WARNING: This article contains minor SPOILERS for Deathstroke #30
Deathstroke may be the biological father of Batman's son, Damian Wayne. That's what the science of a surprise paternity test has suggested - in no uncertain terms - in the pages of DC's Deathstroke comic series. The game-changing revelation arrives in this week's issue of the comic, sending Batman in immediate pursuit of Deathstroke the Terminator for answers. Needless to say, the collision course of DC's greatest detective and its deadliest assassin is taking up its own six-part storyline titled - what else? - "Deathstroke vs. Batman."
The story will be told solely in the Deathstroke series by writer Christopher Priest, and will be far more than this twist which kicks off the arc in the opening pages. If the idea that Batman could be fooled into thinking he was the father of Deathstroke's son is hard to believe... it should be. The paternity test is only the beginning of this showdown, with the real mystery being the mystery figure who made sure Batman discovered it.
Now, if only Batman and Deathstroke can stop trying to kill eachother long enough to figure that out.
Giving the tone and mood of a throwback detective story from its opening pages, "Deathstroke vs. Batman" begins with the establishing of its premise alone. A bank robbery puts Commissioner Gordon in possession of an envelope with Batman's name on it. An envelope containing DNA paternity tests showing Slade Wilson and Talia al Ghul are genetic matches as the parents of Damian Wayne (the current Robin). It's a tease, a trap laid, and bait placed into the water... which is exactly the stance taken by Deathstroke when Batman comes calling.
The first confrontation is a testament to the talents of artists Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, and Jeremy Cox. But just seconds after the fight travels from high in the air to below sea level, it's finished by the men involved. Batman's main priority is uncovering what game he and Deathstroke have suddenly been entered into - despite Deathstroke warning him to ignore the bait completely (as he did when presented with the same evidence).
That's not exactly Batman's style, which illuminates the very distinctions Priest is hoping to in his story. As the writer explains to EW, his story being centered on Batman and Deathstroke, like so many since the villain was first introduced, is done with purpose:
As I see the characters (after all, every writer or fan will have his or her own view), they are more or less mirror images... Deathstroke is more or less a dark mirror of Batman (complete with his own British sidekick). Deathstroke is what Batman could become absent his disciplined convictions... Batman, on the other hand, represents the person Slade Wilson could have become had he not lacked the strength of character to stay on the right path.
The parallels of both masked men are going to form the real spine of this story, with the first issue featuring asides from Batman's Alfred Pennyworth, Deathstroke's Wintergreen (who its turns out are drinking buddies), Dick Grayson, and Joseph Wilson. Priest refers to these devices as "a kind of Greek chorus" making the comparisons between mentors and pupils more tangible. Clearly, the paternity of Damian Wayne is just one part of this story built on family and fatherhood.
In the end, the rivalry that should be resolved (and would be, if Deathstroke were in charge) is left simmering by Batman's stubbornness. Promising to keep Deathstroke from taking or executing contracts until he assists in rooting out the culprit behind this mystery, Bruce sets the two at odds. That, too, is intended to amplfiy their differences, Priest explains. Where Slade can see through the superhero and comic book melodrama to see victory only in refusing to bite, Bruce has no choice but to play his part.
Fans have five more issues after Deathstroke #30 to look forward to, telling in sequence the "Deathstroke vs. Batman" story Priest reveals was originally a pitch for a standalone series. Attention, interest, and controversy are unavoidable with a premise potentially changing Damian Wayne's parentage.
Skeptical fans can set down their pitchforks for now, though. According to Priest, he knows that fans will make their opinions known should he misstep:
DC Comics has shown enormous support and enthusiasm for the project, including a special polybagged foil cover, and the response from retailers and fans has so far been great — even though enthusiastic fans of Damian Wayne are closely watching to see where this all goes (and what to do to me if it doesn’t go where they want it to!).
If I had my way, the paternity question would be solved by a call-in: 1-800-4BATMAN or 1-800-DSTROKE. But, sigh, maybe next time.
Deathstroke #30 is available now from DC Comics.
Source: Entertainment Weekly