Floyd Lawton – AKA Deadshot – just made his big screen debut in Suicide Squad, played by Will Smith. I haven’t seen the film yet – hell, I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen any of the DC Extended Universe movies yet, but the idea of Will Smith playing a comic book villain is enough to make me excited to see Suicide Squad. There are few leading men in Hollywood as charismatic as Big Willie… and I’ll admit right here that I might be the only person out there who thinks that Hancock was pretty great.
Now, while I said I’m into the idea of Will Smith playing basically any comic book role, the truth is that I don’t know much about Deadshot as a character. In order to get the basics, I looked back to Detective Comics #474, which debuted Deadshot in his modern costume – basically, the Deadshot that everyone knows as Deadshot, rather than the Phantom of the Opera-looking creeper from his first appearance.
Detective Comics #474, titled Deadshot’s Revenge on the cover and The Deadshot Ricochet on the first page, is written by Steve Englehart, penciled by Marshall Rogers, inked by Terry Austin, and lettered by Ben Oda. Regrettably, there is no colorist credit, per the standard from those times. I actually thought the coloring here was one of the strongest aspects of the issue – simple but evocative, working very well with the fluid motion of Rogers’ pencils and the heavy line-weight of Austin’s inks.
This issue had some standalone value, but also had some ongoing threads. Some were intriguing, such as Batman’s confrontation with a politician named Thorne who wants Bats gone to preserve normalcy in Gotham. Thorne is haunted by the ghost of Hugo Strange, who it seemed he had a hand in killing. Also, a thread from the previous issue – Penguin’s arrest – leads to Deadshot, who is in a prison cell next to him, stealing Penguin’s laser-monocle and escaping into the night. Then, there are some completely bizarre bits that grind the narrative to a halt, such as Batman randomly hearing the Joker – who has no other role in this issue – cackle as he throws down with Deadshot. The narrator, which is indistinguishable from Batman’s thoughts, cuts in to tell us we won’t get to see what the Joker is up to until the next issue. It works in the sense that I’m intrigued, but paired with the constant editor notes referring us to previous issues and explaining every detail, down to Penguin’s name, it rendered the storytelling a little more stilted than the books I’ve enjoyed from this time period. That, and the fact that literally every sentence ends in an exclamation point, detracted a good deal from the fight between Bats and Deadshot, which was otherwise really fun.
The dynamic between Batman and Deadshot is rich, as Bruce’s internal monologue explains how they came from similar backgrounds but ultimately took different paths. Batman sees Deadshot as something that he could’ve become, had things gone down differently for him, and that psychological edge to Deadshot’s descent into villainy is part of what makes Batman’s villains the best in the game. Even with this pensive exploration of Batman’s character through his antagonist, Englehart’s writing is light and fun, quickly moving their fight from the more obvious choice of a rooftop down into a museum, where they battle on a gigantic typewriter. It’s completely bonkers, and that turn of the story significantly increased by enjoyment of the comic, harkening back to the zaniness of Bob Haney’s Brave and the Bold.
What works in this issue works fairly well, and one thing that it certainly does do is stick the landing. The issue ends with Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, Silver St. Cloud, identifying Batman as her beau – but he can’t stick around to question her, as he has to run off to find out what “the harlequin of hate” is laughing about. It’s a tense ending, spinning a serious turn out of a pretty wonky fight scene, which I enjoyed quite a bit. And, while it did feel shoehorned in here, I can’t say I’m not curious about what the Joker is up to in Detective #475.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Vampire Emmy and the Garbage Girl, Hellchild, Van Helsing), novels (Avengers, Iron Man, Charmed), and pop culture journalism (Blastoff Comics, Sad Girls Guide). In the next couple of weeks, he will be at Monsters & Robots Con in New Jersey, Baltimore Comic-Con, and Artistacon in New Jersey, again. If he is sleeping at his booth, cut him some slack.