Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 4: Family Business

Published: December 20th, 2016
Written by: James Bonny, Phil Hester, Christopher Priest
Art by: Tyler Kirkham

DC Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

This is the conclusion to the Deathstroke run that happened before DC’s Rebirth. This series started with Tony S. Daniel writing and doing the art. However, this finale was written by James Bonny, who came in at the end of the previous volume.

Even with a change in writers, this stayed consistently good throughout and it helps bring a satisfying end to the story of Slade Wilson trying to rebuild his relationship with his children Rose and Jericho.

This picks up right where the previous volume ended, as it ended on a cliffhanger.

This also features a subplot with Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins, who involve themselves in Slade’s war with Lawman, Snakebite and Victor Ruiz. With Ra’s, we are given a big plot twist, as he’s always got deception up his sleeve. Both Ra’s al Ghul and Deathstroke leave this story with their lives but it sets up a real blood feud between the two villain heavyweights.

There are also cameos by Red Hood and Batman. The Clock King shows up in the last issue collected in this volume, which is actually the first Deathstroke issue of the Rebirth era. Needless to say, this ends leading right into Christopher Priest’s lengthy run on this character.

In the end, I really liked this series a lot, even more so than Priest’s, which I found to be mostly great.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the rest of the 2014-2016 Deathstroke run, as well as the Christopher Priest era that followed.

Comic Review: Titans: The Lazarus Contract

Published: November 14th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest, Benjamin Percy, Dan Abnett
Art by: Brett Booth, Larry Hama, Phil Hester, Carlo Pagulayan, Paul Pelletier, Khoi Pham, Norm Rapmund

DC Comics, 132 Pages

Review:

I’ve read the entirety of Christopher Priest’s fifty-issue run on Deathstroke, which just finished, actually. So I did read his two issues that were part of this larger crossover arc but I missed the Titans and Teen Titans parts, as I wasn’t pulling those titles at my local comic shop. So this is the first time I’ve read this story in its entirety, which I should’ve done earlier as it would’ve added more context to the Deathstroke series, as a whole.

This is sort of a spiritual sequel to the famous The Judas Contract storyline from the Teen Titans comics in the ’80s while also connecting to the events of Deathstroke’s first appearance in The New Teen Titans issue 2 from 1980.

Here, Deathstroke wants to go back in time to save his son Ravager a.k.a. Grant Wilson. He blames the Titans for the death due to their involvement in the event, even though they’re not really responsible. So after learning about the Speed Force and its ability to send speedsters through time, he harvests that power from Kid Flash after winning over his trust.

That being said, we get a speedster Deathstroke, which is just really f’n cool!

Anyway, the story starts off with a bang and it brings in both the Teen Titans and adult Titans teams to deal with the threat. While it focuses mainly on a close knit group of main characters, all the others do get involved but mostly stay in the background, only adding their two cents when its needed to advance the plot or give a larger perspective.

However, even though the management of characters is well handled initially, this does become more of a convoluted mess as it gets towards the end. It just feels like there is too much going on and despite this having a lot of characters, it starts out feeling like a smaller, personal story.

Overall, this is still pretty good and all three writers (Christopher Priest, Dan Abnett and Benjamin Percy) did a good job working together.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the old Teen Titans story The Judas Contract, as well as Deathstroke/Teen Titans: The Terminus Agenda.

Comic Review: Deathstroke/Teen Titans: The Terminus Agenda

Published: March 6th, 2019 – May 15th, 2019
Written by: Christopher Priest, Adam Glass
Art by: various

DC Comics, 160 Pages

Review:

I really enjoyed the Batman Vs. Deathstroke story arc from last year, which was really a plot that tied Damian Wayne a.k.a. the current Robin together with Deathstroke, as there was the question as to who was Damian’s real father: Batman or Deathstroke.

This story builds off of Damian and Deathstroke’s relationship and issues from that previous plot but it also pulls in the rest of Damian’s Teen Titans teammates in a way that vilifies Damian in their eyes.

Here, Deathstroke gets captured by Damian but you soon learn that it’s all part of Deathstroke’s plan, as it exposes Damian’s fascist nature and his secret prison that he is keeping to hold other supervillains. The other Teen Titans don’t know about it but this blows the door wide open, making them distrust Damian and splintering the team.

What’s best about the story is that this isn’t resolved and Deathstroke succeeds in his plan.

Additionally, people may remember the recent Civil War II event by Marvel where the young Ms. Marvel was unconstitutionally imprisoning people and how there was backlash because her tyranny was never properly examined and certainly didn’t come at a cost to her.

This storyline is similar but it looks at the truth of the matter and there are actual repercussions here. I’m not sure if this was done intentionally to screw with Marvel or not but Christopher Priest and Adam Glass penned a much better story than Civil War II and it also shows that DC cares about their characters… or at least these two writers do. But having read Priest’s entire run on Deathstroke, I’m already convinced that he is, by far, one of the best comic book writers in the business today.

I dug the hell out of this story. It actually even made me interested in the Teen Titans title, which I haven’t read in years. But then this is followed up with a Lobo story and I’m not too keen on Lobo.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent Deathstroke and Teen Titans arcs, especially Deathstroke Vs. Batman.

Comic Review: Deathstroke: Arkham

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – February 6th, 2019
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: various

DC Comics, 134 Pages

Review:

Christopher Priest’s run on Deathstroke has been legendary but I also feel that it doesn’t get enough credit and seems to barely get any fanfare. Priest just understands Slade Wilson, his dynamic with other characters in the DC Universe and really gives the character more depth and complexity.

Following the Deathstroke Vs. Batman storyline, this arc sees Deathstroke sent to Arkham Asylum. While there, a lot of strange things start happening. I don’t want to give away too much but this does feature a ton of classic Batman villains with a lot of time given to Two-Face and Dr. Hugo Strange.

This was a fun story arc that continues to build off of the work that Priest has given us on this title. While there are different artists working on the five issues that make up this plot, everything felt consistent and matches the tone of the series thus far.

There isn’t much else I can say that I haven’t already said in reviews of other installments of Priest’s Deathstroke run. This continues to be good; Priest hasn’t lost a step or slipped into a state of redundancy, which is common when a writer works on a comic book for more than a few years.

Deathstroke: Arkham continues the title character’s journey in such a rich and interesting way that fans of him should truly enjoy this series. It’s been my favorite lengthy run on the character since his original title Deathstroke, The Terminator. In fact, I want to go back and revisit that series to see how it compares to this one.

Sure, I have my own personal bias towards Deathstroke but this is one of the best comic books being written today. More people should be picking this up monthly.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other story arcs in the current Deathstroke title, as well as The Silencer and Suicide Squad.

Comic Review: Deathstroke Vs. Batman

Published: April 4th, 2018 – September 5th, 2018
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Jeremy Cox, various

DC Comics, 166 Pages

Review:

I was really looking forward to this six issue story arc that ran from Deathstroke issues 30 through 35. I have been reading Deathstroke since this current series started and have loved the writing of Christopher Priest.

Being that I really wanted to immerse myself in this story and wanted to binge it in one go, I didn’t read each issue, as they came out. Instead, I waiting till all six were in my hands and then sat down and made an evening out of it.

While I did enjoy the story, it also didn’t live up to the hype I gave it in my mind. Maybe the slow burn of the long wait was responsible for that but anytime Deathstroke and Batman share the same space, the ante has been upped for both characters.

The premise has to deal with who is the true biological father of Damian Wayne, the current Robin. This was a scheme used to pit Batman and Deathstroke against one another and I’m not going to spoil the reveal but it wasn’t as big of a deal as the setup made it to be. Also, some of the covers are a bit misleading, especially issue 33. But covers don’t really mean much as far as the actual story, they’re just a hook to lure you in.

Anyway, I loved the exploration of Deathstroke and Batman’s roles as fathers in the past. I also love how this really puts some focus on Damian Wayne and uses that to delve back into the tragedy of Tim Drake and the life of Jericho. There were a lot of cool parallels made between several characters all sharing the same theme.

Ultimately, this was still a good, solid read. I like where it takes Batman, Deathstroke and Damian.

I also really enjoyed the art but all the Priest Deathstroke stories have been top notch in both writing and art.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Deathstroke: Defiance and earlier Deathstroke stuff by Christopher Priest.

Comic Review: Deathstroke: Defiance – Conclusion

Published: December 6th, 2017 – January 31st, 2018
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Diogenes Neves, Sean Parsons, Jason Paz, John Trevor Scott, Jeromy Cox, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ryan Sook (cover)

DC Comics, 102 Pages

Review:

The first part of Defiance is collected in Deathstroke, Vol. 4 but the final three chapters (issues 26, 27 and the first annual) aren’t yet collected and I wanted to finish the story so I could review it without waiting months and forgetting the details of what came before it.

This was a story arc with a lot of promise and it directly calls back to the great Teen Titans classic story The Judas Contract. Unfortunately, this doesn’t live up to the old school tale, even if it exists as its long awaited sequel.

I feel like this long arc was a missed opportunity to try something new with Deathstroke and to sort of make a Teen Titans team with a harder edge. In a lot of ways it mirrors how Cable came into the New Mutants and turned them into the much more adult X-Force. It’s kind of funny, considering that the Cable/New Mutants/X-Force plot was heavily influenced by The Judas Contract.

I did enjoy this but there was a lot of build up to this tale and it fell flat in the end. This leads into the short Chinatown story, which also didn’t cut the mustard for me, and then the Deathstroke Vs. Batman arc after that.

I’ve invested a lot of time (and money) into this series but now the build up to the Defiance team’s formation was just discarded and for what?

I know that some of the plot points here will circle back to be addressed later but the way things go here, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen in the Deathstroke title, it could just branch back out into the Teen Titans books or maybe a new Power Girl series, if one is on DC’s docket.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Deathstroke: Defiance and Deathstroke Vs. Batman.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 4: Defiance

Published: April 24th, 2018
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Diogenes Neves, Carlos Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Larry Hama

DC Comics, 132 Pages

Review:

This is the biggest storyline so far in the current Deathstroke series. It sees Deathstroke try to further atone for his past sins while becoming the leader of a new group he has formed with his children and a few former Teen Titans.

Also, Deathstroke and his team wear some pretty cool looking black and white costumes.

This has been the biggest and most popular story in the most recent and ongoing Deathstroke series. So once I got to this volume, I was really excited to jump in, especially with all the plot threads leading up to it being fresh in my mind. There are several characters that this series is trying to balance but it has done a good job, so far, of keeping things moving and flowing properly.

And sure, Deathstroke is often times overshadowed by other characters in his own series but it all ties directly to him and his journey since the current series started.

The biggest problem with this chapter, however, is that it doesn’t wrap up within this volume. The Defiance team’s story carries over into what will be the next installment, which isn’t released for a few more months. I’d like to jump into it while this is all fresh but I guess I’ll have to pickup a few of the single issues I’m missing to fill the few holes in my collection.

What I like about this though, is that it feels like a throwback to Cable coming into New Mutants and eventually forming X-Force. There are some parallels to it and it makes this feel like something I would have read in the early ’90s when I was first getting into comics at a deeper level.

This is capped off by a story that sort of interjects itself into the Defiance plot and forces the series to switch gears momentarily. But that story was really cool and pits Slade Wilson against several of DC’s top villains who are trying to test if he has turned over a new leaf or if he is still “evil” at his core.

This was a good collection but it leaves you hanging.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Deathstroke stories since DC’s Rebirth. Also, the current runs on Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 3: Twilight

Published: October 17th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Joe Bennett, Jason Paz, Larry Hama, Norm Rapmund

DC Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

Deathstroke is at it again. What do I mean by that? Well, he is back to being a hardcore badass. Not that he ever wasn’t a hardcore badass. He’s always been a hardcore badass. But here, he continues being a hardcore badass and even if he isn’t the sole focal point of his post-Rebirth series, he still takes over the pages that he’s on.

That being said, I don’t mind that he sometimes feels like a co-star in his own series, as everything happening in these books is tied into Deathstroke and is all leading towards something bigger. Or, at least, that’s what this build feels like.

A big portion of this story has to do with Slade Wilson meeting Tanya Spears, the young girl that took on the name of Power Girl, after the original Power Girl left. This serves to setup the Defiance storyline, which is the one directly following this arc. Tanya is a big part of that story, as are many of the other people this book focuses on.

While this feels like it is a filler story, if you’ve been paying attention to this series, thus far, there are a lot of clues and things that are dropped throughout this. It also resolves a few minor plot points and builds on the love and tension between the core characters, mainly Slade and his children, Rose and Joseph.

The highlight of this book though is the introduction of Tanya, how she saves Slade and then works as his ally until a plot twist comes into play.

In the end, this is a good volume in the current Deathstroke series. I haven’t been let down by this series yet.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Deathstroke stories since DC’s Rebirth. Also, the current runs on Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 2: The Gospel of Slade

Published: July 11th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Denys Cowan, Cary Nord, Jason Paz, Bill Sienkiewicz

DC Comics, 139 Pages

Review:

This collection of Deathstroke single issues picks up right where the first volume left off.

This current series of Deathstroke isn’t just about the man himself, it is also about two of his children: Rose Wilson a.k.a. Ravager and Joseph Wilson a.k.a. Jericho. It also seems to marrying the three characters’ plots together, as they’re all going to converge for something bigger down the road.

This book also treats us to a showdown between Slade Wilson and Superman aboard a naval ship. Slade uses his cunning to outwit Superman in an attempt to accomplish his mission. Superman has been guilted into taking Deathstroke down but this really just creates some interesting scenarios and some good scenes in regards to Superman and how he can be manipulated because of his good nature.

This also brings the Red Lion back into the story, who I really like in this Deathstroke series. I hope he continues to have a role or an influence over the series as it progresses. We also get an appearance from Jack Ryder a.k.a. The Creeper in the one issue story Chicago, which this collection concludes with. That story went on to help this entire ongoing series to receive an Eisner Award nomination.

It’s hard to talk too much about the plot of this book without ruining it and I don’t want to do that. I love Deathstroke and this latest series is the series he deserves. It’s pretty damn good and it seems to only be getting better.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Deathstroke stories since DC’s Rebirth. Also, the current runs on Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 1: The Professional

Published: March 14th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: James Bennett, Belardino Brabo, Mark Morales, Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Larry Hama

DC Comics, 143 Pages

Review:

I started reading some of the modern Deathstroke stuff recently. Being that I felt like I needed to have the earlier stories in his current run to have a better grip on what was happening, I decided to go back and start with the first collection of Deathstroke issues since the start of DC’s Rebirth.

This was an interesting book and it showed me how far the character of Deathstroke has come since I used to read about him in the ’80s and ’90s. Plus, it really helped to give me more context as to where he fits in the DC Comics universe now.

This collection has two stories in it. One of them sends Deathstroke to an exotic country where he must deal with double crosses and twists. He also comes face to face with supervillain, the Clock King. The second story takes Deathstroke and his daughter Rose to Gotham City. We see them get tangled up with Batman and the modern Robin, Damian Wayne. I feel like there are some hints or Easter eggs here that will come back in the current ongoing story arc, Deathstroke Vs. Batman. But I won’t read that until the final two issues come out.

I really liked this volume in the current Deathstroke run. I’ve always liked the character and it seems like the writer, Christopher Priest, has a good grasp on who Slade Wilson is. The stuff with Slade and his daughter was really well written.

I also though the art was damn good and liked seeing that Larry Hama worked on some of it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Deathstroke stories since DC’s Rebirth. Also, the current runs on Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.