Deathstroke went past the “sinking ship” status for me. I didn’t even bother reviewing the last issue because it left no impression on me whatsoever. Could be worse – I could’ve hated it. Instead, I was left feeling empty. Surprisingly, I felt something this issue, and it wasn’t hatred… it’s bound to have Deathstroke fans revolting though. But writer Robert Liefeld has that effect on most people. However, in this issue he’s bouncing ideas back and forth with writer Joshua Williamson and isn’t penciling or inking this issue. Hawkman has a bounty on his head, but the mercenary Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson isn’t coming to collect – unlike the cover suggests. Unfortunately, Hawkman has several unhappy feathered friends who aren’t liking the looks of Slade, or his armor.
My first reaction when I heard Hawkman was going to be in this issue was… what? Does he really belong in a Deathstroke comic? I couldn’t see how he would fit into this issue, but after reading it I have to applaud Liefeld for not making it feel like Hawkman was just shoehorned into the story to try and grab fans of Hawkman. Oh, they’re definitely trying to bring Hawkman fans onboard the Deathstroke train, but Liefeld does a good job bringing up a commonality between these two characters: Nth metal.For those non-Hawkman fans out there (and I admit this is part of only a little knowledge I’ve gleamed from the character thanks to the awesomeness that was Justice League Unlimited), Nth metal is a powerful alien armor that Hawkman wears – and, apparently, Slade does too. Apparently, after picking apart twelve issues, I didn’t even realize Slade’s armor was going to become an important plot point, but by making it made of Nth metal this actually makes some of what Slade has been doing more plausible. After all, this aged-man may have super-soldier qualities, but how could he take on so many adversaries with almost Superman-level skills? This explains it: alien armor. That’s comic logic for you.
So, not only does Liefeld make Hawkman’s presence make sense, he explains Deathstroke’s neigh invincibility. But the fact that I forgot his armor was special to begin with shows just how “memorable” Liefeld’s run has been. But after two surprising feats, does Liefeld manage to make this issue stick?The subject of Nth metal is introduced somewhat humorously by Deathstroke’s incompetent informant, and that’s what made this issue bearable to me: the humor. Which is also the cause of the Deathstroke fan club’s revulsion. Especially if you have been a fan of this series before Liefeld took over. Slade used to be a serious man driven by action and not words. Here, he has to have quite a few one-liners, but he at least has the decency to keep them in his head. Personally, I found these narrations an improvement over previous issues. Liefeld used to have a boring “mission log.” Slade’s thoughts are much more entertaining, and some of his thoughts also cleverly callback to some of Deathstroke’s previous appearance, pre- and post- New 52. This can make the issue very hard for new readers to follow, however. And of course, not all the humor is a hit. Some of it is downright terrible. Did Deathstroke just made a “yo mamma” joke? I would expect that from Deadpool, not Deathstroke. We don’t get speed line littered backgrounds like we did with Liefeld. Instead, colorist Juan Fernandez gives us a lot of combined color schemed background that add flare to a once gritty title, a rather jarring change. One fighting scene is particularly bland between Deathstroke and the first Warhawk he encounters, not because of this background but because the fight is in four tiny panels crammed between two bigger and more detailed pictures. I guess penciler Eduardo Pansica and inker Mariah Benes are trying to make up for all the action and lack of dialogue in previous issues – but the answer to that isn’t cramming the fight to the point where it is squished between panels we’d rather see continued.The characters in these squished panels weren’t given much detail, but when they were given panel room to breathe they looked fine. Their bodies were never weirdly disproportionate like Zealot’s weird triangular figure in Deathstroke #12. Out of costume, there were some excessive lines on Slade’s face (and a glaringly awful-colored backdrop). Overall the artwork won’t make your eyes bleed, but they won’t win an Eisner either – unless it’s for mediocrity.
Unfortunately for people who want to see where this story is going and only have Deathstroke on their pull-list (a.k.a. me), they’re going to miss the conclusion since this story featuring Hawkman will finish up in Hawkman #14. But I must say, this story is a welcome reprieve from the overarching Deathstroke story going on… which is sad because the overarching story is so boring, and this issue is somehow counted as part of that six-issue overarching tale. It really doesn’t need to be a part of it. For hardcore Deathstroke fans, this doesn’t really feel like the character. And after a run consisting mostly of action, it’s jarring to all of the sudden have humor added into the mix. I did enjoy some of the humor, but while this issue may be solid it’s not going to be the saving grace of the Deathstroke series.That ship has already sunk.
An all-around nerdette, I’m a comic book connoisseur, horror aficionado, video game addict, anime enthusiast and an aspiring novelist/comic book writer. I am the head of the comic book department and the editor-in-chief of Entertainment Fuse. I also write and edit articles for Comic Frontline. I am also an intern at Action Lab Entertainment, a comic book publisher at which I edit comic book scripts, help work on images in solicitations and help with other comic book related project. My own personal website is comicmaven.com.