nor did either hero contribute anything of importance or substance to the aftermath of the battle.
The lack of character work extended to the main antagonist in this story. Lapetus is a generic and uninteresting villain. Lapetus reminded me of the forgettable “monster-of-the-week” type character that you get on super hero or Sci Fi television shows. The problem with a lack of a compelling villain is that the story itself has less impact on the reader. The villain is the engine that drives an entertaining super hero story.
Overall: Deathstroke #10 is an enjoyable read. This issue offers up a great mix of fighting and violence. If you enjoy badass characters and lots of brawling then you definitely need to give Deathstroke a chance. I like the direction that this title is headed and I feel positive about the future of Deathstroke. This issue certainly delivered enough entertainment value to justify the cover price.