Review: Deathstroke Vol. 2: God Killer trade paperback (DC Comics)

The DC You Deathstroke Vol. 2: God Killer sees Tony Daniel's Deathstroke (now co-written with James Bonny) set against the backdrop of Brian Azzarello's New 52 Wonder Woman. At this point in Wonder Woman, Azzarello's run was now on its way to being dismantled; Daniel also overlays elements of he and Charles Soule's Superman/Wonder Woman, also at a time when a new creative team was on that book. So God Killer marks the curious intersection of a variety of things, but unfortunately that doesn't make for a workable Deathstroke tale. The story within is predictable and generic, taking every shortcut to pad this out into a trade-sized arc. With two more volumes to go, I'm hopeful Daniel lets go of this tendency to stick Deathstroke into superheroic situations and gets down to the the kind of espionage setting where this character works best.

[Review contains spoilers]

God Killer collects four issues and an annual. The broad concept is that Deathstroke, rather fool-heartedly, releases a mad god on Themyscira, and then has to work with Wonder Woman and Superman to stop him. Daniel and Bonny have one issue setting up the scenario and a final issue where Deathstroke actually fights the god Lapetus; in between those, the writers spend an issue on Slade fighting Wonder Woman, an issue on Slade fighting Superman, and most egregiously, a full annual where Slade fights his way through an imaginary hellscape. We do get Azzarello's "God of War" Wonder Woman and an appearance by Soule's Hessia, but there's nearly no character development and a lot of "fight and team up" -- even Wonder Woman simply knocking Slade around because she's mad at him.

I'm reminded of a fairly significant Deathstroke/Wonder Woman team-up almost three decades ago at the beginning of William Messner-Loebs thirty-plus issue run on the pre-Flashpoint Wonder Woman. Yes, Slade and Diana slapped each other around, but at the climax of a suspenseful heist story with the goal of rescuing the imprisoned Cheetah. The nuance of that story far outmatches this, and demonstrates that this team-up can be done right, instead of this plodding "one idea per issue" format.

When, while fighting through the hellscape, Slade begins to feel like his "old self" again, I'd hoped the writers might use this opportunity -- artificial and supernatural as it might have been -- to restore Slade to his "older" form. I thought Daniel was wise to make Slade less perfect in the first volume, though I was agnostic on Daniel de-aging the character and predicted his newly restored eye would be gone before long (upon which this volume delivers). Slade's attraction, however, has always been that he's the gentleman assassin -- older, wiser, and so not given to typical villain theatrics -- and the writers, perhaps having de-aged Slade, don't seem to get that. We get lines like, "If this toolbag wants to take over the world he will have to go through us to do it!," which is not only just poor writing (who says "toolbag"?) but is also the antithesis of what made Slade most unique.

The hellscape issue concerns itself primarily with Slade's guilt over his relationship with his children, and I've found myself thinking I perhaps liked Deathstroke better before his children became the go-to plot device in every story being told these days. That's a lofty claim, given that from the beginning Slade's interactions with the Titans surrounded his sons Grant and Jericho Joseph Wilson, but the amount of Slade fussing over Ravager Rose Wilson and Jericho these days seems to thoroughly overshadow Slade actually being an assassin -- see the end of the previous Deathstroke series, plus Deathstroke Vol. 1: Gods of War, which entirely revolved around Slade's family. In addition, Daniel didn't do much in the last volume to explain who Slade's children are or why he feels so much guilt toward them in this particular continuity; perhaps we're meant to take this from the earlier series, but there's an extent to which this all feels rather flat just taking the current series on its own.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Deathstroke Vol. 2: God Killer

Clearly DC Comics recognizes the importance of a Deathstroke title in their lineup, with the Rebirth series marking the third attempt since the New 52 relaunch. And by all accounts, the Rebirth series is good. But it's been a hard road to get there, with a New 52 series at turns confused and ridiculous, and a DC You attempt that's so far lacked the requisite verve. By the time we reach Deathstroke Vol. 2: God Killer, Tony Daniel and James Bonny have gone for the increasingly sensational instead of just taking the Deathstroke character as Marv Wolfman and George Perez conceived him and letting him do what he does best. The next volume has Harley Quinn on the cover, which might not be an indication of less sensationalism but might suggest, at least, a more true-crime oriented story than what we've seen so far.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Deathstroke Vol. 2: God Killer
Author Rating
2 (out of 5)


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