September 20, 2012

Judging the New 52 #18: Deathstroke

Deathstroke is always going to be a fairly hard sell for a superhero comic, since he's a villain. A bad guy. While there's always going to be an audience for comics about bad people doing bad things, it's not necessarily going to be a large audience.

The character had a relatively successful monthly comic before: Deathstroke the Terminator, that ran for 60 issues from mid-1991. It wasn't a huge surprise to see him get a second shot at a solo title in September 2011, since DC were casting their net for comic book ideas fairly widely, and it made sense to try a villain-centric comic out again. Kyle D. Higgins wrote the first eight issues and then, when sales weren't going particularly well, he was replaced by Robert Liefeld, who also replaced Joe Bennett and Art Thibert as artist.

In short, the Higgins run was okay: it wasn't the best book of the New 52, but it was solidly plotted and had a lot of consistency to it. I enjoyed it a hell of a lot, and it certainly got better issue-on-issue. The Liefeld run, which has been truncated due to the writer/artist's acrimonious split from DC Comics, was incredibly bad. Dire artwork combined with cliche-ridden plot and painful-to-read dialogue. I could be polite, but this really has become the worst DC Universe book currently in publication.

Sales show a book on an unavoidable run towards cancellation. First issue sales were north of 40,000, which does suggest there was an audience interested in a Deathstroke comic. They actually held on for the most part for issue #2 as well. Then it's a sharp, fall over the next two issues, followed by a fairly savage attrition up to issue #8.

The Liefeld relaunch did give the comic a 23% bump that was enough to punt it back into the safety zone over 20,000 copies, but by issue #12 sales have dropped to less than 16,800. That's less than issue #8, and pretty much guarantees this comic's days are numbered.

It'd be nice to see Deathstroke get one last chance to sell, now that Liefeld's gone and it has a chance to improve. I suspect it's just a matter of time now.


  1. I've been reading old Teen Titans comics. On the one hand, Deathstroke was one of the most interesting characters in the comic, with motivations and relationships that made him much more interesting andsympathetic than most villains. I can see how they could think the character could sustain a title. Though obviously, not with a writer as terrible as Liefield.
    On the other hand, there was his (bearing in mind he seemed to be in his 50s or so at the time, white hair etc) sexual relationship with a 15 year old. WTF 80s Dc?

  2. The Liefeld run pretty much took a sharp right turn from the first eight issues, and had aliens hiring Deathstroke to assassinate Lobo with the help of Zealot from WildCATS. Written like fan fiction with art like... well, like Rob Liefeld. He has his fans - pretty you and I aren't among them.


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