Release Date: August 4th, 2020 Directed by: Sung Jin Ahn Written by: J.M. DeMatteis Based on:Deathstroke by Marv Wolfman, George Perez Music by: Kevin Riepl Cast: Michael Chiklis, Chris Jai Alex, Sasha Alexander
Berlanti Productions, Blue Ribbon Content, DC Entertainment, 87 Minutes
I was a bit stoked when I saw that there was an animated Deathstroke film on HBO Max. It came out a year ago and I’m assuming it was initially on DC Universe before that got swallowed up and absorbed by the newly launched HBO Max, which is sort of a central hub of all the content Warner Bros. associated streaming services hosted before converging into one thing.
Anyway, I was pretty underwhelmed by this. That’s not surprising, as DC animated features are a mixed bag. Some are really meh but some are very, very good. Most of them meet somewhere in the middle but this one does fall closer to the meh side of that pendulum.
While I liked that Michael Chiklis voiced Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke, the film was kind of a bore. It featured a couple C-list villains for Deathstroke to tie-up with but it also leaned into his personal life and his family, which I feel like has been explored to death in comics and other mediums already.
Frankly, I just kind of wanted Deathstroke in his anti-hero role, going up against impossible odds to take down a serious baddie. I wanted some dark, black-ops shit. While I guess this does send him on shadow missions of some degree, it just never really grabbed me.
There’s a television series of Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons, so I’m not sure if this is a sequel to it or a prequel. Maybe this is just a condensed version of a larger story. Either way, it’s kind of sloppy and boring.
Published: 1994 Written by: Marv Wolfman Art by: Launchland Pelle, Nigel Tully, Jaxon Renick, Ed Hannigan, Will Blyberg, Charles Barnett, Rus Silver
DC Comics, 151 Pages
They stopped releasing the Deathstroke: The Terminator series in collected volumes, so I figured I’d still finish out the series, reviewing a handful of issues apiece until I reach the end, which happens at issue 60.
This stretch of the series is pretty significant in that it features the first meeting between Deathstroke and Green Arrow. I guess the importance of that depends on how much you were into Arrow over the first few seasons. For those of us who watched it, as it was pretty great its first two years, we know how much these characters mean to one another in the CW television universe.
In the comics, they never cross paths as much but it is still cool to see the stories where they do, as opposed to just seeing Deathstroke run into Batman, Nightwing or the Titans for the umpteenth time.
Apart from the pretty cool Green Arrow encounter, this is basically a series of one-off issues. Granted, they are connected and form a larger, ongoing arc but the stories are written and presented so that if you just happen to pick up one issue, you can enjoy it without all the extra context. And honestly, that’s a thing I miss in comics.
Marv Wolfman continues to tell good, engaging stories, here. However, Deathstroke is his creation and he knows the character better than anyone else. I’m actually impressed and happy that Wolfman was still writing this series this deep into it and well over a decade after creating the character in the pages of The New Teen Titans.
This also features more of the Pat Trayce version of the Vigilante character, which I’m starting to appreciate as much as the original version. I think the Adrian Chase one is still my favorite because I loved his original comic series and it’s going to be hard to take his spot because of that series.
So this was just more quality Deathstroke but I think as long as Wolfman is helming the series, I should expect solid results.
Published: January 5th, 2016 Written by: Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson Art by: Scott McDaniel, Karl Story
DC Comics, 290 Pages
This collection of Nightwing issues from Chuck Dixon’s legendary run started off with a bang, as it started with the Nightwing and Huntress miniseries that saw the two vigilante heroes work together on a more intimate level.
Additionally, this picks up the stories that have been stretching over Dixon’s entire run and it keeps the momentum going with gusto.
I liked the stuff that involved the Huntress, a lot. The miniseries was actually written by Devin Grayson but it ties directly to Dixon’s run and lines up with the solo Nightwing stories, here.
This also features appearances by Deathstroke and Lady Shiva and that section of this beefy collection was probably my favorite, overall, following the Huntress miniseries.
Additionally, we get more of Blockbuster, as his large arc continues on, seeing him as the kingpin of Blüdhaven.
This is my favorite volume, so far, in Dixon’s Nightwing era. It’s just a badass series with great art and it keeps things flowing in a great direction.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: other ’90s Nightwing and Batman comics.
Published: June 16th, 2015 Written by: Chuck Dixon Art by: Scott McDaniel
DC Comics, 292 Pages
This volume in Chuck Dixon’s lengthy Nightwing run kicks off right where the previous one left off and builds off of those stories.
We also get to see appearances from more well-known villains in this chapter but a lot of them are just glorified cameos. However, the stories involving Scarecrow and Man Bat were really damn enjoyable.
Beyond that, I like how this also features other villains that are developed more for Nightwing and the city he protects, Blüdhaven.
We get more of Blockbuster, who essentially serves as Blüdhaven’s Wilson Fisk-type crime lord. We also get more of female villain Lady Vic, as well as some others thrown into the mix.
I also didn’t mind the romantic subplot that Dixon developed for this story between Nightwing and his new building’s female superintendent. Add in his sometimes romantic partner Barbara Gordon and you don’t really know how things will play out.
Ultimately, this is a story about Nightwing breaking out on his own and trying to be his own version of a street level vigilante. This is the culmination of the lessons he’s learned from Batman and it shows how he’s applying all of that to making his own life in a different city that also deserves a hero.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other ’90s Nightwing and Batman comics.
Release Date: March 18th, 2021 Directed by: Zack Snyder Written by: Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder, Will Beall Based on: Characters from DC Comics Music by: Tom Holkenborg Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Jesse Eisenberg, Joe Manganiello (uncredited), Willem Dafoe, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Russell Crowe, Marc McClure, Carla Gugino (voice), Billy Crudup (uncredited)
DC Entertainment, The Stone Quarry, Atlas Entertainment, Warner Bros., HBO Max, 242 Minutes
“How do you know your team’s strong enough? If you can’t bring down the charging bull, then don’t wave the red cape at it.” – Alfred Pennyworth
For years, fans of Zack Snyder demanded that Warner Bros. release The Snyder Cut of 2017’s Justice League movie. For those who have read my review of it, you already know about how much I disliked that terrible film, which was taken over and finished by Joss Whedon after Snyder left the production due to a family emergency.
Needless to say, I never wanted this movie. However, it’s release seems like a real victory for fans in a time when they’re being labeled “toxic” by Hollywood and the media outlets that suck the shit straight out of the big studios’ assholes. So despite my feelings on the theatrical version of this movie, I am happy for the fans that demanded this version of it.
That being said, this is, indeed, a much better version of the film. Granted, it’s four fucking hours long, which is way too long. This probably should’ve been cut into two parts or released as an episodic miniseries. There’s just so much material but honestly, a lot of what’s here is also unnecessary. There are so many slow motion scenes that those parts really put an exclamation point on how dragged out this movie is.
It’s also got its fair share of cringe.
The biggest instance of cringe that pops into my mind is the scene that introduces Wonder Woman. She fights some terrorists with hostages but they do this weird thing where they speed up and slow down the film for dramatic effect. It’s weird, hokey and shitty. Also, she blocks every bullet fired from a machine gun with her bracelets like she has the speed and accuracy of the Flash. They’ve basically made her a female Superman with bracelets and a lasso and it’s just sort of confusing. I get that she fits this mold in the comics but in this already established film canon, it’s like her powers have increased to that of a literal god in a very short span of time compared to the length of her life. But I can also look beyond it and sort of accept it within the framework of this movie, which wasn’t supposed to exist.
Regarding other cringe, there’s the dialogue, which often times is horrendous.
There’s also Ezra Miller, who brings down the entire production every time he shows up on screen and tries to be cute and funny but just comes off like that asshole millennial barista that thinks he’s smarter than you but you can see the cat food stains on his shirt from last night’s dinner. Ezra Miller as The Flash may be the worst casting decision in the history of mainstream superhero films.
There is some good with this picture, though.
For one, every time I see Ben Affleck as Batman, he grows on me. Affleck deserves his own Batman movie but he never got one and was instead wasted in multiple shitty DCEU movies. He could be three solo Batman pictures deep now but we’ve got to see him parade around with Ezra Miller and other superheroes that appear lame in his really cool orbit.
I also thought that Steppenwolf, the film’s primary villain was much, much better in this. He feels like a real character with a real story arc. In the theatrical version, he came across as some generic miniboss whose dungeon you could skip in Skyrim. Plus, he looks so much fucking cooler in this version.
Additionally, this film gives me what I’ve always wanted to see and that’s Darkseid on the big screen. Granted, this wasn’t released in theaters so the “big screen” was a combination of a 50 inch television and my tablet screen.
There are also some great new action sequences. I kind of liked the big battle between Steppenwolf and the Amazons, as well as the big war between Darkseid, his minions and the armies of Greek gods, Amazons and Atlanteans. It was a flashback scene but it was still damn cool. Especially, the Green Lantern stuff they added in. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the intro to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
I also liked that Cyborg was much more developed and didn’t just seem like a last minute addition added in to pad out the team.
The first act of the film is the worst and I felt like it moved too slow and didn’t really make me care about the movie too much. The second act, however, switched into high gear and that’s where it grabbed me as well as it could and I started to feel like I was finally getting a better, more fleshed out and worthwhile movie.
I also generally liked the third act but I thought a lot of the epilogue was unnecessary and didn’t need to be in the film. It also spends a lot of time establishing future storylines but it’s very damn likely that this will never get a sequel, as Warner Bros. were really determined not to allow this version of the film to be completed in the first place, as they want Zack Snyder to just go away now.
For those who don’t know, it was their parent company, AT&T, that forced their hand, as they needed something huge to help drive potential subscribers to their new HBO Max streaming service. This is also why this probably didn’t get a proper theatrical release.
In the end, this was still far from great and it was too damn long. However, I’d say that it’s the best DC Comics related film that Snyder has done apart from Watchmen.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: Zack Snyder’s other DCEU films.
Published: January 22nd, 2019 Written by: Marv Wolfman Art by: Steve Erwin
DC Comics, 237 Pages
Man, I really love this series outside of the weird third volume. I’m glad that it recovered from that chapter and this one is actually a bit better than the previous one.
Marv Wolfman really knows Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke but then he should, as he created the character a decade before this series.
I love this in the same way I love the earliest G.I. Joe stories by Larry Hama. It has that same sort of gravitas and machismo while also featuring badass characters outside of just the main one.
With this series, I’ve become a much bigger fan of the Pat Trayce version of Vigilante than the original version. She looks great in the costume, is a complex, solid character and it’s extremely hard not to like her, even if she sometimes acts too reactionary and doesn’t trust Deathstroke, the man she unfortunately loves but who is also, in this era, trying to do good things and atone for his sins.
I love Deathstroke and Vigilante’s relationship, though, as they are usually allies but often times in each other’s crosshairs. Wolfman writes these characters and these stories so well, however, that it just works and makes sense.
Like most of the previous volumes I also really enjoy the art in this.
I guess this volume is probably the most important one in the series, thus far, as it shows a bridge finally being built between Slade and his ex-wife, who still wants him dead due to his part in their sons’ deaths.
This volume also takes Deathstroke around the globe and just about every single issue collected here has him somewhere else. That reminded me a lot of G.I. Joe, as well.
I really dug the hell out of this volume and that should come as no surprise if you’ve read my other reviews of this series.
Sadly, there isn’t a volume six but the series continued on beyond this. I’m not sure how I will review the rest of the run but I may just read everything that’s left and review it as one big batch of issues.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.
Published: May 15th, 2018 Written by: Steven Grant, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman Art by: Will Blyberg, Steve Erwin, Gabriel Morrissette
DC Comics, 196 Pages
The last volume of Deathstroke: The Terminator really took the wind out of my sails. However, this chapter in the series was a return to form.
This gets back to being a little smaller in scale and more like a street level story, which is where I like my Deathstroke stories to be. I don’t mind them getting somewhat grandiose but the third volume was too over-the-top and crammed full of ’90s comic book cliches.
Here, we see the Pat Trayce version of the Vigilante come back into the story and I didn’t realize how much I liked her until she was absent from the last installment.
This also felt fresh and I think a lot of that had to do with the writing. While Deathstroke is Marv Wolfman’s creation, we also got scripts from the great Len Wein, as well as Steven Grant. These two kept things pretty consistent with the better parts of the Deathstroke series, thus far. They understood the character, the tone and also did a superb job with not just Deathstroke but the other core characters, as well.
I also really liked the art and while it has been good since this series started, it stood out to me a bit more here. Although, some of the new one-off characters looked a bit wonky. But, it was the ’90s and new comic book characters often times looked goofy for the sake of unrestrained edginess.
In the end, this reinvigorated my love of this series and I can’t wait to get into volume five.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.
Published: October 17th, 2017 Written by: Marv Wolfman Art by: Steve Erwin, Will Blyberg, Art Nichols
DC Comics, 257 Pages
I was really high up on this series after reading the first two volumes. Sadly, this one was a big step down and I’m hoping it was just a minor hiccup, as I continue to read on beyond this one.
I think the big issue with this was that Marv Wolfman felt the need to crossover Deathstroke with the Teen Titans, as the anti-hero has had a deep connection with those characters since he debuted in their comic a decade before this.
However, in this era, the Teen Titans title had gotten really weird and the team was full of a bunch of D-team noobs undeserving of their spots, at least in my opinion.
That being said, this collection of issues was a clusterfuck and that mainly has to do with this just collecting the Deathstroke issues within a larger crossover story. Additionally, this tacks on a completely unrelated story at the end, which was just chapters taken from the Showcase anthology series.
Overall, this just felt like a bunch of random ass shit thrown into one beefy, double-sized trade paperback because they needed to dump it all somewhere.
Hopefully, volume four doesn’t do this and it gets back to kicking proper ass.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.
Published: December 29th, 2015 Written by: Marv Wolfman, Dan Jurgens Art by: Steve Erwin, Dan Jurgens, George Perez
DC Comics, 190 Pages
I loved the first volume of this series but crazily enough, I found this one to be even a wee bit better, as the story of Deathstroke takes shape and becomes more fleshed out, allowing him to evolve beyond just a simple anti-hero that looks cool and shows up once in awhile in other characters’ books.
This also spends some time on developing Pat Trayce, another version of the Vigilante character. While I wasn’t totally sold on her, I really grew to like her in this volume and I hope her run as a character and a major part of this series isn’t short-lived. I know that she’s pretty much been nonexistent since this series in the early ’90s but I don’t know her fate and don’t want it spoiled. I just hope she isn’t killed off before she really comes into her own.
This volume collects a few stories but the one I liked most had to deal with Deathstroke accidentally hurting Lois Lane’s sister, which brought out Superman and opened up the story to show us the personal relationship that Deathstroke had with Lois’ father, an ally during his time at war.
We also see Deathstroke face off against some of the Justice League while Nightwing also gets involved towards the end of this volume.
This volume really solidified Wintergreen as one of my favorite minor DC characters. He’s essentially Deathstroke’s Alfred and while I’ve always seen him that way, this collection of issues really made me appreciate him and the two men’s relationship a lot more than I already did.
All in all, this was superb. Now on to volume three!
Rating: 9.25/10 Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.
Published: April 14th, 2015 Written by: Marv Wolfman Art by: Will Blyberg, Steve Erwin
DC Comics, 264 Pages
I became a fan of Deathstroke back in the ’80s and early ’90s when I’d see him appear in The New Teen Titans comics. Deathstroke being in a story was a guaranteed sale for DC, as far as my wallet was concerned.
However, I never really read his original solo series from the beginning. I’d pick up issues, here and there, but for some reason I slept on it. That could also be due to it being a bit harder to find, as it wasn’t typically available in convenient stores and sometimes the comic book shops were out before I could get there on my bicycle on Saturday afternoons.
Being that this was written by Marv Wolfman, the character’s creator, is a really big selling point. I didn’t understand the importance of that in 1991, as I was more into artists over writers. Granted, that would shift, as I started recognizing names and then figuring out certain writers’ track records.
This series really starts off by portraying Deathstroke as an anti-hero trying to absolve the guilt he feels after having killed his son. This ties directly to those issues and showcases his rough relationship with his ex-wife, the mother of his dead son.
Beyond that, this shows that Deathstroke is developing a moral code where he’ll still do mercenary jobs and kill scumbags but he won’t just take any job or kill anyone. Early on, Deathstroke refuses a job and with that, he deals with the consequences of pissing off that potential customer.
Additionally, this features another big story arc that sees Deathstroke and Batman at odds but then finding common ground in order to stop the real threat that has descended upon Gotham City. In that story, we’re also introduced to Pat Trayce, who becomes a new version of the Vigilante character and teams up with Deathstroke.
Beyond the solid storytelling, the art in this is really good and frankly, it made me miss this era, as this came out in a time where I really started buying comic books on a weekly basis and was so inspired that some friends and I started our own comic book company to sell our characters’ stories to other middle school kids.
This was awesome and I’m glad that I hadn’t yet read it and get to experience it as something new. What’s really great about that is that I now have a deeper appreciation for this than I would have back in the day.
I can’t wait to jump into the other volumes.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.
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