Where: Identity Crisis #3 When: October 2004
Writer: Brad Meltzer Artist: Rags Morales
The story so far...
Sue Dibny has been murdered, and this single death is sending shockwaves that touch each and every hero in the DC Universe.
With the most analytical and tuned heroes turning up no evidence, and a hyper technological security system showing no signs of forced entry, most of the League begin investigating the obvious suspects; teleporters, magicians, shape shifters, but one group has a different theory.
This is the event that changed the playing field, making it clear that the innocence of the past was nothing but a sham. These select few go in search of Dr. Light, a now-bumbling villain that had found his way to the Justice League satellite and raped Dibny years earlier.
Revealing their dark past, Green Arrow admits that the League had used Zatanna's magic to erase portions of the villain's minds pertaining to the secret identities of the heroes. The heroes did only what they needed to, until Dr. Light, when they crossed the line, and altered his personality forever.
Tale of the tape...
Deathstroke is really quite a scary villain for a lot of reasons, one of those being that controlling 90% of his brain function makes him pretty difficult to define. I'm not sure anyone could tell me exactly what potential 90% brain function would unlock. As it is, it just seems to make him an incredible tactician and fighter, which I guess means he's more in tune with his body and mind.
Intelligence: 4 (Tactician)
Fighting Ability: 7 (Born fighter)
Deathstroke is officially the first character to rank a seven on the Haseloff system for fighting ability. This is purely based on the determination of the advantage of his brain power, which is poorly reflected by his intelligence rating.
Though perhaps vaguely ill-defined, Deathstroke's powers must be recognised as making him an extremely impressive foe.
This particular arrangement of the Justice League roughly consists of; Hawkman, Green Arrow, the Flash, Black Canary, Atom, Green Lantern, Zatanna and Elongated Man. Not the most impressive line-up we've seen of the JL, but without a doubt still a competent mix of seasoned veterans, and incredible powers.
Even on his best day, one has to question the odds for Deathstroke to defeat that collection of heroes. The sheer strength of numbers tends to lend itself to someone getting the jump on him, while he tries to eliminate them.
This is an opinion, of course, that has particular relevence for the way they fight is choreographed.
What went down...
This really is the ultimate in fights as far as breaking it down for this particular section. It's so easily disected into neat little pieces that I can literally deliver a beat by beat account of what occured, without missing a pip. Of course, this approach is also one of the most glaring criticisms.
Having already taken care of Elongated Man at the end of the previous issue, Deathstroke is pretty keen to make sure everyone understands it is his fight, as per the terms of his agreement with Dr. Light. Terms involving a hefty sum of money.
The Flash, quite naturally, is the first to act.
Deathstroke's 90% function doesn't outdo Batman in the anticipation department, but it's still impressive. He sets off a series of C-5 plastique charges infront of him, prompting Flash to attack from behind. Of course, this move leaves Flash skewered on Deathstroke's rather ample sword.
Attacking the next biggest perceived threat, Deathstroke goes straight for Zatanna, tapping her liver with a well placed shot, drowning her reversed incantations in vomit. Not terribly pretty, but damn effective.
Hawkman and his long-range threat is the next targeted, and naturally Hawkman meets it with a suitable amount of controlled aggression. Apparently he was ready to fight, but not ready to have his wing harness cut from his chest.
Why Hawkman wouldn't be ready for such an attack, absolutely baffles, and this is no doubt where the fight starts to break down.
Continuing down the line, he flows into an attack against Green Arrow, with bow cocked the entire time, as he tracks his high speed target. Deathstroke's greater reflexes allow him to swat the incoming arrow away, before taking a swing at the archer himself. As Green Arrow ducks the swing, he realises that the projected target was the tails of his arrows.
As the feathers fly, Green Arrow's stock in the fight plummets, his arrows now rendered relatively useless. (Or are they?)
Black Canary prepares to unleash a sonic scream, but Deathstroke is a man who thinks of everything, coming prepared with an airtight rubber mask. He bags the Canary's head, tying it tight around the neck, and cuffs her arms behind her back for good measure.
With the backstory of Dr. Light's rape on Sue Dibney, there's actually a very disturbing potential to this panel, where he is seen lurking in the background, with Canary's bikini-fishnet clad buttocks taking precedence in the foreground.
I've read that the themes of interpreted misogynism caused a minor outcry from fans, but I think finding an objectification of women in comics is both dramatically late, and in this case, perhaps a little faceitous.
On with the fight, Deathstroke scans the battlefield for the Atom, who I must say has the nifty trick of getting forgotten. If I were the opponent to the Justice League reading this issue, I would have the little bugger bouncing around in my eardrum by now.
Again, that incredible capacity for anticipation and execution is on display, as Slade anticipates Atom's microscopic attack, and using his advanced vision blasts him with electrons and protons in a beam of a laser pointer's light.
The Atom 're-bigulates' just in time to knock Hawkman right between the eyes, as he was rising to his feet after his previous fall.
By now, there's a very real argument that it's been far too easy to take each JLer one by one. No matter how fast Deathstroke's reflexes are, and how advanced his planning, it's tough to believe the Green Lantern could have been standing idle for this long.
Granted, Kyle Rayner doesn't have the experience of the other heroes, but he's no kid anymore.
Slade locks up with Rayner, who foolishly decides it's suddenly a good idea to become a fist fighter, and gets four broken fingers for his trouble.
One assumes ninety percent brain function must give Deathstroke a pretty impressive will power, as he grips the broken hand and tries to wrestle control of the Green Lantern's ring away from him.
Of course, on previous occasions Rayner's ring has been shown to only respond to himself, and a select few of his fellows, but the injuries sustained, and Deathstroke's incredible willpower make for a feasible argument for the deadlock.
Green Arrow attempts to make some of his own luck, and shows that he's more than a one-trick pony. With his arrows no longer viable projectiles, ol' Ollie goes the low tech approach, and stabs Deathstroke in the eye.
Sent into a murderous rage, Deathstroke loses his cool, calculating advantage, intent simply on killing Green Arrow. Let's face it, with that goatee, and pathetic disguise, it's a place we've all been.
Getting the snot beat out of him long enough to let League pull themselve's together, Green Arrow buys the time necessary for the heroes to finally make a joint attack. They each grab a limb, and wrestle for it. Of course, this scene prompts a flashback for the previously mindwiped Dr. Light, where he recalls a similar instance involving himself.
The mind wiped villain has something of a meltdown, bursting into a blazing light of rage.
When the heroes come-to, they're on their arses, infront of Superman no less. Faux pas!
When I first gauged potential interest in some of the greatest fights in comics of all time, this was actually the fight mentioned the most. Hopefully the few reading this website will be pleased that it made the list promptly.
As mentioned earlier, my biggest criticism would have to undoubtedly be the delivery of the fight, which suggests that no Justice League hero was able to intervene during the systematic elimination of member after member. Perhaps the toughest pill to swallow is the fact that Green Lantern, a hero who quite regularly scoops villains up in bubbles, could be left as an oversight until the very end. The neglect shown is only further exasperated by the decision to have Green Lantern, posessor of anything he can imagine, enter into a fistfight with a quite obviously dangerous threat.
Maybe the ball falls on Morales, whose art seems shakey in places, or maybe Meltzer isn't the world's greatest fight writer. Hey, they can't all be Mark Millars.
As far as calling the fight, I'd have to say I think this result was inconclusive.
Deathstroke definitely had the battle in his hand, but Green Arrow did enough to redeem the Justice League, and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
In light of that, I'm going to have to call this the first draw.
If you have any dispute, feel free to drop a comment.
Stay tuned next week for a showdown of blockbusting proportions, not Christmas themed, but truly a gift worthy of the holidays. Until then, some stats. Ciao!
The Fight: 6.5 The Issue: 5.5 [July 17, 2006]
Deathstroke - Severe injury inflicted by sword. (The Flash)
Deathstroke - Critical pressure point blow. (Zatanna)
Deathstroke - Subdued with bag and cuffs. (Black Canary)
Deathstroke - Critical blow with laser pointer. (Atom)
Deathstroke - Severe injury; four broken fingers. (Green Lantern)
Green Arrow - Severe injury; stabbed eye with arrow. (Deathstroke)
Dr. Light - Present, but did absolutely nothing but watch.