Review by Frank Plowright
The first two volumes of Deathstroke’s relaunch were excellent multi-layered action thrillers where uncertainty prevailed. Christopher Priest presented information about Slade Wilson and his dysfunctional family in non-linear and seemingly disassociated chunks. These were accompanied by provocative statements about our own world, the behaviour of those who claim to represent our interests, and some views about the society we have. It was an engaging and heady brew. Defiance is a superhero story in which a reformed Slade Wilson leads a team of teenage superheroes into the world’s trouble spots. It’s certainly an alright superhero story, nicely drawn by Diogenes Neves, and imaginative in places, but that’s not what we’ve come to expect.
That’s not the only problem. Defiance ended with a blind Deathstroke properly battered by Jericho, who dished out the same to Rose Wilson for good measure. There’s no indication there or here that to discover why Deathstroke can now see again and why he’s decided he can no longer be a mercenary killer you’ll have to read the Titans graphic novel The Lazarus Contract.
Accept this is a superhero story and you’re not going to get anything else, and there are some elegant touches lifting it slightly above the norm. The technobabble explanations for the application of technology are fun, a discussion between Deathstroke and Doctor Light is nicely set, the involvement of a cabal of villains is novel, and the use of the new Wally West Flash promising. The brief final story, drawn by Tom Grummett, is nearer in tone to the earlier material, a flashback to the days when Deathstroke did have a form of family life with a wife who loved him.
Although he’s allegedly reformed, Defiance is a Deathstroke graphic novel closer in tone to his escapades before Priest began writing the character, and so will possibly have greater appeal to the established audience. However, it’s a complete swerve away from the distinctive storytelling and air of mystery supplied by The Professional and The Gospel of Slade. It’s a leap to assume the people who enjoyed that will want to read this.
Alternatively, Deathstroke by Christopher Priest collects the entirety of Priest’s impressive run in hardcover.