Deathstroke #40 // Review
Deathstroke #40, written by Christopher Priest, with pencils by Fernando Pasarin and Carlo Pagulayan, inks by Trevor Scott, Jordi Tarragona, and Jason Paz, and colors by Jeromy Cox, continues the story of Slade Wilson’s possible descension into madness, and attempts to give answers to the questions that have been piling up in this story arc. Unfortunately, those answers are as maddening to the readers as they are to Deathstroke, himself. Previously, Wilson was betrayed by those closest to him, and committed to Arkham Asylum. Once inside, he started to question his own sanity after believing that he and a fellow inmate named Devon were Zeta Beamed away by aliens to fight in a massive intergalactic battle. Things only got more confusing when Hugo Strange revealed himself as the manipulator behind the events, with his goal being to “cure” Slade by destroying his humanity--aka killing his children. With Two Face sent to kill Rose and Joseph, there was a ticking clock on Deathstroke needing to sort out what was real, or not, and save his family.
To be clear, Priest does attempt to answer most of the nagging mysteries he has set up so far in this issue, but he does it in such a hurried fashion that it all ends up feeling a little shaky. Is Deathstroke losing his mind, how are there two Two Faces, what’s going on with Rose thinking she’s possessed, what’s the deal with the Pulorians, and what is real inside the walls of Arkham Asylum? Not everything is given a conclusive answer, but any explanations that are offered up by Priest, are unsatisfying at best. It’s almost as if Priest had a ton of fun setting up the crazy circumstances, but planned out no real answers to his story’s questions until the last minute. It’s like you can hear him thinking his way out of the corner he backed himself into, and it’s a real problem for the credibility of the story.
An even bigger problem with this whole arc has been the B story of Rose Wilson believing she was possessed, and Two Face arriving to kidnap her. Rose’s story has felt wedged into this Asylum arc from the start, and it only got more intrusive and nonsensical as it progressed. It’s “conclusion” was even worse, essentially saying, “never mind, it’s all good now”. If not for the fact that the plot was ridiculous, and superfluous in the first place, readers might be pretty angry about the whole thing being fast-tracked to an ending.
On the positive side of things, this issue provides some of the best Two Face characterization in years. His mission to kill Rose and Joseph being interfered with by his coin is spot on, and his turmoil over finding out that he didn’t succeed in killing the older sibling provides a fun dilemma that really gets at the root of the character. Left, seemingly with his world turned upside down, it will be interesting to see what effects this story has on the character moving forward. If the readers are lucky, Priest has more in store for the rogue...and a place for him in a better story.
The art team, as always with this book, is almost better than a solo character title deserves. Between two pencilers (Pasarin and Pagulayan), and three inkers (Scott, Tarragona, and Paz) this is a massive group of artists to all be working together, and still be producing Grade A art. Cox’s vibrant colors, and his ability to adjust his palette from the darkness of Arkham to the insane brightness of an alien invasion, are the cherry on top. Any book would be lucky to have this team.
In the end, this was a frustrating issue full of head scratching moments, but it seems the story isn’t over yet. It’s questionable if Priest has earned the readers’ patience with this arc, but given his legendary history as a comic book writer, it’s probably best if full judgement is withheld until all answers are on the table. Cross your fingers, and hope against hope for a genius conclusion that ties it all together, and makes it worth your while.