If you’ve been keeping up with Deathstroke since DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH, you’ve likely noticed that his family plays a huge role in his ongoing series. And if you haven’t been reading, now is your chance to get caught up on this occasionally brutal, but always thought provoking series.
DEATHSTROKE VOL. 1: THE PROFESSIONAL has hit shelves and brought with it all the drama, violence, twists and turns of the whole Wilson clan. Fans will tell you that Slade and his family are...well, a little...dysfunctional. As you might imagine, the Wilsons have been perfecting their specific brand of dynastic violence for years, so there’s a lot of it to go around. After all, you don’t get so good at stabbing your siblings, parents and spouses in the back just overnight.
However, if you’re new to Deathstroke, you don’t know this history, and considering how much it informs his Rebirth series, we thought we’d revisit some of it for you. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the thorniest branches in this dangerous family tree.
The Father: Slade Wilson
Slade Wilson enlisted in the military as a teenager after lying about his age to recruiters and miraculously got away with it. Despite his age, he took to the military life like a duck to water. After seeing some combat, he was rapidly promoted and tasked with managing the training of new recruits. It was during this time state-side that Slade met his future wife, Adeline, who was so impressed with his fighting prowess that she took him under her wing and privately tutored him in just about every form of combat known to man.
Slade, being who he is, mastered them all in about a year, during which time he and Adeline were married and had their first son. Just in time, too, because not long after he was shipped back into combat duty where he was chosen for an experimental procedure that imbued him with superhuman strength and reflexes...at the price of making him even more easily enraged and volatile. Not a great combination for someone who has basically been born and bred by violence.
Ultimately, that powder keg had to explode and Slade was discharged from the military when his temper, insubordination and overall disillusionment with the established protocols boiled over. Unable (or unwilling) to live a quiet, normal life, he took to mercenary work to satiate his bloodlust and endless need to push himself further.
The Mother: Adeline Kane
As the daughter of an army veteran, military life was a family affair for Adeline even before she met and married Slade.
Adeline worked as a squadron leader and trainer for guerilla tactics for the army at Camp Washington, where she’d eventually meet, train and fall in love with Slade. They would go on to have two children, Grant and Joey, before Slade decided to make his leap from the military to the mercenary business.
As you might imagine, it’s pretty difficult to keep a job like murderer-for-hire a secret from your wife, especially when your wife is also a highly trained military operative. Rocky as his lifestyle made things between the two of them, Slade’s new career path didn’t really boil over until one of his contracts put his family in the crosshairs. Posing a risk to her sons was, apparently, the last straw for Adeline.
Furious at Slade’s carelessness, she took matters into her own hands and, well...shot Slade in the face. His metahuman reflexes and healing saved his life, but he lost his eye in the process. The two were divorced not long after that and—surprise!—were never able to reconcile a friendship.
The Brother-in-Arms: William Randolph Wintergreen
Wintergreen may not be a Wilson in name or in blood, but his ties to the family run deep. A member of the British military and MI-5, Billy met Slade while he was working as an American liaison with the British Army. Their friendship really kicked off, however, when Wintergreen disobeyed direct orders and staged a rescue mission for Slade after he had been sent on what amounted to a suicide mission.
With Slade believing he owed Wintergreen his life, the two became close friends. Funny how life debts will fast track relationships like that, huh? Wintergreen even acted as Slade’s best man for his wedding.
Eventually, Slade was given a chance to pay William—or Billy, as he’s usually called—back when their circumstances were reversed. Billy was sent on a suicide mission and Slade got to ignore orders, swoop in and pull him out. This marked the slow decline of Slade’s relationship with the military, but served to double down on his bond with Wintergreen.
When Slade took up contract killing, Billy went with him. He acted as Slade’s confidant, occasional medic and incredibly put-upon (only somewhat successful) moral compass.
The Prodigal Sons: Joey and Grant Wilson
To say Slade and Adeline’s sons, Grant and Joey, had a rough childhood would be putting it pretty mildly. Neither parent could seem to see eye-to-eye for very long and the boys weren’t able to form a close bond with one another. Still, Slade and Adeline managed to pull it together just enough to raise the boys to adolescence together.
Of course, as you might imagine, the straw that broke the camel's back was the targeting of the boys by one of Slade’s vengeful enemies. Slade managed to save the boys, but not before Joey’s throat was slit and he was left mute for the rest of his life.
Following the attack and their parents’ subsequent divorce, Joey and Grant were left in Adeline’s custody. Grant ran away to try his hand at the family business of contract killing, adopting the name “Ravager.”
It went about as well as you might expect.
Grant eventually developed ties to H.I.V.E and allowed them to conduct an experimental procedure on him before sending him out with a contract to eliminate the Teen Titans. The experiment, however, proved to be too much for Grant’s body and killed him during the fight.
Conversely, Joey tried his best to keep his head down during his traumatic childhood, becoming passionate for considerably less Wilson-like hobbies like art and music...which is a lucky thing, considering that Joey was born with some potentially incredibly deadly metahuman abilities. Specifically, he could temporarily “jump” into a person’s body, controlling them while leaving his own body lifeless and prone, after making eye contact.
Eager to sever ties with his toxic family, Joey left home and tried to distance himself as much as he could from the Wilson clan by becoming the vice president of a tech company in Los Angeles. Still, it would seem that duplicity is as much second nature to him as it is the rest of his family. Joey’s been spending his free time manipulating his fiancée and moonlighting as a vigilante named “Jericho.”
The Occasionally Heroic Daughter: Rose Wilson
After his divorce with Adeline, Slade became entangled with a Hmong woman from Cambodia named Lilli Worth. The two were never married and when Lilli gave birth to a daughter, she kept her secret from Slade for as long as she could.
Rose spent her childhood being taught and trained in private with her mother in New York, but when another contract killer began hunting down and killing people connected to Deathstroke, the truth of Rose’s parentage was dragged into the light. Despite this revelation, Slade still refused to maintain a close relationship with his daughter, thinking it would keep her “safer” to stay away. Instead, he sent her to train and fight against some of his own most bitter rivals, like Nightwing, to hone her skills as a martial artist… So much for father/daughter bonding.
Rose eventually adopted the moniker that her brother once held—Ravager. However, unlike Grant, Rose has taken a slightly more heroic approach to the family business, even serving with the Teen Titans for a stint.
As you might imagine, Rose and Slade’s relationship continues to be...rocky...to this day. Loyalty isn’t exactly something that runs in the family.
And there you have it, a peek into the twisted personal lives and inglorious histories of the house that violence built. Armed with this knowledge (...and maybe a super suit or some power armor, you can never be too careful) you're ready to dive a little deeper into the tangled webs of the Wilson family in Deathstroke Vol. 1. Just be sure to keep your head down and your wits about you—the turnover rate for family friends has traditionally been pretty high.