Review – Deathstroke #1 (DC Comics)

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Christopher Priest
Artwork:  Carlo Pagulayan (pencils), Jason Paz (inks), Jeromy Cox (colours)
Release Date: 24th August, 2016

After a strong Rebirth issue, DC’s new Deathstroke solo series kicks off this week, and follows on directly from the events of its Rebirth release, making it a somewhat awkward jumping-on point for what is essentially a first issue.  Series writer Christopher Priest does his best to bring new readers up to speed, but while a lot of the previous Rebirth issues for other titles have merely provided a little context and background, for Deathstroke, it also seems to have provided pretty much essential reading.

As with the previous issue, the narrative is broken up between the past and the present, which works well to establish the history of Deathstroke and Wintergreen, but which also feels a little erratic at times, jumping back and forth a little too rapidly at the expense of the ongoing narrative.  The story itself is solid, but doesn’t hit the mark quite as well as it perhaps could, feeling a little rushed as Priest tries to cram in a massive amount of exposition and story resolution into just twenty pages.

That said, the end does justify the means, and as a way to establish that Slade isn’t quite the hardened, amoral bad-ass we may have initially thought, it definitely does the trick.  Hardened? Yes.  Bad-ass? Most definitely.  But this guy damn sure has some morals, and it’s this particular aspect of the character that will hopefully carry the series on its shoulders as it moves forwards.

Once again, the art team of Pagulayan, Paz and Cox combine to make this a striking, eye-catching affair. Slade looks great, even if a couple of the splash pages feel almost like bonus pin-ups rather than a part of the story itself, and their depiction of the gloriously-attired Clock King is fantastic.  Ah yes, Clock King.   While his inclusion initially feels a little jarring, almost like slotting a campy Batman ’66 villain into the violent, blood n’ bullets world of the “World’s Deadliest Assassin” ™, Priest adds a brilliant little wrinkle that helps everything make much more sense.

Overall, this is another solid issue, if perhaps not quite as striking as the Rebirth chapter.  Tonally, it’s already markedly different from the bulk of DC’s current output, which may actually turn out to be its strongest selling point.  In fact, with the exception of the lead character’s brightly coloured costume and enhanced powers, this actually feels a lot like a Vertigo book with its military drama and twisting, unconventional narrative.

An essential pickup for fans of the character then, but I’m not sure if this one has quite managed to do enough yet at this early stage to entice new readers into the fold.  Only time will tell, but as beginnings go, this is definitely a solid foundation for what should be an intriguing new series.

Rating: 3.5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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