When Man of Steel broke cover, DC showed that they were aiming for a grounded and serious approach for their cinematic universe, in contrast to what Marvel were doing at the time. This theme continued in subsequent films with varying degrees of success. One of the reasons this hasn’t wowed viewers is that villains like Steppenwolf and Enchantress are too over the top to play them straight faced so the seriousness almost loses its impact without some sort of knowing wink or acknowledgement that it’s a bit ridiculous.
DC do however have the characters that would work with the approach without completely throwing the style they have built out with the next few films. One of those characters is Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke, who recently debuted at the end of Justice League. Bearing no resemblance to the other sword carrying Wilson currently on show in Deadpool 2, he is a super powered, tactical genius assassin – who in the comics has taken on most of the big names in DC comics and lived to tell the tale. This is a character who could fit the mastermind role that Thanos has enjoyed in the MCU since 2012’s The Avengers.
The character has graced our screens a few times over the last decade with the most recent and well known being on Arrow. Before the introduction of Meta-Humans, this show was very grounded in realism and Slade fit into this perfectly. Watching him go from trusted ally to enemy throughout the first season was a joy to watch and when he finally hit full big bad in the second season, he was a character you loved to hate. But the level of planning gone into ruin Oliver’s life was almost admirable. The same approach to the character (but with a little less murder) was in the animated Teen Titans show back in the early ’00s, it is this characterisation that would yield the best results for the DCEU. In this show, Slade was the man behind all of the villains and troubles sent the Titans way and like all good major villains, was always teased but not shown. He was like a modern day Moriarty where the name is spoken in hushed tones, even by the worst of the worst.
We know that DC have plans for Slade, as he was in the stinger at the end of Justice League, but to waste him as a singular bad guy in the stand alone Batman movie seems like a waste of the characters potential. The film should be used to build the character up and while Batman would win the day, it shouldn’t be with the death but instead, leaving a powerful enemy licking his wounds while planning for revenge. They could even take elements of The Judas Contract from the comics, seeing Slade with a mole within the Titans, taking them down at their most vulnerable into the forthcoming Justice League sequel or even Suicide Squad 2.
DC aren’t out of the game yet and with the right approach to the announced characters including Deathstroke, they could prove to be the antithesis to Marvel films and give people a different kind of comic book film that’s true to the source.
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