New 52 – Batman: The Dark Knight #23 review

I really enjoyed last month’s issue and this one started out strong too until Batman started using a weird force-field gun and then I had to shout “What are you doing?!”

We’ve seen Batman use big, hulking Iron Man-like armor in the past but it’s always been easy to say “Yeah, but he can’t wear that all the time because it would ruin his mobility.” but then in the New 52 we got Batwing and that guy seems to be pretty nimble so it’s been a little harder to accept why Batman wouldn’t upgrade his suit accordingly. Still, we can push that out of our mind, right? But now Batman has a gun that shoots out a blue energy that can encase Clayface in a little force-field dome? Why wouldn’t Batman just use that all the time? He could point and click all of his problems away and it wouldn’t kill a bad guy or even give him a bruise. No… No… No Gregg Hurwitz took the bat-tech a little too far in this issue. How is it we hear stories about how the editors of Batman: The Dark Knight will scold writers about how “Batman never sits down.” yet Batman using a ray gun that creates a force field gets a pass?

Those first few pages where Clayface is rocking the stock exchange were alright, but then came the ray-gun and I threw-up in my mouth. Once that passed the book got better as Batman investigated how exactly Clayface new about the girlfriend who crashed into the batsignal. We get a nice moment that illustrates how feeble minded and in need of psychiatric help a certain rogue is and there’s even another great scene with Oswald Cobblepot. But then… then Batman slapped Jim Gordon across the face just to make sure he wasn’t really Clayface. I sure hated that. And surprisingly, just a couple of pages later the story was done. After how Clayface’s new abilities were hyped up in Snyder’s Batman arc and how hard it was for Batman to catch the foe (even with a ray gun) in this comic’s opening pages the story ends VERY abruptly with Clayface being brought down easily and in such a way that it makes the villain look like an idiot. It’s a major disappointment, but hopefully future installments will pull this tale back in the right direction or even add the necessary information to make this chapter work. I really did enjoy the chapter that came before this, I just don’t know what the heck happened this time.

Look, Clayface isn’t just a shapeshifter in the usual sense of mimicking the look of different people– he actually matches their DNA now. And not only that, but he can morph his limbs into weapons or even divide himself into more than one entity (at least that’s how it was on an episode of Batman the Animated Series– possibly the best Tim Drake story from that show and it had plenty of heart as well as being very disturbing). STOP WRITING HIM LIKE HE’S AN IDIOT. If you make Clayface smart and give him a better motivation than “I’m gonna go steal some jewels and make lots of money!” then you’ll get better stories out of him. This character apparently doesn’t even need to eat,  he can make his own clothes, hell, he can TURN INTO ANYONE AND ANYTHING. So why the heck would he need to steal jewels and make money? Give him a goal that makes sense. If he’s stealing money then have it be so he can afford to buy some THING that will help cure him OR make him more powerful than he is now so that he can do something really terrifying to Gotham or the world because he wants to be feared, loved, he wants everyone to be like him, or better yet look at the makeup of the character. He was an actor, so let’s have him try to steal the life of some famous actor or try to break back into the movie business/theatre business on his own again. Do a story in which he creates an entirely new persona and tries to go straight and makes a good life for himself (even achieving his dreams by getting critical acclaim and award nominations) but Batman finally tracks him down and his life crumbles OR the paranoia of Batman tracking him down causes Basil to destroy his own life out of fear/guilt over his past and that attracts the attention of Batman– THINK, think of something! Anything would be better than this. What does Clayface want out of life? Make him a three dimensional character and stop this BS.

At the very least, Alex Maleev is doing a fine job capturing the Gotham atmosphere. His artwork along with a few good moments between Batman and some of the villains making cameo appearances were the highlight of the entire issue.

Recommended If…

  • You didn’t already read the far-superior and really recent Clayface arc from just a couple months ago in Batman #19 & #20.
  • You’re a big fan of Alex Maleev’s artwork
  • You’re fine with Clayface having zero motivation to steal money and jewels
  • The idea of Batman having a forcefield gun in his utility belt doesn’t make you furious


Other than Alex Maleev’s artwork Batman: The Dark Knight #23 is a waste of time and a waste of a fine villain’s potential.

SCORE: 3/10