Deathstroke #49 – Priest, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Oclair Albert, Vicente Cifuentes, Inkers; Jeromy Cox, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: For over three years now, Priest has been weaving a long-form suspense story about murder, espionage, and dysfunctional families through this title, leading up to Deathstroke #49, and, ultimately, the finale in Deathstroke #50, the double-sized series finale. Since we’re so close to that ending, it’s not a surprise that the title isn’t slowing down at all. Instead, Priest delivers a brutal penultimate issue that finally gives us the showdown we’ve all been waiting for – between father and son.
Jericho has been corrupted by Lex Luthor, going so far as to brainwash his lover to keep him from leaving. Slade, meanwhile, has been resurrected – twice over, both as a morally complex younger version and an unambiguously evil older version. We saw the latter kill Rose’s husband Hosun last issue, and now he’s going to hunt down the rest of his connections to his former life – starting with his ex-wife Adeline. Before he can get to her, Wintergreen shows up to set the final showdown into play.
This has ultimately been a family story, albeit a highly tragic one, and by the time Slade and Jericho are reunited, this issue has transformed into a high-stakes and high-altitude combat. Things can get a little confusing at times, as the reveal that the evil Slade is from the multiverse is just dropped into the issue with relatively little prelude, but Fernando Pasarin’s visuals in the fight above Earth’s orbit are among the best of the entire series. Slade raised Jericho and set the sequence of events that created him into motion, and Deathstroke #49 is the issue where he finally reaps his “reward”. By the end, the real Slade has returned for a final battle with his doppelganger, but it’ll be hard for the final issue to top this issue’s emotional gut punch. Reading this comic issue by issue can be a little challenging due to how dense it is, but I think the entire fifty-issue run is going to go down as a true DC masterpiece.
Corrina: As I was watching HBO’s Watchmen, the only comparison I could draw to that dense, complex, morally grey show was Priest’s run on Deathstroke. Everything in every panel usually matters, sometimes a great deal, to the storytelling so the reader has always had to pay careful attention–because Priest will always use what he’s set up.
He does give the reader a bit of a break in Deathstroke #49 by having Joey monologue about what has gone before. In the hands of another creative team, this would feel like setup. But Deathstroke #49 isn’t set-up at all, it’s Joey coming to grasps with the foul choices he’s made and maybe will continue to make, especially concering his father or the reasonable facsimile of his father.
The art in those space sequences is chilling–the reader can practically feel the cold seeping in, and how the art manages to show Joey’s mood with a costume that covers his whole face is a mystery to me but it does.
Obviously, the series will end with a familiar Slade back. And, hopefully, Joey will try to make the right choices again, though Rose’s fate seems the most uncertain. But what I know for certain is that the finale will leave readers pondering a whole lot of questions about the line between villains and heroes.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.