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: Deathstroke, Vol. 2: God Killer

Published: March 1st, 2016
Written by: Tony Salvador Daniel
Art by: Tony Salvador Daniel

DC Comics, 134 Pages

Review:

Hands down, this is one of the coolest and most fun Deathstroke comics that I have ever read. Kudos to Tony S. Daniel for crafting something so damn energetic and enjoyable!

The story follows Deathstroke, as he is given a special weapon that has the power to essentially kill a god. It also controls its wielder and can change shape and morph into whatever is needed to win the battle. Slade is sent to Wonder Woman’s island and tricked into resurrecting an evil god that can bring destruction to the world.

Initially, he gets into fights with Wonder Woman and Superman, while using his new, magical weapon, but the three figure out that they had better work together if they’re going to bring this evil god down.

The story is very mythological based, which is kind of neat for a Deathstroke tale. It goes into new and exciting territory and also pairs him up with two iconic heroes that he seldomly interacts with. Within this story, I like the dynamic of the three working together and it feels like DC’s holy “Trinity” but with a darker, harder edge.

This is fantastical, action packed and badass.

On top of that, Daniel’s art is superb and I like his style quite a bit.

Man, this was just a blast and it completely caught me off guard.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of the 2014-2016 Deathstroke run, as well as the Christopher Priest era that followed.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 1: Gods of War

Published: June 23rd, 2015
Written by: Tony Salvador Daniel
Art by: Tony Salvador Daniel

DC Comics, 125 Pages

Review:

I enjoyed Christopher Priest’s fifty-issue run on Deathstroke, which just ended a few months back. I recently went back and read The New 52 era stuff at its beginning because I wanted to delve into more of the character in recent history.

That series was pretty shitty and a letdown, especially since I was interested in seeing Rob Liefeld’s take on the character due to his most famous character, Deadpool, being a parody of Deathstroke.

Where this series takes place is wedged between The New 52 and Priest’s era, which makes it the most recent run on the Deathstroke character before Priest took over.

Overall, this was a badass read and I really liked this story and how it sets everything up for the three other volumes that follow. It’ll also be interesting seeing how it sets the stage for Priest’s lengthy stretch.

This series is written and drawn by Tony Daniel, a guy who is pretty good at both. Honestly, I’ve always dug the guy’s work and out of everything I’ve read and looked at over the years, this is in his upper echelon.

The story focuses on Deathstroke’s family, which is a major plot point that carries over into the Priest run. In addition to his kids, however, this arc features his father and delves into Deathstroke’s backstory, filling in some blanks and letting you know the type of man he was created by.

Deathstroke’s father is the primary villain of this story but there are other characters who all seem to be on their own side and ready for a double cross at any moment. It’ll be interesting to see how some of these threads resolve themselves over the later chapters.

In the end, this was a really enjoyable and invigorating start to this Deathstroke run. I put off reading it because The New 52 run bored me to tears. But I’m glad to see that the Deathstroke title seems to be in good hands for this specific series.

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: Crisis On Infinite Earths

Published: 1985-1986
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: George Perez

DC Comics, 359 Pages

Review:

Crisis On Infinite Earths is one of DC Comics’ sacred cows. Yet, I’ve never had much urge to read it because my experience reading massive DC Comics crossovers has never been that great.

But now I have read it because I felt like it was long overdue and because this is a storyline that is referenced a lot, still to this day, thirty-five years later.

The first problem with this story might be apparent by the number of tags at the top of this post. It’s overloaded with so many characters that it is mostly a convoluted clusterfuck of biblical proportions.

In fact, this post may be the record holder for the number of tags I had to add to it. And frankly, that’s not all the characters, just the ones I know because two-thirds of the characters here are generic one-offs or so minute to the DC universe that they aren’t worth noting.

Now I know that some people love the splash pages from this series, as they showcase dozens (if not over a hundred) different characters all in one giant image. If I’m being honest, I’ve always disliked them and they are why I never really wanted to read this. Most of the action is minimal and many of these scenes are just characters standing around. They lack the energy that a splash page needs and look more like they belong in a Where’s Waldo? book. And I don’t say that to come off as a dick because I almost always love George Perez’s art. This just seems like DC management telling Perez to squeeze in as many characters as artistically possible. It’s hard on the eyes and it’s shit.

Another big problem with this twelve issue story arc is that every moment feels larger than life. Well, when everything is so big and grandiose, that becomes normal and status quo. You can’t possibly go bigger and with everything being so big from start to finish, none of it is memorable. It’s just a busy, stressful read without allowing the reader to catch their breath and reflect on what’s happened. It’s kind of like a Michael Bay movie. Throw so much intense shit at the audience, don’t let them stop and think and they’ll just move from point A to point B to point C and so on, forgetting everything that happened two points prior.

This event was made in an effort to sort of reset the DC universe. Honestly, all it does is make a giant fucking mess of things and splatters the mess all over everything it touches.

The plot doesn’t make sense, I’m not sure what exactly changed and with so many universes crashing together into one, it’s not properly organized and then re-established in any sort of way that a reader can follow. If this was supposed to be a jumping on point for readers in 1986, I don’t know how they made sense out of any of it and then knew which characters to follow.

The main reason for the previous sentence is that this is so overloaded with people that you don’t get to really know any of them. There is no character development and this is written in a way that it assumes the reader knows all about every character in the story. For a seasoned comic book reader like myself, who has been reading comics for three and a half decades, I was lost and didn’t know who half of the low tier characters were.

Crisis On Infinite Earths should have been written as a Justice League story with some inclusion of the Fawcett Comics characters and the Golden Age DC heroes. All the third tier and lower characters could have made cameos but even then, they don’t really need to.

I really hoped that this was going to pleasantly surprise me but it hurt my head.

It was too much, too big and too long.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: mid-’80s DC Comics titles, as well as all the other massive DC crossover events.

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, Vol. 2: Lobo Hunt

Published: December 14th, 2010
Written by: Rob Liefeld, Justin Jordan
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Art Thibert, various

DC Comics, 266 Pages

Review:

I guess this came out in a time where I wasn’t paying close attention to new comics. Because I would’ve been on board for Rob Liefeld’s take on Deathstroke, especially since his most famous creation, Dead Pool, was done as a sort of parody of the character.

But, man. Having read this now, I kind of wish I never knew about it.

I hate to be harsh but the writing was a disjointed mess that was all over the f’n place. Plus, this collection doesn’t finish Liefeld’s story! It ends on a cliffhanger where Deathstroke and Hawkman are about to fight a horde of evil hawk dudes and then you turn the page and it’s a totally different story.

I mean, what the fuck, DC? Was the Hawkman story a crossover? Where’s the rest of that story? You just jump right past it and into another arc done by a completely different creative team. And frankly, the second half of this book should have just been a volume three, as it is drastically different than the Liefeld stuff that’s left incomplete.

This collection is garbage. It’s poorly organized, its a total clusterfuck narratively and tonally due to the creative team change midway through.

Honestly, this is only worth checking out if you are a Liefeld die hard. And even then, you’ll still be disappointed.

Although, I should mention that I thought it was neat that Liefeld utilized Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. characters, as they’ve pretty much faded away into oblivion since Lee sold them to DC.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: the Deathstroke collection before this one and then the other New 52 stuff after it.

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.