Deadshot: Beginnings

Like so many DC characters, Deadshot (real name Floyd Lawton) was one I really didn’t know much about before I began reading the comics on “the shelf”.  I’ve started to realize that there are countless characters that I’m completely unfamiliar with, and who play a much bigger role in the DC universe than I ever would have guessed.

There are a handful of random issues featuring Deadshot included in this collection, and they’re all good for what they are. The main event of this trade, though, is the four-part miniseries chronicling a single Deadshot storyline.

If anyone wanted a crash course on what makes Floyd Lawton tic, this four-issue arc is the way to go.

The mini-series’ plot is pretty straightforward: Lawton, recently released from prison for his work with the Suicide Squad, receives word from his estranged wife that his son has been kidnapped.  A cryptic message is left for Lawton, instructing him to complete a job he started twenty years prior.

Kidnapping.  Blackmail.  Revenge.  These are not new themes to the comic book world.  Had this been a hero’s comic, I could have predicted just about everything that would have transpired in the story.  Therein lies the difference with this comic:

Deadshot is no hero.

The first thing he does upon learning of his son’s kidnapping is track down the man behind it and methodically fire two shots through the man’s hands.

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No warnings, no threats.  Lawton goes straight for violence, sending a message that he is not to be trifled with.  This is a far cry from anything we would ever see from the likes of Superman or even Batman.

As Deadshot hunts down the men who kidnapped his child, we also watch as his therapist, Marnie Herrs, digs into his past and learns startling truths about what lead to Lawton’s criminal behavior, truths which also tie into his son’s kidnapping.

Lawton is merciless as he exacts revenge, but the cost is great.  When all is said and done, there are few left standing, and we see an angry Amanda Waller exclaiming that she doesn’t like having to cover up Deadshot’s criminal behavior.

In a particularly perceptive panel, it is pointed out that Waller did just that when the government used Deadshot to kill a drug lord, to which Waller responds:

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This was perhaps the single-most significant panel in the entire collection, and one that points to the significance of such stories.

Too often we’re reading stories from a hero’s perspective, with a clear line drawn between right and wrong.  It’s so easy to vilify the bad guys, because in comparison to our heroes, that’s what they are.

Comics like Deadshot poke holes in the basic fabric of such stories.  As the panel above points out, is there really much difference between a government-authorized execution and a single man’s quest for revenge against murderers?  Why is one act accepted while the other is condemned?

Reading a comic from the so-called villain’s perspective is so much more enlightening, making the reader question their beliefs in what’s right and what’s wrong.  True, I still think Deadshot’s actions were extreme, but can anyone say they wouldn’t at least contemplate the same methods, had it been their own child who was kidnapped and hurt?

Deadshot and others like him may not be the most famous of all the DC characters, but their stories are often more thought-provoking and morally ambiguous than the straight-laced superheroes.  I find such characters fascinating, both as entertainment as well as a psychological study.  Deadshot may be called many things – criminal, mad, damned, cold.  No matter what though, he’s still one thing above all else: human.

-Jess

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