Best Shots Review: DEATHSTROKE #5 'Finds Life In Its Characters' (10/10)

"Deathstroke #5" preview
Credit: Joe Bennett (DC Comics)
Credit: ACO (DC Comics)

Deathstroke #5
Written by Christopher Priest
Art by Joe Bennett, Mark Morales, and Jeromy Cox
Lettering by Willie Schubert
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Credit: Joe Bennett (DC Comics)

A trip to Gotham City puts Deathstroke and Batman at odds as Slade Wilson tracks down his daughter’s attempted murderers. As Deathstroke keep young Damian Wayne occupied, Rose takes a ride in the Batmobile as the Dark Knight tries to get inside the head of the young villain. A sharp script by Christopher Priest and hard-hitting artwork by Joe Bennett, Mark Morales, and Jeremy Cox make Deathstroke #5 a highly entertaining read.

Credit: Joe Bennett (DC Comics)

Priest’s script takes full advantage of these characters, with Batman and Deathstroke maneuvering around one another, towing the other’s protégé along. There’s a twisted family dynamic here as Slade and Damian try to get under one another’s skin while Batman tries to take down Rose in a more subtle way. The interactions not only highlight the intelligence of all the parties involved, but also contrast the attitudes of the heroes and villains. Slade and Batman come across as relatively stable, but Rose seems one good mentor away from being a hero, while Damien appears just a small step from returning to his assassin origins.

Credit: Joe Bennett (DC Comics)

As Deathstroke and Batman make their respective plays, it becomes increasingly clear that neither has any real intent on attacking the other. Batman is too preoccupied with saving Gotham from more immediate threats (including keeping Rose from killing anyone while she tags along), while Deathstroke is focused on locating Rose’s would-be assassins and cautious not to draw too much attention to himself. It’s an intriguing creative decision that not only eschews the typical cat-and-mouse chase scenario in favor of looking at both men as predators in their own right.

Credit: Joe Bennett (DC Comics)

The artwork by Joe Bennett is particularly good at capturing this aspect. Slade is nearly a ghost in the story, covered in shadows and always a step ahead of his pursuers. Bennett’s Batman moves with a fierce sense of urgency, almost always entering or exiting the panel, suggesting that the comic is having trouble keeping up with him. Even in the scenes in the Batmobile, Bennett gives Batman a stern expression, which inker Mark Morales enhances with the intense blacks of the cowl. By contrast, Rose is inked less heavily, visually suggesting her nonchalance.

Credit: Joe Bennett (DC Comics)

Colorist Jeromy Cox adds even more dimension; when Batman stealthily infiltrates a house of goons, Rose goes in guns blazing, and Cox gives the darkened settings brilliant flashes of orange displaying their difference in approach. Cox also makes good use of Robin’s costume - the most heroic-looking of the bunch - bringing out the greens and reds to create a dissonance with Damien’s character. This kid looks the hero, but Priest’s dialogue gives him some cruel barbs at Deathstroke’s expense, belying his appearance.

Deathstroke #5, while at first appearing to be a manhunt, finds life in its characters. Priest shakes things up by pairing Ravager with Batman and Robin with Deathstroke and letting those interactions bring out different sides in the characters. Joe Bennett’s dynamic pencils keep the story moving at a blistering pace, while inker Mark Morales and colorist Jeromy Cox provide beautiful work. Ultimately, Deathstroke #5 proves that Slade Wilson is a compelling character, even when Batman guest spots in his book. And a pair of twists in the final pages shows that there are still layers to Slade waiting to be dealt with.

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