With the character of Slade Wilson running around in “Arrow’s” second season, the return of a “Deathstroke” comic felt somewhat inevitable. DC Comics is clearly aiming high this time around, with Tony S. Daniel helming the latest iteration. But while the book visually is great, the storytelling feels a little lacking.
Daniel holds firm to the idea of Deathstroke being a mercenary, and while that’s not a bad story hook — it’s worked well for some creators in the past — it feels like for now the book isn’t progressing past, “Deathstroke kills people.” And so that’s what we get, and a lot of it. The book alternates between lengthy exposition scenes, and a massive battle between Deathstroke and 300 bad guys. The idea of 1-against-300 isn’t even a bad one, but the problem is that there’s no originality to it. There’s a lot of shooting, a couple of sword swings, and one explosion. It feels like an opportunity lost here, to show why Deathstroke really is the best. This fight scene could have literally been anyone, from a member of the Suicide Squad to a random villain with a large arsenal. There’s nothing to this comic’s story, though, and that’s a problem because there needs to be a strong hook to bring someone back for more.
Daniel’s art looks great, though, and it almost functions as that needed hook. Daniel and Sandu Florea turn out some beautiful pages, with a lean, rejuvenated Deathstroke leaping and shooting from one page to the next. Even a walk across a somewhat desolate plain (with mountains and other items in the background, so it’s not a simple cheat to avoid drawing surroundings) looks nice here, full of atmosphere. It’s the high point of the comic, and it reminds me why Daniel landed plumb assignments in the past like relaunching “Detective Comics.”
Aside from realigning Deathstroke to look like the younger Manu Bennett that plans the character on “Arrow,” I’m not entirely sure what the point of this series is beyond there being something starring Deathstroke. The last page of the comic brings an old face out of mothballs, although honestly that character was such damaged goods in the past it’ll take some heavy lifting to bring some interest into that persona. Maybe given time we’ll get a stronger purpose brought to Slade Wilson, but for now, I’m not feeling any reason beyond looking at Daniel’s pretty art to come back for a third issue. In the end, it commits the cardinal sin of a new series: it’s boring.