“Back to Basics”
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Pencils: Joe Bennett
Inks: Art Thibert
Colors: Jason Wright
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artist: Simon Bisley
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
Man, that was just awful.
When DC announced Deathstroke the Terminator was one of the characters to be featured in its New 52 lineup, I was surprised and taken aback, but then I remembered the character had a solo title back in the 1990s that ran for a few years. It seemed as though DC was looking for an anti-hero archetype for its new line. The notion didn’t appeal to me, but there’s definitely an audience for that sort of thing. But there isn’t one for this material, or at least there shouldn’t be. The title character isn’t depicted as an anti-hero at all. He’s an unrepentant, uncaring, unsympathetic killer, and nothing else. There isn’t a single redeemable character to be found in this first issue, and what’s worse, writer Kyle Higgins doesn’t even hint at what the story is about. The plotting doesn’t just feature distasteful, gratuitous violence, it’s executed poorly. Those familiar with Deathstroke won’t really recognize the same man in this title, and those new to the character won’t find any pertinent information about him here either.
Slade Wilson is a superhuman assassin/mercenary for hire who can carry out missions no other professional can achieve. He never fails. He never misses. His strength and dexterity seem to defy the laws of nature, and no obstacle will keep him from his assignment. But his greatest and most terrifying asset is his cold, brutal nature. But the thing is, Slade is getting on in years, and people in the know seem to think his day has come and gone. Wilson is determined to show the underworld such is not the case.
Despite my comments, there are some good things to be found in this comic book. It’s just that none of them stem from the writing. Joe Bennett delivers some solid visuals. While I don’t care for the subject matter, he certainly captures the larger-than-life persona that’s built up in the script; in fact, Deathstroke sometimes looks too big, almost a Hulk-like figure as compared to his allies. The action, which is sometimes frenetic, flows clearly, and Bennett’s work here reminds me a bit of the grittier style of Jim (Secret Six) Calafiore. Bennett’s pencils no doubt benefit a great deal with the sharp inks of Art Thibert, who’s one of the best, most experienced inks at work in comics today. Furthermore, Bennett’s depiction of the violence isn’t particularly gruesome. It’s overt, yes, but I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as gory. That mitigated the brutal tone and over-the-top elements in the plot I didn’t care for… somewhat.
Another striking image is to be found on the cover. It’s rare to see Simon Bisley’s work adorning a mainstream super-hero genre comic these days. The image is in keeping with the tone of the story, but it also seems to hint at some sort of post-apocalyptic backdrop (the kind of thing for which Bisley is well known). Honestly, I think I would’ve found a post-apocalyptic Deathstroke story far more interesting than the greed and bloodlust that make up the plot in this comic book.
Higgins fails to tell his audience — which will include newer readers — how Deathstroke came to be the warrior he is. He fails to tell the audience why he does what he does. He writes this issue as though he’s simply setting the stage and introducing a supporting cast, only to pull the rug out from the readers and eliminate those characters. Higgins has also eliminated elements from the pre-New 52 incarnation of the character that made him appealing. His violent trade was always tempered by his association with gentler souls such as his confidant Wintergreen. He was also depicted as a man with honor. But this interpretation of Slade Wilson is callous and cruel. He’s completely unlikeable, as is the only other character to survive by the end of the issue, and he’s an uninspired, stereotypical weasel of a character that the title character, as presented here, likely wouldn’t abide or tolerate for more than a few minutes.
On the final page of the story, featuring a full splash image of the aftermath of the title character’s murderous tendencies, across the top is emblazoned “DC Comics Proudly Presents Deathstroke.” The publisher shouldn’t be so proud of this effort. 2/10
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