In the world of comics, there are various assassins. They are the people who can be hired to do the impossible, to kill any target, providing the money is good enough. In my opinion, the greatest assassin in comics is Deathstroke The Terminator. Slade Wilson has been an enemy to every major hero in the DC universe and he’s developed an infamous reputation. But what makes him so effective at what he does, and is there more to this killer than collecting on another pay day?
The classic backstory for Slade is that he enlisted in the US army at 16-years-old. After serving in Korea, he was assigned to Camp Washington and met Captain Adeline Kane. She was tasked with training soldiers in new fighting techniques to deal with the growing trouble in Vietnam. Slade picked up the techniques quickly and Kane offered to privately train him in guerrilla warfare. He and Kane fell in love and she was pregnant not long before the Vietnam War.
At the outbreak of the war, Slade was shipped out. During the war, his unit massacred a village and the act repulsed him. He was also rescued by an SAS member called Wintergreen. Slade was chosen for a secret experiment and it gave him his powers. After this, Deathstroke became a mercenary and he defied orders to rescue his friend Wintergreen.
Years later, a criminal called the Jackal kidnapped Slade’s son Joseph to force him into divulging the name of a client who had hired him as an assassin. As it was against his personal honour code, Slade refused and killed the kidnappers. However, Joseph’s throat was cut by one of the kidnappers before Deathstroke could stop it and it rendered Joseph mute. Adeline was enraged that Deathstroke had endangered their son and tried to shoot him. She only managed to destroy his right eye. This didn’t damage Deathstroke’s fighting ability, as he made no attempt to hide his impaired vision when wearing a mask.
Deathstroke’s powers involve enhanced strength, speed and durability. He has an advanced healing factor that can help him recover faster than a normal person. His greatest attribute is his mind, as he can access 90% of his brain, making him a master tactician. A great example of this was when Deathstroke took on the majority of the Justice League during Identity Crisis and came very close to defeating them single-handedly.
He started by taking out The Flash, using explosives to force Wally into a position that he could deal with. He was fast enough to react to Flash’s whereabouts and stabbed him with his sword. Next, he neutralised Zatanna so she couldn’t use any spells. His next target was Hawkman, who he brought down by severing his wings and taking him out of the sky. He moved on to Green Arrow, cutting his arrows so Ollie can’t use his bow and stopped Black Canary by putting a bag over her head. Deathstroke defeated The Atom by counting on the fact that he’d shrink to microscopic size and used a laser pointer. His final target was Green Lantern, and he planned on using his own willpower to usurp the power of Kyle Rayner’s ring.
Deathstroke was stopped when Green Arrow stabbed him in his bad eye with an arrow. This caused Slade to break his concentration and attack Ollie in anger. If Arrow hadn’t done this, Slade’s tactics might have worked. It’s a demonstration of how intelligent Deathstroke is and why he shouldn’t be underestimated.
Slade is considered the archenemy of the Teen Titans and his relationship with his children, Joseph, Grant and Rose is complex. His dynamic with Rose can be described as love/hate because he’s manipulated her in the past to be the kind of perfect soldier he wants. However, during the Blackest Night arc, Slade confessed that by forcing his children to hate him, he hoped they could escape the pain of a life with him.
Deathstroke’s current direction in DC: Rebirth has seen him have a change of heart. He’s put together a team of young heroes, featuring Jericho and Ravager, in the hopes he can put them on the right path. Only time will tell if Slade is genuine in his redemption, or if he’s the same old tactician looking to use any angle to his advantage.
Want to learn more about Deathstroke’s daughter, Ravager? You can read my analysis of her here.