Review: Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Christopher Priest's Rebirth Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight is insane. Priest spins an entertaining, dysfunctional family saga, surely the most complex and mature title of DC Comics's inaugural Rebirth line. I'm not sure to what extent this book still tracks as "Deathstroke" any more, but there is so much fantastic mayhem here it hardly matters. Whatever brought Christopher Priest out of retirement, DC Comics needs to hold on to him tight; I hope we see Priest on Deathstroke for a very long time.

[Review contains spoilers]

Only a scant couple issues ago did Jericho Joey Wilson team up with Superman to send his father, Deathstroke Slade Wilson, to prison; now with no animosity Deathstroke is phoning Jericho for a mid-battle assist and later attending his wedding -- a wedding to a double-agent that Slade is also sleeping with. Joey dismisses much of this back-and-forth as "between my mom and pop" (he wrongly believes his fiancee is working for his government spy mother) with only the barest hint of concern.

Such is the plight of the Wilsons -- Slade, Adeline, Joey, and Ravager Rose Wilson -- who're all in one form or another lying to, cheating, or backstabbing one another, and none of whom take it as any more than standard family relations -- at least until the final issue's bloody battle. Perhaps what makes this so gripping is indeed how calmly Priest plays it all out, taking even the most horrific material -- like Joey cutting himself, for instance -- and applying a dull normalcy to it that makes the reader in some way complicit in the proceedings.

On one hand, for eighteen issues now Priest has entangled the reader in a rapidly expanding quicksand of a mystery. The prime example is when we learned in the second volume that a significant portion of the first volume was a feint, and that Slade recognized the culprit behind a hit on Rose much earlier than the reader knew he did. Here, Priest continues to unfold hidden rooms in the book -- that Slade's otherwise-benign attempt on the life of an international criminal last issue might have instead been to either help or hurt Adeline, that the congresswoman that Slade coincidentally saves turned out to be the wife of the late congressman that Slade drove to suicide. We understand at this point that nothing in this book is coincidence, and with that last bit there's still seemingly more going on here than has fully been revealed.

On the other hand, Priest works deep in the characters here. Alongside all the plot machinations, Priest still finds room for a four-issue tangent in which Slade takes on Power Girl Tanya Spears as a surrogate for Rose and almost actually seems to turn hero for a moment, before effectively torpedoing the whole thing. Not to mention that Tanya feels so abandoned after the fall of her Teen Titans (and, longtime readers know, the death of her mother) that she doesn't even immediately turn Slade in once she knows his identity. None of it is explicitly remarked upon, but rather the characters quietly go from one bad decision to the next, presented with such skill by Priest that the audience can read what they're feeling in each wrong action without the characters having to say it aloud.

Furthermore, Priest does such a good job working both in front and behind the story that we have items that suffice both as plot points and as symbolism. To some extent inexplicably, Slade spends most of this volume blind. There's a weird scene -- and in this I suspect there's more to it -- where Slade adroitly kills a target in his Deathstroke costume, but then emerges fully dressed in the next scene and wakes up blinded. Supposedly the cause is his recent exposure to radiation, but the blindness came on a good while after the fact. Clearly Slade is acting "blindly" in having affection for Power Girl after his fall out with Rose; what's wonderfully muddy though is whether Priest only intends the blindness symbolically (to surely be healed later) or also if it's part of a larger conspiracy (why did the thief have a vial of propofol, for instance?). Additionally, is the white of Slade's missing sleeve meant to hint at the good in the anti-hero, or is more also happening with the mysterious "Ikon suit"?

Again, Priest walks that fine balance between a mature title self-contained and concerned with its own business, and one richly embedded in the fabric of the DC Universe. Instead of using a random gun-for-hire mid-story here (or worse, as other Deathstroke writers have done, making up a forgettable character), Priest brings in Raptor in between his here-and-now Nightwing appearances. Equally Priest does more with Power Girl than twenty-four issues of Teen Titans did, and furthermore has her rattle off her relationship to original Power Girl Karen Starr more sensibly than it ever actually was. And this issue's best cameo is Deathstroke's 1980s costume, still devastating in blue-and-orange; clearly Priest demonstrates this character's past is just as cool as his present.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight

Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight ends on a heck of a cliffhanger, and at the point in which this book should rightfully be ramping up for its own denouement, instead it's headed into a crossover with Titans and Teen Titans. Of the three, Christopher Priest's is by far the best book, and I'm eager to see how they interplay and what sophistication, especially, Deathstroke can bring to the other titles.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight
Author Rating
4.5 (out of 5)
Collected Editions 2017 Comic Book Gift Guide

Review: Green Lantern Vol. 7: Renegade hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Given the the unenviable task of following Geoff Johns's historic run on Green Lantern, Robert Venditti has penned an interesting, exciting take on the franchise, faithful to what came before but tonally different. (In this, Venditti is Johns to Johns's Mark Waid on Flash.) The design for the Green Lantern Vol. 7: Renegade DC You's Hal Jordan is terrible -- all the more so because of the great Billy Tan sketches in the back of this book for what could have been -- but in this unusual chapter of Venditti's Green Lantern saga, he's got another winner. Whether by plan or by fiat, Venditti delivers a quieter Green Lantern story here than he's been able to do so far, with an unusual cast of characters that offer something distinct from what we're used to.

Review: Deathstroke Vol. 2: The Gospel of Slade (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Christopher Priest's Rebirth Deathstroke Vol. 2: The Gospel of Slade builds well on the volume that preceded it. With this book, Priest further demonstrates his intention to tell this story in his own way and at its own pace; Gospel actually includes the final chapter of the "Professional" story from the previous book plus the two-part "Professional" epilogue and concludes with a one-off issue set outside the book's main timeline. This makes "Professional," with prologue and epilogue, a nine-part story that bobbed and weaved rather significantly, bucking the six-issue "trade and done" trend — and in all of that, Priest has only moved Deathstroke's present action by inches.

All of this conveys a literary sensibility and a willingness to "go weird" as the title calls for it, a hallmark of some of the best series, and I'm certainly interested in what Priest is going to do as Deathstroke ramps up for its first crossover.

Review: Teen Titans Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Teen Titans, which should be one of DC Comics's flagship titles, has had a rough time of it lately, surely since the beginning of the New 52 but really probably for more than a decade. Benjamin Percy's Rebirth Teen Titans Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best marks a slight uptick, if at least because these Titans are no longer rebels or misfits, but rather teen-ish heroes in their own right who decide to fight crime together. But Percy's got nothing new or groundbreaking here, and rather there's a fairly boilerplate conflict that could have fit into another volume of Robin, Son of Batman rather than here -- nor does the book's art hold up to its original promise. Percy gets points for an aspirational take on the Titans, but he'll have to do more to hold my interest.

Review: Deathstroke Vol. 1: The Professional (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, February 04, 2018

After four volumes of the DC You-era Deathstroke title I felt some Deathstroke fatigue, and I wasn't sure if even Christopher Priest's lauded Rebirth Deathstroke series was going to be enough to solve that. It was, fortunately, a sure sign of which is that even though I found Deathstroke Vol. 1: The Professional far from flawless, clearly enough thought has gone into it that I'm enthused to keep reading more. Certainly Priest's down-to-earth Deathstroke plot is a big improvement over the meandering "fight of the month" we've been living with for almost the entirety of the last go-round.

Trade Perspectives: Reactions to Forbes on Brian Michael Bendis, Superman news

Thursday, February 01, 2018

On Thursday Mark Hughes released on Forbes a surprisingly in-depth and far-ranging interview with new DC Comics-exclusive writer Brian Michael Bendis. (At what point business magazine Forbes began covering comics-writer shakeups I'm not sure, but I guess when comics goes mainstream, comics goes mainstream.)

Kudos to Hughes for an interview with as many twists and turns as any good superhero epic; probably my mouth hasn't hung open as much reading about DC's upcoming plans since their live Rebirth roll-out. As I noted on Twitter, there's a lot to unpack here, and indeed I'd like to do just that in a "quick hits" (or "not-so-quick-hits") format -- snag some quotes from the Hughes interview and offer my reactions as a starting point for further conversation. Again, you can read the full interview over at Forbes.

"Award-winning fan-favorite writer Brian Michael Bendis ... will be taking over writing duties on DC Comics' monthly Superman and Action Comics titles."

That's a bomb dropped right in the first sentence, because of course this means the exit of Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason (except Gleason is staying with Bendis on Action). I'm not totally bummed about this because I have not been thrilled by Action's direction since "Oz Effect," and while I haven't been keeping as close an eye on Superman, my sense is Tomasi and Gleason have been keeping it light in deference to the big events in Action. So it's not as though either team is killing it, though I am eager to see where Tomasi and Gleason go, being a powerhouse duo in their own right.

Review: Teen Titans Vol. 3: The Sum of Its Parts trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I had high hopes for a turnaround for the third volume of DC Comics's second New 52/DC You Teen Titans book, especially with Scott Lobdell joining writer Will Pfeifer and then Greg Pak taking over the title. Unfortunately, Teen Titans Vol. 3: The Sum of Its Parts doesn't mark an improvement for the title, or if it does, it comes too little, too late in this title for the turnaround to have an effect.

It's almost laughable at this point, but Sum of Its Parts includes yet another "Who is Wonder Girl" story -- laughable because that title's gone beyond mere tradition to full-on necessity, the way continuity wipes away each successive Teen Titans' Wonder Girl (and Rebirth is no exception). That's Pak's story, for which again I had high hopes -- he's knocked it out of the park on Action Comics -- and it's not terrible but not great; I don't think Pak is helped there by artist Ian Churchill. But here at the almost-end of the New 52, when indeed Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark is about to take a continuity wallop, Sum does serve to fully-realize a story thread from Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman series, for what that's worth. Better, at least, that it's tied up than that it's not.

Review: Aquaman Vol. 4: Underworld (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

It was just before writer Dan Abnett joined the Aquaman franchise that DC Comics last ran an "Aquaman in exile" story, murky and ill-received, so it's a curious moment when Abnett returns to that well with Aquaman Vol. 4: Underworld. The Aquaman of the current era didn't lose much cache in that earlier volume misstep, but in some respects we're at a point where Abnett has built up enough goodwill over his own pre- and post-Rebirth volumes that he can upend the status quo without the same pushback. Certainly the painterly, fantasy-inspired pencils, inks, and colors of artist Stjepan Sejic don't hurt.

But also, inasmuch as this seems like a new direction, it becomes increasingly clear that Aquaman Arthur Curry, Atlantean freedom fighter, is a natural outcropping of the story Abnett has been telling all along. This does suggest, for one, a feint in the story Abnett seemed to be telling to start with; for two, there now seems a different point Abnett's trying to get to in terms of "status quo," and I'm all the more eager now to see what that endpoint is and what kinds of stories Abnett tells from there.

Review: Deathstroke Vol. 2: God Killer trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The DC You Deathstroke Vol. 2: God Killer sees Tony Daniel's Deathstroke (now co-written with James Bonny) set against the backdrop of Brian Azzarello's New 52 Wonder Woman. At this point in Wonder Woman, Azzarello's run was now on its way to being dismantled; Daniel also overlays elements of he and Charles Soule's Superman/Wonder Woman, also at a time when a new creative team was on that book. So God Killer marks the curious intersection of a variety of things, but unfortunately that doesn't make for a workable Deathstroke tale. The story within is predictable and generic, taking every shortcut to pad this out into a trade-sized arc. With two more volumes to go, I'm hopeful Daniel lets go of this tendency to stick Deathstroke into superheroic situations and gets down to the the kind of espionage setting where this character works best.

DC Trade Solicitations for April 2018 - Action Comics #1000, Batman by Morrison Omnibus Vol. 1, Titans: Total Chaos, Deathstroke Vol. 4 (Wolfman), Legionnaires Book Two, Zero Hour HC

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

I'll tell you, I had a heck of a time choosing a cover image to represend DC Comics's April 2018 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations. This is a month that sees Titans: Total Chaos solicited, collecting the second-best Titans story of the 1990s, plus Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Vol. 2, including Titans crossover "Siege of Zi Charam," plus classic volumes of Legionnaires and Deathstroke, the Terminator, plus a fixed New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 3, plus Batman and the Signal and a hardcover of Zero Hour. In a normal month, any one of those would be a shoe-in for the spotlight volume, but ... this is the month that Action Comics #1000 will be coming out.

I'll talk a little more about that monumental issue below, but at the outset you must read this harrowing story of how a young Marv Wolfman saved a reported Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster Superman story from destruction; the very idea in this day and age that that kind of material might be regularly incinerated is unthinkable.

Dipping in ...

• Action Comics #1000

I think I'm in a bit of shock that Action Comics #1000 is actually here, given I'm not feeling as strongly as I expected about it finally being solicited. This might be in part because, while I had switched to reading Action in single issues starting with "Oz Effect" in the lead-up to #1000, I've ultimately found Action's current direction so sleepy that I haven't even read the last most-recent issue yet.

Also I think I had envisioned Action #1000 as the culminating issue of a nail-biting storyline worthy of this milestone, and now it seems like Action #1000 is just going to be a "what does Superman mean to you" kind of short story anthology. Which is maybe what it should be, but again at this point I thought I'd have the same feeling of "can't miss what's going to happen next" as I did just before "Oz Effect" started, and the fact that it's just going to an anniversary special like any other instead seems less than.

Plus there's all this hullabaloo about the red "trunks," about which I just could not care less. They've got every other character out of their trunks, Superman's has what I think have been a variety of workable trunk-less costumes over the years, the trunks to me don't make aesthetic sense any more, and mostly what I see online about the trunks are too-partisan debates that really seem to be all or nothing for or against the New 52 altogether. But for me, whether Superman has his trunks or not changes my enjoyment of Superman not at all (nor whether the inside of Batman's cape is gray or purple), and for that to be the big news about Action #1000 out of the gate suggests to me we're starting from a lesser position. If Superman's trunks coming back are the most important reason readers should pick up Action Comics #1000, we've got trouble.

Batman and the Signal TP

The three-issue Duke Thomas miniseries by Scott Snyder and Tony Patrick will apparently be padded out in trade with the "Cursed Wheel" backup stories from Snyder's All-Star Batman #1-4 and 6-9. I'm not sure what they might have put in here instead (aside from nothing, or perhaps the Duke Thomas holiday story or maybe a recap of the character's history), but the All-Star backups are disappointing one because they're in the All-Star collections already, and two because, while they start well, they peter out with no real conclusion and ultimately no explanation of what the Cursed Wheel is. It'd be one thing of "Cursed Wheel" was complete, but it's unfortunate to recollect this storyline when it didn't actually work out.

Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

Contents are now said to be Batman #655-658, "Batman and Son," and #663-683, which is "Black Glove" and "Batman RIP." There's also the related stories from 52 #30 and #47 and DC Universe #0. Within these is also the prelude and part 4 of "Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul," and the solicitation says "This title also includes two new story pages written and drawn by Chris Burnham that recap events from 'The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul.'” That crossover was messy and I'm eager to see new Burnham work that makes sense of it.

• Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo Box Set Vol. 3

I'm not much for box sets but Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman Vols. 7-10 -- Endgame, Superheavy, Bloom, and Epilogue -- is some of their best work. This is some fine reading.

Batman: Detective Comics: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 2 HC

Collects issues #950-962, the Detective Comics Vol. 3: League of Shadows and Detective Comics Vol. 4: Deus Ex Machina paperbacks.

Batman: Ghosts TP

A Sam Kieth spotlight book, this collects both Kieth's Batman Confidential #40-43 and also Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious #1-2.

Batwoman Vol. 2: Wonderland TP

Collects issues #7-12 of the Marguerite Bennett series. I liked the first volume and I'm looking forward to this one. Previous solicitations had this as "Fear and Loathing," now as "Wonderland."

Cyborg Vol. 3: Singularity TP

Earlier solicitations had this at issues #12-18, but these solicitations list #14-20. Issue #20 was actually supposed to be the end of the Cyborg series, with John Sempter writing the "Singularity" story (#14-18 with guest star Beast Boy) and Kevin Grevioux finishing it off with "Wretched of the Earth" in issues #19-20. But, recent reports are that Marv Wolfman will be coming on to the title, picking up with issue #21.

Deathstroke, the Terminator Vol. 4: Crash or Burn TP

The last classic collection of Deathstroke, the Terminator included seven issues plus six Showcase '93 shorts. A bit concerningly, this is only five issues and an annual, specifically #21-25 and the Annual #2. Now, I'm glad to see this collected irrespective, I don't scoff at a Bloodlines annual getting collected, and the next collection will have to be eight or nine issues with "World Tour," but I wish this was a little larger.

Doom Patrol Vol. 2: Nada TP

Said to collect issues #7-11 and not #7-12, which would have collected the final issue of the first "season" of this title; I guess that'll be along in the next book.

Green Arrow Vol. 5: Hard-Traveling Hero TP

Collects issues #26-31, the "Hard-Traveling Hero" story that sees Green Arrow teamed not just with Green Lantern, but also most of the Justice League.

Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Vol. 2 TP

Said to collect Green Lantern #58-65 (previously #61-69 and Annual #4), New Titans #124-125, Darkstars #34, and Damage #16. That's an encounter with Parallax, a team up with Warrior Guy Gardner, and astoundingly, the entire "Siege of Zi Charam" crossover from New Titans with Marv Wolfman, Michael Jan Friedman, and Tom Joyner, which I recall being a well-written space opera that I never thought I'd see collected. Excited for this one.

Harley Quinn Vol. 5: Vote Harley TP

Collects issues #28-34, which is the "Vote Harley" storyline plus Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's final issues.

Legionnaires Book Two TP

Said to collect Legionnaires #69-76, Legionnaires #25-30, Legion Annual #6, Legionnaires Annual #2, and a story from Showcase '95 #6. The regular issues stop just before the "Future Tense" crossover with Karl Kesel's Superboy. Both the annuals are "Year One" stories; Showcase is the Science Police and/or the Legionnaires.

New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 3 New Edition

We finally know now that the new editions of the New Teen Titans omnibuses will indeed continue collecting New Teen Titans in order (as opposed to the last time around). This is Tales of the Teen Titans #42-58 (this solicitation says #42-68, but the title only went up to #58 before it began reprinting old stories), both "Judas Contract" and some Crisis on Infinite Earths lead-in stories, the Annual #3, and New Teen Titans #1-9. Tales #51-58 and Titans #7-9 have never been collected before besides what's in the recent new paperback.

Nightwing: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 2 HC

Collects issues #16-28, the Nightwing Vol. 3: Nightwing Must Die and Nightwing Vol. 4: Blockbuster collections, ending just before the "Gotham Resistance" Metal tie-in issue.

Nightwing: The New Order TP

The six-issue miniseries by Kyle Higgins. Trevor McCarthy's art wasn't always my favorite on Batwoman but it grew on me, and I think he and Higgins are just right for this.

Suicide Squad: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 2 HC

Collects issues #9-20 and the War Crimes special, the Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Burning Down the House and Suicide Squad Vol. 4: Earthlings on Fire paperbacks (Vol. 3 is among the best books I read last year).

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2 HC

Collects Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #241-258 and DC Comics Presents #13-14. This is, among other things, the well-known 1970s "Earthwar" story; correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think this has ever been collected before.

Supergirl: Being Super TP

Paperback collection of the four-issue miniseries by Mariko Tamaki and Joelle Jones.

Superman by Mark Millar TP

This collection has changed dramatically from when it was said to collect parts of the "Superman: King of the World" storyline. Instead these are largely the animated Superman Adventures stories, plus Team Superman #1, Tangent Comics: Superman #1, and stories from Superman 80-Page Giant #2 and DC One Million 80-Page Giant #1,000,000.

Superman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 2 HC

Collects issues #14-26 and Annual #1, the Superman Vol. 3: Multiplicity and Superman Vol. 4: Black Dawn paperbacks third and fourth paperbacks (with parts of Superman Reborn).

Superwoman Vol. 3: The Midnight Hour TP

Issues #13-18, the final Superwoman collection.

The Wild Storm Vol. 2 TP

Issues #7-12 of the new Warren Ellis series.

Titans: Total Chaos TP

We're getting all that much closer to there actually being a Total Chaos collection. That's New Titans #90-92, Deathstroke, the Terminator #14-16, and Team Titans #1-3. By Marv Wolfman and Tom Grummett among others, this is from about twenty issues when the adult Titans were at their absolute best -- everybody buy like crazy so DC reprints "Titans Hunt," the actual best story from this era. All the Team Titans back-up stories or bust (I kid! I'll take it anyway!).

Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart of the Amazon TP

The fifth Rebirth volume by Shea Fontana and Mirka Andolfo, issues #26-30. Also including Fontana's parts of the Annual #1 and the Steve Trevor special.

Zero Hour: Crisis in Time HC

This has turned out to be "just" a Zero Hour hardcover collection, which is actually pretty cool on its own and I'm only bummed because at some point we thought this would have Armageddon 2001 in it. But this does have an introduction by Dan Jurgens, apparently an "updated timeline to the DC Universe" (whatever that means; I expect it's the timeline printed in the last issue of Zero Hour originally) and bonus material.

How many copies of Action Comics #1000 will you be purchasing? Big plans for the big day?