Deathstroke #35 - Review. Echo Chamber Unbound
Pencils: Carlo Pagulayan
Inks: Jason Paz & Andy Owens
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Willie Schubert
Well, that was a thing. It was certainly a ride. Of sorts. Let me be clear that Deathstroke is an ongoing that is not in my recurring monthly pull-list. I do a drop-in from time-to-time to check out how things are going. Since this run began two years ago, I've been positive, overall, about its super-spy, Winter Soldier (the movie)-esque approach and globe-trotting adventure. DC needs something like this that is a bit more of an adventure book than the standard capes & tights fare that is in most of its roster. But this issue took things a few places that I am just not sure worked that well.
I think one of the bigger things is that, in doing this adventure-book motif, I am not sure that DC has worked out exactly where and how this book fits in its overall schema. I mean, we know it’s a bit a part of the greater DCU, but it's also a bit apart from the greater DCU. The same is true, in my opinion, of both Suicide Squad and Green Arrow. What do all of these books have in common? They all feature characters that are enjoying a popular resurgence due to their appearances on Arrow. But in a lot of ways, what worked for them on TV has not necessarily translated into a thing that works best for them in comics.
Deathstroke #35 wraps up an arc featuring Batman. One in which Slade and Bruce are out to rescue Deathstroke's daughter. This dude has a lot of progeny. I am assuming that that rescue (or her death; Slade's progeny also have a habit of dying) happened in an issue I missed, as this issue appears to be focused on their escape from the conclusion of that adventure. Both near death and with no help on the way, Bats and the assassin have to work together to crawl to safety from their underground tomb. Out of this locked-room episode, we get to be audience to a verbal bout to ascertain the true parentage of one Damian Wayne.
The art quality and style were fine, but I became disconnected with some of the story-telling. Bruce and Wilson are arguably the two best martial arts combatants in the DCU, but there is one panel where they are fighting in the opening pages, and the two of them hit each other at the same time and knock each other out. That's really reaching and stretching for cliché. Maybe the choice was exactly because it was Bruce and Deathstroke, and so we wouldn't expect something so not-to-be-taken-seriously? But I tend to just think it was a really awful choice, regardless. Next, there are some panels with two figures cloaked in shadow, that have dialogue that make it sound like they were the ones who put Deathstroke and Batman in this situation. I guess they are supposed to be Alfred and the older gentleman who has been in the Deathstroke comic; a former British agent who was Slade Wilson's mentor and partner before he became Deathstroke, I believe. If you're not on the book, it's very jarring, particular as the cover of the issue alludes to the paramilitary cult that the two were fighting earlier in the arc, but in this issue they are clearly actually past that. The are some other points of jank, mainly in that there are tons of Robins in flashback scenes and, not being a Robin expert, it was hard for me to tell who was which one, especially in panels where multiple Robins appeared sequentially in the same scene and the camera was cutting back and forth between them.
On writing, I was just a bit put off by elements of the script that felt very jumbled and overly busy. I struggle formulating an opinion on that matter, because when I look back, it should have come off as a very tight, streamlined story, because the main scene is just Batman and Deathstroke stumbling through the depths of the Bat-Cave. But with all of the flashbacks thrown in, often without a clear transition, and always without an indication of when the flashback was with relation to the current time...overall it just became a bit too much of "wait a minute" and flipping back and forth in the book to check and make sure if we were or were not in a flashback. I will say that I do like how the story tidies up in the end. The creative team could have easily left the question of who Damian's father is open and a thing lingering out there. I really appreciate how they understand how that may have come off as tropish and left Bat-family fans angry over the unanswered question. Especially because I am just not sure how many people keeping up with the Bat-family are also reading Deathstroke.
SCORE: 6.5 / 10
Overall, Deathstroke #35 is not a bad comic. I enjoyed it being in my stack. It is just one of those issues that felt "just fine". I feel like it didn't move the story of either Deahstroke or Batman along, the latter deliberately so, as this escapade takes place out of the current continuity. And I struggle with what this series is trying to be, other than a place to put a character on a page that has gotten a lot of heat around them due to Manu Bennett's portrayal of Deathstroke on TV. Deahstroke is increasingly becoming better when he is out in the world, being a rogue super-spy and mercenary, rather than when the series dips its toe back into the DCU proper. Theoretically, next issue will begin a new arc, and that might be a better place for a drop-in. This issue was interesting for the momentary intrigue, but not fully satisfying all around.