Trapped in the ghost zone, Deathstroke and Black Canary must confront the specters of a divergent life to find freedom. Unfortunately, the horror doesn’t end when the New Libra lays all her cards on the table. Will the duo be able to turn down the T.R.U.S.T. Council’s pernicious proposal, or is this an offer Slade Wilson can’t refuse?
SPOILERS AHEAD for Deathstroke Inc. #5!
“Whatever you saw… It was a lie. A crooked life. Something that could never happen… Never.”
Overflowing with outstanding character exploration, Deathstroke Inc. #5 provides a surprisingly devastating glimpse into the Terminator’s alternate, wonderful life. This issue is at its best when delving into Slade’s fractured psyche. Williamson’s use of the Crooked House to justify Deathstroke’s decisions is perfect. Unfortunately, the book loses footing once the series’ antagonists begin to twirl their metaphorical mustaches. Much of this conflict’s outcome has been alluded to in upcoming solicitations, lessening the impact of Deathstroke’s measured response. However, it’s always about the journey, not the destination. Thankfully, Paolo Pantalena’s excellent artwork and panel layouts manage to maintain the narrative tension throughout this issue’s inevitable conclusion.
One of my favorite elements of Deathstroke Inc. #5 is Joshua Williamson’s use of the Crooked House to explore the title character. During the story, Slade is presented with a scenario representing everything he strives to achieve by working with the T.R.U.S.T. council. Deathstroke has become the ultimate hero, a literal knight in shining armor for the Justice League. It would be a crime not to mention Pantalena’s perfect redesign of the character for this sequence as the spit-curl does a perfect job of conveying the level of heroism that Wilson has reached. Additionally, his entire family, including Grant, has been returned to him as he works to train the Teen Titans.
The entire scenario is one that Deathstroke immediately rejects upon embracing Grant. His words during this moment illustrate honest remorse for his actions as he apologizes, saying, “I was horrible to you. I was horrible to all of you. I should have been a better man. A better father. I am so sorry… I don’t deserve this.” Once the thinly veiled illusion has been revealed, Deathstroke immediately goes into a fit of rage, killing almost anyone in his path to the New Libra.
This reaction feels true to the character as T.R.U.S.T. uses Deathstroke’s children to attack him emotionally. It’s impossible not to feel gutted by this feeling upon initial reading. However, it becomes clear that Wilson’s reaction is more complex than this throughout Canary’s failed attempts at comfort. Instead, her words cut deep as she says, “It wasn’t real… Whatever you saw… It was a lie. A crooked life. Something that could never happen… never.” During this moment, Black Canary unintentionally reaffirms Slade’s belief that he can never be a hero, thereby destroying any good intentions he may have had in working with T.R.U.S.T. As a result, it is not difficult to understand Slade’s decision at Deathstroke Inc. #5’s end.
“You heard them. They’re scared. They know something big is coming. They’re looking for a leader. And if there is going to be some kind of King of the Super Villains… It’s going to be me.”
At this point, Ballantine approaches Deathstroke and Black Canary with the T.R.U.S.T. Council’s Secret Society of Supervillain’s plan for saving the world. This moment is one for which Williamson has laid much of the groundwork. Will Slade go the heroic route and put an end to the Secret Society of Supervillains? Or will Deathstroke continue down the path of villainy? Only one choice makes sense here. Unfortunately, the impact of this resolution is lessened as the outcome has been teased in solicitations for upcoming products.
Thankfully, Williamson and Pantalena have enough tricks left in their belts to maintain the narrative tension throughout the remainder of Deathstroke Inc. #5. Paolo Pantalena’s artwork is exceptional throughout the issue as he crafts dynamic action sequences and the quieter moments between characters. However, some of my favorite moments are at the book’s climax. Pantalena’s panel work expertly maintains the shock value of Slade’s inevitable choice. Additionally, Paolo’s panels keep perfect narrative timing that punctuates the character’s actions.
Deathstroke Inc. #5 overflows with outstanding character exploration. This issue is at its best when delving into Slade’s fractured psyche. Williamson’s use of the visions from Crooked House to justify Deathstroke’s decisions is perfect. Unfortunately, the book loses footing once the series’ antagonists begin to twirl their metaphorical mustaches, as much of this conflict’s outcome has been alluded to in upcoming solicitations. Thankfully, Paolo Pantalena’s excellent artwork and panel layouts manage to maintain the narrative tension throughout this issue’s inevitable conclusion.
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