In the days of old (i.e. when I was a kid), Deathstroke was one of the Teen Titans’ rogues gallery as he had blood ties to one of the young team’s members. In more recent DC continuity, Deathstroke has been a hitman and hired thug. I think of him like a negative version of Marvel Comics’ Captain America. Like the Cap, Deathstroke has enhanced speed, strength, reflexes, and mental abilities. Yet, instead of becoming a hero (or even a villain), Deathstroke merely rents his skills out to the highest bidder.
I’ve always loved Deathstroke as a villain but his role as a badass unstoppable killer is a little one-dimensional. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Deathstroke in his own title as part of DC Comics’ New 52 relaunch. Was the cold-blooded hitman enough to carry his own book? Well… let’s take a look at the #1 issue and find out.
[Warning: killer spoilers below.]
The issue opens on Deathstroke mid-mission in an assassination attempt on a Russian government official. Naturally the hit is as good as dead, despite his small platoon of heavily armed bodyguards. Writer Kyle Higgins wastes no time in establishing the fact that Deathstroke is a badass. He even goes so far as to flat-out say so by the third page. After setting up how powerful Deathstroke is, he’s promptly hired for a mission to take out a scientist who is selling nuclear secrets to Iran. The twist? Christoph, his handler, assigns him to work with a team of upstart special-ops called the Harm Armory (or Alpha Dogs depending on which member of the squad you ask). These greenhorn killers are undisciplined, cocky, and more of a hindrance than a help to Deathstroke.
As the mission progresses, Deathstroke does his thing by going after the target with minimal help from his team. In a too predictable plot twist, the target turns out to be quite different than it was described. Still, without missing a beat, Deathstroke takes out the hit anyway. During the job, Deathstroke is given a mysterious box and told that it is “a message”. The mission completed, Deathstroke cements his badass status by shooting his teammates in cold-blood claiming that he doesn’t work with “competition”. The issue closes with Deathstroke telling Christoph that he needs more jobs because whatever is in the box means that “they” think he’s gone soft. So what can we expect next issue? I would expect Deathstroke preening around and showing off that he’s DC’s badass villain while tracking down some banal and generic conspiracy.
Is there anything redeeming about this issue? Sure… the cover, by comic legend Simon Bisley, is simply amazing! The inner-art is adequate and actually left me feeling a very Marvel vibe. Sadly, the story is generic and doesn’t support the artwork. Here’s hoping that DC will either give Deathstroke a better background and story or drop this series and return the character to his villainous role where his badass attitude is less grating.
Written by KYLE HIGGINS
Art by JOE BENNETT and ART THIBERT
Cover by SIMON BISLEY