Deathstroke is a character who could really benefit from being rebooted. Over the years, writers have gone back and forth on almost every aspect of the character, from his motives to his power levels. This is a guy who went toe to toe with the entire Justice League and almost won, but repeatedly had his plans foiled by those meddling Teen Titans. As a reader, I haven't really enjoyed Deathstroke since the Teen Titans storyline "Judas Contract", and had I not pledged to try all 52 books, I probably wouldn't have given this a chance. I'm happy to say that this title was worth taking a chance on.
I was unsure as I read the book's opening pages, in which an unseen character gushes to the audience how awesome Deathstroke is. Characters talking about other characters being awesome is a pet peeve of mine, and I feel like it crops up in comics way too often. On the other hand, this dialogue was displayed over scenes of Deathstroke actually being badass, which made it a lot easier for me to swallow. I also really appreciate that writer Kyle Higgins avoided pages of backstory and instead quickly gave readers the basics, and then jumped into action.
It was when we saw Deathstroke being offered his first mission that the real story kicked in, and when the comic really won me over. While many characters in the DCnU have been deaged, Slade Wilson remains older and experienced- so much older that he is paired with a group of teenagers (who I suspect spend a lot of time on Xbox Live). Putting him in a position where he needs to prove himself in spite of his record is a good way to make him feel fresh without undoing his history. While I'm guessing Deathstroke won't regularly work with a team, I hope we still get more moments like the ones we had here. I found his interactions with these guys to be hilarious.
While the comic's interiors were never going to be as awesome as Simon Bisley's covers, they're still quite visually pleasing. For the most part, colorist Jason Wright uses muted tones, which really makes Deathstroke's costume pop. Artist Joe Bennett does solid work throughout the comic, but where he really shines are his facial expressions. Often, just seeing the way Slade reacted to a line was enough to crack, and you can bet this comic will be featured heavily in this week's reaction image post. While the new Deathstroke costume is still too busy for my tastes, Bennett draws it well enough that it's never a distraction.
I was impressed with the fact that Kyle Higgins told a complete story in a single issue, while still leaving me curious enough to come back for more. In these days of decompressed comics, a oneshot tale is rare, and I'm always impressed when I see a writer pull one off. While he's fairly new to the comics scene, I really think Higgins is a writer to watch. His work on titles like Gates of Gotham and Supreme Power has been strong, and I think this is the title he's really going to hone his skills on. I'm really excited to watch his career develop.
The ending of this issue is either going to be what sells the reader on the comic, or what really turns them off. For my part, I appreciated that Slade was established as a ruthless, villainous guy, no ifs, ands, or buts. Much like a certain height challenged Canadian, Deathstroke is good at doing things that aren't particularly nice, and he revels in that. I'd love to see more character development for Slade somewhere down the road, but I hope Higgins never casts him in the role of the tortured anti-hero. This is where he works for me, as a guy who genuinely loves what he does, no matter how unpleasant that might be.
I'd recommend this comic to fans of Deathstroke, to those who long for the days of done in one stories, and to anyone who's enjoyed Higgins work on Supreme Power. If you prefer your protagonists to be less than heroic, and were considering Suicide Squad, I'd suggest picking this one up instead- I think it's the better comic by far and is very accessible to new readers. Those turned off by high levels of violence will want to avoid this one, although it's much tamer than what we've seen from Batwing and recent Lantern titles. Overall, this is a solid start and a nice surprise, and I'm really looking forward to reading issue 2.