Deadshot: Bulletproof

Deadshot comics always surprise me.  Here’s a character who pops up sporadically on “the shelf”.  Every time he does, I have to pause and remember exactly who he is and what his whole backstory entails.  Once I’ve found stable footing, I find myself being drawn into his comics more than I would ever have guessed.  Gun-for-hire doesn’t really scream out to be as a must-read story, and yet DeadshotBulletproof manages to be compelling while still staying true to the “take no prisoners” mentality of Floyd Lawton.

This trade collects a mini-series written in 2005, and while it doesn’t seem to directly tie in to other titles, it seems to be at the perfect place within continuity.  Lately the superhero comics have been more vague when addressing the concept of superheroes (think Identity Crisis), so it only makes sense that a Deadshot comic would touch on that subject from the other side.  Deadshot is often portrayed as a straight-up villain, taking contracts to murder people and not stopping until the job is done, never pausing to find out whether his target actually deserves to die.  For Floyd they’re marks, paychecks, and nothing more.

In Bulletproof, we get to see a softer side to the character…or rather, at least a sentimental side.  One would never really label Deadshot as being soft.

As the story opens, Floyd learns that his parents are dead, and receives a few documents that were left to him.  One contains a letter from a woman who believes Floyd is the father to her daughter, Zoe.

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Given the devasting way in which he lost his son years prior, it made perfect sense that Floyd would seek out this child and want to offer help.  In his mind, that help comes in the form of cash, but his ex is too prideful to take the money.

As he goes to leave, Floyd looks around The Triangle, the neighborhood in which she lives, and realizes it is a slum in every sense.  There are numerous gang factions fighting for territory, drugs, guns – all around, it’s not a safe place for a child.  Floyd decides to stick around for a while and makes it his personal mission to clean up The Triangle and make it safe once more.

Of course, this is Deadshot…so his method of stopping crime is to pull out his guns and shoot anyone who’s up to no good.  It’s not exactly the most P.C. method of dispelling crime, but at least in this instance, it winds up being pretty effective.

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The gangs he’s forced out of the territory don’t take too kindly to the imposition though, and although they try repeatedly to put an end to Deadshot’s control, they all fail miserably.  Deadshot takes out anyone who tries to stop him.

As all of the fighting is taking place, Floyd and his ex (who, by the way, is inexplicably never given a name within the whole mini-series even though she’s a major character.  Guess they were more focused on making sure you could see every line and curve on her body than bothering with a little detail like a name) grow closer, and begin a romance that forms a sort of family for them.  Problems arise with a familiar issue: she wants him to stop being Deadshot, he doesn’t know how to do anything else.  The arguments, at least, feel realistic enough, and add a further depth to the story.

We don’t get to see Deadshot interact much with his daughter (after all, he’s hardly a playful daddy) but I did love one image of him within the story.  Deadshot, master marksman and hired killer, is rendered absolutely terrified by one fact when he’s left to babysit his daughter: she’s awake.

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This made me smile, only because of course a cold-hearted killer would be terrified of the sweetest, most innocent little thing imaginable.

Their idylllic family life doesn’t last long, as the local thugs band together to hire a squadron of supervillains to deal with Deadshot.  In a rather epic final confrontation, a series of villains who have all worked with or faced Deadshot before unite to take him out.  Deadshot ends up with the upper hand and takes out his opponents, but seemingly at a high price.

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Of course, this is Floyd Lawton we’re talking about.  He’s not going to let a little old thing like a building exploding around him end his life.  He leaves his ex and daughter to believe he’s dead, but ensures that they’re financially taken care of.  He helped clean up their neighborhood, and helped provide a better life for Zoe in a big way.  The comic closes with Deadshot taking on another target, back to business as usual.

Overall this was a rather fun, self-contained story.  I liked learning that Floyd had another child, and enjoyed seeing him try to do right by her.  He may not win father of the year anytime soon, but at least he tried to give his daughter a safe, happy life, whether he’s a part of it or not.

It still irks me that Zoe’s mother is never given a name, especially since they had no problem depicting numerous scenes in strip clubs or referencing Floyd’s penchant for employing prostitutes. Clearly labeling her as a prostitute was more important than giving her a unique identifier. It felt like a rather large detail to omit, and could have easily been included somewhere within the story.

This detail aside, I liked the mini-series.  Stories such as this, where a single character is given a little more focus and detail, are always enjoyable, since we get to learn what really makes them tic, as well as what their weaknesses may be. Floyd is a much more likeable character when we realize how important family is to him.  This isn’t news, since Floyd has been concerned with his family’s well-being for a long time now, but seeing yet another example of his sentimental side endears the character to me so much more.  Maybe the details of this story play a larger part in the comics down the road, maybe not.  Either way,  I’ll be interested to read more about Floyd’s exploits, knowing the details of his life that I know now.

-Jess

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