SPOILER WARNING: this article contains spoilers for "Deathstroke: Rebirth" #1, on sale now.
This may come as a shock to some, but it appears that Slade Wilson is not an especially good father.
The evidence was there, even before Christopher J. Priest and Carlo Pagulayan's "Deathstroke: Rebirth" #1 was released. His oldest son Grant became the first Ravager, a rival assassin; his younger son Joey opposed his father as the Teen Titan Jericho; and his daughter Rose, also a Ravager, has a pretty complicated relationship with her dad in several continuities. Here, though, readers learn how the villain for hire feels about his family life and the way his failures toward his children affect his bloody work, setting up a key theme for the latest ongoing series.
The issue opens on a flashback to what looks to be a pretty awful camping trip for the Wilson family. Slade discovers Grant, who has no love of sleeping outdoors, dozing in the car, and roughly chucks him into the snow. (Aside: camping in winter does sound miserable!) Joey tries, not very effectively, to serve as peacemaker, but Grant storms off into the woods. Papa Slade drives off with his younger son, leaving Grant to his own devices. That'll show him!
His father and brother now gone, Grant is attacked by a bear. Slade comes to the rescue, shooting the bear just as it descends on the boy. Bet he's glad his dad is such a hardass now! As Slade lectures his son, the dapper Wintergreen emerges from the woods to lecture Slade in turn. Oh, and to give him an assignment.
Years later, after Slade has lost an eye and the pigment in his hair, a mission to an unnamed African nation forces Deathstroke to navigate a complex series of allegiances. Helping a warlord to subdue his foes and manipulating the American political scene earns Deathstroke a shot at a target the warlord had sworn to protect -- the Clock King.
Rather than the New 52 mobster version of the villain, here we see an elderly and infirm character in the original costume. He also mentions that he is time displaced by seven seconds, making him harder for Deathstroke to kill (though he knows Slade can do it if he sets his mind to) -- previously, his power involved seeing about four seconds into the future. Does this more powerful incarnation indicate that not only has another character from pre-"Flashpoint" continuity slipped through into the "Rebirth" world, but whatever was done to the timeline is playing havoc with a man whose very essence is built around time?
The single page of Slade's assistant Hosun moving money around injects some interesting ideas into the "Deathstroke" status quo -- via his young behind the scenes partner, Deathstroke adds hacking and political machinations to his deadly arsenal.
But back to Clock King. Confronted with the ill and aged supervillain, Slade's honor is tested -- Ol' CK offers information on "a loved one of the world's greatest assassin" in return for Deathstroke sparing his life, but Slade doesn't bite until Clock King gives the word: "Kenilworth."
That "loved one" has to be Grant, right? Of course, Grant is dead in both pre-"Flashpoint" and New 52 continuities -- several times over, it must be said, so he would need to have undergone some kind of... rebirth.
Is this the "loved one"? He watches old footage of Slade and his boys in happier times, shouting at the screen bitterly before erupting with shouts of "Jackass!" Exactly as Grant did earlier in the issue.
Slade is on his way, and once again "Kenilworth" is the magic word as some men he employs sneak him into an enemy camp. The guards gets sliced like Thanksgiving ham, and Deathstroke breaks through to rescue...
Hmmm. The path may be a bit longer than Deathstroke had anticipated, but with Wintergreen having been something of a father figure to Slade the family dynamic becomes a bit more complex. What Deathstroke wants for -- and from -- his children will clearly be central to the twice-monthly ongoing series when it fully kicks off later this month.
"Deathstroke: Rebirth" #1 is on sale now; "Deathstroke" #1 arrives August 24.