Oh, there are some good ideas in “Clay,” but there are also an abundance of bad ones like: “Hey, it’d be cool if Batman could make a light construct like the Green Lantern does but it can only be a cup!” or “What if Man-Bat’s dad was an even bigger, meaner Man-Bat!”
Each tale in this three story collection starts out kind of promising, but in the end the only one that left me the slightest bit satisfied was the one that didn’t say anything at all.
This graphic novel includes the following issues, the name’s of which you can click on for even more in-depth commentary:
Gregg Hurwitz & Alex Maleev
Gregg Hurwitz & Alberto Ponticelli
“Abraham Langstrom” (not official title, but that’s what I’ll call it)
Gregg Hurwitz, Ethan Van Sciver, and Jorge Lucas
You get a decent idea of how good a book really is if you just let time do its thing and one year later the first image that came to mind upon picking up this graphic novel was this…
Yup. We get Basil Karlo’s origin story, an introduction to Kirk Langstrom’s intimidating old man, and a tragic tale about Gotham’s exploited immigrant population, but the one thing that lingered in my head was this stupid ray-gun. This dumb gadget that’s sole purpose was to create a giant cup Batman would then try to place over Clayface as if he were a spider scurrying across a kitchen counter. Anyway, I read the book again so I could take in these three tales from start to finish and see if they play out better all together rather than as monthly installments, especially since these were stories published at a time when the bat-comic market was already flooded with Clayface and Man-Bat stories. And… well… I don’t really recommend it.
First I’ll address the positive, the book’s two Vs: Variety and Visuals. If you’re a casual reader then you might just get a kick out of having a Clayface story and a Man-Bat story bundled together and there’s certainly no shortage of action to be found in here. We also have the tear-jerking silent two-parter that breaks up the horror and the sci-fi elements with something far more somber and a little hardboiled so you experience a shift in tone as well. Visually, you’ll see multiple artists contribute, each of whom flaunt a unique style that complements their particular chapters. Alex Maleev delivers the grossness and grit with aplomb, Ponticelli is placed in the demanding position of translating Hurwitz’s script into wordless panels that say everything through the action and he succeeded more often than he failed, and Ethan Van Sciver can’t go wrong drawing scary monsters like Man-Bat.
On the negative side, there’s the “everything else” of the book. If you’ve read any other Clayface origin before, then you’ve also read a better Clayface origin story than what’s presented here. Perhaps even more annoying is the way the Clayface story seems to wrap up fine after two chapters only to play out for two more and then basically end the same way that it “kind of” did after chapter two. The silent two-parter, while mostly effective, doesn’t exactly give readers anything particularly memorable. And the Man-Bat story that’s centered around Man-Bat’s far more evil father with a far scarier monster transformation? Well, that’s just weak sauce. Surprising readers with an even worse relative of an established villain is a lame idea 99.9% of the time.
“Clay” is a clumsy book that frequently stumbles and falls on its face between far too few good moments.