“Deathstroke” #0 wraps up Rob Liefeld’s five-month run on the title, after publically announcing his departure on Twitter earlier this month. With Liefeld on his way out with a presumably stand-alone origin story for the character, it felt like a last chance to take a look at just what Liefeld had done with the title.
What I found was surprisingly average. It’s a very by-the-numbers retelling of Deathstroke’s origin, with a lot unchanged from Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s creation back in the day within the pages of “New Teen Titans.” The one big change that long-time readers will see is Deathstroke’s inclusion within Team 7, the glimpse perhaps trying to whet readers’ appetite for “Team 7” #0 that also hits stores this week.
But aside from that change, there’s very little to sink your teeth into. This is a book that tells rather than shows, unfortunately. We’re told that Wintergreene is Slade’s only friend and that they’d entered training together, but we never actually see him until Slade’s wedding (and then only half of him is even visible, the rest chopped off by the edge of the page). The Team 7 sequence itself is little more than a series of names with head shots, the book shuffling past it fast enough that it makes you wonder if they shouldn’t have just started the book a little later into Slade’s life. And throughout it all, we’re given information recited by a narrator (Slade’s wife) with such a dry tone that it’s hard to get interested in what’s happening. There’s no character hook in “Deathstroke” #0, and as a first issue it just as easily serves as a last when it comes to getting those new readers coming back. This is, after all, a book that entirely skips over how Deathstroke lost an eye and shifted his costume accordingly; it literally happens between panels with no actual mention of the event.
The art from Liefeld is definitely one of his better jobs; there are some early panels which are nicely composed (like one with Slade in a shirt and tie talking to Adeline). The page layouts are all over the map, though; when Slade is shot the page is drawn in a way that you have to look twice to realize that he’s supposed to be lying on the ground, not standing up. As mentioned earlier, the first appearance and mention of Wintergreene is one where he’s been chopped in half by the edge of the page, with the rest of the background given to two scowling bridesmaids that are the angriest members of a wedding party I’ve ever seen. And with the amount of shadows on people’s eyes, well, you’d assume that all the characters had an eye blasted out at some point in time. The coloring from Juan Fernandez and Ross Hughes is also strangely inconsistent. I can only assume that whomever was handed some pages wasn’t told what the other person was doing; that’s the only way to explain, for instance, Slade’s hair changing back and forth between blonde and gray from one page to the next.
“Deathstroke” #0 is the sort of comic that is forgettable, but by no means awful. Liefeld’s done better in the past, but he’s also done worse. For a C-list character like Deathstroke, though, his title needs to be dynamite rather than forgettable if it’s going to survive. I wish Liefeld well, but based solely on “Deathstroke” #0 it’s definitely time for someone else to give the title a whirl. This just isn’t fun enough to maintain an audience for long.