Wounded from their knock-down, drag-out fight in the Batcave, Slade and Bruce find themselves clinging to life while Wintergreen and Alfred force their “children” to set aside their petty differences and work together to survive. The question of Damian’s parentage slips into the background as two dangerous men come to terms with a mutual admiration. With survival paramount, the machinations of both Batman and Deathstroke slowly dissipate until all that remains are unanswerable questions. Bruce reveals that he has always known the source of the DNA tests that triggered the whole event, and gestures towards a source for the whole conspiracy, but for once, the World’s Greatest Detective is wrong.
Although the hype surrounding this epic confrontation has been the question of who Damian’s birth father is, that is not the core of the narrative. At its emotional center, “Deathstroke vs. Batman” is a story about fathers and sons and the various non-traditional ways those roles become occupied and vacated, fulfillment and failure. There is a fearful symmetry between the two protagonists in which biology is removed from the equation of fatherhood. Both men have failed children in various ways, yet each has also failed, leading to the adoption of new father figures as role models in both Wintergreen and Alfred. As the elders attempt to corral their ill-tempered children, the focus on the bonds between fathers and sons comes into a stark focus.
As we move into the segment titled “The Good Sons”, we see the roles reversed, as the sons’ efforts to protect their fathers, borne out of a genuine sense of fidelity and love, position the fathers to impart the lessons learned from their own father figures on their sons.
Priest’s story-telling throughout this arc has undoubtedly been beautifully complemented by Pagulayan’s stunning pencils, Paz and Scott’s stark inking, and Cox’s vibrant colors, but the unsung hero of Priest’s run has been letterer Willie Schubert. A crucial part of Priest’s narrative style has been the subtitles throughout the issues which serve to both frames and also add to the narrative, which is not to even mention the challenges in balancing the shifts between large amounts of dialogue and sparse moments of dialogue without making this issue feel cluttered. We just enjoyed Letterer Appreciation Day, so if you haven’t already, hug a letterer for making comics possible!
As we bid farewell to ”Deathstroke vs. Batman”, a beautiful and often surprising arc, we find ourselves preparing to return to present-day Deathstroke, which finds Slade Arkham bound.
Deathstroke #35: There’s So Much You Have to Go Through
Writing - 9/10
Storyline - 9/10
Art - 10/10
Color - 10/10
Cover Art - 10/10
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