REVIEW: Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons
It seems every decade, DC and Marvel each introduce a major threat that captures the readership’s imagination. In the 1980s, for DC that was Deathstroke, a wonderfully complex opponent to the New Teen Titans, reaching a high point with the much-lauded “The Judas Contract” storyline in 1985. In the hands of writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez, he rose head and shoulders above most other super-villains of the day.
Since then, he has been used by virtually every writer, pitting him against most every mask and cape in the DC Universe. He’s successfully crossed over to animation and even live-action television and film. As a result, depending on the creators involved, he remains a fascinating, deadly threat or a run of the mill villain used to merely show up the hero.
The most recent such example is the CW Seed animated miniseries, Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons, which is now out as a feature film from Warner Home Entertainment. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and Blue Ribbon Content, the story features yet another take on Slade Wilson and the choices he made from soldier to husband to mercenary to contract killer. Thankfully, it is in the hands of J.M. DeMatteis who understands characterization, comics, and has proven rather adept at bringing comics characters to other media.
DeMatteis focused on one of the most interesting aspects of Wilson (Michael Chiklis), that of a married man with a child. Whereas the comics had Wilson as the father of two with Adeline “Addie” Kane Wilson (Sasha Alexander) (and a daughter, Rose, with another woman, alluded to here), here, the focus is just on Joseph (Griffin Puatu) and Wilson keeps his alter ego a secret from his wife, who in the comics knew all about it. Their domestic tranquility, already tense from his frequent business trips, is shattered when the Jackal (Chris Jai Alex) leads a horde of H.I.V.E. agents to kidnap Joseph to force Wilson to do their Queen’s (Faye Mata) bidding.
Along the way, we find many other familiar DC faces such as Bronze Tiger (Delbert Hunt), Jade (Faye Mata), and of course, Lady Shiva (Panta Mosleh). None of whom figured in the original source material so it’s with relief that Wilson’s brother in arms, Wintergreen (Colin Salmon) is present.
The 87-minute compilation is smoothly edited and works better as a whole. Note that this is violent and earns its R rating repeatedly throughout the tale thanks to director Sung Jin Ahn (Niko and the Sword of Light) taking full advantage of his medium.
The single disc comes in a perfectly fine 1080p transfer, supported with a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix. This makes for a good viewing experience. The sole special feature is Deathstroke: One-Man Death Machine (13:44), which nicely spotlights his evolution with commentary from Wolfman, Pérez, Chiklis, and Arrow’s Manu Bennett.