The latest DC crossover event, Dark Crisis, is finally here and the battle for the fate of the multiverse is already off to an explosive start. Written by Joshua Williamson, illustrated by Daniel Sampere, colored by Alejandro Sánchez, and lettered by Tom Napolitano, Dark Crisis begins in the wake of the Justice League’s apparent death to the Great Darkness in Justice League #75. And as the heroes mourn their loss and rally back on Earth, Deathstroke launches a dastardly assault of his own, gunning for a familiar foe: The Teen Titans.
Here’s how Deathstroke and his plans have prominently figured into Dark Crisis so far, what the fearsome assassin has been up to lately in the DC Universe, and how it shakes up the Titans’ current standing in the DCU to their core.
Spoilers ahead for Dark Crisis #1.
Dark Crisis begins with a bang
Dark Crisis #1 opens on a somber note, with Nightwing leading a public candlelight vigil at the Hall of Justice for the fallen members of the Justice League. Unbeknownst to the original Boy Wonder, the proceedings are being watched by Deathstroke and the Secret Society of Super-Villains, with Slade Wilson appearing to embrace the darkness.
Deathstroke’s plot surfaces by the end of Dark Crisis #1, with Slade leading the Secret Society to attack Titans Tower at its current location in New York City. The facility had recently been converted into a private school for aspiring teenage heroes, rebranded as Teen Titans Academy. One of the school’s students, Chupacabra, is ambushed and fitted with a bomb, forced to return to the school, with the explosive device going off as she is cared for by Nightwing. Titans Tower is rocked by multiple blasts from the outside as the full might of the Secret Society of Super-Villains bears down on the superhero headquarters.
As Deathstroke oversees the attack on Titan Tower, he reminds his lieutenants that he intends to deal with the veteran Titans personally, while leaving their students to his supervillain army. This is interrupted by Deathstroke’s associates discovering Beast Boy in their midst, attempting to spy on the Secret Society of Super-Villains as they carry out their onslaught. Ready to make an example of his longtime enemy and the DCU’s superhero community, Deathstroke appears to shoot Beast Boy in the face as he plans to leave the devastated Titans Tower as a warning to all who oppose him and choose the path of a hero.
Why does Deathstroke hate the Teen Titans so much?
Deathstroke’s hatred of the Teen Titans dates back to his very first appearance in 1980’s New Teen Titans #2 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. In the preceding issue, Slade Wilson’s son took on the supervillain persona of Ravager and accepted a contract from the terrorist organization H.I.V.E. to eliminate the newly reformed Teen Titans. Grant’s physical augmentations put too much strain on the unscrupulous mercenary’s body, however, causing him to die. After learning what happened to his son, Slade decided to complete Grant’s contract by killing the Titans himself under his masked alter ego as Deathstroke the Terminator.
With a keen tactical mind and his own set of superhuman enhancements provided by top secret military experiments, Deathstroke became a recurring threat for the Titans. Slade manipulated a young super-powered teenager named Terra to infiltrate the Titans as part of his master plan to destroy them from the inside but Terra fell victim to her own powers and Slade’s other son Joe turned against his father as the superhero Jericho to thwart this plot.
Joe siding with the Titans made Deathstroke’s vendetta against the superhero team more personal than ever, particularly against Beast Boy and Nightwing, whom he blamed for influencing Joe’s decision. While Deathstroke would grow to become an even larger threat for the DCU through his continued association with the Secret Society of Super-Villains, he always maintained his animosity towards the Titans, relishing any opportunity to fight the heroes that had outmaneuvered him for years.
What are the Titans up to in the DCU?
Even before being targeted by Deathstroke and the Secret Society of Super-Villains, operations at Teen Titans Academy have been far from smooth. Apart from the struggle in keeping a large inaugural class of super-powered teenagers in line and on task, the Titans learned that one of their students had taken on the mantle of the lethal antihero Red X. A former persona used by Dick Grayson while he was working undercover, Red X worked outside of the Titans’ directives, with the students and teachers pondering over who was behind the mask this time.
Red X was revealed to be student Brick Pettirosso, who claimed to be Nightwing’s son upon being unmasked, though genetic tests indicated otherwise. Before the Titans could learn who trained and sent Brick to infiltrate their ranks, a second Red X appeared and brutally murdered Brick before promising they would have their own showdown with Nightwing, their identity remaining a mystery.
The Titans have since picked up the pieces from the tragedy and loss of one of their students to continue teaching the next generation of DC heroes, with Raven observing that Dick and his students seem to be moving on from the tragedy nicely as he leads a trust exercise right before Deathstroke launches his attack on the school.
What has led to Deathstroke’s explosive agenda?
Deathstroke has undergone his own rocky transformation recently, one that saw the Terminator suffer death and a cursed resurrection. The crossover event 'Shadow War,' also written by Williamson, saw the Secret Society go to war with the League of Shadows after Deathstroke was framed for the assassination of Ra’s al Ghul. While Batman and Robin exposed the former Justice League hero Geo-Force as the true culprit, this revelation came after Deathstroke lost his son Respawn and as Slade was personally killed by Talia al Ghul, who believed she was avenging her father’s death.
The Secret Society of Super-Villains recovered Deathstroke’s body and immersed it in the life-restoring waters of the Lazarus Pit only for the pit to mysteriously grow dark. A maddened Slade emerged, back to life, but vowing to use his new lease on life to kill everyone. It is unknown what occurred during the resurrection process to affect the Lazarus Pit and Slade but it may be linked to the Great Darkness, a cosmic entity corrupting anyone it encounters to carry out its ultimate goal in destroying the multiverse.
Written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Daniel Sampere, Dark Crisis #1 is on sale now from DC. Dark Crisis #2 goes on sale July 5.
Keep track of all of this summer event with the Dark Crisis checklist.