“Battle Royale” is sixteen adrenaline-fueled pages of Batman vs. Deathstroke and four pages of Deathstroke’s son and daughter encountering that goon named Possum from earlier in the series. But you’re not here for Possum, you’re here to read sixteen pages of Batman and Deathstroke duking it out while Harley bounces around in the background running a semi-annoying commentary.
What You Need to Know
Did you pick up Deathstroke no. 4 to get the lead in? Then you’re on board and ready. Did you just pick up Deathstroke no. 5 because it had Batman on the cover? Then that’s all you really need to know. But just in case you want some more info, here’s the short of it: Deathstroke is looking for his son Jericho in Gotham. Harley is peeved with him for his apparent double-cross of the Suicide Squad and so when he comes to her looking for information, she leads him into a trap. Cue Batman.
All caught up? Let’s talk serious throwdown here:
You don’t need a tale of the tape: get ready to rumble!
If you’re looking for clever dialogue, plot-driven action, subtle visual storytelling: go elsewhere! This book lives up to its title as a battle royale with so much of a feast for the eyes that we’re just going to set aside Tony S. Daniel the writer for a moment and focus on Tony S.Daniel, penciler extraordinaire (with stunning inks by Sandu Florea). Sure, you can probably read this book in under ten minutes, but you’ll want to go back and admire the fight choreography and the double-page splashes, expertly colored by Tomeu Morey, and full of wonderful and effective sound effects by letterer Rob Leigh. This is definitely a full-team effort and the results are beautiful. This is not merely a brainless brawl with a couple of steroidal superheroes (or anti-heroes) posing for the best impression. The use of speed lines helps the eye track specific actions and the paneling conveys the trading of blows at precisely the pace you would expect if this were a cinematic experience. In fact, I would argue that reading this comic very nearly is a cinematic experience.
Love the deflection of the sword in that top panel!
Extra props to Daniel and Morey for the thrilling cover. Okay, it’s full of silly swords, but otherwise it captures the spirit of the combat perfectly.
A bunch of nitpicks bring this down a little for me. While I love the sound effects, some of them are kind goofy if you want to take the fight seriously. The example above shows a “Bapp” and a “Boof”, but we also get lots of “Pow”, “Bam”, and one especially silly “Bonnggg”. None of these bothered me really, but on second read they jumped out as an entirely different way to read this fight (as in: not to take it seriously at all).
I’m not sure why Harley just holds back for almost the entire fight flapping her yap instead of joining in the fray. It’s not like she has some moral code that prevents her from ganging up. When she does finally give an assist, she backs right down out of the fight again. I think Daniel didn’t know what to do with her and it shows.
Deathstroke internally rationalizing why he didn’t take Batman out in three moves felt petty. In fact, Deathstroke’s narrative throughout felt unnecessary for the most part. And a bit whiny. “He’s beating the crap outta me!” was about the best line. Maybe Tony S. Daniel the writer should have just left it at that.
In case it’s a spoiler to tell you the outcome of the fight, I’m dropping this one remark beneath a tag:
- It’s Batman vs. Deathstroke: just buy it and enjoy it.
- It’s Batman vs. Deathstroke: you know you want it.
- Lastly: it’s Batman vs. Deathstroke.
This is the kind of comic I remember reading as a kid: lots of fighting, some cheeky quips, and then the hero is off to the next encounter with nary a consequence to be found. The formula obviously works (it has for over 75 years) and this book will nicely while away part of your evening. It’s not going to challenge your thinking and it doesn’t innovate in the realm of comic book storytelling, but it’s altogether solid and entertaining (and violent for those of you who like it that way). Will it get you to keep reading Deathstroke if you’re not already a regular reader? It’s doubtful. But for Batman fans, this is a fine treat!