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Deathstroke #4 is a surprisingly impressive issue. It's not just a slaughterhouse like the previous three issues have been. Despite the disappointing fact that the Blackhawks hardly make much of an appearance (though they do have their name thrown around a lot), the action is well-paced, the story turns interesting in spite of set-up problems and dare I say there is depth?
After a perfect hit in a meta-human prison, Deathstroke returns to find Christoph tired out, as well as himself, despite his refusal to admit it. He also learns some shocking evidence discovered by Peabody about his son, the first Ravager leading to him confronting a former rival Attila, now a member of the Blackhawks.
There are many excuses made by writer Kyle Higgins to throw more action into this title. The opening scene, with Deathstroke completing a hit, does nothing to forward the story but is done well; it is not purely blood-based, but has some strategy to it with Slade using his advanced age to throw his opponents off.
Let's just say, they shouldn't have taken him so lightly.
I prefer the strategic approach, but fans of the series may miss the constant gory action filled with explosions. The ending did forward the plot successfully with the help of some gore, but at the expense of unceremoniously cutting short a growing characterization.
Slade has two conversations with Christoph and Peabody, both of which are much more interesting than they were in the previous issue. Peabody has some funny lines during his conversation with Slade and he introduces a surprising new plot element, that may result in an even bigger shocker. The conversation with Christoph may seem out of place and slightly drags, but it further develops Slade's character and a little of Christoph's and Slade's relationship.
Deathstroke never meets the prolific members of the Blackhawks seen in the Blackhawks series except for his old "friend" Attila, which results in a good fighting sequence which surprisingly doesn't end in Slade senselessly killing Attila.
The art from Joe Bennett is positioned better in this issue. None of the action scenes feel jumbled. You can always tell what is going on. The expressions work fairly well and can accurately depict what the characters are feeling. There are some upsets, like the design of Deathstroke when in costume. There are several particularly bad images featuring Peabody, who first has a poorly jutting out chin which then transitions into a normal chin, but leaves Peabody with different sized eyes, eyebrows and huge ears that make me think of the old adage "a taxi cab with the doors open." But almost every panel has decent detail character-wise and background-wise and makes for a coherent, if not pretty, piece.
Higgins has apparently made a successful attempt at turning Deathstroke around: the action, while not as fast-paced or prevalent in this issue, to the point where some would say there should have been more action, was enjoyable. The storyline could have progressed more by omitting some unnecessary action, but then it would have unnecessarily taken away the great action sequence of this issue! Hopefully, this trend can continue into the next issue of Deathstroke along with more plot development, more depth and hopefully even more impressive artwork than the standard art we are being given now.