Deathstroke #36 // Review
The long-awaited Arkham arc of Deathstroke starts this week, with issue #36, written by Christopher Priest, with pencils by Ed Benes and Fernando Pasarin, inks by Richard Friend, Jason Paz, and Wade Von Grawbadger, and colors by Jeromy Cox. Unfortunately, the incoherent narrative, and superfluous B stories get this issue off to a sluggish start, and the out-of-nowhere ending might leave readers asking, “is this the book I signed up for?”
Previously, Slade was set up by his ex-wife and long-time partner, Wintergreen, and ended up in Arkham Asylum. Now, after a brief interlude, to deliver the excellent Batman vs Deathstroke arc, the story continues. Given how good the Batman/Deathstroke story was, and the inherent potential of Wilson being stuck in Arkham, one might justifiably have high hopes for this story. If that was your thought, you might be re-evaluating after this issue.
First off, the good stuff: Slade’s character is handled wonderfully by Priest in this issue. Not only is he reeling from being betrayed by those closest to him, he has no idea what is real or not, thanks to a mix of medications, plus the fact that he’s constantly seeing and hearing a younger version of Wintergreen. This young Wintergreen claims to be a neural implant meant to help him in times of need, but Slade has already been told the implant doesn’t exist, so he is left questioning his own sanity throughout the entire issue.
The downside to Slade’s possible insanity is all of the odd things happening around him. From his (maybe?) dream sequence, to the overly-helpful hacker named “Space Man,” readers will be left wondering if any of the contents of the Arkham parts of the book are actually happening. This leads to a bit of a narrative mess, which has worked to the advantage of similar stories in the past. Here, it just comes across as confusing for the sake of confusing, and doesn’t leave enough actual story for readers to grip onto.
The B stories, following Slade’s kids, Jericho and Rose, also seem wedged awkwardly into the issue. Rose is going through a possible possession, which readers last heard about months ago, and now the story is just being dumped in their lap, with a quick explanation that will probably leave most people saying, “oh...yeah, I think I remember that happening.” This whole plotline should have been either nixed or put on hold until after Slade’s inevitably freed from Arkham, because having both going on at once seems completely unnecessary.
Benes and Pasarin’s pencils are great, and they do elevate the disjointed story to provide fun visuals, especially in the opening scene of Wilson fighting the Arkham inmates. Likewise, Friend, Paz, and Von Grawbadger do a wonderful job inking, which can be a tough job in a dark environment like Arkham. Fortunately, they were up to the task of keeping scenes from being overly-dark. The colors of Cox didn’t get much of a chance to shine, for similar reasons, but he does manage to get a chance to dazzle readers on the last page. You can’t say a bad thing about this art crew, and they are truly one of the best parts of the issue.
All in all, this was not the strongest start to a much-anticipated arc, but Priest has earned readers’ patience with his storytelling. It’s a given that he is going somewhere with this, and wants to challenge not only Slade’s perceptions of his sanity, but the audience’s too. Surely, things will start to make a little more sense as the story goes, and the overall narrative will come together.