This review contains spoilers for Deathstroke #48.
As Old Man Slade tears through the city and his list of known associates in search of his son, one thing is clear: this is not the Deathstroke we know and love. Elsewhere, a younger man with a remarkable resemblance to the deceased mercenary and a similar penchant for violence has just popped onto the grid. This revelation begs us to ask the question, how is it possible that there are two Slade Wilsons? Or most importantly, how did Slade survive his fatal case of arrow in the eye?
“Well!? Answer me! I demand it!”
With Deathstroke #48, Priest does an excellent job of answering a few of these mysteries while setting the stage for a final battle between these mercenaries. Unfortunately, your enjoyment of this issue will depend on the answers to these questions. Priest chooses to slow down the narrative’s pace in this issue as much of the issue focuses on a quiet conversation between Slade and Dabney.
I think the reveal of how Deathstroke cheated death is one of the most hilarious (intentionally or otherwise) moments in the series. Slade explains to Dabney that Emiko’s arrow had killed him. However, when Raptor removed his glove to touch his body, it infected him with leprosy. Everything from the delivery of the line, “Congratulations, Mr. Wilson, you have leprosy,” to the explanation of how it brought him back from the abyss left me smiling. The notion that this infection kicked his immune system into overdrive, thereby reviving him, is so delightfully ridiculous. This explanation feels like it came straight out of a Silver Age book, which is why I love it so much.
However, if this reveal isn’t to your liking, then the pacing is going to feel noticeably slower than previous issues. Choosing to focus on a quiet conversation between these two men breaks up the barrage of questions each cliffhanger leaves the reader. Priest does manage to kick the narrative back into gear by the end of the issue as Old Man Slade begins to tear through our Slade’s family. Not everyone makes it out of the encounter alive. Armed with the knowledge that Deathstroke #50 will be the last issue of this series, it’s evident that not everything is going to be cleaned up nicely at the end.
“Seein’ as how this thing’s likely to go bad for me…”
Pagulayan and Pasarin’s artwork is always a selling point of this series for me. Although the series does switch between artists, it is rarely so jarring that the change takes me out of the moment. However, in Deathstroke #48, the alternation between artists is much more noticeable. A large part of this is due to the level of detail that the art team has put into Old Man Slade. When compared to their work on the series’ titular, younger mercenary, the style is noticeably different. However, the sequence where Slade awakens on the burning altar is my favorite of the issue. The level of detail here in the horrifying imagery sells this moment.
Ultimately, Deathstroke #48 does an excellent job of answering questions while positioning the two Slades for a showdown. If you’re not a fan of Priest’s answers, then the pacing of this issue will feel off compared to those before it. Additionally, the difference between Pagulayan and Pasarin’s artwork is noticeable in this issue.