Review by Frank Plowright
Spoilers in review
There was a shock ending to Deathstroke’s meeting with the Teen Titans in The Terminus Agenda, one indicated by this volume’s title being R.I.P. Is Deathstroke really dead, given his healing factor? Well, his eulogy and discussions about his demise fill a good opening chapter by Christopher Priest in which the Legion of Doom drop by and confirm he’s gone, and they ought to be able to detect any deception.
It leaves most of R.I.P. dealing with the fallout. Should someone take on Deathstroke’s identity? If so, who? Or should any replacement just have a different identity? Considering he’s dead, there’s actually a fair amount of Deathstroke in R.I.P. He’s there in flashback, in fantasy, possibly in reality and all over his children. Over the entire series Priest has built up the family around Deathstroke. His former wife and two children haven’t always been centre stage, but they’ve rarely been far from it, and here they step into the spotlight. As Slade Wilson is among the world’s foremost contract killers, any family relationship with him was going to be difficult at best and dysfunctional at worst, and his children are the result of that, which means they have very different ideas about how their father’s death should be dealt with. That’s the start of a deep and winding path with assorted ethical issues, but never hammered down the reader’s throat.
Carlo Pagulayan has been involved with this Deathstroke series from the beginning, his illustrative instincts gradually turned more toward continuity, and Fernando Pasarin has been a more recent addition to Deathstroke’s world. Both offer the artistic clarity needed, with Pasarin (sample art) drawing the greater number of pages. The work of both artists is complicated by having to draw Deathstroke in various forms, yet there’s never any problem in recognising which of him is present.
One way R.I.P. tops previous collections is because Priest knows it’s the finale and all answers are due. His discursive method of telling a story has meant something incredible is shown, yet there’s the frustration of it not being explained until the next book, or the one after that. That option being off the table removes the reader frustration that accompanies it, and all answers are forthcoming.
There are frustrations, however, to what’s generally a very good thriller. The idea of a multiverse is shoehorned in here as with all other DC superhero titles of 2019 and 2020. Priest copes with it well enough, setting up a mirror for Slade to stare at, but was it the best idea overall? The other is that for DC Deathstroke is a viable character with a following, so despite Priest’s skill, there was only ever going to be one ending, while spiritually and logically another would have been better.
R.I.P. can also be found collected with all previous volumes in the series as Deathstroke by Christopher Priest.