“Deathstroke” #16 wraps up a two-part story by Justin Jordan and Edgar Salazar on the title, the first post-Rob Liefeld arc. While I’m still slightly unconvinced on the overall idea of needing an ongoing series starring Deathstroke, this issue is enjoyable enough that it makes it an interesting read.
Jordan’s approach to the character is less the mad killing machine that we get from time to time, and more the mercenary whose contracts usually involve death. So for an opening storyline, it makes sense for Jordan to play with that idea by having him hired to kill Koschei the Unkillable. It’s a nice twist on the standard “track down a target” story, one where it’s less “find and kill” and more “try to do the impossible.”
Jordan’s story doesn’t revolve around any sort of special artifact or technology that can kill Koschei, or even involve any sort of information that readers weren’t privy to earlier on. Rather, Jordan plays by the rules that he sets up, and then takes it to a logical conclusion on how Koschei can be defeated. That, to me, is the potential saving grace of “Deathstroke.” I like the idea of Jordan presenting the reader and Deathstroke with little puzzles that aren’t as easy to solve as they might have first seemed, and then taking readers through the solution. That’s a much more interesting take than the character just hunting down random characters.
Deathstroke himself doesn’t come across as that much of a bad guy under Jordan’s guidance, either. We don’t get the stereotypical “my honor demands I finish what I started” take, but a much more businesslike idea that if you accept a contract, you finish it and keep your reputation. It’s a vastly more interesting way to approach the idea of a protagonist who always completes his contracts, and in many ways much more in line with the modern world.
Salazar’s pencils are fine if not anything out of the ordinary; they remind me a lot of artists like Joe Bennett or Tom Grummett with a workmanlike approach to the page. Characters have reasonable anatomy (although from time to time people seem strangely squat), smooth features and fine storytelling. The only big quibble I had was how he draws Koschei, which seems to have a strange almost comedic tilt to his features at times. Jordan’s script makes him feel like he should be more imposing, not the long lost uncle of the “Gen 13” character of Grunge.
“Deathstroke” #15-16 have me interested in the title again, something that hadn’t happened since Kyle Higgins’ initial storyline ended. If this is the manner in which Jordan continues to approach the title, we could be well on our way towards providing enough of a hook to keep this series viable. For now, I’ll continue to pick up the title. It’s a promising outlook for DC’s #1 assassin.