Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Christopher Priest
Artist: Jason Paz, Carlo Pagulayan
Release Date: 14th September 2016
The last issue of Deathstroke was a bit of a muddled affair, but it did contain a lot of good stuff – mainly the more humane approach to the character; a moral compass which gave him an added layer of depth we haven’t seen before. It was still the character we’ve come to know and love throughout the years, only this time we had a little more insight into his life, his values and what motivates him.
Deathstroke #2 continues to oscillate between the past and present time hopping elements established in the first issue, and its Slade’s history that continues to be the most fascinating part. The story continues the mission in place from the previous issue, and we get to know some of Slade’s old friends while Slade himself is on the rampage looking for the answers he seeks.
After all these years of seeing him solve his problems with a sword, having that bit of insight into what makes him so prone to slashing fools is like a breath of fresh air. As a writer, Priest isn’t used to writing villains as protagonists, so his innate trope to embrace the humanity of his characters and apply it to Slade Wilson is just classic Priest, albeit from the perspective of a bad guy. By giving Slade a conscience and explanation for being the bastard that he is, it’s allowed the character to flourish somewhat.
Priest’s approach to Deathstroke also has some statements to make about the nature of violence, especially the way its presented in comic books. I’m sure like me, many of you have fallen in love with this character because of his capacity for and tendency to slay almost everyone he comes into contact with. We live in an age where villainous killing machines have become anti-heroes in entertainment mediums, and we root for them as such. However, in reality violence is bred from circumstances; there’s a reason behind it, psychological or otherwise. Here Priest is not only exploring what can make someone violent, but he’s also presenting the ramifications of violence. Granted, if you just want to read a comic where Deathstroke is bashing skulls in with a hammer, this won’t disappoint you – it’s not without its visceral thrills and macabre entertainment factor either. The commentary is present throughout, but Priest doesn’t bog you down with preaching or judge you for enjoying it.
The artwork from Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz and Jeromy Cox combines to create an environment that is beautifully gritty and sublime. From the opening panel, you know some poop is about to hit the fan pretty soon, as the visuals connote the violent and stylish underbelly a story of this ilk should take place in perfectly. Slade himself looks like the perfect gnarly bastard you wouldn’t want to run into on the street – even when he’s not in costume. It’s a fitting appearance to coincide with a man who has been through the wars, hit the bottle and incurred a warped code of ethics along the way.
That being said, Deathstroke is still a story with a few minor teething problems. It won’t appeal to anyone who isn’t already a fan, but then again it doesn’t have to either. Like the previous issue, the present narrative and past exposition don’t quite gel as well as they should, but not in a way that’s detrimental to the overall package. While suffering from the same mild pitfalls, this issue still sees the story finding momentum.
In short, Deathstroke #2 is good. Really freaking good.
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The writer of this piece was: Kieran Fisher
Kieran Tweets from @HairEverywhere_