Arguably one of the most popular characters created by the Wolfman-Perez run of Teen Titans is DEATHSTROKE THE TERMINATOR. He's had his own title, he's been a hero and a villain, and the new DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure came with enough hardware that it took me five minutes to disarm him just so I felt safe to do this review.
Let's consider some of the background of the character: Imbued with enhanced physical prowess by secret army experiments attempting to create metahuman soldiers for the U.S. military, Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke the Terminator (called "Terminator" for most of his published existence) became a mercenary soon after the experiment when he defied orders to rescue his friend and mentor Wintergreen, who had been sent on a suicide mission by a commanding officer with a grudge.
However, he kept this career secret from his family, even though his wife was an expert military combat instructor - indeed, she had been responsible for a significant portion of his early training-, until a criminal named the Jackal kidnapped his younger son, Joseph, as a hostage to force Slade to divulge the name of a client who had hired him as an assassin. Slade refused to do so, claiming that it was against his personal honor code, and attacked and killed the kidnappers at the rendezvous. Unfortunately, Joseph's throat was slashed by one of the criminals before Slade could prevent it, destroying his vocal cords and rendering him mute.
After taking Joseph to the hospital, Slade's wife Adeline, enraged at his endangerment of her son, tried to kill Slade by shooting him, but only managed to destroy his right eye. Afterward, his confidence in his physical abilities was such that he made no secret of his impaired vision, marked by his mask which has a black featureless half covering his lost eye. Without his mask, Slade wears an eyepatch. As Dick Grayson commented after being told of Slade's origin, "So he really is blind in one eye -- a one-eyed mercenary, and good enough so he doesn't care if people know!"
Slade has a long history as an enemy of the Teen Titans, beginning when his other son, Grant, became an early Titans foe called the Ravager who was physically enhanced to fulfill a contract to kill or capture the Teen Titans. However, those enhancements proved fatal and Slade agreed to complete the contract. As a result, he attacked the Titans continually and finally succeeded in capturing them by introducing Terra into the team as a spy.
At the end of this plot, Slade was defeated and captured with the help of Joseph, who joined the team as Jericho, using his father's body to free the Titans (although it is important to note that Slade didn't actually try to fight his son's control). Slade was put on trial for his crimes, but the trial was deliberately sabotaged by Garfield Logan, aka Changeling/Beast Boy so that he could kill Slade himself, believing he was responsible for Terra's betrayal of the Titans. However, when the two confronted each other, Beast Boy found himself unable to kill Slade. Feeling some empathy for his grief, Slade explained his past with Terra, and Beast Boy realized he was not to blame for the choices Terra had made. The two men parted on peaceful terms afterward.
Months later, Slade encountered the Titans again while they were investigating a mysterious plague linked to a group of biologically engineered beastmen, one of whom was a target of an assassination by Slade himself. When Troia and Raven were both stricken by the plague, he aided them in destroying the beastmen and finding a cure for the contagion. Shortly after this, he came to the Titan's assistance again during the Titans Hunt storyline when most of their members were abducted by the Wildebeest Society, and proved instrumental in tracking them down, only to discover their leader was none other than Jericho himself.
It was revealed that Jericho had been possessed by the corrupted souls of Azarath, who were using him to capture the Titans and use them as physical hosts in order to survive. During the transfer process, Jericho's true self resurfaced briefly, begging his father to kill him. To spare his son any more pain and save the remaining Titans, Slade was forced to drive a sword through Jericho's heart, seemingly killing him. This act still haunts him to this day, though Jericho later turned out to have survived death by transferring his mind into his father's body seconds before his death.
Afterward, Slade continued his life as a mercenary, but also acted as an occasional hero, aiding the Titans or acting on his own to help others, most notably during the Total Chaos storyline when the Team Titans arrived in the 20th Century to assassinate Donna Troy before she could give birth to her son, who in their timeline had grown up into the tyrannical despot, Lord Chaos. His relationship with Garfield Logan had also changed around this time to the point where they became friends as well.
Most notably, Superman himself enlisted Deathstroke's help at one point, during the so-called "Panic in the Sky" storyline that ran through the Superman titles, and featured virtually every prominent hero in the DC Universe at the time. This was likely Deathstroke's most heroic period.
Wilson was portrayed largely as a mercenary "anti-hero" for the duration of his own comic's run, someone who wasn't necessarily a hero, but not truly a villain, either. In recent years, he has returned to his more villainous roots, teaming up with the bad guys more often than not, a strange reversal from the "Panic in the Sky" storyline, and menacing several recent incarnations of the Titans.
In Identity Crisis, Deathstroke was enlisted as a bodyguard for Doctor Light, who was being chased by the Justice League. In the ensuing battle, Deathstroke nearly beat the team of Elongated Man, the Flash , Zatanna, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, the Atom, and Green Lantern. He systematically took out every member except for Rayner, whom he had the potential to disable through trying to usurp his ring's energies using his own formidable willpower.
Fortunately, before the outcome of this conflict with Rayner ended, Green Arrow stuck an arrow in Deathstroke's right eye socket, enraging him. Slade went ballistic and began to beat Green Arrow, but was stopped when the majority of the team tackled Deathstroke to the ground. Dr. Light used his powers, and the two escaped. Near the end of Identity Crisis, Deathstroke confronts Green Arrow on a rooftop. Arrow sees his reflection in the windows of a nearby building, but when he turns to confront Slade, Deathstroke is gone. Instead Green Arrow finds Slade's cowl and a note stuck to the wall by the very arrow he stabbed in Slade's eye socket. The note reads, "This is yours - We're not done."
Deathstroke was a founding member of Lex Luthor's Secret Society of Super Villains in the Infinite Crisis storyline, and was also prominently featured in the "Villains United" mini-series around the same time. At the climactic Battle of Metropolis at the conclusion of Infinite Crisis, Slade was confronted by Batman, Robin, and Nightwing. During the struggle, he was questioned regarding his motives for aiding the Secret Society. His claims of monetary motivation were deemed unsatisfactory, and he was told to take responsibility before being rendered unconscious. During the battle, Batman accused him of having forsaken his code of honor.
As to his powers and abilities, Deathstroke possesses various enhanced abilities. These include the strength of ten men and heightened speed, agility, stamina, and reflexes. He has the capacity to use up to 90% of his brain making him a combat skills and tactical genius, making him adept at turning opponents' own abilities against them, stemming from his years in the military and combat with various heroes. Deathstroke also possesses a healing factor in his blood that enables him to heal from physical injury much faster than a normal person. There are limitations as he could not heal his eye and cannot regenerate entire limbs. This enables him to recover from what would otherwise be fatal injuries.
He is also a highly formidable opponent in physical combat to the point that even Batman can only fight him to a stalemate (and only succeeded in defeating him with the aid of his sidekicks, in Infinite Crisis). Deathstroke is also skilled in the use of many weapons ranging from guns, rifles, and swords, which are usually among his current weapons of choice. His signature weapon is a power staff that fires lethal and non-lethal energy blasts from both ends. The staff can also be used to strike using energy at each end. His body armor is composed of a mesh-woven, kevlar, chainlink mail, capable of stopping small arms fire. Most of the metal he wears and uses are made out of Promethium.
It's worth noting that even though the character of Deathstroke the Terminator predates Arnold Schwarzenegger's film "The Terminator" by four years, the Slade Wilson character is now simply called "Deathstroke", even by characters who had called him "Terminator" for years. Not even Slade Wilson wants to tick off Arnold...
I'll admit that despite the character tending to waver between being a villain and a semi-hero, and more often than not the former, and wavering even more insofar as his prominence in the DC Universe is concerned, he's always been something of a favorite of mine.
The figure is excellent. There haven't been a lot of Deathstroke figures over the years, and those that have been produced have generally been by DC Direct. I have one such. It's excellent, but one has to say that these are specifically collectible figures and generally have prices to match. It's fair to say that this is really the first widely available Deathstroke figure for the general market, and Mattel's gone an excellent job with it.
A fair percentage of the DC Universe Classics figures use common body parts. This is understandable from an economic and appearance standpoint. Why sculpt one spandex-wearing muscle-body after another if you get it right the first time and it will legitimately work for multiple characters? And molds cost big bucks, too.
Deathstroke is one of those characters that is distinctive enough so that he really can't use a lot of shared body parts. In looking over this figure, I'd say maybe he could get away with borrowing the "standard male body" upper arms and knee joint area, and that's about it -- and I'm not even sure that he did. Maybe the feet, too.
The lower arms, from the bicep down, and the mid-torso region from the chest to the waist, are a metal mesh chainmail, and they certainly look it. They've been very intricately sculpted and painted very impressively in metallic blue. Slade isn't exactly a fashion plate. The main colors of his costume are blue and orange, but it's a very dark blue and a rather subdued orange, almost a tan.
There are two versions of the Deathstroke figure out there -- masked and unmasked -- and honestly, I wanted the masked version. Fortunately, that's the one I found (and either this figure is being short-packed or he's very popular, because as of this writing he is not easily found, even if you spot the rest of the assortment he comes with, which includes Robin, Nightwing, Green Lantern, and Sinestro).
The mask covers the entire head and is split down the middle. The half that covers the right side of Slade's head, where he is missing an eye, is solid dark blue. The other side ir orange, with a stylized eye that looks a bit like Slade was reading Spider-Man comics when he came up with the design. There are two long -- well -- tassles for lack of a better term, extending some distance from behind Slade's head. While definitely part of the costume, I might've liked them better if they'd been made a little more flexible, or if the point at which they're attached to the head were an articulation point and not a glue point.
Deathstroke has flared gloves and very flared boots. These have been well done and are very nicely detailed. Deathstroke also has two belts around his upper legs, which do a capable job of concealing the upper leg swivel articulation point.
Now we come to Slade's arsenal. As it is, he's wearing a loose ammo belt around his chest, molded in silver and, for some inexplicable reason, splattered with black speckles. He has a pistol holster on the left side of his belt, and somewhat surprisingly to me, the holster can be popped open, and the pistol is removable. The holster is very nicely detailed, complete with a silver snap. The pistol, while fairly ordinary looking, is also nicely sculpted, molded in black, and has a few silver details on it.
Deathstroke has a long sword sheathe on the right side of his belt, and to accompany that, he has a long sword. Painted in silver, it's not terribly elegant, but it's enough to get the job done, which of course would be Deathstroke's priority. It's a straight-bladed sword, with a somewhat ornate hilt, painted in copper and silver, with a black wash highlighting the engraved parts.
Slade also has a very high-tech machine gun slung over his torso. This is molded in black with silver paint, looks very advanced, and comes with a poseable and I believe removable strap. As a result of being confined in the package with Deathstroke for so long, it was also somewhat -- curved. I think this is something that can be remedied by placing it under a large book on a solid floor for a few days, perhaps.
Finally(!), Deathstroke comes with a long battle staff, about 5-1/2" in length, molded in silver, and quite well detailed. This is the power staff that can give off various bursts of energy. A cattle prod for the extreme, if you will.
Overall, Mattel has done a really outstanding job with this figure. Deathstroke's outfit is pretty intricate, and Mattel spared nothing in the detail, right down to the buckles on the leg straps, the sculpted leather markings on the sword sheathe and weapon straps, the wrappings around the sword sheathe, the chain mail, everything. About the only thing I can gripe about is that on the Deathstroke I purchased, the dividing line on the mask was a little bit off. But it's fixable, and the only other Deathstroke I've seen since had a rather considerable problem of mold creases.
But I'm not going to get into that. I have NO complaints about this Deathstroke figure. It's a superb addition to the DC Universe Classics line, and a very impressive figure just on its own. This is the sort of detail level one has come to expect from people like the Four Horsemen, whom I believe are still working on this line for Mattel, and it's always a pleasure to see results such as this.
So what's my final word here? This is one extremely cool figure. If
you've ever enjoyed the adventures of this interesting character in
the DC Universe, regardless of which side he's been on at the time,
then you'll want to have him. Even if you're just impressed by really
well- done action figures, you'll want to have him. In any case, the
DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS DEATHSTROKE THE TERMINATOR most definitely has
my enthusiastic recommendation!