Deathstroke #1

Story by
Art by
Art Thibert, Joe Bennett
Colors by
Jason Wright
Letters by
Travis Lanham
Cover by
DC Comics

DC's Twitter feed claims, "Deathstroke the Terminator kicks down your doors and stomps your face with awesome. Mayhem ensues!" My door is still on the hinges and my face doesn't feel too stomped, but this story did offer a more intense read than I expected. Again. That seems to be a pattern with these relaunched books, and it might have something to do with my basement-level expectations. Although Deathstroke held onto his own title for four years back in the 1990s and he carried the recent "Titans" title, he has become a shadow of the conflicted, wonderfully demented character that Marv Wolfman and George Perez created so many years ago.

Kyle Higgins plates up a plot-by-numbers here, sending Deathstroke off on a pair of missions: one to kill a character that looks a lot like J. Jonah Jameson, and the second to bring down (apparently) Nosferatu. In his second mission, Deathstroke is saddled with a trio of "up-and-coming" specialists, and anyone who has ever read a Deathstroke story knows just how well he plays with others.

The end of this book was enough for me to find renewed interest in Slade Wilson, but the shame of it all is that Higgins had to unleash the killer in Wilson over the cool in Wilson in order to get my attention. It's a guilty pleasure to see Deathstroke in this situation, and it rejuvenates the legend of Deathstroke's badassery, but seems sensational. Then again, this is one of fifty-two relaunched titles, so I suppose sensationalism might be a good thing to help stand out from the pack.

Joe Bennett and Art Thibert team up for some slightly better than average art, but Deathstroke, like all of the DC Universe, has - as my editor has taken to say - an "overly fussy" costume. It seems to me that if artists were allowed to keep the costumes simpler (and Deathstroke's original was a classic) then the overall art of the books might be better throughout. A great deal of this story takes place in the air - between two planes and in them. The parts of the story not set in the air are set among some nice looking, keenly detailed backgrounds.

The quarry that awaits 'Stroke in the second plane is not what was expected, and in this case is actually super-cool. I'm hoping that the way Deathstroke dispenses with these characters isn't permanent. There's a great deal of potential in that concept.

Deathstroke has been one of DC's go-to badasses for over three decades now, so I wasn't overly surprised to see this title in the mix of the new fifty-two. I was, however, surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I'm not sure Deathstroke's a deep enough character at this point to merit an ongoing series, but that seems to be the challenge right at the heart of this issue and a premise of the series - Deathstroke needing to earn the fear and respect he once had. I do know this much: I'll be back for issue #2.

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