Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Deathstroke for Gun Control

If you know Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke-- and after Arrow season 2, how can you avoid it? -- Deathstroke is a mercenary who is an almost perfect badass. 

What do I mean by almost perfect? The first time he ran into Batman, he beat him unconscious. He's also quite honorable. After beating Batman out cold, Deathstroke left him alone -- the Dark Knight wasn't the target, he was just in the way. From what we could tell, he didn't even peek under the cowl, but probably figured out who Batman is, since he's deduced the real names of almost every Robin. He's also a brilliant tactician.

Deathstroke is "almost" perfect as a badass, mostly because he's insane. This is a guy who took on most of the Justice League in Identity Crisis, nearly beat them, and flipped out after Green Arrow jammed an arrow into his empty eye socket -- which became a vendetta that concluded with nuking a city.

Deathstroke also carries enough guns to go toe-to-toe to Deadpool -- who started as a parodied version of Deathstroke.

This is Deathstroke's load out.

And in Deathstroke #11, Christopher Priest wanted to use Deathstroke to talk about gun violence.

Nope. Not a joke. I can't even make this up. Yes, this really happened. Author Christopher Priest used a gun-wielding mercenary with more guns this side of The Punisher ... to talk about the evils of guns.

Do I even have to highlight how stupid this is?

Not to mention that this is the DCU: alien invasions drop out of the sky every five minutes. To hell with guns, how do standard citizens not have a rocket launcher in their basement, just in case of the next invasion by Apokalypse -- or however else they spelled that planet -- or attack by Amazons, or ninjas, or whatever the hell else is going on out there this moment?

It's also amusing because right now, they've made him an anti-hero. So if he's not shooting someone, he's either: 1) beating someone over the head with a six-foot long iron staff, or 2) shanking them with a katana.

Now, I can kind of appreciate Chris Priest, who is a Baptist minister, trying to use a gun heavy protagonist to explore guns.

But let's look at his execution a moment, shall we?
Priest uses a reporter to investigate rumors that the families of shooting victims have hired Deathstroke to take out the armed killers of their children. Deathstroke is mostly silent through the issue, while Chicago citizens debate whether an eye for an eye can ever be the right way to answer back to violence.
To be honest, that's not hard. Deathstroke doesn't need side kicks. Exclude first person narration or thought bubbles, it wouldn't be all that hard to make an entire issue read like a silent movie, only with screams and sound effects of the targets being wiped out.
The silence from the assassin was intentional, according to Priest. “I wanted Deathstroke to be a force of nature more,” Priest said. “I wanted to have as objective an analysis of the crisis as I’d be able to do. So I used a reporter’s voice.”
That would be fine if we were being really honest about it. Part of the tale involves an armed citizen leading to a dead child passerby.


Because, as we "all know," private citizens are just too stupid to own guns.

But that's a lie.

I first saw the article in the LA Times in 2001 (and I should have kept it) that cited that armed citizens stop over 20,000 crimes each year in LA. Guns stop five times more crime than they cause. In 2007, a Florida State University study revealed that private guns stop 2.5 MILLION crimes each year. So already, part of the narrative is already a problem.

.... Except every time that Deathstroke has played hero, he's been an armed private citizen.

And let's back up a moment to frame #2 and #3, shall we?
"I'd take Mickey Mouse with a machine gun if it'd help."
"Will it?"
Then what, may one ask, was the point? "I'd take X if it would help, but it won't."

The point was the highlight the message.

Maybe Rev. Priest -- talk about names being prophetic -- should just let the story carry the day, be completely honest, and follow the main character instead of trying to "explore" a topic that he already claims to know the answer to.

I'm sorry, every time a comic book author says, "I want to explore the issue," I hear "I have all the answers, and I'm going to shove them down your throat."  I hear that because that always seems to be the end result.

Also, in case you missed it, the reporter is Jack Ryder, "The Creeper," who is so utterly bizarre, he had the Joker looking at him like he was crazy. Because THAT'S the objective look we want.

Don't get me wrong, Deathstroke versus gang bangers in Chicago would be awesome, just to watch the crime rate spike for one weekend, and then drop for the rest of time. Because Deathstroke takes on whole countries when he feels like it, he can wipe out the gang bangers of Chicago in a weekend, if he takes his time about it. I can't imagine the fees he would charge, but it'd be worth it.

And then there's this page

Are you kidding me? "Deathstroke hasn't used any guns to off these jokers. He must be sending a message!"

Yes, the message is "I'm Deathstroke, and I'm showing off, because you're not even worth the bullets. Because I'm a super-powered bad ass with sharp objects."

Also, we're going to garrote one person, and cut off the arm of the next person with a great splash of blood .... but guns are bad.

Maybe the message Priest is really trying to send is "People are violent bastards who will used whatever's handy to murder people."

Also, that artwork...gah! Who the hell?

And then there's this.

What could have been the most powerful, most moving parts in the whole comic book, panel #2, #4, #5, is undercut by speechifying. So a black mother and her black Reverend are being lectured by a white guy about gun violence, trying to blame "the culture," and, worse, the parents of the dead kid, for "why guns are everywhere."

I don't think I've seen something more racist in a while. The PC police throw around lines like "Whitesplaining," or "White knighting" or whatever some such idiocy. And I don't think that I have ever seen it any clearer than in this comic. Written by a black minister. What the hell?

I think I'm going to slam my head against the wall. After a while, I may even come to enjoy it.

And there's this bit of BS.

The reference to "49 Dead kids in a Florida nightclub," in case you don't remember, happened the middle of last year. It was a gay nightclub shot up by -- wait for it -- deranged Islamofascist #57. Yes, you read that correct, ladies and gentlemen, they wanted to slap a "gun violence" label on a terrorist incident. Or is is no longer terrorism when there's a gun involved? Perhaps they would have preferred napalm, or a suicide bomber.

This is everything wrong with comics now -- "No, we're not interested in a story. Let's all lecture at each other." Marvel does it, now I guess DC wants to dip their toe in the water.

At the end of the day though, I'm grateful for Priest's work. Because you have to know this idea tanked. Why? Because the very next issue goes onto a completely different story.

Dear comic books: Tell me a story. Don't lecture me and call it art. If I wanted to choke down garbage, I can walk to the nearest McDonald's and buy better garbage for cheaper than the price of this comic book.

This is described as "an unflinching look at gun violence in America." That's a lie. Because I flinched. I flinched at every lie, every half-truth, every stilted line, every forced morale.

And they flinched at the truth.

For series where no one whines over guns.

Try some of the below.

Love at First Bite


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