Deathstroke is a bit of a unique character.
He’s neither completely good nor bad. He often fights alongside other heroes, yet he makes his living as a mercenary, killing anyone as long as somebody’s willing to pay him for his skills. Like most heroes, he has a small group of friends and colleagues whom he cares about. What makes him different is that he alternates between working closely with and fighting against a host of violent criminals.
As such, Deathstroke’s friends are put in an increasingly dangerous position. There are times when he’s being hunted by heroes and villains alike, with no one but these friends as allies. Many have already been hurt or worse, killed due to their association with him. This fact is not lost on the man himself. He is all too aware of the danger he poses to those around him, and seeks to protect them by any means necessary.
This brusqueness hides a deep level of caring that one wouldn’t expect from a mercenary killer. His job and his personality are forever at odds with one another, causing these moments of turmoil and worry. Slade’s solution is to distance himself from everyone he cares about, as a means of protecting them. He’s not above being harsh or outright cruel to keep everyone at arm’s length, but his deeper emotions show themselves often enough to remind the reader that he’s not a heartless person.
Of course, some in this comic would disagree, such as the spurned Vigilante, Deathstroke’s sometimes ally and lover.
Pat makes a pretty valid argument. After all, as much as Slade claims he wants to distance himself from people, he inevitably draws them back into his life. Try as he might, he simply can’t operate without his support system. Time and time again in this comic, Deathstroke is being aided by Pat, Wintergreen, even members of the Teen Titans. Slade is determined to fly solo, yet the comic continues to remind the reader that no man is an island, and no one can survive in this world completely alone.
The stories in this collection were good, but Deathstroke’s character development was the real star. Written with a subtle touch, Slade is shown as a hardened veteran of war while simultaneously being portrayed as a distraught man weighed down by his guilt. He must deal with these conflicting emotions, all while fighting for his life and the lives of his friends. It’s not a situation many could thrive in, and yet Deathstroke manages to make it work. One can’t help but wonder if eventually the burden will prove too much for him and cause him to make a fatal mistake.
I’m glad Deathstroke was given his own comic. Had he only been featured in other heroes’ stories, these subtle characteristics would not have been made known, and his character would have suffered as a result. As it stands, Deathstroke’s complexity and split emotions make for an interesting read. Although perhaps not my favorite comic book of all time, having read these stories will make me appreciate Slade Wilson so much more, should he pop up in other trades.