There are only a handful of DC Comics villains who rate above Deathstroke in popularity and they are almost entirely composed of clowns who fight Batman. Since his debut in The New Teen Titans, Deathstroke has featured in many of DC's most popular storylines and series, in addition to having a cool factor so great it spawned Deadpool. Time has not diminished Slade Wilson's violent, anti-hero charms and his newest series, Deathstroke Inc., suggests they'll last for many years to come.
Deathstroke Inc. #1 introduces readers to a new status quo following Christopher Priest's critically-acclaimed, 50-issue run and quickly moves to distinguish itself. Having acknowledged his sprawling family and the harm he inflicted upon them all, Deathstroke is seeking an opportunity to prove himself a hero with the mysterious new organization T.R.U.S.T. to put down a variety of strange threats. Now he finds himself partnered with Black Canary seeking conflicts less likely to kill his surviving children. The result is a violent ride filled with gonzo energy and absurd encounters that delivers on all of Deathstroke's "cool factor," while still suggesting some layers of death beneath the many colorful explosions.
Artist Howard Porter instantly establishes the tone of this new series in a montage of Deathstroke's life-so-far and the introduction of a very strange experimental village. His exaggerated forms capture the nature of Deathstroke's life. Oddities and violence collide in character's whose forms belie their nature and moments stuffed with enough pathos to warp the shapes contained inside. The introductory setting is immediately off-putting as the people (and insects) in the village are contorted just enough to send the signal something is wrong. Readers don't have to guess at what that might be for very long.
As soon as Deathstroke arrives, every element on the page is ratcheted up like an amp in This is Spinal Tap, and it's a tremendous amount of fun. Cars and guns are stuffed with the sort of energy found in Liefeld's Deathstroke, but with clear narrative coherency to boot. All of Deathstroke's gear is a delight to behold as it creates carnage, and the villainous redesign for H.I.V.E. is irresistible. Porter's art possesses a biological nature that allows him to deftly deploy elements of body horror I hope to see become a recurring motif in this series. Deathstroke Inc. #1 demands readers attention purely as a vehicle for action-oriented storytelling.
Porter shares the page with some very capable dance partners, as well. The work of Hi-Fi reinvigorates his pages and updates the same stylish quirks that maintain JLA as a classic for a new generation of readers.
Writer Joshua Williamson brings the same set of qualities to Deathstroke Inc. that have made him one of DC Comics' most consequential, current scribes. His appreciation for the single issue as a complete unit of storytelling pays dividends here. Everything readers might want is contained in this #1. All of the core characters are introduced alongside the new premise and in a format that focuses on an adventure already told. In addition to all of this, Williamson strikes a similar balance between violent, superhero fun and familial history that already made Robin one of 2021's best new series. Hints at future crossovers between these two series should thrill readers of both.
Deathstroke Inc. #1 is simply a tremendous deal of fun. Bizarre villains, ass-kicking (anti-)heroes, and inventive scenarios are all distilled into a single issue that delivers a complete story even as it arranges many more for the months to come. It is a colorful medley difficult to imagine existing in any medium except for comics and I cannot wait to see how Porter, Williamson, and their other collaborators deliver on the promises of this debut for as long as they have another story to tell.