Published: October 17th, 2017 Written by: Marv Wolfman Art by: Steve Erwin, Will Blyberg, Art Nichols
DC Comics, 257 Pages
I was really high up on this series after reading the first two volumes. Sadly, this one was a big step down and I’m hoping it was just a minor hiccup, as I continue to read on beyond this one.
I think the big issue with this was that Marv Wolfman felt the need to crossover Deathstroke with the Teen Titans, as the anti-hero has had a deep connection with those characters since he debuted in their comic a decade before this.
However, in this era, the Teen Titans title had gotten really weird and the team was full of a bunch of D-team noobs undeserving of their spots, at least in my opinion.
That being said, this collection of issues was a clusterfuck and that mainly has to do with this just collecting the Deathstroke issues within a larger crossover story. Additionally, this tacks on a completely unrelated story at the end, which was just chapters taken from the Showcase anthology series.
Overall, this just felt like a bunch of random ass shit thrown into one beefy, double-sized trade paperback because they needed to dump it all somewhere.
Hopefully, volume four doesn’t do this and it gets back to kicking proper ass.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.
Published: 2005-2006 Written by: Geoff Johns Art by: Phil Jimenez
DC Comics, 241 Pages
I hated Crisis On Infinite Earths but I had hoped that this more modern version of it would’ve been more to my liking. I guess it is better but not by much because it falls victim to the same bullshit.
It’s overloaded with characters to the point that it’s difficult to follow and it just becomes a mega clusterfuck, trying to be larger than life while wedging a fuck ton of characters into double splash pages.
DC likes doing these big events that try to “reset” the multiverse and all they do is become overly complicated messes that ignore their own established rules because new writers don’t have time to read the old stuff or pay attention to it. In Geoff Johns’ defense, the event this is a spiritual sequel to was a convoluted shitstorm, so I don’t blame him for paying it no real mind.
If I’m going to try and look at the positives, there is really only one: the art by Phil Jimenez. It’s spectacular and it is lively and even if I don’t enjoy the story, it’s hard not to get caught up in the absolute beauty of Jimenez’s work. It’s stunning and even on those overcrowded splash pages, he fills the space magnificently and dynamically.
Apart from that, there’s not much to say. This isn’t as messy as its predecessor but it is still an over-sized shit meatball.
Rating: 5/10 – because of the art more than anything else. Pairs well with: other massive DC Comics events that are overloaded with characters.
Published: 1983-1984 (original single issues run) Written by: Marv Wolfman Art by: Keith Polland, George Perez, various
DC Comics, 318 Pages
I remember seeing copies of the Vigilante on shelves and in long boxes back in the day when I used to spend every dollar of my allowance on comics. I never knew much about the character other than he always had comics with striking covers. At the time, I think I just assumed he was one of a million Punisher or Deathstroke ripoffs and never really gave him a shot. But now that I am an adult with some disposable income, I wanted to see what was beyond the great covers that always adorned this comic book series.
Seeing that Marv Wolfman created the character and wrote this series was a big selling point, as this came out when Wolfman was writing some of his best work. I’m primarily talking about his run on The New Teen Titans, which is also where Vigilante debuted – in the second annual, to be exact.
This collection starts with that first appearance and then collects the first 11 issues of the Vigilante comic.
I guess the thing that’s most cool about Vigilante is that while the hero is a gun carrying vigilante out for justice in an effort to correct a flawed system, his backstory certainly isn’t cookie cutter. While he loses his family in a similar way to Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher, it’s almost as if he is a cross between Castle and Harvey Dent. Although, he luckily avoids getting half of his face melted off with acid.
The Vigilante is Adrian Chase, an attorney that has tried to stop the mob for years but constantly sees a corrupt legal system fail, again and again. The murder of his family is the final straw. But his origin, once you get to that issue, is really weird and even has some mystical elements to it.
The Vigilante is probably the best good guy out of all the other characters that embody the “vigilante” trope. While he breaks the law, trying to uphold the law, he is often times at odds with himself and second guessing his tactics. After the first 11 issues of his series, he’s still not settled on what way is the right way or if he’s even doing what’s best for society.
There are a lot of layers and Marv Wolfman gave us a really dynamic series here. Frankly, this is vastly underappreciated and sadly, mostly forgotten.
Adrian Chase got new life in modern times as a character on the TV show Arrow but that incarnation was called Prometheus and he was a straight up villain out to make Green Arrow suffer.
If you like these type of characters, this will most assuredly be a refreshing read for you. It is not a retread of dozens of similar characters. It’s a unique take on the genre and it’s much more intelligent than most of the titles you can compare it to.
Plus, the art is strikingly beautiful and the Vigilante has a really cool costume that’s one part retro and two parts badass.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: Marv Wolfman’s run on The New Teen Titans, as well as ’80s stories featuring Deathstroke.
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
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.
Published: April 24th, 2018 Written by: Christopher Priest Art by: Diogenes Neves, Carlos Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Larry Hama
DC Comics, 132 Pages
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.
Published: January 31st, 1984 – June 30th, 1984 Written by: George Perez, Marv Wolfman Art by: George Perez, Romeo Tanghal
DC Comics, 192 Pages
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?
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.
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
“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.