Deathstroke the Terminator Vol. 2: Sympathy for the Devil

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.

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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.

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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.

-Jess

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Deathstroke the Terminator Volume 1: Assassins

Storylines through comics are truly an amazing thing.

While reading this Deathstroke comic, I was completely struck by how many tie-ins to past events could be fit into one storyline, while still seeming perfectly believable.  There was a perfect flow to the overall story, one which began years ago in a totally different trade.

This comic draws heavily on a prior story I had read in the first The New Teen Titans trade, in which Slade Wilson’s son Grant is given a serum similar to that given to his own father, adopts an alterego of his own, and is ultimately killed by its effects.

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Much of this story draws upon Wilson’s guilt over not being able to save his son.  While this event happened in a comic published years before this one, it was still treated as an integral part of the story, and a key factor in determining Wilson’s mindset.

What’s more is that not only are these stories referenced, but they are actually built upon, with previously held mysteries being revealed, such as who was responsible for Grant’s transformation in the first place:

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I found it fascinating that Slade Wilson should face the man responsible for his son’s death so many years after it happened.  I love when stories make reference to a past event, but this takes it to a whole new level.  These stories are literally taking years to resolve themselves, and even if the reader thinks it’s over, there’s no way to be sure.  New details could be brought to light a decade later that completely change the story.

Maybe this is a bit of a “duh” statement.  It’s not exactly surprising that these stories are intertwined, given that both comics were written by Marv Wolfman.  After all, one writer would have a pretty easy time keeping multiple comics in continuity with one another.  Still, this tie-in drew upon events from many years prior, building upon a storyline that had seemingly been finished long ago.  There really aren’t many other instances of this occurring in any other form of media, and certainly not where it would be as enjoyable.  At best it would be labelled a bad sequel, ripping off the original story.  There’s no sense of that in this comic; instead, it feels part of a single, complete plotline.

Deathstroke is admittedly not a character I know very much about.  In fact, I’ve been known on occasion to confuse him with Deadshot (I know, I know.)  Based on his stories in this comic though, I can at least say I’m interested in the character.  He’s not the best character I’ve read about on “the shelf”, but he’s intriguing.  A little morally ambiguous, but that always makes for a good comic.  He follows his own code, which I respect, and he’s driven, although sometimes it seems like that drive is going to get him killed.  I’m not sure how much of a main fixture he’s going to be on “the shelf” from this point on, or if he’ll be more of a side character relegated to guest appearances in other people’s stories.  He’s great as a guest star, but he can hold his own as the star too.

The main highlight of this trade though?

Sassy Alfred, of course!

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He pops up in the unlikeliest of places, and it’s awesome (have I mentioned that?)  He’s like the hidden Mickey of DC comics.

There you go, DC, there’s your next trade compilation: Every sassy Alfred moment, from ALL comics.

I would buy that book in a heartbeat.

-Jess