*This review contains spoilers for Deathstroke #43*
With all of the villains free from their cells, Robin places Mercy Hall on complete lock-down. While the other villains are preoccupied with taking down the Teen Titans, Deathstroke enacts the Damien’s Terminus Protocol in an attempt to “fix” the Boy Wonder. Will Robin be able to stop the assassin’s master strike without bloodshed or will he abandon the Dark Knight’s “code?”
“Your terminus protocol was brilliant. But you kept it a secret because you were too weak to implement it.”
One of the things that I have loved the most regarding “The Terminus Agenda” crossover with Teen Titans has been the series’ use of Deathstroke. Instead of serving as a physical threat to the team, Slade has been more of a cerebral antagonist through playing on the emotions of the three Teen Titans keeping the secret. This has allowed the story to build up to their final confrontation with the assassin and provide a much larger payoff. The end result is certainly worth it, although frustrating, because all of the story’s questions don’t get fully answered. In fact, we won’t witness the fallout from the prior installment until the next issue of Teen Titans.
However, if you thought Damien’s crime-fighting methodology was questionable in the previous issue of Teen Titans, then Priest has one last surprise up his sleeve. Robin’s Terminus Protocol is not a method for dealing with Deathstroke as I previously believed. Instead, it is a method of eliminating escaped prisoners by infecting them with a toxin that kills them once they reach the outside air. The prison’s airflow system produces an enzyme that counteracts the toxin. Damien never implemented the Terminus Protocol, however this reminds me of some of Batman’s tactics for dealing with the Justice League. Although both fail-safe measures are dark, I think Damien’s plan wins the Olympic gold for darkness because of the Boy Wonder’s potential willingness to use lethal measures. It is with the reveal of the true natures of the Terminus Protocol that the issue truly shines.
Priest’s characterization of Damien and Deathstroke continue to remain a highlight of the story. The constant banter between these two is a pleasure to read. Sometimes it’s reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner as Slade is always one step ahead. Additionally, it’s almost as if there is a twisted mentor relationship between these two. Deathstroke’s dark attempt to “fix” this boy by showing him the potential fruits of his unused plan. Additionally, Slade’s statement, “‘Release them’? I wouldn’t cross the hall to spit on those losers,” illustrates that Deathstroke’s hatred for the villains despite the fact that he has become one of them. It is moments like this that helps Deathstroke stand out above the rest of the villains as he possesses a moral code, as twisted as it is.
Unfortunately, Damien’s motivations fall a bit short for me with Deathstroke #43. The reveal that all of this plotting against the assassin has been due to mother issues as well as the boy’s hatred for Deathstroke’s sense of arrogance falls a bit flat. Even Kid Flash exudes some frustration with this reveal as Damien tells him that he was triggered by the villain rubbing his head. I think this sense of ego goes a bit too far for even Damien.
At issue’s end, we are fully prepared for a final encounter with Deathstroke and Damien’s Teen Titans. Throughout the issue, Deathstroke fought hand-to-hand with Damien as he sought to understand the boy’s hatred for him. However, we are never given another true battle with Deathstroke; although there is certainly an interesting end to the battle, with potential major fallout for the team, we are denied a sense of gratification from a battle of fisticuffs. The lack of answers regarding the potential fallout is certainly frustrating in spite of all of Priest’s excellent character work.
“I tried to fix you, boy. But it’s too late.”
Pagulayan, Davila, and Mhan’s pencils are a highlight of the issue. They do an excellent job conveying each of the action sequences as the Teen Titans fight off the villains. One of my favorite panels involves Deathstroke saving Damien from the villains as they dive down into some duct-work. This panel does an excellent job conveying the sense of kinetic energy associated with this sequence.
Ultimately, Deathstroke #43 is a frustratingly good conclusion to “The Terminus Agenda.” Priest’s character work with Pagulayan, Davila, and Mhan’s pencils are true highlights of the issue. Unfortunately, the unresolved questions from this conclusion hurt a bit. Although, I am curious as to how Deathstroke will continue now after the issue’s game-changing conclusion.
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