By Dustin Cabeal
Hands down Deathstroke is DC’s best title. I say that with no remorse for the rest of their line because if the rest of their line were half as good as Deathstroke, I would be an avid reader. As it stands, Deathstroke is a title I rush to read and let me tell you, that hasn’t happened for a very long time. Especially with a DC comic.
The last issue was a standalone story and utterly brilliant. The twelfth issue of Deathstroke starts a new storyline or as the cover says, “A new hunt begins.” It dawned on me that the reason this series is working out so well is that it’s embracing the criminal nature that would come with this world. Villains doing business with each other and backstabbing each other in order not to get caught or keep their code of business intact. We see evidence of that not once, not twice, but three times in this issue alone.
The first is at the beginning in which Slade visits Pat and lets her know he’s not going to kill Luis, but that he expects him to come after him again and then he will kill him. He shows mercy with a clause. There’s also another big story element revealed here, but I’ll leave it for you to discover.
I’m not going to talk about the third instance since it’s at the end of the comic, but it was my favorite scene in the issue. It’s very quotable and will stay with me for a long time. The second instance is the explanation of how Slade got out of jail. The Red Lion shows up again and busts him out because Slade owes him a favor from the first arc of the series. It goes both ways essentially in that these two hold grudges, but they pay each other back with hardship rather than death. They find each other much more useful alive than dead which is a great trait for a criminal.
Even though this is the best DC book out there, you couldn’t just copy and paste the way Priest writes or tells the story and have it work for every book. You could, however, put as much thought into the characters, the supporting cast and the history of the character. Priest constantly adds to Slade’s history, and it makes sense because he’s lived a full and long life. He would have all these dangling threads to pull or add from, and that’s something a lot of the DC titles could do better. Acknowledge that these characters have lived, not necessarily all 70 years, but 20, 30 even 40 years depending on the character isn’t unrealistic.
The art is impressive. It’s also strangely old school in that there’s Larry Hama on breakdowns, Joe Bennett on pencils, Mark Morales on inks and Jeromy Cox on color. Not to mention Willie Schubert as the letterer and it just has this old-school collaboration that you rarely see in modern comics. Maybe they should go back to it because it fucking works. Not only does this look and feel like a comic should, but its visual storytelling is as much a part of the story as Priest’s writing. The team is impressive together as a whole, and that’s becoming rarer and rarer in superhero comics.
What blows me away about this series is that other than Deathstroke it’s using D to Z list characters and still better than all the other books in DC’s lineup (I would even argue better than Marvel’s line up). It’s all about the storytelling and the collaboration and maybe the fact that Priest has tapped into the bloodstream of comics that’s been missed for so long or covered in gimmicks. Every time I pick up Deathstroke, it feels like the first time I picked up a comic as a kid, as a teen, and as an adult. It hits the nostalgia of all three moments in life, and that’s just remarkable for someone that’s more than likely defined as “jaded” in other people’s opinions. What’s even crazier… I’m not even a past fan of Priest’s work… this series is the first time I’m reading something he’s written, and he and the art team are killing it.
Breakdowns: Larry Hama
Penciler: Joe Bennett
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Willie Schubert
Publisher: DC Comic