In Review: Deathstroke: Rebirth #1

This should please fans of hardcore mercenaries that travel the world.

The covers: The Regular cover on this book is much better than many of the other Variant books. For one, it clearly shows the character’s face. Second, it shows the character in his element: holding a smoking gun, covered in blood from his kill, and surrounded by something that’s on fire. This cover was crafted by Aco and Romulo Fajardo, Jr. I like the layout of this image, especially with the character’s split mask being right in the dead center of the illustration, and the coloring is great, with the crimson blood splatters and the glowing embers falling about him. A very sharp cover. The Variant cover is by Stephen Platt and Peter Steigerwald. I’ve been enjoying the Variant covers more so than the Regular covers on the majority of the Rebirth books because they show the entire character in an action pose. On this cover Slade has his long sword out and he’s running at the reader. He looks terrific and the sense of motion that Platt gives Slade with the tassels from his mask and blade look sharp. The coloring is also good, with the oranges in his costume really popping against the white background. An outstanding job by both artists. Overall grades: Both A

The story: I have to preface my review by saying this book is not for me. I remember when Deathstroke the Terminator first appeared and I looked forward to his every appearance in The New Teen Titans. I don’t like comic book characters set in the “real world.” I want fantasy adventures. I want the heroics. The book opens up with a flashback of Slade and his son stuck in the woods after their pickup’s battery has gone dead. He treats his sons poorly — what else can one expect of a mercenary? — with older Grant receiving and giving much verbal grief. The boy, sick of his father, runs off; he’s going to take care of himself from now on. In the present, Slade wakes up in a lavish room with a naked woman sleeping next to him. He adjusts some bandages on his arm before suiting up. He’s driven to a remote location where a man is watching several bodies being buried by a bulldozer. Slade wants to be paid for his work, but it’s not quick in coming as the man he’s next to decides to wax philosophic about both of their positions. This was two strikes for me in Christopher Priest’s story. I’m done with long flashbacks in books, due to the television series Arrow, and killers discussing their place in the world is a trope I’m done with. The return to the flashback on Pages 8 – 10 didn’t add anything more to the characters that the opening two pages already told. A DC villain does appear on 11 and this was the best part of the story for me. This individual was completely unexpected and the state he’s in was a shock. He has information that leads Slade to a location at the end of the book to meet with someone he’s been looking for. The final word from this character reveals his identity, but it didn’t move me any way. This just wasn’t a story I could get behind. Readable, but meh. Overall grade: C-

The art: Carlo Pagulayan provides the pencils and Jason Paz the inks on this book. The art is well done with the details being particularly strong. This book reveals on the first page that both artists are talented: the clothing on the characters look exceptional. The wrinkles and folds in each characters’ garb is very realistic. The point of view on the first page is also strong with the focus in the car, a tight close up as Grant is grabbed, his being tossed to the ground, Grant’s point of view of what he sees, and finally pulling back to show where the car and the characters are in relationship to one another in this woodland setting. In the present, Slade’s lavish room is only one panel, but is so superbly drawm that its wealth cannot be ignored. The splash on the fourth page shows the deaths that Slade has contributed to, but the coloring is so dark, it’s tough to make out what’s going on; the reader really has to look into the illustration to make out its contents. The fifth page is nicely constructed as the merc is primarily like stone as the man next to him rambles on. The seventh page is an absolutely gorgeous illustration as Slade is atop a boat: he looks great, the boat looks top notch, and the setting around them is completely rendered. Page 12 is my favorite of the issue as its first panel has an superior point of view and the bottom panel shows the antihero pulling the pin on a grenade. This is an amazing looking page. The rest of the book is well done, with the two page action sequence being easy to follow and neat to look at. The visuals on this book have the fine details that I like to see in comic books. Overall grade: A

The colors: A decent job is done by Jeromy Cox. I like how he uses colors to place some depth into the characters’ clothing, such in Grant’s hat and Slade’s jacket, with its seams being darkened as real jackets have. The harsh tint of the first four panels on Page 3 is a slick way to visually tell the reader that he or she is in a new location. I do have issues with 4’s coloring: it’s too difficult to make out what it is that’s being shown. This page would probably have looked better in black and white than in color. The colors in the first three panels on 6 have an unusual violet tint that wasn’t expected and it gave this location a sinister tone. The darker colors on 7 matched the environment and transports the reader quickly into the setting. The rusts on 11 – 13 look perfect, giving the person speaking an additional elderly feeling. The top of 17 is intended to be extra dark, so the reader can experience with the characters what they’re seeing, but it took a few seconds to recognize what was being seen. A brighter costume would have helped immensely. The colors are decent, but there are a few speed bumps. Overall grade: B

The letters: Chapter titles, dialogue and telephone dialogue (the same font), the story’s title, the book’s credits, yells, sounds, and the tease for first issue are created by Willie Schubert. The chapter titles are a great way to separate sections of the book and Schubert’s choice of fonts makes it seem as if the reader is going through a novel. The sounds are perfect in this book, with the gunplay being really strong. However, I do wish that the dialogue between the characters and that of the phone conversations were a different font, rather than being differentiated by the shape of the dialogue balloons. Overall grade: A-

The final line: I gave it a try, but this isn’t for me. This should please fans of hardcore mercenaries that travel the world, but for those craving more traditional comic book adventures it might be best to look elsewhere. Overall grade: B+

To order a digital copy of this book go to https://www.readdcentertainment.com/Deathstroke-Rebirth-2016-1/digital-comic/T1597300015001

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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