It was an arc that felt “too soon” what with Clayface already having a 2-parter in Snyder & Capullo’s Batman and another short story in John Layman & Jason Fabok’s Detective Comics, but the first chapter of Gregg Hurwitz and Alex Maleev’s Clayface storyline was indeed a great start. However, my feelings quickly shifted back to “Yeah, we really didn’t need this.” because the following chapter featured Batman using a force-field generating gun and ended with Clayface being apprehended. Done and done, right? Wrong. After a Villains Month hiatus, we were treated to a full origin story for Clayface in issue #24 and then, surprise, surprise, Clayface escaped Arkham yet again just so he could confront Batman once more in issue #25. So is this deja-vu finale worth picking up?
The good thing about this issue is its sense of humor. There are some really nice comedic moments between Batman and Gordon, some terrific lines from the ever-snarky Alfred Pennyworth, and there’s a nice opening monologue by Penguin, but as for the actual plot? It’s a rushed and forgettable mess featuring 2 unnecessary guest-stars from the Birds of Prey series, a final set piece that’s totally indistinguishable, and a Batman vs. Clayface brawl that you could easily sleep through (why didn’t Batman just bring the forcefield gun again? Seriously, he says “This time… I came prepared.” and then proceeds to throw batarangs that do NOTHING).
Let me start from the beginning. After escaping Arkham Asylum, Clayface goes on a rampage through the streets of Gotham where he abducts several people to serve as his audience for a private performance that he will give to satisfy his own narcissism (how does the GCPD lose sight of a giant clay monster carrying a dozen people?). To make sure they all enjoy the performance, Clayface uses Joker venom that will have them laughing uproariously the entire time…an odd choice considering Clayface AKA Basil Karlo was not known as a comedic actor. In case you didn’t think Joker was already in too many places at once in Death of the Family, this issue flashes back to show us a faceless Joker who was just chilling on a stoop waiting to sell Joker Venom to Clayface. Why would he even bother? Really. Joker had so many other things to do at that point in time. Why? Anyway, Clayface remembers he bought this chemical six months ago, decides to put it to use now (it’s watered down so it won’t kill his captives), and it’s up to Batman to find and stop him before it’s too late. Only there are so many potential lairs out there for Clayface that Batman needs to call for help. Since he isn’t getting along well with Batgirl or any of the other members of the Bat Family (and he apparently can’t just give the locations to the GCPD), Batman calls up Black Canary and Condor to help him out. That’s Batman: The Dark Knight #25.
Besides a few laughs, everything here feels pretty pointless and predictable (except for the Joker flashback, that came out of left field). The artwork by Alex Maleev is consistent with the quality we’ve seen in previous issues but its so dark and gritty that I can’t help but feel that Maleev would’ve been better suited for a more serious story than what Hurwitz gave us here.
- You still have one more faceless Joker cameo left in you
- Alex Maleev’s art revs your engine
- You liked seeing Clayface effortlessly defeated so much chapter 2 that you’d love to see it again now
- Alfred’s sarcasm is your favorite elements of the world of Batman
You should have walked out on this storyline the first time Clayface was locked away in Arkham Asylum. That was a fine point to leave off on because the do-over conclusion we have in this issue is pretty much the same. If you’re a huge fan of Alex Maleev’s art then sure, go ahead, but this is a tremendously forgettable finale to a story that should have been wrapped up 2 months ago.