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Deathstroke: Rebirth #1 Review

Written by Christopher Priest

Pencils by Carlo Pagulayan

Inks by Jason Paz

Colors by Jeromy Cox

Letters by Willie Schubert

Review by Max Mallet

DC Comics

Deathstroke: Rebirth

“Now look at what you made me do.”

Deathstroke.  Sounds like a mindless killing machine, doesn’t he?  This is not the case, as seasoned writer Christopher Priest shows, rather than tells, both the menace and the nuance that encompasses Slade Wilson: the Deathstroke.  The man doesn’t have to announce that he’s the world’s greatest assassin, or that he’ll heal from injuries.  Deathstroke’s actions do the talking here, as the mercenary doesn’t have a lot of dialogue in this story.  This is a refreshing reprieve from some of the other Rebirth issues, as Priest respects the intelligence of the readership to be able to learn about Deathstroke organically.  The issue is broken down into several one-to-four-page chapters, which feels unnecessary for a standard-length comic.  In contrast to the storytelling and artwork, this format and pacing method doesn’t respect the reader’s ability to discern elements like focus and story arc.

The readership is not meant to like Slade Wilson at the onset of this issue.  Before the interior title card and accompanying splash page (which is glorious) the writing and art depicts Slade as a bad father, womanizer and assassin through flashback sequences and Deathstroke’s current affairs.  Just the kind of guy you’d like your sister to bring home for the holidays!  It feels like Priest is breaking him down to build him back up later, and this comes to fruition as the story unravels.  Deathstroke’s mission changes after he confronts a very corny supervillain named the Clock King, who tells Slade something that readers aren’t privy to. This demonstrates Deathstroke’s moral complexity and leads to the story’s first and really only action near the very end of the issue.  

Pagulayan’s penciling is very DC house style, at times a nod to Capullo’s work on the New 52 Batman series.  The art shines brightest when it zooms in on characters’ faces and outfits, highlighting them in contrast to frozen forests and arid desert landscapes.  When the art is violent, it’s subdued in comparison to The New 52 Deathstroke, erring towards PG-13 rather than a hard R.  The Clock King’s outfit is visually jarring and campy in an otherwise visually aggressive issue.  It’s unfit to wear as pajamas or to the smallest comic convention, let alone for someone warranting Deathstroke’s attention.  Perhaps this reflects more editorially than artistically, but the man seems as much a threat to Deathstroke as a field mouse is to an owl.  

If you like your comics to leave real-world issues aside, then Deathstroke: Rebirth might not be for you as it gets very political.  The story takes place in what appears to be in Sub-Saharan Africa, and at one point, Deathstroke pointedly states, “These are black people… the Marines aren’t coming.”  Priest isn’t finished with addressing controversy there, tackling election tampering and the notion of terrorism knowing no religious or ideological boundaries.  This makes the issue feel incredibly current and aware of peoples’ fears.  That said, the story doesn’t stay political for long, and before you know it you’re cruising along a river in the jungle alongside Deathstroke.

The issue concludes with a cliffhanger and a couple of loose ends.   However, this should leave readers wanting more than feeling lost, as the story has its mystery but remains focused.

Verdict

Buy.  Despite his nickname, “Deathstroke the Terminator,” Slade Wilson is no T-1000, and this humanizes him for first-time readers.  Those who are familiar with Deathstroke will be left wanting for more action, not to mention the sprinkling of humor from Tony S. Daniel’s run on the character in the New 52.  The artwork and colors are stellar throughout, and the story is tight with bold geopolitical strokes (hey-oh).  This issue gives us an appetizer of Deathstroke’s moral compass and physical capabilities.  New and more seasoned readers alike should be left drooling for a main course.

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