Earlier this week I finished one of my recent purchases titled Batman vs. Deathstroke. The mini event was written by Christopher Priest who has been the author of the Rebirth run for Deathstroke, and he has been killing it! Priest knows the characters well and puts them into a story that really shakes up both their worlds. As a fan of both the characters, I have to say that Priest knew exactly what he was doing with this. He managed to bring in lots of the history of both characters and uses it to craft a very interesting story. The run itself is pretty short, only 6 issues, but a lot of things happen in those few issues.
*EXPECT FULL SPOILERS AS THE COMIC HAS BEEN OUT FOR OVER A YEAR*
The story revolves around the discovery of an envelope addressed to Batman that was found in a safety deposit box at a bank. When Batman opens the envelope in the Bat-cave he finds some DNA test results for the paternity of his son, Damian. The results say that Bruce is not Damian’s father and it is in fact Slade Wilson/Deathstroke who holds that title. Believing the results to potentially be genuine, Bruce confronts Slade and as it can be assumed, it doesn’t go very well. Both sides embark on a mission to find the truth of Damian’s paternity with Alfred and Wintergreen interacting behind the scenes. As they come to blows when Batman stops a contract that Deathstroke has taken, both of the title characters refuse to compromise in their mission. This sets Batman on a path of stopping every contract that Deathstroke takes out. One of the best scenes from the arc comes from when Deathstroke tells Batman that Robin is alive because he allows it. Check out the panel below…
Things continue to spiral at this point with Batman making good on his threat and stopping Deathstroke at every turn, ruining his name as the World’s Greatest Assassin. Damian actually seeks Deathstroke out having found the DNA results and pledges himself to the Assassin. In retaliation for what Batman did, Deathstroke uses some of his government contacts to issue a FISA warrant against Bruce Wayne to freeze all his assets and company while they look for illegal transfers. Both characters continue to clash on various continents around the world until finally Slade gets fed up and shows up to Wayne Manor looking for Batman. Slade (for whatever reason) is unable to put two and two together that Bruce is Batman despite Damian being Robin and the Bat-Cave being located UNDERNEATH Wayne Manor. As they enter the cave, the power goes out and Batman appears to fight Deathstroke.
Batman and Deathstroke fight through the cave and eventually tumble down into the massive cave complex below. Eventually despite the injuries they’ve both sustained from the other they work together to get out of the cave system to their allies. The comic run ends with Deathstroke meeting with Talia Al Ghul who admits that she had faked the results years ago as “a bit of fun”. We also learn that following his daughter Rose/Ravager’s birth, Slade underwent a vasectomy to make sure he couldn’t have anymore illegitimate kids. Bruce had another test done to prove that Damian is his son and when the results showed up by courier, rather than opening them he threw them into the fire. The final panel shows that Bruce knows Damian is his son and he doesn’t need a piece of paper to prove that.
WORLD’S GREATEST ASSASSIN
The main character, as in who’s comic this takes place in, is Deathstroke/Slade Wilson. He has been a mainstay in DC comics continuity for many years since he was first introduced in Teen Titans from December, 1980. Typically he was a recurring villain for the Titans but recently he has been staking his claim as the World’s Greatest Assassin in many other major titles. In his New 52 run, he was armed with Godkiller weapons by Hephaestus and sent to kill Lapetus the Greek God of Mortality. Recently he has taken on Superman, Batman, and various other members of the League. He is one of the few people who can go toe to toe with Batman in a fight and has actually taken down three Flashes at once mid battle.
As one of the only members of an enhanced soldier program, Slade was gifted with superhuman strength, reflexes, speed, intelligence (he can use 90% of his brain capacity at all times) and a robust healing factor. He is not able to heal like Wolverine from the X-Men, but he can heal from bullet wounds and knife wounds in a matter of hours. He served in the military for years and as such is familiar with all firearms, both conventional and prototype. He is an expert marksman, swordsman, hand to hand fighter, and uses an advanced body suit called the Ikon suit. This suit is a “prototype point defense gravity sheathe controlled by bodily gestures alongside EEG (Electroencephalography) leads in his mask. When a source of kinetic energy comes up against its protective shielding, a gravitational tidal effect occurs; a greater surface area causes a weaker defense shield, but a smaller surface area results in the sheathe being virtually indestructible”. He also has a sword which he has coated in Promethium which allows it to absorb and redirect kinetic force and energy.
Deathstroke is widely known as one of the most dangerous men on the planet, he will always fulfill his contract regardless of who is in his way.
WORLD’S GREATEST DETECTIVE
This guy really needs no introduction. He’s Batman, the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader and the World’s Greatest Detective. Batman has been one of the pillars of all DC comics continuity since his creation by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in March of 1939. He has had such a massive influence on DC continuity that the company is actually named after his flagship title, Detective Comics. Yes, technically the company is called Detective Comics Comics… hence why they shortened it to DC. He’s one of the founding members of the Justice League and the most dangerous man on the planet. He has gone toe to toe with Superman on multiple occasions and on several of them, actually came out on top. He recently formed his own suicide Squad, beat Bane (again), recounted the War of Jokes and Riddles, got engaged, was stood up at the alter and created the most powerful batsuit ever conceived. He is seriously my all time favourite character.
He has mastered every form of martial arts on the planet, is an expert marksman, a master strategist, trained to peak human abilities, holds more doctorates than I can count, runs his own international company and solely finances the Justice League and the construction of the Watchtower. He has a plan for taking every single person in the DC universe in a one on one fight and has even made some suits and contingencies for incapacitating multiple people at once ie. the Justice League. He toes the line between anti-hero and hero and on more than one occasion has almost taken the plunge into anti-hero status. He may beat you and break every bone in your body leaving you eating out of a tube for the rest of your life, but he won’t kill you.
ASSASSIN vs. DETECTIVE
These two behemoths have clashed on multiple occasions, most recently in the Arkham game series by Rocksteady. Deathstroke was a side character in Arkham City (2011), and Arkham Knight (2015). He was however, a main villain that was included in the 2013 title Arkham Origins. Deathstroke was one of the 8 different villains/assassins that took up the 50 million dollar contract that Black Mask put out on Batman. This is the trailer clip that shows Deathstroke fighting Batman that was released as promotional material for the game.
As you can see, they are pretty evenly matched with Slade’s augmentations and willingness to kill allowing him to go blow for blow with Batman. One of the better runs I have seen is actually out of the New 52 where Slade wasn’t prepared to encounter Batman. He was trying to find Harley and after beating Red Hood he ran into Batman completely by chance. The inner monologue that Slade has while fighting perfectly explains how excellent of a fighter Batman is.
Despite his training and augmentations, Slade knows that Bruce is the better fighter and his unwillingness to go for the kill shot is the only thing that lets Slade keep up with him. There are several comics that show what would happen if Bruce used all his resources and did whatever it took to win. The newest example of this type of no holds barred Batman is the Man Who Laughs and the rest of the Dark Knights in the Metal event. Also the introduction of the Grim Knight in the Man Who Laughs solo series shows what would happen if Bruce embraced his ability for lethality.
Christopher Priest is a longtime comic editor and contributor who has worked for both major companies. He first got into the comic scene in 1978 as an intern at Marvel. In 1979 he joined their editorial staff as the first African American editor of mainstream comics. He worked for years on several titles including Conan, Crazy Magazine, Falcon and Power Man & Iron Fist. He left Marvel due to professional and personal disagreements and moved over to DC comics where he worked on Green Lantern. Priest then moved into freelance work providing titles for both companies. In 2016 he was contacted by DC Comics to write their new Deathstroke title for their Rebirth Arc and in 2017 he wrote for their Justice league title. He also contributed to the Black Panther Annual #1 of 2018 for Marvel.
The book is fantastic! Priest knows what he is doing with both Batman and Deathstroke and the story he crafts is something that is completely plausible given Damian’s tendencies… for you know… murder and what not. I wish the book was a little longer but since it was just a single story arc in the actual Deathstroke title, I can understand why they didn’t do that. The bit that surprised me the most was the dynamic between Alfred and Wintergreen. Apparently these two go back and have known each other for some time. Both of them suspect that the DNA tests are nothing to concern themselves with but their benefactors think otherwise. I can say that Pennyworth and Wintergreen teaming up made for some light humour in an otherwise very serious book.
I will say that the misdirection from Priest with Red Robin felt a little out of place given that this takes place after the incident in Gotham. I understand why it was done, especially given the friction between Tim and Damian, but it did seem to be unnecessary in the overall arc.
That being said, I highly recommend that if you’re a fan of either character you pick this up! I got it a couple of weeks ago in hardcover but the individual issues have been out for quite some time. I give it a solid 8/10. I liked it a lot, but there wasn’t enough violence and gore for a true Deathstroke story.
See you later!