The DCEU hasn't quite burst into life yet, stuttering its way onto the big screen with underwhelming entries Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016). But despite disappointment, the shared superhero universe has still introduced a selection of compelling characters, each brimming with potential.
Deathstroke, the iconic DC comic book villain and ruthless contract-killer, is one of those alluring additions. News that Joe Manganiello was confirmed to be joining the DCEU has been met with a flurry of understandable excitement. And in good news for those lacking in patience, it looks like Slade Wilson could be appearing much sooner than expected.
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While sharing a fairy innocuous on-set image on Twitter, Zack Snyder may've revealed that Deathstroke will, in fact, be appearing in Justice League. Photographed with touch-screen pen in hand and tablet in front of him (and wearing a Batman's gauntlet), the director was captured honing the storyboard process for next year's assemble. With a little Photoshop wizardry, a DC fan site Tweeted an enhanced image with a familiar face:
Is Lex Luthor Hiring Deathstroke?
Before we move on to what this could mean, it's worth highlighting that although he has come under scrutiny for his direction of BvS, credit must go to Snyder for having such a hands on approach. There's no doubt he is a talented visual storyteller, and his dedication to storyboarding his movies has translated to his comic-book movies (Watchmen in particular) being so true to the source material.
Anyway, back to the meaning. While it's too early to jump for joy and at Deathstroke's addition to Justice League, this is only speculation, but as speculation goes, it seems fairly concrete. The board shows the two characters meeting, one lacking hair, the other masked. They have some interaction, before the man without hair removes the mask, revealing a man with one eye covered with an eye-patch.
Watch our video on the 10 biggest Easter Eggs in the Justice League trailer below:
Almost as distinctive as the mask and underlying eye-patch is the shiny, hairless head of what appears to be Lex Luthor. The pair definitely have a legitimate reason for meeting; the super-villain Luthor would no doubt see the value in splurging some cash on hiring Slade to carry out a hit. The logical target of the said hit would be the Caped Crusader himself, Batman.
It would make sense that Luthor would have some hand in the ensuing conflict between the two. It's an exciting prospect; Deathstroke is arguably DC's most deadly assassin, and the thought of the two clashing on the big screen is exciting, especially considering the quality of Batfleck's fight scenes in BvS.
A Serious Threat To Batman
Since his debut in 1980, Deathstroke has been a longtime foe of Batman, and a worthy opponent. As well as outstanding combat skills, he has enhanced power, agility and speed — the result of an experimental serum. In particular it's his intelligence, and tactical astuteness, that makes him a significant opponent of Batman.
Manganiello has been confirmed to star as the villain of the Batman solo movie, with star and director Ben Affleck sharing some teasing footage on Twitter last month. That led to speculation the video was from a screentest, or more likely, that Deathstroke could appear in Justice League. With Snyder's latest hint, it looks like the latter could be correct.
Too Many Characters Spoil The Plot?
Considering the congestion of Batman v Superman, if the speculation is true and Deathstroke is appearing in Justice League, it raises the question of whether this the right decision.
Snyder's film is set to introduce a collection of new superheroes, including The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), James Gordon (J. K. Simmons) and villain Steppenwolf. That's not to mention returning characters Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman.
However, any inclusion of Deathstroke will more than likely be a tease to introduce the villain before the Batman solo movie arrives. And ultimately, who's complaining about even more comic book characters being transformed to the world of cinema?