Deathstroke Annual #1 – Priest, Writer; Denys Cowan, Penciller; Bill Sienkiewicz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Still Worst Parents Ever
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: Everything in Priest’s exceptional run has built to this issue, as Deathstroke Annual #1 brings together countless subplots for an explosive finale that brings back a long-missing character and dismantles the Defiance team in spectacular fashion. And along for the ride is the legendary art team of Cowan and Sienkiewicz, which gives this issue a much more old-school vibe than it normally has. Kicking off in the desert as Deathstroke faces off against a Native policeman who stumbled upon one of his operations and has been marked for death, the issue jumps around in time as it unfolds exactly how Deathstroke got to this moment.
Tanya Spears, one of the characters who Priest has plucked out of obscurity, has been having odd dreams involving her departed mentor and has had more and more trouble fitting into the team (although I’m not sure about the decision to suddenly give her homophobic feelings).
As soon as she expresses her issues, things go from bad to worse, as Adeline sabotages her place in the team, leaving her breaking down and seeking comfort in her friendship with young Wally. Wally’s role on this team has worked a lot better than I expected, and from the scenes in this issue involving Wally, Beast Boy, and Tanya, I would honestly say give Priest Teen Titans if he wants it. Also, I’m pretty sure he’s the only person at DC who remembers Skitter even exists. A good part of the issue centers around Slade’s dysfunctional relationships with Jericho, Isherwood, and especially Adeline. In many ways, this issue is her starring role, and it does not give us a good picture – she’s a twisted woman, in many ways as cruel as Slade at times. The issue takes an almost shockingly dark turn midway through, as a team member seemingly takes their own life, but as always in this series, few things are as they seem and there’s a great twist ending. This may be one of the book’s finest hours, and it’s had a lot of them.
Corrina: As usual, Priest packs more plot and emotional character moments into one issue than most writers do in six. It helps that he’s used the extra space in the annual to bring all his character and plot threads together, leading to one seriously emotional gut punch, and peeling back the layers of the entire Wilson family, especially Adeline. Having this art team on board to execute this vision is like being given an extra dessert for free.
Adeline and Slade are two halves of the same coin, which Priest has been clear about since the beginning. They simultaneously bring out the best and worst in each other, which makes their mentoring and parenting skills incredibly suspect. The different, however, is that Slade is aware he is the villain, even as he tries not to be one, while Adeline justifies the rationale for her decisions as part of the greater good. She’s the sanctimonious hero who is actually on the wrong side of the line. She cares more about her mission than the members of Defiance and her relationship with her son is as shaky as Slade’s relationship with Joe/Jericho.
Which leads to near-tragedy with Tanya, another child searching for a mentor she can believe in. It’s an interesting angle that Tanya’s specifically Christian beliefs, ones that led her to believe that Slade’s soul can be saved, also put her in conflict with Joe. I don’t think Tanya’s statements about Joe’s hook-ups came across as Tanya wanted–rather, she believes only people in love should engage in sex, not that she believes Joe is wrong because he’s bisexual. Still, Joe is absolutely correct to take offense and it’s a measure of how little Defiance has come to trust each other that a guilt-ridden Tanya decides she has to commit a desperate act without any guidance or back-up. (By the way, who did kill Joe’s fiancee? There’s a hanging plot thread.)
As for the end: what does Slade choose, villain or not-so-bad? I’m like Tanya: I’m hoping he doesn’t pull the trigger even though I know he is a villain. He killed a dog.
I only hope Priest follows up on that cliffhanger at the end with Tanya and it’s not dropped so it can come up again in another title. Like Ray, I want Priest to write Teen Titans. Well, I want Priest to write all the things, as I’ve said before.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.