It all comes down to this. With the fate of his family hanging in the balance, the real Slade Wilson must take on his most dangerous foe yet-himself!
The most underrated title of the Rebirth launch has come to an end. From start to finish, Priest has worked with outstanding art teams to craft a highly nuanced, intricately inter-connected tale that explores the character of Slade Wilson as no other series has dared to do. Throughout the series, we see Deathstroke’s moral compass extrapolated through his varied actions and reactions leading the reader to understand the depth of this character in a new light. The roles of his extended family of characters, from Doc Villain and Isherwood to Rose and Joseph, are also mobilized to illustrate various aspects of the Deathstroke character– the heights he could achieve and the limitations necessarily thrust upon him.
This issue seems to serve a dual purpose. The first is a time-honored tradition in the comics industry, as this issue essentially returns all the characters to neutral, waiting in the toy box for the next daring creator to come put their stamp on the characters. In an extremely Priestian move, Isherwood, whom Joseph had been romantically linked to before Joseph “killed” him, returns in his new form (see “Chinatown” arc) to remove the drop of gravity bestowed on Joseph by Luthor as a result of the “Year of the Villain” tie-ins. Neutral. Similarly, Slade is revealed to have faked his death and just shortly after, fakes his retirement, leaving the character ready for the next person. Once again, neutral.
The second purpose of this issue, however, presents as a sort of crash course in the series. It is, in essence, a summary of all we have learned about the character over the previous forty-nine issues. Leaning into the editorial mandates and line-wide tie-ins that the series was forced to endure, Priest reveals this second, more weathered Deathstroke hails from the Dark Multiverse. On his Earth, Slade did not allow family to “hold him back”, allowing Joseph to die and killing Rose himself. He is seen slaying the Teen Titans (and Batman) finally alongside his wife, Wonder Woman, and his ward, Damien Wayne.
In pitting these two characters against each other, the juxtaposition reveals the dichotomy of Deathstroke. Deathstroke is at all times shaped by external forces, vis a vis his family– the children in particular. Nothing seems capable of removing that importance of family. Even in Dark Deathstroke’s elimination of said family, new characters move in to fill that void and the old ones continue to be both motivation and foil. But they must be both. As we see at the end of the issue, Slade has embraced his family, sidling into a family-man role, turkey and all.
Priest makes a point to show us that a full embrace of his family also does not work for Deathstroke. Balance is necessary for Deathstroke to function– a balance between love of his family and the distrust and dysfunction he engenders in them. This would appear to be what Priest has been building towards all along and along the way, he managed to teach a master class in characterization I don’t expect to see replicated for a very, very long time.
Deathstroke #50 (Priest, Pasarin, Pagulayan) brings this daring and underrated series to logical conclusion despite a number of roadblocks along the way.
Deathstroke #50: All in the Family
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 9.5/109.5/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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