Review – Deathstroke #45: Under the Mask

Deathstroke #45 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Deathstroke #45 – Priest, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Jason Paz, Wade Von Grawbadger, Inkers; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Rise and Fall of the Children

Ray: Deathstroke is dead. We all saw that pretty conclusively last issue, when the villain community gathered to bury him and his family dealt with their grief in messed-up ways. So who’s running around in Deathstroke’s costume tracking down the last target he didn’t finish in Deathstroke #45? This is a brilliant issue that deals with the devastating consequences not just of Slade’s death but of the way he lived – and particularly how it continues to rip apart the lives of his living kids. The person under the mask – using a padded suit to mimic’s Slade’s muscles, I imagine – is the teenage Rose, trying to exorcise her grief and her own guilt over her past sins by finishing her father’s job – taking out an accused war criminal. Along the way she encounters fellow Assassin Shado, who is out to claim the bounty for herself – and in the process exposes her own daughter, Emiko, as the one who killed Slade and kicked this plot off. This is still unfortunately the overtly villainized Shado, but Priest at least writes it well.

Less obviously self-destructive but no less messed up is Jericho, who at first seems to have gotten his life together. He’s in a new relationship, his first functional one since he lost Etienne, and the banter between him and his deaf boyfriend – who is planning to propose – is clever and charming. At least, it is until Joey’s old life comes calling and he wastes no time choosing his blood family over the man who loves him. Not a cheery book to read just as Pride month ends, but it’s one of the best depictions of a relationship ending I’ve read in a while – it doesn’t lay blame, just shows that sometimes priorities diverge too much. The confrontation between Rose and Joey is brutal, dismantling one of the last few functioning relationships Slade left in his wake – and it leads to deadly consequences for one of his kids. That’s where the Year of the Villain branding comes into play, as Luthor shows up to make an offer to someone in desperate need of a savior. I hope the event doesn’t take over because this series is gold as it is.

Deathstroke on the hunt. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: In most series, if you kill off the main character, there’s little left for a story. But the brilliance of Priest’s run is that while it’s always revolved around Deathstroke and his inability to find redemption, now that he’s dead, it still revolves around his inability to find redemption.

Because what he’s left in his wake are two dysfunctional young adults who have a dysfunctional but loving bond with each other. Adeline certainly bears some of the blame for Joseph’s issues and it’s not like Rose had a stable home life on her mother’s side either, but it’s Slade’s specter that drives their actions now. It all works because Rose and Joseph have always been a significant part of this series about the world’s best assassin and the world’s worst father.

However, I am becoming a bit tired of the lack forward motion in Rose’s arc. The ending of her perhaps being possessed by an assassin’s spirit was not satisfying and now she’s ping-ponging back to villainy of a sort, and cannot see any reason whatsoever to re-order her life.

Joe’s decisions have the classic feel of a tragedy about them, where he can’t quite escape the pull of family.

Now if we can only get the new Power Girl back.

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

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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