The “New 52” is an attempt to renew, refresh and perhaps even reboot several major characters within the DC Universe to reconnect with fans, receive new ones, rejuvenate sales and rethink the overall fictional routines of super people in the comic book medium. It’s not exactly wiping the slate clean, but it may seem like it for some characters. Deathstroke, thankfully, is not being altered in any significant way thus far.
I have not been a diehard fan of this character so I am not attuned to the intricacies of his jaded history in the DCU. I do know the highlights: real nasty with the Teen Titans, messed up family life, can go toe to toe with virtually anyone and a general bad ass not to be trifled with. With the exception of that last comment, none of the other highlights I mentioned are referenced in this new #1, so Slade Wilson isn’t dragging in any of his old baggage. He’s still a merc with a major bank account that has got to be rivaling Scrooge McDuck’s fortune considering the obscene cost he charges anyone for his services.
The story reestablishes Deathstroke as a professional wet works operator (aka assassin) whose vicious skill is only rivaled by his cutthroat attitude and general disdain for anyone he deems “in his way.” As such, the reader is privy to a number of introductory panels that showcase a variety of the character’s super-ninja-assassin skills. This leads into a specific mission where one or two things go wrong, but he takes charge and gets the job done because that’s what he does. Kyle Higgins is doing himself and fans a favor by keeping Slade’s story simple to start with, adding layers of complexity along the way. There are no big reveals, conspiracies or even hints as to where Deathstroke may be headed, which may not make this first issue as dramatic as the intimidating cover art by Simon Bisley, but it also won’t turn readers away after page 1 because it doesn’t acquiesce to absurdity and convolution.
I like the general art style by Joe Bennett. Deathstroke’s costume appears a little more tech-inspired and perhaps a little too reminiscent of Judge Dredd. I particularly like the attention he gives to faces, especially highlighting the advanced age of most of the characters in the first issue. This makes sense seeing how Slade is still an old man, but also shows no signs of slowing down. The inks and colors by Thibert and Wright compliment this story quite well by featuring lots of shadows and a reddish hue that tints most panels; ever suggestive of Slade’s murderous nature.
Overall, Deathstroke #1 was a solid read, but I’d be lying if I said it wowed me in any way. There is a lot of potential for this character as a villain or anti-hero, but either way, he’s got to be more than a hired gun. This hope is the reason why I will continue to buy into this book, but if Slade’s master mind isn’t cranking at full tilt and motivated beyond money double quick, I won’t find much reason to continue.