Review: Deathstroke #11
In Deathstroke #11, writer Priest and a stellar guest art team of Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and regular colorist Jeromy Cox tackle the problem of gun violence. The story is set in Chicago, and Priest does his usual non-linear narrative thing switching from neighborhood to neighborhood and getting a variety of perspectives on how Chicago can have less homicides. Is it okay to take revenge on your killer’s children with your own gun, or the gun of a mercenary? Priest and Cowan explore this question through the specific lens of the city of Chicago in a scratchily inked (Sienkiewicz is kind of the best at this.) mystery yarn.
Deathstroke #11 is a master class in both how to tell a story that is both engaging and socially relevant in a non-preachy way and with an O. Henry twist ending. Priest’s writing gives insights into the characters of Detective Gill, the journalist Jack Ryder who has been following Deathstroke since he was responsible for a string of killings in Philadelphia, and the mysterious reverend. He focuses on ideas and characterization while letting Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz seed in visual clues about who has been killing the child killers in Chicago.
Cowan and Sienkiewicz’s artwork feels like a talented lead guitarist and rhythm guitarist trading riffs and creating a flawless wall of sound. Except nothing about the artwork of Deathstroke #11 is smooth or refined with Cowan going for gritty almost photorealism with his figures and backgrounds, and Sienkiewicz adding crosshatching and thin lines. Jeromy Cox adds splashes of red when Deathstroke makes his kills, an exclamation point in the wintry gloom. Yes, there is a lot of snow in this comic, and you can feel the subzero Chicago temperatures on almost every page. And when Creeper shows up, Cowan channels George Perez, Cox assaults our eyeballs with Christmas-like reds and greens, but the scratchy inks are still there because this is definitely not an issue of New Teen Titans.
Creeper himself is an agent of chaos, who literally won’t die and messes with Priest’s procedural-meets-journalism with little eruptions of violence tone. Jack Ryder is a kind of oblivious, kind of empathetic investigative journalist and keeps the narrative as the facts keep changing with victims and murderers switching, and the urban legend of Deathstroke lurking in the background. He centers the narrative until he transforms into a straight up freak hellbent on violence. This might be a bit of a logical leap, but I think that Creeper symbolizes using over-the-top violence to stop crime in the United States. Like the tanks in Ferguson after Trayvon Martin was killed, or Donald Trump tweeting about sending “the Feds” to Chicago when he was too afraid to even give a speech there while campaigning. It’s tone deaf destruction and noise like Creeper’s over the top dialogue, or George Zimmerman’s repeated 911 calls, and doesn’t even come close to helping out.
Priest and Cowan face the intersection of racism and gun usage head on in Deathstroke #11. Why are Oregon militamen who occupy a wildlife sanctuary for 41 days and leave shit, bombs, and guns behind for government employees to clean up, and a police officer who shot a 12 year old boy in Cleveland named Tamir Rice acquitted? It’s white privilege plain and simple, and Priest echoes that in the dialogue of the mothers of the dead children in Deathstroke #11. They just want justice for their kids even if they have to spend their hard earned money on a masked assassin. Their desperate straits makes you sympathize with them even if the killings by Deathstroke in the comic are horrific like a jarring image of a fireman’s ax in a rich white man, who sent his secretary to buy his drugs in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. Vigilante justice is cathartic, yet hollow, but again Priest doesn’t go the “message route” and ends the story on an ambiguous line of dialogue to go with Cowan’s pure black and white art.
Deathstroke #11 is an intelligent, tightly plotted, and well-researched piece of vigilante fiction from Priest, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Jeromy Cox aka the comic book equivalent of the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls starting lineup It’s worth picking up even if you don’t know your Deathstrokes from your Deadshots (Or Deadpools.) and rewards rereading.
Story: Priest Pencils: Denys Cowan Inks: Bill Sienkiewicz Colors: Jeromy Cox
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review