Deathstroke #41 – Priest, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Cam Smith, Sean Parsons, Inkers; Jeromy Cox, Carrie Strachan, Colorists
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: The Murk Clears
Ray: Deathstroke #41 is the prequel issue to “The Terminus Agenda”, but don’t let that fool you – while the crossover with the awful Teen Titans will be kneecapping this book for the next few months, it doesn’t really affect this issue. Instead, this is another great issue of Slade’s solo book with a lot of fallout from the recent Arkham storyarc. Having killed several people who he believed were aliens in that mind-bending arc, Slade is now a wanted fugitive and has countless assassins coming out of the woodwork to take their shots at him. That’s where the issue kicks off, with a wild action segment taking place on a Gotham tour bus as Deathstroke and D-list supervillain Electrocutioner do battle. They both think the other one’s there to kill them, and neither one is exactly wrong. It’s equal parts action comedy and high-intensity spy thriller, which is the groove this title works best in. Slade is clearly not in a good place, and he’s seeking answers about a recent kill he was hired for – who seems to be an utterly harmless old woman.
That mystery leads him to team up with his daughter Rose for the first time in a while, as the two of them have been off on their own weird quests for almost a year. Rose has gotten the “Willow” monkey off her back and is a better warrior as a result, while Slade almost briefly displays some fatherly instincts.
But the real gem this issue is an extended back and forth between Wintergreen and the man putting the target on Slade’s back – Commissioner Gordon. One thing I really love about this run is the way Priest has given so much attention to the “old men” – Wintergreen, Alfred, and now Gordon. Gordon has deemed Slade a dangerous criminal, and Wintergreen doesn’t entirely disagree – but he also doesn’t think Batman is all that different. The thin line between superheroes and mercenaries has always been one of the fascinating parts of this book, and it looks like things will only get more ambiguous here. The reveal that Damian is the mastermind behind the current plot against Slade – meh. I’m hoping the upcoming crossover doesn’t kill this book’s quality streak.
Corrina: At some point, some of the mess in some parts of the rest of the DCU was going to affect this book. Let’s hope it doesn’t interfere too much because every other time Priest has written Batman and Damian has been gold.
In the meantime, I will enjoy the unexpected and wonderful conversation between Gordon and Wintergreen. Priest is good at showing that thin line between vigilante and mercenary but he’s also good at differentiating what the final difference is. In the end, Slade will kill a woman for a contract, even if he’s not sure it’s the right thing, while Batman will investigate and suspect, but never murder, an innocent. It’s a fine distinction but a clear one. But, then, this book is all about why Slade, whatever his intentions, cannot be anything but a villain.
Still, the narrative is best when he’s up against someone more powerful than he is and it looks like he might be over his head here. Hopefully, Damian is the one trying to bring him in, not the one who manipulated him into a murder. (Aside: Until recent issues, Damian doing something like this would have been out of the question. Lately? It’s hard to tell what DC is going to do with Damian Wayne.)
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.