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Comic Book / Deathstroke

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"Guns don’t kill people. Deathstroke kills people."

Deathstroke is a 2016 comic book series from DC Comics launched as part of its DC Rebirth branding initiative. The series, initially shipping semi-monthly, is written by Christopher Priest, and stars the titular character along with his family.

The series has a crossover with Titans (Rebirth) and Teen Titans (Rebirth) in The Lazarus Contract, a Bat Family Crossover that features Deathstroke trying to use the Speed Force to revive his dead son, Grant. It is also intended to clear up the Continuity Snarl regarding the Titans' Post-Flashpoint history, along with Deathstroke's relationship with the team, which was similarly Ret-Gone'd in the New 52.

The series was later central to another crossover with Teen Titans, this time called The Terminus Agenda, taking place from March to May of 2019. This crossover focused on a newer incarnation of the Teen Titans as they went on the hunt for Slade Wilson.

The series ended with issue 50.

Deathstroke contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Slade Wilson is a terrible father. Adeline Kane is marginally better, taking care of Grant and Joey as children and encouraging Joey's choice to be a superhero in a healthy way, as opposed to Slade who manipulates his children into doing what he wants.
    • A flashback to Slade's past shows his father treated him almost exactly the same as he treated Grant.
    • The alternate universe Slade who appears in Deathstroke R.I.P. is even worse, having personally killed Joey and Rose in his universe.
  • Age Lift: Joey is in his twenties, having been aged down from his mid-late twenties along with the rest of his "generation" of Titans.
  • As You Know: Characters rather often describe events, abilities, and technological capabilities to others who should already know that info.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • Despite marrying Hosun entirely to piss off Slade (and maybe protect him), Rose actually did love him and is heartbroken when he is killed.
    • Adeline in the end does love Slade, despite her protests to the contrary.
  • Batfamily Crossover: With Titans (Rebirth) and Teen Titans (Rebirth) for The Lazarus Contract.
  • Baldness Means Sickness: A dark variation. Joseph suckerpunched Rose in issue #18, and issue #20 reveals he hit her hard enough that her head had to be stitched closed. Since her hair needed to be shaved for that, Rose now wears a wig to cover her stitches. Later issues reveal that her hair is growing back.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Slade knows full well how being a supervillain impacts his family, and admits as much. After The Lazarus Contract he's decided to go straight and outright invokes this trope in conversation with Dr. Light.
    Deathstroke: And what have I got, Arthur? A dead son. My other boy got his throat cut and can't speak. My ex-wife hates me. My daughter's half a nutjob. This is the treasure my lifestyle has earned me — millions in the bank but an empty soul.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: When not just plain Evil Versus Evil. Slade may be a supervillain but plenty of the people he clashes with are just as bad, if not worse than him. Even his kids have moments of darkness.
  • The Bus Came Back: Pat Trayce, the woman who briefly took up the Vigilante moniker in Slade's first ongoing, makes a reappearance. Their history even seems to be intact, actually.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: There aren't many characters who don't have this disorder:
  • Clue from Ed.: Editor's notes are used extensively, sometimes to the point that a single page will have three or more. Sometimes these will even reference events that happened in the previous issue.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Legion of Doom manage to effortlessly defeat an assembly of supervillains at Slade's funeral, almost entirely through Sinestro, who clearly wasn't trying very hard.
  • Destructo-Nookie: Slade and Adeline having sex in Issue 1 is comparable to a session of close quarters combat.
  • Discriminate and Switch: David accuses Slade of disapproving of his and Joey's relationship because they're both men. Slade denies this outright, stating instead that his issue is that since David was an Honorary Uncle to his kids, as far as Slade's concerned their relationship is basically incest.
  • Downer Ending: The run as a whole cops one, as after everything goes down, the Wilsons come together as a family, at least for a little bit, and live a peaceful suburban life. However, Slade's restlessness kicks in and he abandons his family and returns to acting as Deathstroke, something that has been repeatedly made clear throughout the run to be what ruined his life and the lives of everyone he loves.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Underneath all the abuse and manipulations, Slade does love his children. He just has an extremely warped way of showing it. For instance, he posted a contract on his own daughter that he was unable to take down. When someone actually took it up, he used the experience as an excuse to spend time with Rose.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Slade mentions a few:
    • He thinks it's cruel to leave children without a mother, which is why he kills some bear cubs. He may be a deadbeat dad, but at least his kids have Adeline!
    • He seems to have a distaste for using children in superheroics.
    • He blackmails a corrupt politician to suicide, resulting in the end of Bland's genocide and his exile. Later on, he turns a blind eye to Raptor possibly sabotaging Bland's newly captured ship.
  • Evil Counterpart: The final arc features a a Deathstroke from the Dark Multiverse, who is essentially Slade with what little humanity he has stripped away — he killed Rose when he found her, slit Joey's throat himself and has killed some of the Teen Titans. Slade doesn't like what he sees and this guy is essentially used to show Slade what kind of person he could become if he abandoned his family and friends.
  • Expy:
    • Matthew Bland, aka Red Lion, is an evil expy of Black Panther, whom Priest has also written for.
    • Death Masque,note  as introduced in the Deathstroke: Arkham story arc, is a wisecracking, fourth wall-breaking, sword-wielding, costumed fighter with a design based on Deathstroke's. Sound familiar?
  • Funetik Aksent: Matthew Bland sometimes uses this, notably frequently using the term "wheelon" for "villain".
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Slade's more outrightly evil Dark Multiverse counterpart, due to not having his healing factor, is covered with scars, including one big one over his blinded eye.
  • Hero Antagonist: Batman and later Superman clash with Slade on separate occasions, both conducting themselves much the same as in their own comics.
  • Honor Among Thieves: At Slade's funeral, the assembled villains are there on the condition that nobody try anything. The presence of Superman (except not really) helps. Of course, the Legion of Doom do not care and just do whatever they want.
  • It Runs in the Family: Elements of Slade's Super-Soldier serum were passed onto his children Joey and Rose (Grant was born before he got the serum). Joey can possess people via eyesight, and Rose can sort of see the future because her brain works overtime to analyse all info available to her and give her a mental picture of what will go down.
  • Jerkass: Slade and Terra are both thoroughly despicable people, although Slade proves to be the worse of the two by far.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Slade in a nutshell.
  • Kick the Dog: Slade kills Tanya's dog. Just to prove to her that he is that terrible of a person.
  • Legacy Character:
    • The Ravager identity is re-established as having belonged to Grant Wilson, with Rose picking it up long after his death.
    • After The Terminus Agenda, the question of who will be the next Deathstroke is raised. Rose decides to pull off Slade's last job as Deathstroke.
  • My Suit Is Also Super: Slade's armor is outfitted with a "gravity sheath", which rebounds a great deal of force or energy he would have taken back at his opponents. This is tough enough to take blows from Superman on multiple occasions and even withstand the incredible power of the Speed Force.
  • No Sympathy: Batman voices this towards Rose because unlike him, she kills people.
  • Out-Gambitted: Whoo, boy.
    • The first issue of Deathstroke: A dictator hires Deathstroke to get a Congressman re-elected to get the US to stay out of his genocide campaign, but asks a favor by getting him to kill the Clock King, who was under his (the dictator's) protection. The plan was that Deathstroke would kill the Clock King and the dictator would kill Deathstroke. However, Deathstroke outwitted him back doubling the pay then blackmailing the senator into killing himself, thus putting the dictator in trouble with the Clock King. Then, it's ultimately revealed that the dictator did all that just to get Deathstroke to change costumes, leading to him taking his old costume. This, in turn, was much later revealed to be orchestrated by Adeline.
    • Batman successfully out-gambits Slade and manages to tell Rose that he put out the hit on her, which causes her to rethink her life and distance herself from Deathstroke. Considering Deathstroke's goal was to make her spend more time with him, Batman thoroughly won there.
  • Parental Abuse: Slade, in spades. He's at the very least always emotionally abusive and neglectful, constantly insulting his children in almost all scenes we see him with them — Grant and Rose get the worst of it, with Joey not getting as berated as them, although Wintergreen states Slade does this to try and steer them on a better course, and he's probably okay with Joey's life choices. He also manipulates his children and stalks them. In terms of physical abuse, Slade was at the very least physically abusive in the past, as revealed in an interaction between him, Grant and Joey.
  • Pet the Dog: Slade leaves Luis alive as a favour to his mother, Pat, who was briefly Slade's partner.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Dr. Villain, a genius scientist who serves as Slade's personal physician, insists his name is pronounced "Will-hane".
  • Retired Badass: In Deathstroke R.I.P, Slade recovers from his death and attempts to use a fake identity to just work as a small-town E.R. nurse. He's unable to last long—he euthanizes a patient who was likely never going to recover, then murders the bikers who shot said patient. And then he learns someone dressed like him apparently has been gunning for Rose...
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: This title flies right off the cynical side of the scale and keeps on going.
  • Stealth Insult: After Wintergreen tells Rose that Slade saying "you're an idiot" can be translated into "I'm concerned about your choices", she tells Slade she's concerned about his choices.
  • Sucksessor:
    • In "Deathstroke RIP", Jericho says this about Damian Wayne as Robin. He says that while his psychopathic side comes from Slade and his manipulative side comes from Adeline, the good parts of him come from Dick Grayson, who is superior to Damian as Robin.
    • In the same arc, Slade's replacement as Deathstroke, Rose Wilson is notably worse than him because she won't actually kill people who aren't targets, which Shado points out.
  • Take That!: There's a dig at the second New 52 series, when Bland says he's glad that Slade doesn't have black hair anymore, even though it's pretty clear that this series is a reboot of the character and his supporting cast.
  • Token Good Teammate: Billy Wintergreen is the closest that Slade has to a moral conscience. Even then, he doesn't exactly discourage Slade from doing terrible things.
    • Later played straight when Wintergreen calls out Slade on his manipulations, and pulls a Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
    • The evil Deathstroke's version of Wintergreen died very early on—and the resulting Deathstroke is devoid of any of the hints of a conscience the main universe version has.
  • The Unapologetic: Priest even mentions this in regards to Slade's revealed manipulation of Tanya Spears.
    Christopher Priest: But he realizes his screw up, and the noble thing for Slade to do (since “I’m sorry” is not in his vocabulary) is to make Tanya hate him, which he accomplishes with ruthless efficiency.
  • Undying Loyalty: Wintergreen may be the only person that Slade is completely honest to, and isn't trying to manipulate.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Eobard Thawne was killed by Iris West in the future, and the ramifications of that are a big part of Flash War... and yet Eobard shows up alive and well right after he died in this series, with no explanation as to how he's back, though his appearances in the past have employed time-travel, so that's a possibility.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Terra started out as an innocent child, but she had a rough time growing up that caused her to lose that innocence and become jaded. It only got worse when Slade came along and groomed her to be an assassin.
  • Villain Protagonist: Slade is a massive bastard.
  • Villain Takes an Interest: The Legion of Doom take an interest in Jericho after Slade's death.
  • Villainous Friendship: Subverted with Slade and Matthew Bland. They have a professional relationship, but only out of convenience, and are constantly plotting to stab the other in the back.
  • Villainous Legacy: The opening issue of "Deathstroke RIP" asks "who will become the new Deathstroke?", and the issue itself presents an angry and unhinged Jericho being offered membership within the Legion of Doom and Rose Wilson replying to one of Deathstroke's contracts. It's actually Rose.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Terra and Rose are high on the vitriolic side, but have each other's backs when it counts. Rose even calls Terra "her friend" at one point, and Terra shows concern for Rose when things get rough for her.
  • Wham Shot: In issue #13, the panel of Slade getting into bed with Etienne.
  • Worthy Opponent: Slade makes it pretty clear that he respects the hell out of Batman.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Slade's clash with Batman is predictably this from their meeting right on through, with gambits flying around and hitting and missing constantly. It would feel well-nigh impossible if it weren't Deathstroke and Batman we were talking about.

Alternative Title(s): Deathstroke Rebirth