Chained up beneath Mercy Hall with a menagerie of villains, Deathstroke finds himself in the clutches of the Teen Titans. With power dampening devices on each cell, Deathstroke will have to rely on all of his training as a soldier to escape. If he even wants to escape. Will Slade remain a prisoner in Damien’s war on crime or does he have an even more devious play up his sleeve?
“The perfect living weapon… a killing machine.”
In part two of “The Terminus Agenda,” Deathstroke #42, does not seek to address the immediate fallout from the shocking reveal in Teen Titans #28. Rather, Priest plays the long game here through showing us Deathstroke’s plans for Damien Wayne’s newest iteration of Teen Titans. Ultimately, this allows Priest to progress the story while also preserving the fallout of this reveal to happen within the pages of Teen Titans.
If you haven’t read the prologue to “The Terminus Agenda” in Deathstroke #41, then it might be a good idea to go back and do so, because some of pieces to this puzzle may be missing. With Deathstroke #41, Priest draws unlikely comparisons between the titular character and Orpheus from Claudio Monteverdi’s opera, L’Orfeo. In the opera, Orpheus is a legendary musician, poet, and prophet as he is able to charm all living things and even stones with his music. Essentially, Priest is describing each of these characters as master manipulators.
This ultimately explains why so much of this issue is dedicated to Deathstroke screwing with both Damien Wayne and Kid Flash’s heads in the midst of a mission. The entirety of the issue is spent following Deathstroke escaping Damien’s trap, only to remain at Mercy Hall to serve as a voice of doubt in the character’s minds. Throughout the prologue, Priest hinted at motivations for each of the major players in this crossover. In some cases, he may have even been foreshadowing the tactics that each character might take during their conflict. It is nice to see some payoff in Deathstroke #42 for as much set-up as Priest during the prologue. Additionally, it is nice to see the character take a different approach with his enemies than the traditional “shoot everything in the face (twice) and then dice it to bits.”
“The system is broken. Prison is just a revolving door for super-criminals.”
One of the elements of Priest’s work here that I love the most is the connections that he draws from prior story-arcs. Specifically, there are a number of parallels that can be drawn between “The Terminus Agenda” and “Deathstroke: Arkham.” Some of these connections are inherently obvious, such as with Deathstroke’s description of prison. This is something that he witnessed first-hand at Arkham Asylum and shows some character growth (for the lack of a better term).
However, Priest casts Deathstroke in the role of Hugo Strange from the previous story-arc. In “Deathstroke: Arkham,” Strange was trying to save Deathstroke by ridding him of his humanity, and making him, “one of us,” through having this assassin murder him. In “The Terminus Agenda,” Deathstroke reveals he is attempting save Damien by having him go over the line that Batman refuses to cross. Now, I don’t necessarily think that Deathstroke actually wants to die, however this wrinkle has me interested enough to check out the rest of the issues in this storyline. Additionally, the examination of where the line should be, as well as viewing Robin’s (already) questionable methods as only a half measure give this crossover some meat to sink your teeth into. After Priest’s work with Deathstroke #42, I am excited to see where this crossover is headed.
Additionally, Pagulayan’s artwork remains a highlight of this series. It is amazing to see his work with each of the Teen Titans and their specific power sets. Pagulayan’s artwork is perfect for bigger-than-life action sequences, and his work with the Teen Titans during their battle with Blackrock is the perfect example of this. One of my favorite pages depicts the use of Kid Flash’s powers as he attempts to take a backpack from the villain as well as the oncoming battle.
“But your execution is flawed… trying to take out the trash with clean hands.”
My only complaint here is that this issue suffers from a few of the issues that plague many crossovers. So much of the beginning is dedicated to getting the readers caught up on the prior installment in case they aren’t reading both titles. I understand that this is a narrative necessity, however Priest’s prologue with Deathstroke #41 already did such an excellent job of setting the stage that even more set up feels superfluous.
Deathstroke #42 is a great second entry into “The Terminus Agenda.” Priest’s script allows for some great payoff from the prologue through showing Deathstroke’s tactical mind and his ability to manipulate the situation. The connections between this story and previous arcs also thematically tie Priest’s run with the assassin in an interesting way. Additionally, the promise of examining each of the character’s questionable crime fighting methods has me excited for the next installment.