Since the New 52 reboot, it's seemed like DC hasn't really quite known what to do with Deathstroke. Sure, he's gotten his own series, but the series mimicked the new costume he was also given: too many useless parts and too cluttered a design. It was hard to follow a Deathstroke that looked years younger involved in killings that had no weight to them. It was not the same character that was inexorably connected to the Titans, or was as terrifying as he was (a boogeyman of sorts) pre-Flashpoint. But that's what Rebirth is for, right?
In this issue we got glimpses of Slade's background as he deals with his sons Grant and Joseph (aka Ravager and Jericho for long-time readers) on a camping trip, as well as his current mission taking money from a bloodthirsty general to annihilate all who oppose him. We can thank supremely underrated writer Christopher Priest for a tight story and frenetic pace in this book - each scene is integral to the overall story, moving the narrative along while giving the reader only what they need to know at this point.
Priest's handling of Slade also shows him as the ruthless killing machine whose morals are his very own: whether it's his harsh dealings with his son Grant (who he dragged along on a camping trip against his will) or with how he coldly addresses the fearful pleadings of the members of Jazaki's crew, this Slade is a man beholden to absolutely no one.
The art in this one-shot was done by Carlo Pagulayan, and he gives the reader quite a treat - while his art is tight & clean (thanks to sublime inks by Jason Paz) it is not too busy. He treats Wade very well, as a person who is cavalier when he's not getting paid, but a whirlwind of chaos and knives when he's on the clock. The colors, handled deftly by Jeremy Cox, convey background aesthetics extremely well. He takes such care in establishing the setting, finding the right tone to elicit the right feeling.
And the Stephen Platt cover? LURVE IT.
I have to take a moment as well to express how much I love this new redesign: without the mask, I'm glad to have a white-haired Slade back again, and Jazaki himself comments on that in the story. I also love the simplicity of the new design, where every piece of the outfit has a purpose, and it's not bogged down with bandoliers, pouches, nonsensical weapons, or anything else the New 52 costume felt was necessary to make the character look "cool."
But again, the star of this book isn't just Deathstroke the Terminator, it's Priest coming back into a regular series and doing what he does best: delivering a succinct narrative while also establishing characters at a timely pace. There's no hurry here, as things happen in an organic fashion, and the dialogue is crisp and easy to follow. I also adore how this book hints at topical news in the overall structure, similar to how Nighthawk addresses real-life problems. Priest has shown how he can weave politics in action particularly well (his run on Black Panther), and it looks like he's on his way to hitting another home run in a storied career.
This book was a joy to read, which is not something folks would normally convey about a remorseless killer who exhibits no empathy unless there's money on the line. I flew through this book in a way I didn't anticipate, and may have found a new series to add to my pull list.