As Deathstroke defies Batman’s demand to stand down until the truth of the DNA tests is uncovered, the coming conflict between two of DC’s most intriguing characters takes a step back to examine the contrasts and similarities between Bruce and Slade. Will Damien Wayne’s real father please stand up?
DEATHSTROKE (2016) #31 “Deathstroke vs. Batman Part 2 of 6: The Falling Stars”
Artist: Carlo Pagulayan & Roberto Viacara
Inks: Jeremy Cox
Cover Artist: Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, & Brad Anderson; variant by Jerome Opena & Dean White
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Willie Schubert
Publisher: DC COMICS
What You Need to Know:
Last time, in Deathstroke, a plot was put into motion to suggest that Damien Wayne, son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, may, in fact, be Deathstroke’s child. Batman confronted Slade with the DNA tests, which Deathstroke had already seen and dismissed. Batman demanded Slade cease all activity until the truth was uncovered—a demand that didn’t sit very well with the world’s greatest assassin.
What You’ll Find Out:
In part two of the conflict between two of DC’s very best, Bruce makes good on his threat to shut down Slade’s operations from the onset by arranging to have Slade’s plane shot down over Saudi Arabia in the middle of a hit. Wintergreen and Slade of course survive, but Slade is separated from his sword, which is swiftly becoming something of a character unto itself during Priest’s run on the title.
Back in Gotham, Jim Gordon informs Bruce (as Bruce) that a robbery occurred in a dive bar in which a prototype T-Phone (nice Mr. Terrific shout-out) with a Waynetech chip had been stolen. While Bruce had developed the chip and then later placed restrictions on it, the prototype featured an unrestricted chip that could be potentially dangerous in the wrong hands. The world’s greatest detective easily tracked down the phone and the “Russian buyer”—one Adeline Kane, Slade’s ex-wife, who suggests a team up between Batman and her, although to what end is unknown.
Back in the desert, Slade hunts down his sword and is confronted by none other than Talia al Ghul, who states she wishes to talk about their son.
What Just Happened?
This issue slowed down the narrative pace a bit, allowing for a fair amount of setup to occur. There were a number of points of interest to follow here in terms of storytelling prowess. The relationship between Alfred and Wintergreen continued its development in a brief sequence in which the two spoke on the phone, and despite its briefness, the conversation speaks to a central point in the arc—the striking similarities between Batman and Deathstroke.
As is highlighted once again by the parallel interviews between Robin and Jericho, familial structures seem to be the crucial difference between Slade and Bruce, a notion also emphasized by the sequence of Bruce sitting and contrasting the photo of his family with Slade’s family. Both families are touched by death (Martha and Thomas for Bruce, and Grant for Slade), but to vastly different effect. For Bruce, death is the cause, yet for Slade, it is the effect. Certainly, the potential of removing Damien as Bruce’s only son and transferring him to Slade’s own history of violence will be further explored in the coming months.
While the issue features an almost frantic pace in terms of moving from scene to scene quite rapidly, there is something about the carefully crafted page layouts that manages to control that pace into an organized chaos that should be noted and respected here. I should also note that, while I am typically not a fan of digital enhancement in comics art, the panel below struck me an excellent example of how it can be used to further the poetry of motion and time in comics narrative.
Final Thought: The running joke in this issue about Bruce’s overly-complicated explanations for how he figured things out as a cover for actually very simple processes was comedic gold that deserves to be applied to a regular Batman book. If Priest is so inclined, I’d welcome him on any Bat-Family book he wanted to write. That is, in no way, a knock on King or Tynion IV, both of whom I think are doing a marvelous job, but I’m ready to see Priest move in and shake things up.
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