DC Comics’ The New 52 rolls on in its second week! I’ll be reviewing all 52 #1 issues released this month, and you can find all of the reviews on the Comic Book Reviews index page. This week we get 13 more new series, including a rare book by writer Kyle Higgin starring a villain: Slade Wilson, Deathstroke the Terminator. There was actually a long-running Deathstroke comic book solo series back in the 1990’s, so there’s a precedent that this book could be highly successful. But to hook me for the long run for a character I only know as a ruthless villain, the book was going to need a strong hook. Did it succeed?
This review will be as spoiler-free as possible.
Thankfully, this first issue makes it crystal clear that even though Deathstroke is starring in this book, he’s not going to become the cliched “anti-hero looking for redemption” that Deadpool has. Deathstroke is and always will be a cold, heartless bastard and killing machine. So he is staying true to the popular character he’s always been and not being perverted for the sake of having his own book.
The action sequences here are exciting, and the art and writing are both very clear and easy to follow (although some of Deathstroke’s teammates’ dialogue is cringe-worthy at best). From artwork and action perspectives, this is one of the strongest entries thus far out of The New 52.
There’s one monumental, glaring problem with this issue (and therein this whole series) and it’s not just “The Wrong”, it’s…
The inherent logic of the premise of this book is totally flawed and does not make any sense. Deathstroke is unquestionably the greatest mercenary in the DC Universe and the greatest weapon that can possibly be hired against metahumans. In a DC Universe that is now fearful of super-beings, Deathstroke should be on the speed-dial of every criminal organization that can afford him. Deathsroke is the -ONLY- mercenary in the DC Universe who can fight the Justice League alone and hand them their asses. The notion that Deathstroke can’t get a job because people don’t think he has what it takes anymore is ludicrous.
Maybe, just maybe, if we saw Deathstroke fail at missions over and over and over for an extended period of time it might be feasible that Slade is losing his touch and organizations would have their doubts about him. But not only is that not the case here, but literally the opening lines of the book are: “Deathstroke the Terminator–The scariest badass on the planet. A Metahuman mercenary who goes after the toughest targets. Who takes the impossible jobs… because he can do the impossible.” We open this series with exposition like that and a scene where Slade carries out a crazy, death-defying assassination. And then we’re told no one believes in Deathstroke any more or will hire him? Give me a break.
Overall: This comic was launched for the purpose of selling a book about Deathstroke being “a major damn badass”. And if that’s what you want to read about, then your dollars are well-spent. But the premise of this series being that Deathstroke needs to rebuild his reputation for some unexplained, inconceivable reason is just unbelievable. There’s nothing here to hook me for this series–Deathstroke is seemingly invincible, has no apparent weaknesses as a mercenary, and no personal life to speak of. I have no doubt that Deathstroke is going to successfully carry out death-defying missions and rebuild his career, because there’s no plausible reason it would be suffering to begin with. This isn’t a bad book at all, but it isn’t compelling–I don’t feel the need to read any more, because there’s simply no reason to think the protaganist isn’t going to succeed effortlessly. So yeah, Deathstroke is “one damn badass”, as Kyle Higgins so eloquently put it. But why should I care? I don’t know, and for that reason, I won’t be pre-ordering any more issues of what’s otherwise a well-done book.