Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Deathstroke, Volume 1: Gods of Wars Review (Tony S. Daniel)

Tony Daniel wrote the first two volumes of New 52 Detective Comics and the first volume of New 52 The Savage Hawkman. If you read any of those books, that should be warning enough; if you haven’t, that’s shorthand for Tony Daniel can’t write for (cleaning up the phrase) toffee. Or some other brown substance. 

Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten any better in the rebooted Deathstroke series (brought back a year after the last Deathstroke solo series was cancelled) which is all over the map. Broadly, it’s about Deathstroke having to kill his dad Odysseus because he’s evil and wants to rule the world or something terribly original like that.

Throw in a ton of unknown and forgettable characters like Possum (who’s there seemingly so Deathstroke can use the “play possum” pun twice), Angelica, I Ching, Red Fury, Lady Shiva, Bronze Tiger, Jericho (Slade’s son), Rose (Slade’s daughter), Kendal James, and The Dead Bastards, and you’ve got one steaming pile of confusing comic. Also, Deathstroke teams up with Harley Quinn because she’s popular and DC wants that popularity to rub off on ol’ Slade, and Batman cameos because Deathstroke’s in Gotham briefly.

The most notable thing about this book is that Slade’s been sexified! He’s turned from being a grizzled old man into a naked Superman-lookalike (he’s a dead ringer for the way Daniel draws Superman in Charles Soule’s Superman/Wonder Woman title). There’s no real reason for the change besides superficial titillation - a ripped dude wandering about in his skivvies, hubba hubba, ladies/gay dudes! – and that DC is about the youngs, not the olds!

Why the story plays out the way it does is anyone’s guess, as is the meaning of any of it. Slade is made young for some reason and then fights his way through the various characters mentioned above; his dad and son have been locked up separately for a while now, his son’s got psychic powers, his dad’s generically evil, they’re both freed and… it’s a baffling narrative. Is there any rhyme or reason to the characters he meets? Any purpose they’re in this story besides acting as targets for Slade to punch/slice/shoot at? Nope! Plus the endless swords and guns action that peppers the book, along with Deathstroke’s outfit, makes this seem a lot like a Deadpool comic, minus the humour and imagination.

The characters never become more than flat character models, their dialogue utterly vacuous and instantly forgettable. Slade doesn’t rise above his already established character of badass assassin, and his change from old to young has no payoff or any real effect on him. People fight, they go away, other people fight, etc. – how could anyone care about anything that happens in this book, let alone understand it?

While the writing and plotting is sloppy and amateurish, Daniel’s art is as slick and pretty as ever. Everyone looks very cool, I loved his Harley and he’s always been able to draw a really great Batman. His art is very well-suited to big, blockbuster set-pieces and a lot of the action scenes look absolutely great as a result.

Tony Daniel should never script a comic but he can draw the hell out of one. Deathstroke, Volume 1: Gods of War is a series of loud, excessively violent scenes masquerading as a story that bores most of the time. The book sure looks nice but that’s not enough to recommend it when it’s so directionless and poorly written.

Deathstroke, Volume 1: Gods of Wars

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