When Exposition Is A Four Letter Word – Review Of Deathstroke #9

I must admit I’ve been dragging my heels on this review of Deathstroke #9 all week. I’ve been pretty clear about my feelings on the subject of Rob Liefeld’s take over of Deathstroke. Liefeld certainly has his fans and his detractors. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m in the “I Hate Rob Liefeld” club, we here at the Crisis On Infinite Midlives home office have been more than willing to use Liefeld’s name as an easy punchline, the same way Tim Allen might make grunting noises into a microphone instead of telling an actual joke. But, honestly, in the 90s, if I was looking for ridiculously silly, overblown art, I read The Tick. At least the silly had a purpose in that. Liefeld has never done much for me art wise. However, I’ve never read his actual writing. I’m aware he’s created a number of characters for which such comics luminaries as Alan Moore have written spectacular stories. I mean, he must know what he’s doing if he keeps staying employed in the business and Alan Moore has played in his sandbox, right? Or does he just have some incriminating photos of Bob Harras somewhere?

After reading Deathstroke #9, I’m inclined to believe it’s the latter.

Read all about Deathstroke and his new playdate, Lobo, after the jump!

You know all the stuff I said about Kyle Higgins’s writing on the previous arc appealing to me because I’m a comics reader who’s turned 40 and found myself gravitating toward relateable themes, like getting older and fighting to keep your edge, even within the pages of a capes and cowls shoot ’em up? Be super powered all you want, but be real. That’s all I ask at the end of the day. Or, at the very least, tell the story in such a way that you’re showing me the character’s motivation rather than telling me. Give me a reason to suspend my disbelief and buy into the character. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask for my $2.99.

Unfortunately, Liefeld doesn’t demonstrate that he can do that in this issue. The story, in which a corporate entity enlists Deathstroke’s assistance to track down an escaped extra terrestrial (Lobo), is an exposition heavy slog. For all the folks out there on the internet who decry his art style, it’s as though Liefeld himself doesn’t trust his own art to tell the story. The majority of action panels are captioned by text boxes that narrate Deathstroke’s own thoughts as he engages his perceived enemy. For example:

Oh, thank god he explained what that was. I thought he was wielding some kind of double dong dildo.

It can be a hard line to walk. We’ve certainly bitched enough here about books that suffered from being so decompressed in their storytelling that 24 pages went by without noticeably advancing the story. But, Liefeld would do well to take a page from his contemporaries over at the House of Mouse, Bendis and Fraction. Slow it down and get a feeling for some meaningful dialogue. Deathstroke’s lines in the story are so serious as to be a bit ridiculous (“A man of my reputation must always be aware of the danger that lurks around every corner…” No shit, Slade. Thanks.) and Lobo, who usually can be counted on for some outrageously hysterical dialogue as he brings on the ultraviolence is as serious as a heart attack. It felt jarring and unnatural…for super powered assassins and violent extra terrestrials. And in general.

Then there’s the art. Look, you either like Liefeld’s art or you don’t. I didn’t feel the need to go rummaging through the book looking for instances of bizarro art that dragged me out of the story. We’ve talked enough about Liefeld and his tendency to do that here as well. However, I do ask that the artist at least try to come up with enough in the way of distinguishing facial features in his characters that I don’t need to rely on the colorist to determine who is who:

Admit it - you guys both share a plastic surgeon with Michael Jackson, don't you?

So, I gave Rob Liefeld’s Deathstroke a shot, but I think it’s going to get dropped from my pull list for the time being. I’ll let my 8-year old cousin, Billy, who’s been trying to cheer me up about this whole thing with art work for my fridge, sum it up for now: