Christopher Priest’s Deathstroke run has been one of twists and turns and has basically become the Wilson family soap opera hour. I have to say I really never get tired of reading about who slept with who or whatever crazy thing Rose is up to now, and ever since the Lazarus Contract storyline wrapped, things have only gotten more convoluted. Slade has seen the light and sworn off killing, as well as started his own dark version of the Teen Titans, but that doesn’t mean that he’s any less of a bastard.
In this issue, things fall apart in the most literal sense of the word. Adeline tells Tanya that Slade killed people to set up Defiance’s first mission and that he’s just using her for her sweet pad. This of course, only comes after Tanya makes a comment about Joey’s bisexuality, so she kind of deserved that rude awakening in a way. Tanya is devastated and goes to Wally for comfort, but he’s already packing up to go back to the Teen Titans. Joey gets pissed off about what Tanya said and quits the team as well. Rose is AWOL, off in Hmong posing as a Markovian princess in a part of the storyline that hasn’t quite been explained yet, so she’s off the team too. This leaves Tanya feeling lonely and betrayed. So, after Wally has a very strange conversation with Beast Boy, (spoiler) he comes back and finds Tanya’s lifeless body and believes her to have killed herself.
Meanwhile Slade and Terra are fighting second-rate villain Bolt, and Slade grapples with the idea that things would be a whole lot easier if he just killed Bolt. This leads to a great sequence at the end with a reservation cop who stumbles on Slade’s hidden weapon stash, and Slade making the decision to kill him or not. Priest has stated before that his run on Deathstroke is not about bombastic violence, but about the fallout of that violence. The theme for the Defiance arc seems to be that the decision to follow conventional morality for someone who does not genuinely feel that responsibility, can lead to more harm than good. To make Tanya happy, Slade set up Defiance, but in the end that’s what cost Tanya her life. Of course, by the end, we find out that Tanya is stuck in the time stream from trying to save the original Power Girl, Karen Starr. I’m sure this will be addressed or given more finality in the finale of the arc, but for now it has everybody feeling guilty and placing the blame on anyone but themselves.
This run has had some really great art, but I can’t say that this issue follows that tradition. From the very beginning it’s full of weird facial expressions, wonky proportions, and an overall unfinished feel. I’ve never been a big fan of when Bill Seinkiewicz inks other artists pencils. It always muddies the lines and makes the issue feel generally messy. That’s not to say I don’t like Seinkiewicz’s work, I just think it’s a lot more clear when he inks his own pencils. The whole blame can’t be put on the inking, as it seems like there wasn’t a lot to work with in the first place where the pencils are concerned. This leads to panels where Terra looks like a literal demon spider monkey, and Slade resembles the “sunglasses deal with it” meme. What was going on in the panels during action sequences wasn’t clear and was very stagnant, which isn’t what you really want during action.
It remains to be seen how all the loose threads will be tied up, but if there’s anything you can count on this series for, it’s that it will be provocative. After the conclusion of Defiance, we’re launching into an episode of Maury ft. Batman and Deathstroke fighting for custody of Robin, so at least there’s the comfort in knowing this isn’t Priest’s last arc on the series. If you’re like me and live for the drama, then this issue will satisfy that itch, but with the lackluster art and more exposition than story, it’s probably only a must-read for folks following the series.