Deathstroke #32 – Priest, Writer; Carlo Pagulayan, Roberto Viacara, Pencillers; Larry Hama, Breakdowns; Jason Paz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Just When I Was Going to Hate an Issue…Priest Pulls Me Back In!
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: As “Deathstroke vs. Batman” reaches its halfway point in Deathstroke #32, Priest once again shows how he writes conflict and battle better than anyone in the industry.
While there certainly is a lot of action in this issue, the tension is almost as much driven by the game of cat-and-mouse between these two costumed geniuses and the way they counter each other’s most ruthless moves. As the issue kicks off, Deathstroke and Batman are on each other’s tails – but they’re also on the trail of Ace Masterson, an incredibly powerful but very old superhero, who has apparently hired Deathstroke to assassinate him. Batman has put the kibosh on Deathstroke’s business, interfering in each of his hits. The initial action scene is one of the issue’s best moments, but the story as it flashes back twenty-four hours is just as compelling. Deathstroke and Batman each have their own tactics, as Deathstroke works with Talia to dismantle Batman’s network, and Batman targets Slade’s operations abroad.
Much like with his work on Justice League, Priest approaches all his comic writing from a real-world perspective. Although he’s not a regular Batman writer, he’s arguably put more thought into how Batman operates than most of them – complete with introducing the concept that Bruce Wayne has body doubles around the world, all throwing off suspicion of his activities as Batman. Alfred and Wintergreen continue to be the hidden stars of this story, as both of them work behind the scenes to keep their wayward allies from going off the deep end. However, Slade crosses a line when he seemingly targets Alfred, setting him up to be arrested in Barcelona. Although the conflict between Batman and Deathstroke drives this issue, I was surprised by how compelling Ace Masterson’s suicide mission was as well. When Priest writes, he doesn’t have any weak links. Everything that plays out in this issue has a purpose, and it’s creating a self-contained event comic that is going to be one to remember.
Corrina: Damn, I was loving Ace Masterson’s story too. But that’s Priest, taking what’s supposed to be a throwaway character, a MacGuffin to drive the conflict between Deathstroke and Batman, and making him a three-dimensional character who finally receives the ending he wants, if not quite in the way he wants.
Initially, the action opening didn’t work for me, as I thought I’d missed an issue. That’s the potential problem with flashforward openings: they leave the reader wondering what the heck they missed. However, as soon as the story went back 24 hours, I was on board again. I guess I can only get annoyed with Priest for half an issue, never a full one.
Especially since the insults Deathstroke and Batman toss at each other are wonderful, from Talia and Batman’s past, to Slade’s parenting, and back again. Slade certainly has his ideas about Batman and I can’t say they’re wrong but, of course, they’re nicely filtered through his military objectives. (About the only complaint I have this issue is that Talia in t feels less real and more like a toy Slade and Bruce fight over, but I hope that changes soon.)
And, damn, the action sequences are amazing, and with an art team this large, I’m not sure who to credit but the way the battle shifts from close-ups of Batman, Slade and Ace, then back again to the overall conflict, was perfect.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.