Deathstroke’s Murky Morality in Superman 32

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Superman’s moral code is not complex, and that’s a great thing about him as far as I’m concerned. Superman does good simply because it’s the right thing to do, and he never kills — Man of Steel nonwithstanding, he always finds a way to win without sacrificing his morals, because that’s just who Superman is. Deathstroke’s morality is far more murky, and that leads to some interesting juxtaposition in Superman 32.

After discovering that Superman loves Lois Lane in issue 31 (something I feel should have much more severe ramifications in this universe, where Lois is a married woman), Slade spends most of this issue repeatedly putting Lois in danger, seemingly just to see how far he can push Superman before he snaps. At the issue’s end, writer James Bonny and artist Tyler Kirkham reveal that Amanda Waller hired Deathstroke to do so, so that she’ll know how far she can safely push Superman if she needs to do in the future. Deathstroke’s conclusion: even with his gun to Lois’ head, even in that crucial life-or-death moment, Superman never had murder in his eyes. The capability simply isn’t in him.

The most interesting revelation to me, though, is that Deathstroke wants Superman’s morality, his take on killing, to be right.

Deep down, Deathstroke would love it if Superman was right — if never killing was the right move to make, it murder was something destructive and natural and not the unavoidable law of the land, as Slade believes. Slade doubts this can actually be true, but the fact that he can even acknowledge that his worldview could be flawed and that he wishes life could be better makes him a complex villain. Deathstroke may be too broken of a man to ever fully embrace righteousness, but a part of him wishes he was — whether that makes his actions more or less despicable is up to you, but it certainly makes him an interesting and unpredictable character to follow.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

One comment on “Deathstroke’s Murky Morality in Superman 32

  1. I liked this issue as a counterpoint to the heavier stuff going on in Action. I like Deathstroke as a character, although I’ve never found a comic featuring him that I liked particularly well (sort of like me with Deadpool with Posehn’s co-run on it as an exception). I also think Waller falls short as a character a lot of the time, so I’m hoping this turns into something interesting rather than a lead-in two-off that goes nowhere once regualarly scheduled programming comes back.

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