Deathstroke #29 review
Deathstroke #29, by writer Christopher Priest, and penciler Diogenes Neves, is the finale of the Defiance arc, and it sets up some pretty exciting stuff for the future of this series. Slade, after a brief stint trying to do the right thing, has gone back to his old, mercenary ways, and, in the process, is burning every bridge to any allies he has left. Wilson is obviously not thinking clearly and he may even be suffering some kind of psychotic break, but it’s clear he has been changed from his time as a good guy, which is the main drive of this story.
Priest has a lot of moving parts in this issue, as he is actively bringing several stories to a close, while setting up the next arc, but it comes across as just a little too much all at once. Any new reader will surely be lost in the tangle of characters and plotlines. Slade’s son, Jericho, is dating his enemy, Isherwood, who designed Deathstroke’s high tech suit when they were friends. Now, Isherwood is trying to bring Wilson down, but he’s not the only one. Wilson’s former partner, Wintergreen and ex-wife Adeline are also plotting with Terra to have Slade locked up. Complicated enough, yet? How about a bonus storyline about Rose, Wilson’s daughter, possessed by the spirit of a woman named Willow, who used her body to kill a dozen people? Oh, and China’s Super-Man also stops by to beat on Slade. It’s, honestly, like describing the contents of Gremlins 2. Star Magic Jackson Jr. surely had a hand in plotting this issue.
The tying up of multiple plots aside, Priest does wonders to build/tear down Slade Wilson in this issue. Throughout the story, Deathstroke struggles with losing his edge, and being generally less willing to frivolously take lives. Most people would consider that a good thing, but when you’re dealing with the deadliest assassin in the world, it could be bad for business and survival. Slade is also dealing with the fact that he is seeing and hearing a younger version of Wintergreen, who is acting like the devil on his shoulder, egging him on in the most violent of ways. Wilson assumes that this is the effect of a device that was grafted to his spine by Isherwood in a previous issue, but Isherwood later tells him that he was just messing with him, and he shouldn’t be seeing or hearing anything out of the ordinary. Whether or not Isherwood is telling the truth, Slade’s sanity is now in question. By the end of the issue, Slade has no more allies, and he is left in one of the worst locations in all of the DC universe, still being taunted by the young Wintergreen. This has been done in the past with other characters, such as Daredevil and Nightwing, but Priest’s handling of such a bad man being humbled so quickly after a recent turn at trying to be a better person is intriguing. It’s not just an enemy coming to take everything away from Slade, it’s every bad decision he has made coming back to haunt him, in the form of all the people he has ever been closest to in life.
The pencils by Diogenes Neves are a major strength of the issue. The facial expressions on each character lend depth to an already well-drawn cast, and the action scenes are sharp and explosive. Teamed with the inks of Trevor Scott, and the colors of Jeromy Cox, the art is a high point of this book. All of these guys deserve shots at bigger titles in the DC lineup, but for now, Deathstroke gets the benefit of an A+ art team.
All in all, despite having a few too many storylines to wrap up, this was a strong issue that focused on Wilson, and the consequences of his mistreatment of the people closest to him. It’s likely this is just the beginning of Slade’s fall, considering where he ends up at the end of the arc, but considering Batman and Slade are facing off in the next story, the readers are in for a fun ride, either way.