Tony Black Reviews Deathstroke: Rebirth #1…
A thousand enemies, a thousand kills—Deathstroke is the world’s greatest assassin. Stalked by an unseen foe, Slade Wilson is confronted by his own troubled past and challenged to reinvent himself before he loses everything and everyone in his life. Can Deathstroke be redeemed? Or will his addiction to violence destroy him?
SEE ALSO: Preview of Deathstroke: Rebirth #1
One of the major villains of the DC universe, Deathstroke isn’t exactly the first comic book name you conjure up unless you’re pretty well versed in comic book lore. This Rebirth issue from Priest doesn’t necessarily reset the button and make everything about this extreme anti-hero completely clear, but it does establish numerous aspects of his personality, what he does and his family situation to flesh out Slade Wilson while still endeavouring to tell a story, though it is one that relies on pre-existing knowledge to fully engage with and enjoy. For newcomers there is some brutal and drained of colour panels to enjoy from Carlo Pagulayan, who manages to convey the quite stark and harsh world that Deathstroke inhabits, lending the comic a severity that not many other DC titles has. It’s biggest strength is that it’s unafraid to go to, or suggest going to, some very very dark places.
Take the nihilistic relationship Slade has with both of his sons, which Priest characterises across the issue via flashbacks essentially which tell the story of a hunting trip in the snowy woods, where he struggles to maintain a grip on his difficult son, Grant, very much rebelling against his father’s authority, and quite where Priest takes this seems to cut to the very nature of how mercenary Deathstroke is as a character; he’s barely a hero, much more of a villain, and he appears driven largely by self-interest as the main story in Priest’s narrative sees Deathstroke, on mission, looking to manipulate and pay off loyal African tribesmen in order to reach a relatively well known DC villain under protection.
That throws up an interesting idea Priest touches on, how Deathstroke could be hired by the families of those people said villain killed to seek retribution, and that’s certainly a concept deserving of greater exploration. While the cliffhanger may only resonate further if you have deeper knowledge of the comic and it’s world, it does at least pose a few questions – and along the way, Priest does add some neat, quirky touches such as the ‘title cards’ between each main scene which allude to a meaning or metaphor within the story.
Ultimately though, Deathstroke doesn’t really fill the Rebirth brief as seamlessly as other comic book runs have done, in re-introducing the character to new readers like myself, primarily because Priest assumes you already have a level of knowledge about Slade Wilson going into the narrative. That’s fine, but it makes this one much more for Deathstroke fans and DC completists only, and while it has some neat touches, is well drawn & decently written, going into much darker places than many other DC comics, it didn’t do enough to keep me personally along for the ride.