By: Jimmy Palmiotti (writer), Joe Bennett (artist), John Dell (inker), Rich & Tanya Horie (colorists)
The Story: Yargh, ‘tis Deathstroke, most fearsome pirate of the however many seas!
The Review: We can all admit we’ve at one time or another fallen for something where the concept is so intriguing, it gets us halfway in before we can step back and think how the execution will actually turn out. And nothing takes in comics readers faster than putting our favorite characters into the guises of other geeky genres: cowboys, ninjas, and of course, pirates. Who knows why? It just does. Of course, some characters take to these roles better than others.
Fortunately, Deathstroke, being a coldblooded, mercenary killer to begin with makes a perfect fit for the whole pirate deal, and that’s before you get to his eye-patch, beard, and perfectly white follicles. Slap him with a sturdy ship, roguish crew (with a few metahumans peppered in), and a dashing bandanna-cap, and he’s golden. Certainly Palmiotti pulls off the idea with much more gusto than Morrison does with Batman in the disappointing Return of Bruce Wayne #3.
The pleasures of reading pirate-Deathstroke are simple, but satisfying: it’s just fun to watch him land someplace, cause some havoc, punk a few things in the chaos, and then take off. Of course, his swordplay duel with the Warlord aboard the good ship Skartaris offers some classic pirate antics, but his raid on the isle of Saint Helena and its metahuman prison is no less action-packed (love how his grappling hook winds up clawing into one of the guards as it grabs the wall).
Palmiotti makes sure the issue’s not all fun and games by giving Deathstroke a personal quest of his own beyond solely material ambitions. His ruthless search for his kidnapped daughter poses a good opportunity to play with pretty much the only layer of emotion his character seems to possess in his deep attachment to Rose. It also makes you more likely to root for the villain (which he obviously still is) when he confronts obstacles like the intolerant Emperor Aquaman.
Like Brian Azzarello on Batman: Knight of Vengeance, Palmiotti doesn’t play cute with pointing out familiar characters, for which he deserves much credit. He simply casts the swashbucklers using characters that would make the most fun out of the roles, like Icicle and Clayface (love his oversized fisherman’s beanie). He never calls attention to whatever similarities or differences they may have to their original selves, which lets the story proceed that much more smoothly.
That smoothness gets occasionally broken by Deathstroke’s rambling narration. Since it does nothing to enhance or clarify what’s happening, the scenes would work just as well or even better had Palmiotti gotten rid of it entirely. Besides, Slade’s voice in these monologues comes across so differently from his spoken dialogue that it never fails to take you aback for a moment.
When the panels are nice and tight on the action, and there are fewer subjects to concentrate on, Bennett delivers some very appropriate, macho kind of art. But zoom out and his work instantly looks a little more rushed and sloppy, a quality that becomes more obvious as the issue progresses until he achieves an almost Dustin Nguyen-level sketchiness in the last pages.
Conclusion: While clearly lacking as much importance to the overall Flashpoint storyline, this tie-in works as a very enjoyable Elseworlds-type tale. And it’s Deathstroke as a pirate—hard not to get some kicks out of that.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I think this title definitely takes home a prize for Most Beheadings in a Single Issue.
– “He shares his body with his twin sister who can do many incredible things…” Palmiotti, no offense, but you may have needed to change your choice of words for that particular sentence.