SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Deathstroke #32, by Christopher Priest, Carlo Pagulayan, Roberto Viacara, Larry Hama, Jason Paz, Jeromy Cox and Willie Schubert, on sale now.
Currently, in the pages of Deathstroke, a war is being waged between the eponymous assassin and the Dark Knight of Gotham – a war predicated on the revelation that the former may, in fact, be the true father of Damian Wayne.
Back in Issue #30, while investigating a robbery, Batman was given an envelope from Biogen Labs containing the DNA markers for Talia al Ghul, Damian Wayne and Slade Wilson, and -- much to Bruce and Slade’s disbelief -- the results were conclusive. Nevertheless, while both men had reasons to believe the documents were somehow fabricated in an attempt to put the two of them on a collision course, neither of them were entirely sure who would’ve orchestrated such a scheme.
However, in Deathstroke #32, we discover the true culprit is someone who’s closer to not just them, but to Damian, than we could have possibly imagined.
Each issue in the “Deathstroke vs. Batman” story arc thus far has featured a rather large number of supporting characters, from those in the heart of the action to those operating in the periphery. In fact, until now, it seemed like perhaps Alfred and Wintergreen could be involved in some sort of dubious activities in the background. And, to be fair, we still can’t rule out that possibility, but rather than looking at Deathstroke and Batman’s de facto father figures, we should have been looking at their children.
Over the course of the narrative, Priest, Pagulayan and company have taken several moments to divert our attention away from the “Batman v Deathstroke: Dawn of Damian” drama by shifting the focus to CCTV-esque asides featuring Bruce’s adopted son Dick Grayson (in his old Robin costume) and Slade’s son Joseph Wilson, aka Jericho. In each instance, the two of them take time to point out their respective fathers’ flaws, while also highlighting their similarities.
Still, it was never made clear why Dick was sporting his old Robin outfit. The logical assumption was that the footage was shot in the past. As it turns out, though, there’s a very specific reason we get Dick as Robin instead of Nightwing.
“So, that’s why I’ve made this video, dressed this way,” Dick says as he begins to remove his domino mask. “To offer you a little advice. A little background on the ‘Robin’ legacy. Which brings us to you.”
As Dick explains, ever since Damian first arrived, he’s been searching for DNA evidence linking the current Robin to “him” (presumably Batman, though Priest coyly refrains from specifying). “There aren’t any,” he states. “But what I did find changed everything.”
“I don’t really know who or what you are,” Dick continues. “But I know who your mom is. Who your grandfather is. And now I know who your real dad is. Which tells me everything I need to know about you – Damian.”
It’s at this point that we finally get our first glimpse of Damian Wayne since the start of “Deathstroke vs. Batman,” as the young Robin is shown watching Dick’s video message from a cell phone. Judging by the look on his face, he’s none too pleased with the situation, which – given the strong bond he has with Dick – is certainly understandable.
Is there more to this revelation, though? Did we come to the actual conclusion of who’s behind “Deathstroke vs. Batman,” or is this simply the conclusion Priest wants us to come to for the time being? Either way, we shouldn’t expect the headstrong Damian Wayne to take this news lightly as we head into chapter four of the six-part “Deathstroke vs. Batman” saga.