DC’s Deathstroke continues to reach new heights under Christopher Priest


This contains spoilers from Deathstroke No. 41 and everything else Christopher Priest has written about Slade Wilson.

Upon his very first introduction, he was simply Deathstroke the Terminator. A tactical genius and a masterful assassin, and far from a dynamic character.

Even in the New 52, where Deathstroke was put through new trials, he wasn’t quite the man he is now. It took the great Christopher Priest to bring Slade Wilson to new heights—and has he ever.

Whether you throw Terminator at the end of his codename or not, the character has always simply been Deathstroke. He’s certainly still had the name, Slade Wilson, but it was nothing more than a formality. pertinent in any capacity. Now, it’s almost like they are two separate people.

Where other killers in the world of DC, like Red Hood, have had somewhat of a code when it comes to who they kill, Slade hasn’t. If he’s hired to take someone out, he does it. That’s his job and he never needed to know the reasoning or motivation behind it.

Yet here he is, being tested upon escaping Arkham Asylum. That’s because he has a conscience that’s been developing since Priest began authoring Deathstroke at the beginning of DC’s Rebirth.

Now, Slade’s rough relationship with his kids is not a new concept. Same goes for his ex-wife. But from the start of Deathstroke, bit by bit, Priest has raised the importance of both Jericho (Joseph) and Rose.

It’s to the point where they are almost as much a part of the book as he is. Whereas in New 52, for example, they appear and were pieces in one of the major story arcs. But Jericho and Rose were flat characters that had fleeting interactions with Deathstroke.

Conversely, Priest has given them opportunities to have somewhat real-life conversations with daddy Deathstroke. They generally don’t go all that well because Slade remains cold, though his actions outside those talks show he loves his kids.

It’s also why Two-Face tried to kill Jericho—only to find out he used a gun that didn’t have real bullets—and was initially bent on killing Rose, though fate had other plans. Even still, he helped Rose work through her issues so Slade could get back to what he does best: killing.

Slade’s growth has never been more apparent than in Deathstroke No. 41 when Slade kills an innocent old woman. It’s an odd mark, yes, but asking questions was never Deathstroke’s M.O. As he and Rose eventually find out, the assignment was a test to see where Deathstroke stands mentally.

Additionally, his flashback to a conversation with Dr. Candace Evans at Arkham displays her impact on his current state. She was his real shot at explaining emotion—which was still limited, but progress nonetheless. Having accidentally killed her instead, Slade is questioning each move he makes.

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All this being said, Priest has not ruined Deathstroke. He’s still a killer. His mind may be moving in 20 different directions, but Slade has not gone soft. He’s simply become human.

Rather than being a book solely about sweet action and high-risk assignments, Deathstroke is a story of internal conflict. In a way, Priest has given DC a new character—or at least a must-read book that never has a dull moment.