Warning: There are SPOILERS for DEATHSTROKE #0 and Team 7 #0 (Additionally discusses some characters and plot from Higgins’ Deathstroke run. Nothing too revealing, however)
Also: I went on two rants in this. The first was about a user review I read earlier on this site, and is located in the first paragraph. The second is at the end. You have been warned.
It’s obvious from the striking resemblance of many of the panels between Deathstroke #0 and the classic origin that that Liefield wanted to keep his origin as close to the original as possible. While one particular scathing review I read condemned this issue, calling it plagiaristic, I considered it intended as homage. Several panels, such as Slade receiving training from Adeline Kane, as well as his marriage, mirror previous panels nearly exactly. So lets sue everybody who ever retold a story (I’m sorry, but you had Robin Hood core an arrow in an archery competition. We’ll need to take you in) Seriously though, look around. People in the industry give homage like this all the time. It’s ridiculous to single this issue out. Liefield was commissioned to retell Deathstroke’s origin, and he decided to keep it as close to original as he could. He demonstrates this by creating parallels of several of the original panels. I give him kudos for doing so, even though it is playing it safe.
Now that that’s out of the way, lets talk about what does remain the same in the origin: he ran away and joined the military at age 16; he became highly decorated and received special training from Adeline Kane; Kane and he married with Wintergreen as his best man; and he becomes Deathstroke after rescuing Wintergreen from enemy combatants. These broad strokes of his origin remain the same. However, we run into issues when we get into the specifics.
Deathstroke #0 and T7 #0: Contradictions:
One of the more prominent issues appears to be a lack of communication between those involved with the production of Deathstroke as well as those involved with the production of Team7. In Team 7 #0, Slade is already working as a hired gun when they go to recruit him. They track him down while he’s working as a body guard and give him the offer. Deathstroke #0, however, seems to indicate that he was recommended for the team after “graduating” from Adeline Kane’s special training program. Kane states “Slade was ready to join special ops” and immediately describes how she recommended him for Team 7. This leaves no room for him to have split from the army and began working as a mercenary as depicted in Team 7.
The Ages of Slade, Grant, Joseph, and Rose:
This isn’t a problem unique to these three in the new 52, but there is some serious wonkiness going on with character ages here. Slade’s timeline is probably the most amendable, considering we don’t know when he started training with Ms. Kane. However, we do know he was 16 when he ran away to join the army, and that he quickly became the “youngest decorated war hero.” Both of these statements, which describe him before Adeline’s training, as well as him being referenced to as “boy” and someone moldable during his training, indicate that he began working with Adeline at a young age. She does mention, however, that “By the time he reached [her] squadron, he was already a legend.” This indicates that an indeterminate amount of time did pass between him being the “youngest decorated war hero” and joining her squadron. Ultimately, however, the artistic depiction of Slade puts a limit on his age, and while I think he is in his early twenties at this point, he could be anything between that and thirty-five at the most.
He graduates from her training nine months later and seems, by all indications in this book, to join Team 7 immediately. We know, however, that T7 formed in response to events that occurred five years prior to current continuity. This would place Slade at an absolute maximum of about forty-one years old, which is mildly reasonable (though he would have had to go grey in his thirties). However, the indication the comic book gives, up at least until the very end, is that he is much younger than that. Additionally, with him gaining his powers at the end of his time on Team 7, which is followed by months of recuperation, it hardly leaves time for him to gain his incredible reputation as a mercenary, and then lose it by seemingly getting too old. Team 7’s interpretation seems much better in that regard, because it gives him time to build up his reputation as a mercenary before joining, giving him the time to grow older which is absent in Deathstroke #0.
Either way, however, we still have a major conundrum concerning the ages of his three children. Adeline and Slade get married after his time on Team 7 comes to an end. While it is conceivable (heh) that they did the dirty deed before then, it is explicitly stated that Grand inherited his power from Slade. But Slade didn’t receive his powers until after his time on Team 7. Therefore, the last time we see Grant he’s at a maximum of four years old, making him the most impressive youngster I’ve read about since Bean. And Grant is the oldest of his children. At least, with Slade’s work with Alex Fairchild, we have a setup for the Rose-Caitlin arrangement seen in Superboy.
Peabody and Wintergreen:
The only noticeable change to Wintergreen is that they turned him from an old white guy into a young black man (i.e. no longer eternally grey hair). I don’t really know why they decided to change anything, however, considering they did absolutely nothing with the character other than throw him in the background scenery a few times. They didn’t even bother to mention how he died (though considering other revelations in this book, I’m not entirely surprised). Hopefully, we will get something meatier on his personality sometime in the future, making it so that the changes can mean something.
Alex Peabody is introduced as Wintergreen’s son. He grows up friends with Grant, and gets shoehorned into being Deathstroke’s new Wintergreen after his death. Literally. He’s not even given his own reason for doing so, other than honoring the fact that Slade saved his father’s life. He’s even given Wintergreen’s personality, minus any of the combatant nature that Wintergreen possessed.
Okay, rant time. What I don’t understand is, if they were going to do this, why not just bring Wintergreen back? I loved the evolution of Slade and Peabody’s work relationship as given over the course of Higgins' run (as a partnership among equals, rather than as shown in the #0 as more of a servant). Having Wintergreen be his father offered interesting ways for this relationship to be expanded. However, they decided to throw away and vestiges of Peabody’s personality and give him the lamest possible reason to work for Deathstroke. If there was anything that got to me in this book it was this. I hope the next writer makes Peabody more than just a Wintergreen replacement. He has the potential to surpass his father with the seeds that Higgins planted, and I want to see that happen. /rant
Other Changes and Issues:
I’ve only got two quick things to mention here. The first is Adeline Kane’s personality difference between Higgins’ run and the more classical view given here. I’m not sure which one is better. Higgins’ portrays her as almost as coldhearted as Slade in her brief appearance, while here she freaks out due to Slade creating Deathstroke. I’m leaning more in favor of the Higgins’ portrayal simply because it’s different, and I’d like to see where it goes. That, however, is a personal preference.
Finally, what was with his hair color? It switched to grey halfway through, before changing back to blonde.
Once again, Kudos to Mr. Liefield for attempting to keep the origin as similar to the original as possible. Most of the issues with this issue stem from the ridiculous 5 year timetable, so I’ll chalk those up to bad luck. However, because they shoehorned Peabody into a personality that contradicts what we’ve seen of him up till now, I ended up with a negative opinion of this book. Hopefully future writers will deal with the timeline issues, as well as explore the revelations about Peabody in this issue under the visage of the personality and position set up for him in Higgins’ run.
Note: I'm attributing problems to the final product. We've all heard the stories about editorial disagreements, so it's unknown where in the process the cause for my complaints surfaced. If anyone has any different interpretations of the events, I'd love to hear.
2.5/5 when considering everything
3/5 when not considering uncontrollable timeline problems
Liefield, Rob. 2012, “Deathstroke (2011) #0”. DC Comics
Jordan, Justin; Merino, Jesus. 2012. “Team 7 (2012) #0”. DC Comics
Wolfman; Erwin; Blyberg. 1991,“Deathstroke the Terminator (1991) #1”. DC Comics