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Deathstroke and the Unintentional Satire

Satires can often times be complicated affairs. Every nuance and hiccup is pondered for its dual meanings. But not all satires are like carnival mirrors, some are accidental and in a manner more revealing than then intentional satire.

Thus far the new 52 has sprouted little creative fruit, but quite too many spectacles. The new mantra for DC could be younger, hipper, and more exxxxtreme. Like a Mountain Dew commercial, DC seems content with aiming its content at the young and over-caffeinated. Kyle Higgins, it seems, is a writer who wants to parody this trend and offer a different path for the new 52: a return to the bad ass action comic.

From the start, Higgins is ready the assure the reader not much has changed in the world of Deathstroke. He is still the same Wolverine-esque best at what he does type of killer. It isn’t until the story opens up with a new job does the reader get the first sense that something has indeed changed.

Like many of the stories of the New 52, the details of this “impossible” job as it is described are negligible. Deathstroke is a bad ass and just in case you were wondering this he then sends a paperclip slicing the head from a fly in mid flight. It is the kind of scene that refracts any attention the reader was paying to nuance because he just severed a fly’s head with a paperclip. Right away the reader knows this is not a book that will be subtle.

Which is where the satire begins and the weirdness gives way to sadness.

Deathstroke is off to meet his new team. In this new configuration of the DC Universe, his team could potentially be anyone we have met in DC’s past. Instead we are introduced to a squabling group of teenagers. As bright and bushy tailed as any cliche would allow, the Alpha Dawgs are set up as an exemplary representation of the new Mountain Dew attitude of comic book teenagers and 20-somethings.

Deathstroke is obviously not happy with their additions. While the dichotomy is obvious here — old school vs new school — the joke plays out much deeper when used in conjunction with many of the new 52 DC books.

After all, Justice League got the biggest jolt “extremitude” or whatever Geoff Johns and the marketers of Mountain Dew want to call it. But it all signals the same thing, less story, more in your face attitude. Case in point, meet the Alpha Dawgs.

They are an extreme amalgamation of what most teenagers are like, but this is still not the heart of what Higgins may or may not be saying satirically. That the old school was not pandering while the new school is all about it. It is all about kicking up the competition which is why we get scenes like:

It is just full of inane, bratty chatter that means nothing. It only furthers the characterization of being teenagers and the cliches that comes with. But often this quirkiness is mistaken for at best being a bad ass and worse when it passes as story.

They talk and think too much in stark comparison to Deathstroke. He says little, but acts a lot. These kids talk more than they ever do anything in this entire issue. The same could be said of many of the new DC 52. Suicide Squad is perhaps the book this cliche aims its satire at thus far.

Beyond the obviously wrong in this page, lets unravel the implications here. This is not a story, this is a scene and one that does not give very much beyond some goth girl grandstanding. While the Alpha Dawgs may be more cookie cutter in their appearance, the attitude is the same, a disregard for life and death to the point that they become insubstantial themselves as characters.

After all, what is there here for the reader to grip onto.  As with Deathstroke we know all we need to know, he is a bad ass, he kills, the end. He does not need to eulogize or celebrate, he simply kills cause that is what he is best at.

Which is what Deathstroke seems to point to, that these characters are not doing what they are best at. These teenagers were just that teenagers. They were kids playing as adults in a game of war. They lost because of that. Because the most interesting thing they could do was die by the hands of Deathstroke.

Is this why the twist ending works so well?

Is Higgins, via Deathstroke suggesting that perhaps we just kill off the universe and carry on only those characters that act? Somehow I doubt it, but it is still nice to read it as such.

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Kevin Thurman is a writer based in Chicago. He blogs about comics, life, and music at

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Also by Kevin Thurman:

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Voyage in Noise: Warren Ellis and the Demise of Western Civilization


Shot in the Face: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Transmetropolitan


The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil


a feature-length documentary film on celebrated comics writer Warren Ellis

creative consultant

Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide


1 Comment

  1. Interesting thesis. I’m not sure the badass action comic is something different from most of what the new 52 are trying to be… but I do agree that Deathstroke pulls it off better. And there is something clever and subversive about that ending. :)

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