Deathstroke #39 // Review
There’s more answers than you can shake a stick at in Deathstroke #39, written by Christopher Priest, with pencils by Carlo Pagulayan and Fernando Pasarin, inks by Jason Paz, Jordi Tarragona, and Wade von Grawbadger, and colors by Jeromy Cox. But can those answers be trusted? Previously, Slade was betrayed by those closest to him, and sent to Arkham Asylum. Inside, he lost touch with reality, unsure if he could believe anything he was seeing or hearing. Wilson is a lot of things, but delusional isn’t one of them, so it seemed likely there was foul play at hand. Now, the possible villain behind everything, Professor Hugo Strange, stands revealed. Can Deathstroke survive Strange’s special brand of treatment? It seems likely, considering he’s the star of the book, but he may not come out of Arkham in one piece.
Just like every other issue in this arc, it is impossible to tell what is real, or not. That is the genius of the story. Priest refuses to let the readers get even the smallest of footholds before knocking them down again. Unfortunately, that kind of storytelling can have a downside, too. If you spend an entire arc scratching your head, it starts to lose its fun-factor after a while. The readers know that nothing can be trusted, even what they’re seeing outside the walls of Arkham. Now, being given answers about what has been going on the whole time, it still seems you can’t trust anything. Strange admits to mind control and manipulation in this issue, but it still doesn’t explain the two Two Faces, or whether or not Slade took a break from the asylum to fight aliens.
Speaking of Two Face, his B story involving kidnapping Rose to make her confront her “possession” still seems superfluous. Why does he care so much about Rose, other than his involvement with her story helps connect it back to the main plot with Slade? It’s a bit of a stretch, and not very interesting. Hopefully, Priest will pull it all together into a cohesive conclusion next issue, but you probably shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
Meanwhile, Priest manages to give the readers some pretty cool moments with Wilson’s other kid, Jericho. Not only does he come across looking like the hero this book needs, but he’s also shown to be quite the powerhouse. The scenes with Solomon Grundy illustrate just how frighteningly powerful he can be, given the right circumstances. As a character that’s never fully gotten his due, it’s nice to see someone finally give him the proper treatment he deserves.
The art team this issue is epic in size, including two pencilers (Pagulayan and Pasarin), three inkers (Paz, Tarragona, and von Grawbadger), and one colorist (Cox), but the quality doesn’t suffer a bit with all of those cooks in the kitchen. It’s unclear who was responsible for what pages, or if there was a true collaboration on each page, but the work is seamless from panel to panel. Kudos to the team, and congratulations on a job well done.
In the end, while the premise of this arc seemed great at the start, Priest’s pacing has made the story seem tedious. Maybe he didn’t have enough story to fill the arc, or maybe he just thinks turning in circles over and over again makes for a good mystery. Either way, there feels like there is a missing ingredient that could have made this issue, and overall story, much more entertaining. It is, however, unfair to judge a mystery until its conclusion, so the readers will just have to see how it all turns out to determine whether this arc stands the test of time in coming years.