Review: Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)


Christopher Priest's Rebirth Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight is insane. Priest spins an entertaining, dysfunctional family saga, surely the most complex and mature title of DC Comics's inaugural Rebirth line. I'm not sure to what extent this book still tracks as "Deathstroke" any more, but there is so much fantastic mayhem here it hardly matters. Whatever brought Christopher Priest out of retirement, DC Comics needs to hold on to him tight; I hope we see Priest on Deathstroke for a very long time.

[Review contains spoilers]

Only a scant couple issues ago did Jericho Joey Wilson team up with Superman to send his father, Deathstroke Slade Wilson, to prison; now with no animosity Deathstroke is phoning Jericho for a mid-battle assist and later attending his wedding -- a wedding to a double-agent that Slade is also sleeping with. Joey dismisses much of this back-and-forth as "between my mom and pop" (he wrongly believes his fiancee is working for his government spy mother) with only the barest hint of concern.

Such is the plight of the Wilsons -- Slade, Adeline, Joey, and Ravager Rose Wilson -- who're all in one form or another lying to, cheating, or backstabbing one another, and none of whom take it as any more than standard family relations -- at least until the final issue's bloody battle. Perhaps what makes this so gripping is indeed how calmly Priest plays it all out, taking even the most horrific material -- like Joey cutting himself, for instance -- and applying a dull normalcy to it that makes the reader in some way complicit in the proceedings.

On one hand, for eighteen issues now Priest has entangled the reader in a rapidly expanding quicksand of a mystery. The prime example is when we learned in the second volume that a significant portion of the first volume was a feint, and that Slade recognized the culprit behind a hit on Rose much earlier than the reader knew he did. Here, Priest continues to unfold hidden rooms in the book -- that Slade's otherwise-benign attempt on the life of an international criminal last issue might have instead been to either help or hurt Adeline, that the congresswoman that Slade coincidentally saves turned out to be the wife of the late congressman that Slade drove to suicide. We understand at this point that nothing in this book is coincidence, and with that last bit there's still seemingly more going on here than has fully been revealed.

On the other hand, Priest works deep in the characters here. Alongside all the plot machinations, Priest still finds room for a four-issue tangent in which Slade takes on Power Girl Tanya Spears as a surrogate for Rose and almost actually seems to turn hero for a moment, before effectively torpedoing the whole thing. Not to mention that Tanya feels so abandoned after the fall of her Teen Titans (and, longtime readers know, the death of her mother) that she doesn't even immediately turn Slade in once she knows his identity. None of it is explicitly remarked upon, but rather the characters quietly go from one bad decision to the next, presented with such skill by Priest that the audience can read what they're feeling in each wrong action without the characters having to say it aloud.

Furthermore, Priest does such a good job working both in front and behind the story that we have items that suffice both as plot points and as symbolism. To some extent inexplicably, Slade spends most of this volume blind. There's a weird scene -- and in this I suspect there's more to it -- where Slade adroitly kills a target in his Deathstroke costume, but then emerges fully dressed in the next scene and wakes up blinded. Supposedly the cause is his recent exposure to radiation, but the blindness came on a good while after the fact. Clearly Slade is acting "blindly" in having affection for Power Girl after his fall out with Rose; what's wonderfully muddy though is whether Priest only intends the blindness symbolically (to surely be healed later) or also if it's part of a larger conspiracy (why did the thief have a vial of propofol, for instance?). Additionally, is the white of Slade's missing sleeve meant to hint at the good in the anti-hero, or is more also happening with the mysterious "Ikon suit"?

Again, Priest walks that fine balance between a mature title self-contained and concerned with its own business, and one richly embedded in the fabric of the DC Universe. Instead of using a random gun-for-hire mid-story here (or worse, as other Deathstroke writers have done, making up a forgettable character), Priest brings in Raptor in between his here-and-now Nightwing appearances. Equally Priest does more with Power Girl than twenty-four issues of Teen Titans did, and furthermore has her rattle off her relationship to original Power Girl Karen Starr more sensibly than it ever actually was. And this issue's best cameo is Deathstroke's 1980s costume, still devastating in blue-and-orange; clearly Priest demonstrates this character's past is just as cool as his present.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight

Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight ends on a heck of a cliffhanger, and at the point in which this book should rightfully be ramping up for its own denouement, instead it's headed into a crossover with Titans and Teen Titans. Of the three, Christopher Priest's is by far the best book, and I'm eager to see how they interplay and what sophistication, especially, Deathstroke can bring to the other titles.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight
Author Rating
4.5 (out of 5)

Comments ( 3 )

  1. I can't wait to read his Deathstroke run. Priest's Justice League run right now has been awesome, I'm very sad that Snyder will be taking over soon...

  2. Deathstroke's the best series DC is publishing right now, IMO. And Cody Enos is right, Priest's Justice League run has, so far, been a master class in how to write a team book.

  3. One of the big highlights of Rebirth, juggling complex character relationships and weaving a serialized plot that rarely sees filler. Wasn't a fan of how Lazarus Contract derailed interrupted the narrative, but it at least recovers nicely.


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