Deathstroke #35 // Review
Deathstroke #35, written by Christopher Priest, with pencils by Carlo Pagulayan, ink by Jason Paz and Andy Owens, and colors by Jeromy Cox, concludes the Batman vs Deathstroke arc, which has been nothing short of amazing. Previously, a paternity test found its way into Batman’s hands, showing that Damian was actually Slade Wilson’s son. Neither man believed this to be true, but Batman’s need to know who was trying to set them against each other ended up causing a continuously-escalating conflict between the men. Before all was said and done, Bruce Wayne was being investigated by government officials, and Slade had been nearly run out of the mercenary game. Finally, a physical confrontation in the Batcave left both men gravely injured and barely standing. Now, they must work together to escape the cave alive and work out their differences.
Priest has done a wonderful job writing these two characters. The depth that he gives Deathstroke, showing readers that he is so much more than a guy that kills for money, proves exactly why a “villain” like him deserves to have his own book. Batman, of course, needs no fleshing out, because many writers have already defined his character across decades and a multitude of solo titles, but that doesn’t stop Priest from showing you that he knows the character inside and out. His handling of the Dark Knight is so spot on, especially when it comes to his chess-like engagements with Wilson, that DC not giving Priest a Batman book immediately should be considered a crime.
The downside to this issue is that it wraps up several loose ends entirely too quickly, the most important of those loose ends being the government’s investigation of Bruce Wayne, which is resolved rather unbelievably, and would surely lead to further investigation in the fallout. Similarly, the whole reason for the showdown between Deathstroke and Batman is revealed, and it is nothing short of disappointing. Exposed so frivolously in the final pages of the arc, it seems like an afterthought, or the equivalent of Priest just shrugging his shoulders and asking, “you wanted them to fight, didn’t you?” If he had another chapter, or even a double-sized issue to wrap up his story, it would have been a flawless arc. As it is, it’s great, but not exactly an instant classic.
Luckily, Pagulayan does not falter on his end, because the pencils are as beautiful as ever. Along with Paz, Owens, and Cox, he tells a dark, but crisp and clear story with well drawn figures, and superb acting from their characters. Even simple scenes of Batman and Wilson helping each other out of the Batcave or Alfred and Wintergreen making a video for their masters play out with dynamic quality. This team would be at home on any street-level comic title, so hopefully they’ll get a chance to stretch their legs other places, as well.
Overall, this issue could have been stronger as a conclusion to a well-told arc, but it still comes off as a good story. No, things aren’t quite as well resolved as they should have been, because Priest seems to have painted himself into a corner with certain plot threads, but it’s still not only one of the best Deathstroke stories in years, but one of the best Batman stories in recent memory, too. If you missed this story as it was released, definitely pick up the trade when it comes out.