Things start out bad and get worse for Slade Wilson in “Deathstroke”#3. De-aged and wandering through the snow, barely alive, he flashes back to his attempted rescue of Jericho that did not go according to his plan. Tony Daniel is on a mission to upend the Terminator’s life but is doing so in a disjointed fashion. His script splits its time evenly between flashbacks to the botched rescue and his present mountainside struggle. Though the page count adds up the action moves slowly. Daniel uses a few double page spreads throughout, some working in better service to the story than others. The opening spread is great, flowing from the present to the past, as is Odysseus’ return, but the fight with Bronze Tiger and the attempted killing of Od seems unnecessary and awkwardly jammed in. Since he’s working from his own script there is less chance of misinterpreting the intention of the writing and they just feel like choices of style over substance. The art itself is great mad exactly what one would expect from this kind of story, full of posturing tough guys and dynamic exaggerated action. Jericho and Slade fight side by side for a time and when the younger Wilson unleashes his power it’s both impactful and gruesome.
Red Fury as an antagonist is frustrating as he seems be the worst of superhero storytelling, full of mysterious needs and quests that don’t add up to a satisfying whole, and questions that are answered with more questions. Rarely do these characters pay off in the long run, instead becoming a pile of plot points rather than a fleshed out person. It’s possible Fury will buck this trend but it’s not looking good so far. He confronts Slade at their meeting point after letting him be attacked by Bronze Tiger, who doesn’t recognize Wilson, only to tell him to come somewhere else with him. Why not just meet at the new location? It makes the plan of a mastermind feel sloppy — which is the other danger of this type of character. When the questions begin to stack as high as the character, it takes a lot of clever work on the part of the writer to make the payoff feel like the journey has been worth it. The tone and missions of this book are reminiscent of the early ’90s Marvel and Image style of storytelling, dangling carrots for readers all over the place. Only in a few fringe cases did those dangling mysteries pay off, and often they did in a manner that was to simply push them out of the way in favor of new mysteries. It’s entirely possible Daniel and editor Eddie Berganza have learned those lessons and stick the landing — but three issues in, it is something for which to keep an eye out.
The cliffhanger Daniel introduces is sure give the book a swift kick in the jeans as Deathstroke looks to be making a visit to Gotham City and will certainly be running into Suicide Squad’s own Harley Quinn. It feels like an organic pair to face off and is sure to excite readers, especially with Daniel’s dynamic and action-oriented art style. If he can find a balance between story and art in the book then “Deathstroke” could be poised to become yet another high-quality DC title whose relaunch and refocus were worth starting over.