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: The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

Published: January 31st, 1984 – June 30th, 1984
Written by: George Perez, Marv Wolfman
Art by: George Perez, Romeo Tanghal

DC Comics, 192 Pages

Review:

This is one of the biggest stories in Teen Titans history. Many say that this is the biggest and best tale. I haven’t read this since around 1990 or so but I loved it back then. But does it measure up for me now, decades later, and no longer having an elementary school level brain?

Yes!

In fact, I enjoyed this now much more than I did as a kid where some of the emotional weight of the plot didn’t have as much context. I also don’t think that I was mature enough to really understand this very human tragedy and the significance of the characters’ relationships and trials.

The only down side of this collected edition was the inclusion of the Brother Blood story. I know that it is tied in to the bigger picture and is also sandwiched by Robin and Kid Flash leaving the Titans and then the actual four-part Judas Contract storyline but it just feels like filler wedged in. But it isn’t a complete waste of time as it helps to develop Terra and also adds more depth to Dick Grayson’s transformation from Robin into Nightwing.

And yes, this story is the first appearance of Nightwing, which makes it even cooler, as Nightwing is one of my all-time favorite characters, even if his earliest outfit was a bit goofy.

The biggest theme in this story is betrayal and it manifests nicely, which is due to the skill of writers George Perez and Marv Wolfman. In a lot of ways, it feels like this story was a major influence on Marvel’s New Mutants stories several years later, especially when the team started to grow into adults and started to question their place in the world.

The absolute highlight for me is Deathstroke. Here, he was still mostly referred to as the Terminator. The name sort of got phased out after the success of the unrelated Terminator film series that kicked off just after this story arc.

Deathstroke was still a complete and total villain when this tale was written. It introduces members of his family though and if you are reading the current Deathstroke comic series, a lot of these characters are relevant again and this story arc is good for adding more context to Deathstroke’s current run.

This may be a comic book about a bunch of teens but it is more adult than most of the adult heroes’ books from the same era. Honestly, I forgot about how hard of an edge the old school Teen Titans stories had.

If you are a fan of any of the characters in this book, this is definitely a must read.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The most current run of Deathstroke, as they share a lot of the same characters and plot threads related to Deathstroke’s personal life and family.

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: The Silencer: Code of Honor

Published: January 31st, 2018
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: John Romita Jr., Sandra Hope, Dean V. White, various

DC Comics, 159 Pages

Review:

I’m just going to put this out there to start this review: I was blown away by this story and this is one of the greatest comics I have read in the last several years.

That being said, it only takes one mediocre writer to completely screw this thing up and apparently, this comic is getting a new writer starting at issue number 8. But I will cross that bridge when I get to it, even though it’s only about a month away.

This review covers the first six issues, which will be collected and sold as Code of Honor in a month or two or however long it takes for trade paperbacks to come out these days. I read this story arc by picking up the single issues, as I heard this was great and I didn’t want to wait. Plus, this doesn’t sell that well and tracking down all the issues was rather easy. This should sell well though, it’s certainly better than 99.9 percent of the bullshit on the stands, right now.

The story has a Kill Bill vibe to it. The main character, who goes by the name Honor Guest, is an ex-assassin that used to do dirt for Talia al Ghul (Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter). Everyone in the underworld knows her as the Silencer but she’s been out for several years and has since lived a normal life, got married and had a kid. But her past comes knocking on her door and before she’s even ready, she’s suited up, guns blazing, trying to protect her new life and family.

This isn’t a typical superhero comic. Although it is cool that it is directly tied to characters we know like Talia al Ghul and Deathstroke, who is also flung into this situation.

Jon Romita Jr.’s art is top notch and I love his style. This has a gritty pulp feel and it doesn’t look like a typical DC book but it also isn’t so far outside of the box that it doesn’t fit in well with their current general style.

Dan Abnett has done a stupendous job writing this book. I’m not happy that he’s going to be replaced by Patrick Zircher, almost immediately after this string of issues but I’ll stick with it unless it really gets terrible. I’m not a big Zircher fan but that doesn’t mean I dislike his writing, it’s just that nothing has jumped out at me yet.

Anyway, looking at this story arc as one body of work, The Silencer: Code of Honor is magnificent.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Recent DC Comics runs on DeathstrokeSuicide Squad and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Film Review: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017)

Release Date: March 31st, 2017 (WonderCon)
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Ernie Altbacker
Based on: The Judas Contract by Marv Wolfman, George Perez
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Cast: Stuart Allan, Taissa Farmiga, Brandon Soo Hoo, Jake T. Austin, Kari Wahlgren, Sean Maher, Christina Ricci, Miguel Ferrer, Gregg Henry, Meg Foster, David Zayas, Kevin Smith (cameo as himself)

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, 84 Minutes

Review:

“They prepared well. Their reaction time is much better.” – Robin, “Robin, stop complimenting the bad guys.” – Nightwing

I don’t watch a lot of the animated films that DC Comics puts out but it was hard for me to not check out an adaptation of The Judas Contract, as it was a story I loved when I was reading Teen Titans as a kid in the ’80s. Granted, I haven’t read it since the ’80s but it was my introduction to one of my all-time favorite characters, Deathstroke.

And yes, Deathstroke is a big part of this, which was a big selling point for me.

This film starts with a sequence that sees Starfire meet the Titans for the first time. It then fast forwards to a time where she is in charge and Dick Grayson has been off being Nightwing for awhile. Dick comes back and works with this new version of the team. However, one team member is a spy for the villains of the story, one of which is Deathstroke.

I love how all of the characters were used in this and I also loved that there was a bit of profanity and a level of violence that lets you know that this isn’t a cartoon for kids. I guess this is the norm with a lot of the DC animated feature films now, which is kind of cool considering that I’m an adult that has grown up watching these characters for decades but am too old to really dig a Saturday morning cartoon at my age.

The voice acting was well done, the action was solid and the script was really good. You felt for these characters and their struggles.

You also get to see a cameo by Kevin Smith playing himself in the animated DC universe.

I was happy with this and am glad that I gave it a shot. Honestly, it’s made me want to check out some of the other animated features by DC.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other recent DC Comics animated features.

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.