Thursday, May 15, 2014
Our man Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke The Terminator, has been getting a whole lot of play lately in the world of multimedia interpretations of comic books. He's been featured in Video Games like Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Injustice Gods Among Us and Arkham: Origins. He's been in tons of animated properties, most recently appearing in the DC Direct-To-Video release Son of Batman. However, the real impetus behind this Top Ten would have to be the television series Arrow. The show may have its detractors, but it also has its fans - - which you can certainly count me a part of! In honor of the series finale of Arrow, I figured it was time to give ol' Slade Wilson some love. So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Favorite Deathstroke The Terminator Comic Books!
10. Azrael #45 (Sept 1998) - 'Angel and the Beast Deathstroke'
Figure I would have to include at least one story from the brief "blue mask" era of Deathstroke the Terminator. Slade ends up taking a contract from some distraught parents who hire him to take out a depraved monster named Calibax who just so happens to be their own son. Azrael and his traveling companions Luc, Lilhy and Vyce stumble upon Calibax's domicile. The deranged genetically altered man drugs Azrael's companions and hides them away. Azrael remains unaffected and confronts Calibax for their current whereabouts. Then, Deathstroke bursts in on the scene, ready to honor his contractual kill. There's some excellent swordplay between Azrael and Deathstroke as they confront one another over Deathstroke's assigned contract.
9. Superman/Batman Annual 01 (Dec 2006) - 'Stop Me If You've Heard This One...'
It's nice to see a story written by one of the best Deadpool writers ever, Mr. Joe Kelly, that actually acknowledges that Deadpool is just a pastiche of Deathstroke The Terminator. Even their civilian names are practically identical! Slade Wilson and Wade Wilson? C'mon Rob Liefeld!
Anyway, this is a hilarious retelling of the first meeting of Superman and Batman from Superman v1 #76. The interaction with Deathstroke isn't meant to be taken too seriously, so I can't really begrudge Batman sucker-kicking Slade from behind. Besides Batman will get his comeuppance later on in the list.
8. Outsiders v3 #22 (May 2005) - 'Deep Throat'
I realize even though I give Judd Winick a whole lot of crap, his comic work seems to weasel its way into my Top Ten lists. What can I say? As far as really cool reveals go, this was pretty inspired as far as the dude who hails from The Real World San Francisco goes.
*WARNING OLD SPOILERS AHEAD*
We find out that it wasn't Batman that was feeding Arsenal and this incarnation of the Outsiders Intel, but Deathstroke The Terminator just looking to wipe out his competition. A very pissed off Roy Harper then gets into a one-on-one fight with Slade where he just doesn't stand a chance. This is a great close quarters fight that gets extremely personal. The reveal works well within the context of the shared universe. Plus, even with Slade's return to standardized villainy in this era of DC Comics, there's a nice call-back to the man's sense of personal honor. His skill and powers of observation tell him just how badly Harper was recently injured and he lets ol' Speedy off the hook....this time. A nice little moment that encapsulates the true character of Slade Wilson. Fans of Deathstroke will not want to miss out on this comic book.
7. Secret Six v3 #24 (Oct 2010) - 'The Six Guns Blazing'
It's no secret (get it?), that I'm a big fan of the title Secret Six. Jim Calafiore's pencils are awesome and (her run on Wonder Woman notwithstanding) this title is some of Gail Simone's best work! Now before you all freak out, yes Virgina, this story is not part of standard continuity. It's a period piece set in the old west and features Slade Wilson as the Black Hat to our band of somewhat dirty and tarnished white Hat heroes.
It's fan-aura versus fan-aura and Deathstroke pretty much wins out over fan-favorite Deadshot. Although Floyd Lawton does get his licks in taking out Slade's remaining eye ball unlike the standard continuity.
6. Green Arrow #85 (Apr 1994) - 'Chaos Theory'
While this isn't exactly the first meeting between Green Arrow and Deathstroke The Terminator, it certainly is the most memorable to me. Oliver Queen heads out to Vegas for some rest and relaxation. However, before you know it, he is armed with machine guns and has a patch on his eye. So to the average Joe assassin, this blonde bearded fellow with an eye-patch is almost spot on for their real target Slade Wilson.
The two men meet and exchange pleasantries about their teen sidekicks in the middle of a firefight and what you end up with is this odd Lethal Weapon-esque action buddy comedy from Alan Grant and Jim Aparo. Clearly this encounter is a far cry from their more adversarial encounters in the pages of Winick's Green Arrow or Meltzer's Identity Crisis. However, this particular team-up between the two characters was the first one I'd ever read, so it stands out more than the others.
5. Superman #68 (Jun 1992) - 'Sins of the Father'
When Lois Lane's sister Lucy Lane gets shot by the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit over an encounter with Deathstroke the Terminator, The Man of Steel aims to bring his former comrade from Panic In The Sky to justice! Dan Jurgens certainly was one of the consistent Superman writer/artists of the Triangle Era of Superman stories. Although this story ties in directly to the ongoing Deathstroke The Terminator title at the time, it's also a pretty great Done-In-One stand alone story.
We find out that Slade Wilson had some shared back story with Lucy's father Sam Lane, and that sense of personal integrity and honor that Marv Wolfman was trying so hard to push in the ongoing title at the time really comes to the forefront in this story. Slade basically gets the "feel-bads" when he learns the girl that got hurt was the daughter of his old war-buddy Sam Lane. While Slade makes the most of his fan-aura and awesome skills they really don't amount to much against Superman. Superman takes your fan-aura and eats it for breakfast, MISTER!
Anyway, the main goal of the story was to put Slade under arrest and in chains and who better to do that than Superman?
4. Marvel and DC Present: The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans #1 (Jan 1982) - 'Apokolips... Now
Deathstroke is hired by Darkseid to make Wolverine look like a putz. I often do this for free, but you gotta give mad props when you see them. And if X-Men writer Chris Claremont says so, then it must be true, mustn't it?
Clearly a biased and lopsided view on my part of a epic DC and Marvel Crossover from the good ol' days. Yours truly had hours of fun on the old Wizard World Superhero Showdown forums debating the merits of Deathstroke The Terminator beating up Marvel's Merry Mutants! One of the pinnacles in rival company crossovers, The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans is not to be missed!
3. Deathstroke the Terminator (1991) #6-9 - 'City of Assassins'
A four-part story from Slade Wilson's co-creator Marv Wolfman that features Slade tangling with Gotham City's own Dark Knight Detective for the very first time. Batman for whatever reason seems to underestimate Slade Wilson and in some way seems to be underestimating his own protege Dick Grayson. He goes to Grayson for advise on Slade as he clearly has far more experience with the man, but in typical Bat-jerk fashion completely disregards that experience all in the same breath.
The two cross paths due to a mob witness under GCPD's protection. Now keep in mind that this was post-Frank Miller's gritty take on Batman, but way before the infallible Bat-God from Grant Morrison's JLA. There have been other subsequent confrontations (such as the above mentioned sucker-kick in Superman/Batman Annual #1) where Batman plays the hero in his own comic book title and comes out the victor. During the blue-mask era, Batman took Deathstroke's sword and despite the promise to follow up on that slight, it never actually happened to my knowledge.
But as this particular face-off happens in Slade's own comic book, it's treated with far more sincerity. The fight is brutal and decisive. You might be able to argue that Batman is trying to reason with Slade at first, but ultimately Batman pulls out all the stops and comes up wanting. Slade is unquestionably the victor, but that's not to suggest Batman doesn't put up a good fight. He's just no match for Deathstroke. Which, in my mind, is completely fair and how it should play out. I think in some ways (fan-voting notwithstanding) this plays out just like I imagine a fight between Captain America and Batman would be. Batman may get praise from fanboys for being a pinnacle that any normal man can achieve (a debate for another time), but here that works against him. Slade is more than normal, and even the peak of normal perfection just doesn't cut it.
2. Tales of the Teen Titans #42-44 and Annual #3 (1984) - 'The Judas Contract'
C'Mon, you all knew this was coming. The Judas Contract is probably THE story most folks think of when they think of Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke The Terminator. Unlike the tripe that was Identity Crisis where Deathstroke takes on five Justice League members at the same time and actually presents a problem for them until Green Arrow pokes out his already poked out eye, his attacks on the Teen Titans are all one-by-one. They are sneaky, strategic, cold and calculated. Also this features the popular and fun comic trope of, "I thought you'd be the easiest member of the team to take out, but you're actually the hardest." Dick Grayson actually proves the most difficult to ambush and narrowly escapes from The Terminator. I have fond memories of my first exposure to this trope when Magneto faced off against Reed Richards on the New Fantastic Four cartoon.
Of course Slade would have never got as far as he did without having Tara Markov a.k.a. Terra to infiltrate the Titans. Also adding a uncomfortable layer of subtext in the relationship between Slade and Tara was the nightgown the character wore while alone with Slade after her turncoat nature had been revealed. It was like Doug Anthony Hutchison and Courtney Alexis Stodden had defeated the Teen Titans and delivered them to the Super-Villain organization The H.I.V.E. otherwise known as the Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination.
By the third part of the story, readers were finally getting all the details on Slade's back story. His time in the military, how he met his wife and how she came to be the one to cost him his right eye.
They were close on the heals of one another by a few months, but the flashbacks are similar to Larry Hama's in "Snake-Eyes: The Origin" from G.I. Joe #26 and #27. The art is from George Perez in his prime and the twists and turns from writer Marv Wolfman certainly deliver.
1. New Titans #82-84 (1992) - 'The Jericho Gambit'
The guiding light of the Teen Titans, Marv Wolfman, continued writing the New Titans well into the 90's. By this point in time Deathstroke was pulling a Magneto flip-flop and was fighting alongside the Titans. Slade's second son, Jericho, who was introduced back in the previously mentioned Judas Contract had become corrupted by Souls of Azarath and was now working against the Titans.
In an epic Whedon-esque tragedy (before Whedon made that a thing), Slade Wilson manages to get through to the last vestiges that remain of the good boy who was once his son long enough to skewer him with his sword. It's a fairly memorable moment that was captured by the wonderful artistry of one of my all-time favorite pencilers Tom Grummett. He just makes everyone look just like they're supposed to. I can't say enough good things about the man's work and this story is no exception.