Slade Wilson – Deathstroke the terminator – has quite a track record. He’s been the Titan’s greatest nemesis, can hold his own with Batman in a straight fight and was the inspiration (or was ripped off, take your pick) for Marvel’s character of Deadpool. He’s the world’s foremost assassin and has a track record a mile long. He’s also a more complex character than many would assume.
Bouncing around between flashbacks and the present, we see what kind of a father-figure Slade was: lousy. Sure, he has an ethical code, but he was a firm believer in the sort of heavy-handed tough love that turns kids into psychological wrecks. As for his latest mission, he’s been hired to kill someone under the most awkward of circumstances, being paid off to assassinate someone protected by the same person paying him.
It’s a tricky situation, but one he’s more than willing to handle. However, his prey is a long-time supervillain who’s harder to kill than imagined and may be able to barter his way out of being Slade’s latest target…
Deathstroke is a great character and Christopher Priest (or just Priest, if you prefer) can tell great stories when given the opportunity. It’s written in a style which is similar to Tarantino films, with the switching of scenes punctuated by chapter titles, which should be great for fans. The artwork is impressive, and the identity of Deathstroke’s intended victim is a great moment. By rights, this should be a great issue.
Unfortunately, it isn’t.
Deathstroke has always been the sort of character who plays better in the background, a threatening presence who’s impossible to predict. Not strictly a villain but certainly no hero, he’s performed some of the worst atrocities in comic books but has also acted with more nobility and honour than most. While some of that comes through in this issue, he also comes across as a complete tool and exhibits little humanity which makes him compelling to follow.
The flashbacks may help lay down some plot, but they don’t carry the weight that they’re presumably supposed to. The transitions between scenes are inelegant and the chapter titles come across as either frivolous or pretentious. Lately, flashbacks in comic books seem to be a pointless trend and it’s a shame that here it’s over-used once more. It’s a case of style over substance, and as for Slade’s mission the whole thing comes across as boring. Not only that but none of the other characters make any impact.
There are positives to this title and the art by Carlo Pagulayan deserves credit, but the story gets lost in itself far too often to be a satisfying read.
In short, unless you’re a die-hard Deathstroke fan, Deathstroke: Rebirth #1 won’t appeal to you and it isn’t likely to win over too many new readers.