DCeased was one of the best comic books that DC Comics published in 2019. Tom Taylor and Trevor Hairsine delivered an emotionally impactful ride with DCeased. Now after the commercial and critical success of DCeased we are getting a follow-up series in the form of DCeased: Unkillables. Whereas the original focused on the Justice League and Teen Titans, DCeased: Unkillables is placing a spotlight on the DC Universe’s villains. How will the DCU’s villain react to the events of DCeased? Let’s find out with DCeased: Unkillables #1.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Karl Mostert
Inkers: Trevor Scott, Neil Edwards and John Livesay
Colorist: Rex Lokus
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: On Day One of the Anti-Life virus Deathstroke arrives at a house in Kentucky to complete a nine million dollar contract. When he rings the doorbell his target jumps out the window. Deathstroke immediately kills the guy with a headshot.
Suddenly more people run out of the house. Deathstroke looks inside the house to see why they are running he finds Anti-Living attacking regular people. Deathstroke is able to kill most of the Anti-Living.
Deathstroke eventually gets an alert to his phone. When he looks at his phone the Anti-Life virus begins to infect him and he starts attacking everyone around him.
The next day in the middle of the burning streets Deathstroke regains control and is completely confused at what is going on.
Over at the Wayne Manor, Red Hood (Jason Todd) drives into the Batcave looking for Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth. He is shocked to find Batman (Bruce Wayne), Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and Red Robin (Tim Drake) dead on the ground. Ace shows up and Jason embraces him, promising not to leave Bruce, Dick and Tim like this.
Jason walks through the mansion and finds a shovel. He then spends some time creating graves to bury Bruce, Dick and Tim in.
After he is done Jason uses the Batmobile computer to find the other Batman Family members locations. The computer finds eight of them but only two of them have heartbeats.
As he prepares to leave Jason invites Ace to come along. Jason and Ace then drive away in the Batmobile.
We then see on Bruce’s grave the words “Bruce Wayne, Father, Mentor, Bastard, Batman.”
Later that night as chaos runs amok in Gotham City, even with the Batsignal in the sky, Rose Wilson (Ravager) has locked herself up in her apartment. Deathstroke contacts his daughter to tell her to go outside. Rose hesitates because every future she sees for herself is one where she is killed by the Anti-Living. Deathstroke gives Rose specific orders on how to get to the roof and promises not to leave her stuck there.
Rose puts on her Ravager gear and heads up to the rooftop. Deathstroke drops a rope ladder for her to climb into his jet. Before Ravager can climb an Anti-Lving Man-Bat flies into Deathstroke’s jet. As they fight Man-Bat causes Deathstroke to crash his jet.
Ravagers goes to check on her dad. Deathstroke comes out of the wreckage with some injuries. Ravager attacks her dad thinking he was turned into an Anti-Living. When she does Ravager is surprised Deathstroke reacted normally. Deathstroke reveals that whatever is turning people into Anti-Living is being reversed by his healing factor.
Mirror Master shows up and reveals Vandal Savage sent him to find Deathstroke and Ravager. He offers them a chance to survive in exchange for their skills in fighting. Deathstroke and Ravager decide to go with Mirror Master and they enter his Mirror world.
As they go through the Mirror world Deathstroke and Ravager see all the chaos going on around Earth.
They eventually make it to Vandal Savage’s secret island. Vandal Savage reveals that the island they are on is remote enough to be far away from the Anti-Life Equation virus infection. He then shows Deathstroke and Ravager the others he has gathered on the island: Solomon Grundy, The Creeper, Cheetah, Captain Cold, Lady Shiva, Bane and Deadshot.
The Creeper jokes that they are all Tree Lobsters and shows all the merch he has made to market that.
Ignoring that, Vandal Savage tells Deathstroke that the heroes will fail because they are not ruthless enough. After that happens Vandal plans to have them inherit the planet.
Back in Gotham City, Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) helps Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock fight off the Anti-Living in the GCPD headquarters. One of the Anti-Living strikes Harvey Bullock. Seeing that he is turning into an Anti-Living, Batgirl immediately kills Harvey Bullock.
Red Hood and Ace crash through the walls and immediately kill the remaining Anti-Living. Red Hood tells Batgirl and Gordon to get in the car.
As they are driving away Commissioner Gordon asks Red Hood to help him find his daughter. Red Hood reveals that Barbara Gordon is already dead, as the Batcomputer confirmed. Commissioner Gordon asks how the Batcomputer would know that. Red Hood and Batgirl take off their masks to reveal they are Jason Todd and Cassandra Cain to Commissioner Gordon.
Commissioner Gordon realizes Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Barbara and Damian Wayne were part of the Batman Family. Jason mentions that Damian is still alive in Metropolis. Commissioner Gordon wonders why he was monitored by the Batcomputer. Jason mentions that Bruce always thought of him as part of the Batman Family. Commissioner Gordon is still in disbelief and thinks the Batcomputer could be wrong about Barbara.
Jason takes Commissioner Gordon to Barbara’s location. Commissioner Gordon is left in a state of shock at seeing his daughter dead hanging on vines. (Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn killed Anti-Living Batgirl and the Birds of Prey in DCeased #3.) Cassandra tells Commissioner they need to move on and mourn later.
Cassandra then finds Jason standing in front of the dead Joker. Jason is mad because he feels it should have he who killed Joker. Cassandra tells Jason they have to go. Jason says he has to do something first.
A little later Jason, along with Commissioner Gordon and Cassandra as passengers, drives the Batmobile, with Joker tied up as a hood ornament, out of Gotham City.
The next day they arrive just outside Bludhaven. Jason spots a horde of Anti-Living trying to get into a building. Cassandra and Commissioner Gordon convince Jason that they should save any survivors.
Jason then uses missiles on the Batmobile to destroy the Anti-Living horde.
Commissioner Gordon is quick to see the school buses inside the building are from the Bludhaven Orphanage. When some survivors show up Jason and the others tell them they are the good guys.
The survivors leader, named Letitia, reveals she and the other surviving kids were able to barricade the doors and windows. She goes on to mention one of the caregivers sacrificed herself to get her and others food to survive.
Jason, Cassandra and Commissioner Gordon all agree to work with Letitia to make a stand together there. End of issue.
The Good: Tom Taylor took what made the original event special and added to it by giving us knew, fresh perspectives with DCeased: The Unkillables #1. Like he has done before, Taylor did not make adjustments to the core of the characters to make them fit into the DCeased Universe. Instead Taylor took what makes Red Hood, Deathstroke, Vandal Savage and others tick and shows us how they would each respond to the events of DCeased.
One of things I’m always impressed about Taylor’s work, in particular with DC Comics, is the lack of fear when it comes to writing a large number of different characters. Because it is one thing to write characters from the Batman or Superman Families. There is at least some cohesion when it comes to writing different corners of the DC Universe. It is a completely different animal when you take characters from different corners that don’t normally interact with one another and have them all be part of the same story.
To Taylor’s credit he is able to take characters like Red Hood, Deathstroke, Mirror Master, The Creeper and others and make them work together in a cohesive story. In the process Taylor does not lose the core of what makes each of these characters who they are in fans eyes. Each character acts in the way you expect given the DCeased situation.
Having the story of DCeased: Unkillables take place at the same time as the events in the original series was the right choice. Having the time frames mirror each allows Taylor to immediately answer how Deathstroke, Vandal Savage and other villains were able to survive the Anti-Life Equation virus. Providing those answers and what Vandal Savage’s motives are gives DCeased: Unkillable a strong foundation to build on top of for the remaining issues in this mini-series.
Choosing Deathstroke as a spotlight character throughout DCeased: Unkillable #1 works to establish one of the major plotlines of this new series. Specifically, the mystery as to why Deathstroke’s healing factor was able to fight off the Anti-Life Equation is a big mystery. The big question here is why Deathstroke’s healing factor was able to work so well when it has never been shown to be on the level of other DC characters with healing factors like Superman or Flash. How Taylor answers that mystery could be key to the story in DCeased: Unkillables.
Outside that mystery the spotlight on Deathstroke allowed us to see the character step up in more of a caring father light. We are used to seeing Deathstroke having a contentious relationship with his children. Deathstroke showing great care in Rose Wilson’s safety made great use of the story around DCeased. It showed that the bond between Rose and Slade is still deep when it matters most. There is a lot of potential in exploring their relationship in a similar way to how Superman and Superboy father-son relationship was shown in the original DCeased.
Having Vandal Savage use the crisis in DCeased as a way to finally inherit Earth like he always envisioned for himself was a great use of the character. More than anyone, Vandal has shown that he believes in the rule of the survival of the fittest rule. This Anti-Life Equation virus just shows Vandal that this is the true fate of humanity.
Taylor does a good job having Vandal Savage make it a point that he chose Deathstroke, Ravager, Mirror Master, Solomon Grundy, The Creeper, Cheetah, Captain Cold, Lady Shiva, Bane and Deadshot for specific reasons. Each of these characters serve a purpose in his greater survival plan. What those plans are and how successful Vandal’s crew is once they meet up to the point where the heroes are at will be interesting to see play out.
Having the other major spotlight on Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain and Jim Gordon was a smart play to explore the fallout for the Batman Family’s part in DCeased. The Batman Family was decimated in the original DCeased crisis, with only Damian Wayne being shown to have survived. Showing us that Jason and Cassandra were at least able to survive the initial wave of the Anti-Life Equation infection gave Taylor the opportunity to explore the fallout of the Batman Family’s destruction.
Jason discovering Batman, Nightwing and Red Robin’s dead bodies was a true gut punch. Taylor and Karl Mostert hit the right note with how Jason reacted to the death of his father-figure and brothers. Adding Ace the Bathound to this scene made the burial scene be more impactful as we see Jason create a grave for Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake. Having Ace join Jason in his journey to find survivors was a nice, subtle way to emphasize that they are one of the last members of Batman Family.
Cassandra’s characterization was also nicely handled. While she was clearly understood what was going on Cassandra was the one character that was able to keep her emotions in check. With how emotional things get for Jason and Jim Gordon, Cassandra is able to provide the steady character who can get the others looking forward.
Speaking of Jim Gordon, Taylor arguably gives him the best scenes in DCeased: Unkillables. Jim quickly realizing the identities of the entire Batman Family when Jason and Cassandra took off their masks was a great character moment. You can see everything click into place for Jim as all the events in his life now made sense.
This all made Jim’s discovery that his daughter, Barbara Gordon, is dead even more heartbreaking to see. You could feel the utter shock in Jim’s face. That is not something that any father ever wants to see.
At the same time it spoke to Jim’s strength of character that he was able to keep going with Jason and Cassandra in their search for survivors. As heartbreaking as the death of his daughter is Jim wants to make sure he is able to save as many people as possible. Seeing him switch into policeman mode as he assessed things at Bludhaven Orphanage was well done. He gave Jason, Cassandra and the orphans the confidence that they can make a final stand while they are in the orphanage.
Karl Mostert’s artwork in DCeased: Unkillables #1 took a little while to get used to because it was very different from the more gritty tone Trevor Hairsine previously established. That said, once Mostert got into his grove with the world of DCeased he was able to hit those emotional story beats Taylor was going for. The shock in Jim Gordon’s face when he sees Barbara was an especially high note on the art side of things.
The Bad: As great as DCeased: Unkillables #1 was it did take me out of the issue to see Cassandra Cain as Batgirl. It is one of those continuity things that did stuck out, especially since we see Barbara’s Batgirl later in this issue. Because of that it was odd to see Cassandra in her classic Batgirl costume rather than as Orphan. Even if I prefer Cassandra as Batgirl over Orphan it is one of those story choices that did not work because of the continuity that Taylor is working within DCeased.
While I did not mind Mostert’s artwork the bright colors used for DCeased: Unkillables #1 does not match the story. This is supposed to be a darker DC Universe that lacks hope. That is not what you get when you see the artwork in DCeased: Unkillables #1. Hopefully in future issues we see some adjustments made to the color palette that aligns more with the story being told in this series.
Overall: DCeased: The Unkillables #1 is a great follow-up that compliments the original DCeased event extremely well. Tom Taylor sets up a story involving a different set of characters that carries the same emotionally impactful energy the original event had. Getting different perspectives of the crisis in DCeased was refreshing to see, with new plotlines that enhanced the story in the original mini-series.
To comment on this article and other Comic Book Revolution content visit our Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram. You can also catch up with all of Kevin’s thoughts about comics, anime, TV shows, movies and more over on Twitter.