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Deathstroke vs. Batman: Sins of the Father(s)

Deathstroke vs. Batman: Sins of the Father(s)

By Meg Downey Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Any time Deathstroke and Batman find themselves at odds, it’s bound to be destructive. But as writer Meg Downey argues, perhaps not as dangerous as the alternative…

People love to compare other superheroes (and super-villains) to Batman, and it's really not hard to see why. Let's be honest, Batman represents the Gold Standard of the cool guy action hero that is both totally unique to him and ultimately striven for by just about everyone else, regardless of whether they're running around trying to save the day or ruin it. He's the sort of guy who invites mirrors and measurements. He's understood well enough to work as a shorthand for character traits all over the world.

Of course, most of the time, when people do their best to stand up against (or provide commentary on) Batman's lengthy, ominous shadow, they're looking at him as…well, a hero. The fighter, the detective, the Dark Knight. It makes sense, obviously, but the truth is that there's more to Batman than just the crime fighting vigilante—and sometimes it's worthwhile to take a look at those other parts of Bruce Wayne to see how the people around him stack up. The father, the family man, the son.

Luckily for us, that's exactly what the currently running “Deathstroke vs. Batman” mini-event seems to be setting out to do—and the results might be a little unexpected to say the least. First, though, a heads up. This is a six-part story written by Christopher Priest and drawn by Carlo Pagulayan and Roberto Viacara that’s currently taking place in DC’s ongoing DEATHSTROKE series. It started with last month’s DEATHSTROKE #30 and continues this week with issue #31. And don't worry if you're not caught up with Slade's current adventures—or with Bruce's for that matter—“Deathstroke vs. Batman” stands on its own.

Batman and Deathstroke are two people who come into conflict pretty regularly, right? It's not especially surprising that they would be at each other's throats for one reason or another. In a lot of ways, it's easy to read both Bruce and Slade as characters who are pretty much destined to fight with each other. Moral code or not, Slade's still a murderer and Batman is still Batman with all his absolutes. Deathstroke can be an antihero every now and again, but that's not going to stop the Dark Knight from taking him down. At the end of the day, on the surface, they're polar opposites in the same way that basically everyone is the polar opposite of Batman because they don't operate by his black-and-white standards.

...Except Batman and Deathstroke are also kind of the exact same person.

Let me explain. This is where those other parts of Batman start coming into play—the stuff that has less to do with heroics or murder and more to do with the people they are when they're not performing their respective duties. Slade and Bruce don't come from the same place, obviously. Slade isn't a mirror of Bruce's origin story the same way Bruce didn't undergo the same training and experimentation Slade did to get where he is today. But they do exist in the same place now. They're both fathers—fathers who mess up a lot—as well as adoptive sons to men who only want the best for them, but can't show it. Both Slade and Bruce are driven by the need to prove themselves against the ghosts of their own past, and haunted by the specter of women who aren't exactly casual about wanting them dead.

They're living the same life on totally opposite sides of the coin.

If you don't believe me, just ask their sons, or their fathers, or their ex-lovers. Don't worry, you don't have to go looking too hard for them. They're all right here in this story and they're ready to tell you in no uncertain terms. Robin's idea of Batman is made to stand next to Jericho's idea of Deathstroke, Billy Wintergreen and Alfred Pennyworth have a nice chat over drinks at the bar, Talia al Ghul and Adeline Kane are pulling strings behind the scenes…

It's pretty hard to overlook the correlations when they're pushed into the spotlight like that, and it's even harder to pretend that they're completely coincidental. I mean, think about it. You don't get to spend your entire adult life living the way that either of them do without falling into some patterns.

Of course, with those comparisons come some pretty complicated questions that circle back to the core of who Bruce and Slade are as people and what matters most to them both behind and in front of their respective masks. After all, if they've both got so much common in one facet of their lives, what's stopping them from finding common ground elsewhere? If they've been living such parallel lives for so long, somehow without either of them ever really noticing or acknowledging it, what's preventing them from jumping the tracks and burying the hatchet?

And if that ever happened, would it ultimately be a good thing? Or would it lead to total chaos?

DEATHSTROKE #31 by Christopher Priest, Carlo Pagulayan, Roberto Viacara, Jason Paz and Jeromy Cox is now available in print and as a digital download.

Meg Downey writes about the DC Universe for and covers DC's Legends of Tomorrow for the #DCTV Couch Club. Follow her on Twitter at @rustypolished.