After a long hiatus from the industry, comics great Christopher Priest returns in Deathstroke Rebirth #1 and proves that he hasn’t lost a step. Deathstroke Rebirth is sharp & insightful from it’s opening page until it’s conclusion with the writers trademark whip smart dialogue and brutally honest world view.
Created by Marv Wolfman & George Perez for their seminal New Teen Titans series in the 1980’s, he’d be a recurring villain in their iconic run on the title as a sort of proto-Deadpool in design and backstory. Since then, he got a brief solo series while being mostly utilized as a plot engine in DC event’s and crossovers like No Man’s Lands, Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis. That all changed during the New 52 relaunch where the character and his solo series have become a fixture at the publisher in addition to their hit Arrow television series despite the comic rarely if ever moving the needle in terms of sales or conversation. Prior to the announcement of Christopher Priest on the title, the most notable event for the character in the New 52 had been when Rob Liefeld left the title and proceeded to have a meltdown on Twitter. Enter Christophe Priest.
Having left comics in the early 2000’s over dissapointment with his The Crew series being cancelled at issue #7, Priest influence on the medium has become more pronounced then ever. As Image Comics and similar mainstream publishers found success publishing creator owned comics with unique voices and style followed by Marvel & DC’s swift integration of those creators onto their properties; the DNA of Priest’s biting sarcasm, gift for satire and insight into current events, politics & pop culture is engrained in some of the celebrated work of writers like Matt Fraction, Nick Spencer or James Asmus. Comics Priest wrote over fifteen years ago feel as fresh and in step with current trends as any current ongoing. Meanwhile; the writer spent years waiting for either Marvel or DC to offer him a character that wasn’t black. Finally, someone at DC Comics had the foresight to offer Priest the job on Deathstroke and what we have now is Deathstroke Rebirth #1, quite easily one of the best Rebirth books in the publishers two month old relaunch.
That may sound like faint praise as the quality for the majority of Rebirth one shots has ranged between mediocre to objectively terrible; often without that being indicative of the actual series going forward. Priest makes Deathstroke Rebirth work mostly by just being Priest. While readers only familar with his most popular work may not get the same level of humor they are used to seeing from the writer, it’s easily supplanted in Priest’s subtle approach in tackling serious issues with a casual naturalism, his sharp ear for engaging and believable dialogue or his unique style for plot structure. One particular example comes when Deathstroke says “I have son’s” and the book backtracks from the present to a flashback of the character’s own harsh parenting of his two male children and then jumps forward with the quote “I had sons. They died when I put on this uniform, just like your’s the day you did” It’s a brilliant piece of writing synochracy that reveals new elements of the character which still feeling completely inline with his past iterations. It’s emotionally devastating on multiple levels and then closes out with the coolest line possible. Deathstroke Rebirth is filled with that particular kind of Preist genius; a casual negotiation with an African facist warlord about the use of political lobbying influence with a Super PAC before the next page pans out onto the carnage of the battlefield, Time Master evading Deathstrokes assassination attempts by projecting himself on a seven second delay, the “pups” chapter; it’s a masterfully written comic done squarely in the singular voice of it’s writer. While the art is decidedly unspectacular; it’s by no means bad and does it’s job in a smooth visual narrative without any noticeable mistakes of gaffe’s. It doesn’t stick out but with the quality of writing here, it doesn’t need to.
Even as so many modern comics writers have incorporated Preist’s style; he still feel’s like a breath of fresh air on Deathstroke Rebirth #1. Not following the trends of the time period the he helped start or Rebirth’s one shot format; Deathstroke Rebirth #1 is a sharp and engrossing single issue comic that penetrates to the core of both it’s main character and his world but also parallels our own with it’s insights in equal measure.