Deathstroke #30 – Priest, Writer; Carlo Pagulayan, Penciller; Jason Paz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Slade vs. Batman (Bad Dad vs. Good Dad?)
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: After twenty-nine issues of Priest’s brilliantly tense, dysfunctional family assassin saga, Deathstroke #30 begins its first self-contained event. This isn’t the first time Deathstroke has been sent up against a major DC hero (including a brilliant quick battle against Superman), but this six-issue arc will set up a prolonged, brutal confrontation with Deathstroke’s equally skilled counterpart, Batman. It all begins with a flashback to when Alfred first met Wintergreen, and ten years later an unlikely friendship has formed between the two former British spies – mostly based around their mutual frustration with their stubborn employers. A lot of the issue focuses around Batman’s interaction with the various people in his circle and how they view him, but the main plot kicks off with a major robbery at a bank in Gotham that unearths a mysterious envelope directed to Batman. And in that envelope is supposed DNA evidence identifying Deathstroke as Damian’s real father. Something Batman knows is impossible – probably.
I like that this issue doesn’t waste too much time on the “is Deathstroke Damian’s father” question. We know he’s not. DC isn’t going to up-end years of continuity in a non-Batman title. Instead, Batman analyzes the situation logically and sets out to find out who’s trying to manipulate him. That leads him to gangster Bernie Chua, whose drug haul was also caught in the robbery and now finds himself targeted by his rivals – who have employed Deathstroke. The issue has a lot of action, great use of the Batmobile, and a showdown between Batman and Deathstroke that feels more like an appetizer than anything else. The foundation of the conflict between Batman and Deathstroke isn’t some Maury Povich paternity test, it’s two incredibly determined and ruthless men with directly opposed goals. The end of the issue hints at massive escalation, which I can’t wait to see. And just based on this issue alone, Priest is a brilliant Batman writer. When King mic drops on the main title, Priest needs to be next in line and they should make him that promise yesterday.
Corrina: What struck me about the confrontation between Batman and Deathstroke was how each upped their game. Rather than one being made weaker than the other to be defeated, instead, it’s two men at the top of their form, facing each other and never underestimating their opponent.
They’re almost equal in intelligence, though Slade has that blind spot where altruism baffles him. Slade has that meta-human body which gives him an edge in physical strength but Batman can counter that, with planning. The deeper question is what game is being played? Did Slade plant the evidence about Damian’s paternity to knock Batman off-balance? That’s entirely possible, given the mind games Slade has played in the past. We’ve already seen them encounter each other early in this run, with Damian getting in some good verbal taunts about Slade but Slade is a twisty bastard (and Priest an excellent twisty writer) so I can’t see how this will all turn out.
But unpredictability is one of the greatest things about Priest’s run on this title. (Like having Alfred and Wintergreen bond over difficult…children.)
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.