Deathstroke is one of the more nuanced supervillains in the DC Universe, certainly an outright villain but with an established code of honor that sets him apart from many of his fellow ne’er-do-wells in the DCU. The character has taken on an even more antagonistic role the past several years, embracing his dark side and largely eschewing any possibility for redemption he may have flirted with in the past. However, as the storyline 'Shadow War' comes to an end and the new crossover event Dark Crisis looms on the horizon, Slade Wilson has undergone a horrifying change that directly informs how he will be heading into the epic story for the fate of the DCU.
Here is a quick background on Deathstroke, his complicated place among the DCU’s supervillain community, and how the cataclysmic changes he endured during 'Shadow War' are slated to influence him as Dark Crisis begins.
Who Is Deathstroke?
Deathstroke was created by Marv Wolfman and George Peréz in 1980’s The New Teen Titans #2, introduced as a superhuman assassin who received his powers from top secret augmentation experiments performed by the US government during his military service. Following these procedures, Deathstroke boasts a degree of superhuman strength, speed, endurance, and accelerated healing factor, albeit not on par with many of the DCU’s heavy hitters. Deathstroke also possesses heightened intelligence, improving upon his already keen tactical mind that has led him to outsmart many of the DCU’s veteran heroes on more than one occasion.
After Slade’s son Grant Wilson dies while on a contract from the terrorist organization H.I.V.E. to kill the Teen Tiatns, Slade vows to finish what his son started. This begins a longstanding feud between Slade and the Titans, with Nightwing and Beast Boy particularly developing strong grudges against Deathstroke. While Deathstroke would make moral decisions that hinted at a potential for atonement, including saving the President of the United States, he repeatedly faced off against the Titans and other heroes in the DCU, reaffirming his commitment to villainy.
When did Deathstroke fully embrace his villainy?
While some would contend that Deathstroke has always been an irredeemable figure since he seduced the teenager Terra to carry out his revenge on the Titans, the final straw came during the 2004 miniseries Identity Crisis, by Brad Meltzer and Rag Morales. The twisted Doctor Light hired Deathstroke to protect him from the DCU’s heroes, with Deathstroke singlehandedly holding his own against an entire team of Justice League veterans. Following this, Deathstroke became a prominent member of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, helping lead the team against the heroes in the 2005 crossover event Infinite Crisis by Geoff Johns and Phil Jimenez.
Following Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, Deathstroke became one of the DCU’s biggest threats, even going as far as to square off against Superman, while developing feuds with Green Arrow and Batman. During writer Joshua Williamson’s run on the comic book series Deathstroke Inc., Slade led Black Canary to believe he was actively pursuing redemption only to reveal this as another deception, instead leveraging himself to seize control of the Secret Society for himself.
What has Deathstroke been up to lately?
In Shadow War: Alpha #1 by Williamson, penciller Viktor Bogdanovic, inker Daniel Henriques, colorist Mike Spicer, and letter Troy Peteri, Deathstroke was framed for the murder of Ra’s al Ghul. Ra’s daughter Talia led the League of Shadows to embark on a devastating war against anyone who had ever worked with Slade in the past, including the entire Secret Society of Super-Villains. While Deathstroke maintained his innocence, Batman and Robin investigated who was responsible, eventually revealing Batman’s former Outsiders teammate Geo-Force as the true killer. Geo-Force had endured a line of grievous injustices committed by Deathstroke and blamed the League of Shadows for cruelly manipulating his home country Markovia, leading to the framed assassination.
This revelation came far too late for Deathstroke, however, as he faced off against a vengeful Talia and her army of ninja warriors. Slade recently met his genetically engineered son Respawn, a clone created from his and Talia’s genetic material, but the boy was killed shielding his father from a hail of gunfire with his own body. As Slade contended with the loss of another child, a son he never knew he had, Talia avenged Ra’s by stabbing him to death in a fierce sword fight. As Talia led the battered League of Shadows to lick their wounds while Batman and Robin took Geo-Force into custody.
Death is rarely the end in the DCU, however, with Slade’s body recovered by the Secret Society of Super-Villains in the aftermath. In Shadow War: Omega #1 written by Williamson, penciled by Howard Porter and Mike Henderson, inked by Stephen Segovia, colored by Hi-Fi, and lettered by Peteri, the Secret Society of Super-Villains immersed Slade in a Lazarus Pit, the life-restoring waters often used to resurrect Ra’s. Something went wrong with the resurrection process, however, and though Slade emerged from the mystical waters alive, the pit itself turned black and a maddened Deathstroke declared he was intent on killing everyone.
How Will Deathstroke's death and ressurection impact Dark Crisis?
Dark Crisis, written by Williamson and illustrated by Daniel Sampere, takes place in the wake of the Justice League being killed while battling a corrosive entity known simply as the Great Darkness. As Nightwing leads the superhero community to mourn their loss and prepare for the coming of the Great Darkness without the world’s mightiest heroes, Deathstroke resurfaces with the Secret Society to take advantage of the resulting chaos. Preview art from Dark Crisis has revealed Deathstroke quietly observing a memorial service for the Justice League from a distance while another set of preview art features a brutal brawl between Deathstroke and Nightwing as the culmination of their lengthy feud.
It is currently unclear what caused the Lazarus Pit to malfunction during Slade’s resurrection but the Great Darkness has steadily been building up to its grand takeover of the DC Multiverse for some time. Given the opaque hue that settled into the Lazarus Pit, Deathstroke may have just become the unwitting puppet for the Great Darkness as he sets out to kill any hero in his path, carrying out the cosmic entity’s agenda on Earth.
Curious about Dark Crisis? Get everything you need to know with our Dark Crisis guide.