This review contains spoilers for Deathstroke #47.
Using his amplified abilities to manipulate Terrence into staying was only the beginning. Now capable of thwarting everything from playground bullies to military assaults with the utterance of a single word, Jericho’s power continues to grow. Will these new godlike powers corrupt the one-time fair-weather hero, or is he destined to become a friendly neighborhood messiah?
“Don’t know what kind of game you’re running, kid, but I’m gonna put an end to it.”
Picking up shortly after the events of the previous issue, an older Deathstroke awakens to find himself in Rose’s apartment. Except this isn’t possible. Emiko’s ambush atop Mercy Hall left the assassin with a terminal case of “arrow in the brain.” With no memory of how he got there, the battle-scarred Slade must solve the puzzle of where, or when, he is. Perhaps then, he can make the final leap back home. Priest’s introduction of new mysteries within “Deathstroke R.I.P.” provides a plethora of new wrinkles that have me clamoring for more.
From the moment that Slade wakes up, it is evident that this is not the Deathstroke that readers know and love. However, Priest wisely keeps this Slade’s backstory vague. He provides us with just enough context for us to question his backstory. Throughout his conversation with Hosun, he seems surprised that both Rose and Jericho are alive. He even goes as far as to say that he drowned Rose. Moments such as these seem to hint that this older Slade is not a future version of the assassin but rather one from another world.
As intrigued as I am by this Slade’s background, I am infinitely more interested in a story beat involving Robin. During his conversation with Hosun, he mentions calling his son. Instead of calling Jericho, he dials Robin, much to the Boy Wonder’s disgust. In last year’s “Batman vs. Deathstroke,” Priest spent a significant amount of time exploring the notion that Robin was Deathstroke’s son. This moment is a wonderful callback to that storyline that ultimately has me questioning its resolution. If this is a Deathstroke from the future, did he reveal the answer to this question? It seems more plausible, and less rage-inducing, that this Slade is Robin’s father on another Earth. This possibility provides Priest with an opportunity to mess with readers while also maintaining the character’s backstory.
Additionally, one character’s death and another’s “rebirth” during the final pages of the story will leave you wanting to know more. The reveal that there is a second, younger Deathstroke, complete with two eyes, will leave you wondering how all of this is possible. Part of me wonders if Slade never died, and Lex’s true gift to Slade a new eye and a clean slate. I am excited to see how this all plays out.
“The other day, you called me a ‘fair-weather’ hero. Stopping purse thieves on my lunch break. You were right. But all that’s changed now.”
If the sequences involving Deathstroke provide the issue’s intrigue, then the moments involving Jericho and Rose give it heart. Every page involving Jericho is both impressive and terrifying as the character wrestles with the powers conferred by Apex Lex. Although Jericho is protecting the weak, the character’s ability to control others, and his inevitable corruption from this power, does not alleviate my fears. Additionally, the juxtaposition of Jericho’s debate involving nature versus nurture against his deeds as a hero does an excellent job of highlighting his ethical struggle with these powers. He questions his need to save others if humans are inherently evil. These moments provide a grander scale to an earlier question debating whether Rose was destined to follow in her father’s footsteps or forge her own path. Priest’s exploration of these debates from multiple perspectives is what makes his work on this title so enjoyable. Watching the characters struggle with these questions while also allowing the reader to formulate their answers is one of this series’ greatest strengths.
As far gone as Jericho may be, the sequence with Rose does a great job of illustrating that he hasn’t turned full villain. In her battle with Emiko, Rose reveals that she is compelled to forgive her for Deathstroke’s murder. During his attempt to use his new powers on Rose, Jericho infected her with his goodness. As a result, she must forgive Emiko. Ultimately, this suggests that these abilities have not completely corrupted Jericho.
Parasin and Pagulayan’s pencils with Paz, Smith and Von Grawbadger’s inks and Cox’s colors do an excellent job telling this story. With so many creators involved, it would be easy for there to be inconsistency among pages. However, the transition between creators is seamless. Every page has a cinematic quality that expertly conveys the tone of each moment. Particularly, my favorite pages involve Jericho’s assault on the army. The cinematic nature of this sequence illustrates just how adept he has become with these powers. By merely uttering the phrase, “die,” all the soldiers immediately fall to the ground. He is then able to reverse their deaths by saying, “live.” These panels are both badass and terrifying as the reader begins to understand the scope of his abilities.
From the introduction of new mysteries to Priest’s exploration of Nature versus Nurture, there is a lot to love about Deathstroke #47. The mystery surrounding the two Deathstrokes has me clamoring for the next issue. Additionally, Pasarin and Pagulayan’s artwork are enough of a reason to pick up this book.