SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Deathstroke #31, by Christopher Priest, Carlo Pagulayan, Roberto Viacara, Larry Hama, Jason Paz, Jeromy Cox and Willie Schubert, on sale now.
While the World’s Greatest Detective and the World’s Deadliest Assassin are certainly no strangers to one another, the last thing readers expected would be the impetus for the pair’s latest encounter is a custody battle over the current Robin, Damian Wayne.
Surprising as it may be, though, that’s the current state of affairs as we enter part two of the six-part “Deathstroke vs. Batman” story arc in Deathstroke #31, and the gloves are starting to come off as both Bruce and Slade pick up some unlikely allies, each with strong ties to the other man.
While flying high above the Saudi Arabian desert en route to Zarqa, Deathstroke’s plane is shot out of the sky on the orders of a mysterious woman whose face is hidden beneath at keffiyeh. However, while Slade survives the attempt on his life, he quickly finds himself surrounded by seven armed soldiers, who all appear to be serving under his would-be killer. What’s more, she’s also managed to get her hands on Deathstroke’s prized promethium-blade sword.
Nevertheless, Slade refuses to back down, and once his opponent has him on the ropes, she removes her keffiyeh and we see that it’s Talia al Ghul – a revelation that comes as little surprise to Slade (though her next statement might prove to be a bit shocking, even to the master assassin, as it appears to genuinely place Damian's true parentage in question).
“Listen to me, man of rage. I have so much to tell you… about your son,” she says, just as the pair begins to lock lips on the sandy desert floor.
Meanwhile, in Gotham City, the Caped Crusader’s hunt to recover a stolen piece of Waynetech leads him to the U.S. Federal Building. What he finds instead, though, is Deathstroke’s ex-wife, Adeline Kane, who appears to be intrigued by the danger Slade is in as a result of his feud with Batman.
“Somebody shot down Deathstroke’s plan,” Adeline says to the Dark Knight. “I like that. What say we help each other…”
With Slade aligning himself with the mother of Bruce’s son and Bruce aligning himself with Slade’s ex-wife, “Deathstroke vs. Batman” appears to be taking the “family affair” nature of what began as a mere custody battle to a whole new level. Can Deathstroke trust Talia, though? Likewise, can Batman trust Adeline? And perhaps even more importantly, what is Damian going to think about all of this when he inevitably finds out?