Review – Deathstroke #38: Under the Masks

Comic Books DC This Week
Deathstroke #38 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Deathstroke #38 – Priest, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Jason Paz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist


Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Continually Surprising and Effective

Ray: Priest’s in-depth look at the twisted world of Arkham Asylum – and the long game that’s landed Deathstroke in its clutches – continues to impress with the twisty Deathstroke #38. When we last left off, it was revealed that Two-Face had escaped Arkham and was hunting down Slade’s daughter Rose. Slade, meanwhile, is in a very bad place. Stripped of his abilities, he’s being beaten half to death as he refuses to given an inch against the guards. Meanwhile, a mysterious third masked figure calling himself “Death Masque” has hunted down Hosun and is forcibly recruiting him into a mysterious mission. There is a lot going on in this issue and it can be a little overwhelming at times, but it’s never less than completely engaging. The opening segment reveals Death Masque’s identity, which sheds a lot of light on the truth behind Slade’s imprisonment – he is very much not crazy. He’s been caught up in one of the greatest gaslighting schemes ever put together, and it is almost shockingly elaborate.

The characters are all over the map this issue, with Hosun and his mysterious ally in one subplot, and Jericho and Wintergreen on the trail of Two-Face. As for Two-Face himself, he’s kidnapped Rose and intends to train her – feeling some bizarre kinship due to them both having a split personality. It’s definitely an unconventional approach to the supervillain kidnap plot. Slade’s plotline, while he has to split a lot of page time with the huge cast, manages to advance his story as he becomes much more aware of who’s playing him – and it also reveals the figure who may be the big bad of this arc. It raises a lot of questions about the story potentially tying into another book dealing with Arkham, but it works so well on its own that it doesn’t matter if it plays out this way.

Corrina is right in that this is a more compelling, haunting look at mental illness and therapy in a superhero world than Heroes in Crisis, but it’s also a fascinating conspiracy thriller and one of DC’s best books.

He’s watching you… Via DC Comics.

Corrina: Sometimes when I read Deathstroke, I’m not sure what’s going on. I’m never certain of where the story is going.

But it’s always fascinating, brilliant, insightful, and twisty.

These twists, rather than turning me off to the story, send me back to read previous issues to review what I missed the first time. Priest said when he began this run that he wanted to cram as much as he could in one single issue and he has definitely accomplished that, all the while keeping the reader engaged with characters we should probably hate and loathe but worry about instead. There’s so little likable about Slade, the man who perhaps somewhere inside him, wants to do better, but keeps making choices that prevent him from doing so. This arc has him at his most vulnerable, wondering exactly what is being done to him and by whom, and I want to know what’s going on as much as he does.

And, yes, it’s also a haunting look at how mental illness is usually viewed not only in the DC Universe but in the real world. I wish this book had one-tenth of the publicity apparatus as Heroes in Crisis or Doomsday Clock because it deserves at least as big an audience as any of those event books.

But, please start at the beginning of an arc. Otherwise, you’ll be lost.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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