Deathstroke #34 // Review
Deathstroke #34, written by Christopher Priest, with pencils by Carlo Pagulayan, inks by Jason Paz and Trevor Scott, and colors by Jeromy Cox, is the penultimate chapter in the Batman vs Deathstroke storyline, which leads to an epic showdown between the two leads. Previously, someone sent Batman and Slade a DNA test that showed Damian Wayne was, in fact, Wilson’s son. Neither believed this to be true, but it didn’t stop them from investigating who was trying to draw them into conflict with each other. Once they started stepping on each other’s toes, things got heated. Batman stopped Slade from conducting his business at every turn, and Bruce Wayne suddenly came under investigation by the F.B.I, cut off completely from his money. Now, Deathstroke has found his way to Wayne Manor to end the standoff once and for all.
The greatness of this arc, which continues into this issue, is Priest’s superb handling of the characters. Not only does he have a superior understanding of Batman and Deathstroke, and how they think, but he has a masterful knowledge of the side characters like Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne, and Alfred Pennyworth. Even when he uses questionable characterization in a video of Tim Drake to motivate Damian to confront Wilson, Priest reminds you that it was an older message made in a time when Tim was angry about Damian taking his place as Robin. Without Priest’s command of these iconic personalities, this story would just be another “misunderstanding that leads to a fight” that the readers have seen thousands of times in crossover comics. Instead, the audience is being treated to a clever cat-and-mouse game between two of the best strategists in the DC universe that was sparked by something deeply personal.
Aside from a brief scene where Bruce assures Damian he is his son after he found out Damian looked into the issue himself, this is mostly an all-out action chapter of the story, with an insane battle that takes place in the Batcave. Again, Priest cleverly sets up this action beat, with Wilson deducing a connection between Wayne and Batman, and then discovering the cave beneath the mansion, demanding that Bruce take him there to confront the Dark Knight. Once the lights go out, all hell breaks loose and the fun begins. Priest is very careful to make this a balanced fight, so neither of the leads is disrespected. So, even though Slade has the physical edge over Batman, the Caped Crusader is fighting on home turf, with full access to all of his wonderful toys. On top of all of that, both men fight extremely smart, so this makes for one of the best battles in comics this year.
Pagulayan’s pencils work well for the story, as he has amazing range, equally skilled in the emotional acting of the characters and the grandness of the big action scenes. He would do well on any book, but a Batman or Nightwing series in his future would be a dream come true. Paz and Scott’s inks also greatly enhance the visuals, especially in the Batcave scenes where the story kicks into high gear, and Cox’s colors really pop, giving the art an overall slickness that is pleasing to the eye.
All in all, this is one of the stronger chapters in an already great story arc. There are the emotional beats of Wilson’s flashbacks to his son fighting for his life after his throat was slit, and Bruce having to tell Damian to back off, and then there is the crazy Batcave fight that just might go down in history as one of the best Batman fights of all time. You couldn’t ask for more from a Batman vs Deathstroke story, and you shouldn’t get it if you did. These two characters are so similar, and yet so different, and Priest is mining that for all it’s worth. If you’re not reading this story already, you’re missing out. Any comic fan would enjoy it.