Detective Comics #964 is the second and last part of the Anarky story which serves as a brief interlude between the Azrael arc and the return of TIM DRAKE! (Tim Drake, Tim Drake, Tim Drake Tim Drake Tim Drake. *does a happy little jig*) Sorry there, got a little overzealous. Really, I’d just like to move on to 965 at this point, but I guess I should say something about 964 in the meantime.
The story follows two main plots that don’t intersect and stand on their own. One involves Clayface, and the other follows Anarky and Spoiler.
By now, the Clayface story feels somewhat old hat to me, being much more interested in presenting the same ideas in a slightly different light than in actually tackling anything new. And when I say that, I don’t even mean Tynion retreading material that came before him, but going back over material that he himself has already presented.
We open with a flashback scene of Basil visiting Mudface. While admittedly heartfelt, it’s just more of the same that we have already seen from these two. It ultimately culminates in a reiteration of the fact that, deep down, Clayface is a monster. It’s interesting to think that, while Batman sees his potential for good, those closest to him realize that he was already somewhat of a monster before the Clayface effect took hold of him. Considering what Mudface says to him at the very end of his visit, I’m surprised she takes any solace in his visits at all. Seems to me his presence would be more daunting and unwanted than anything else.
In the present, Clayface goes on a tantrum and trashes October’s lab. During which, he spends more time reiterating the point that he is a monster, with or without Clayface’s influence. Cassandra eventually saves the day, and a parallel between the two characters is presented. Basically, it’s an exploration of the idea that people can do truly evil things, and while those evil things won’t ever go away, it doesn’t mean that your future actions need to be defined by your past. While that’s good and all, I don’t necessarily think the parallel between Clayface and Cassandra really works. On a cursory examination they are somewhat similar, but I don’t think nearly enough to be drawing this kind of parallel. Cassandra was a good person that was made to do bad things and eventually came back around to her natural state. That of a good person. Basil, on the other hand, was kind of a jerk. Clayface allowed him to be a bigger jerk. So I can’t really say that the Basil he is currently trying to become is any kind of person he ever truly was. That’s not to say he can’t become a good person, but doing something good out of guilt really isn’t the same as doing it out of the kindness of your heart.
At the end of it all, it’s 10 pages of a Clayface story that don’t really present us with anything new, and in the cases where something new is presented, it doesn’t even necessarily make that much sense.
I wish I could say that the Anarky/Spoiler section of this story had a better showing than their co-star mustered, but I think it had just as many problems, if not more. The first thing that stood out as odd to me was this little explanation:
Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert of any kind when it comes to politics. So, if my understanding of this is off, someone feel free to speak up. As far as I am aware, Anarchy is the concept that people are in charge of themselves in lieu of a government. Now maybe I’m mistaken, but that totally sounds like the notion of government that Anarky is describing up above. Albeit, in its simplest most bare-boned format, but government nonetheless. But hey, maybe it’s kind of apropos. After all, Steph is using vigilantism to show how bad vigilantism is. So why can’t Anarky use government in an anarchist society…
That aside, this portrayal doesn’t really feel like Anarky to me. In case it wasn’t clear from my last review and the extensive article I did on Anarky a couple of years ago, he is one of my favorite Bat-villains. So, seeing him portrayed even slightly off is going to stick out like a sore thumb to me.
Anarky wasn’t the type to rush to physical confrontation. Instead, he preferred to resolve problems with words before fists. He was also the kind of individual that believed that information was the key to freedom. It’s not like him to withhold information in order to coerce someone to his will, because that person hasn’t truly been enlightened, only tricked. They need to make the decision for themselves. Be presented with all the facts, and based on those facts, come to the conclusion that his way is the right way.
Perhaps it’s unfair of me to compare a newly reintroduced Lonnie to a fully realized one from the past, but I was hoping that Tynion would do the same thing for him that he did for Tim Drake. After all, the Tim we got with Rebirth is a fully realized version of the character that came from the same time period as the quintessential version of Lonnie.
What I am seeing here is an arrogant Lonnie. And I guess that’s fine. He started out that way. But seeing as how I watched the character mature past that stage in his life, it’s weird to see him there again. I guess you could say it’s similar to the way I watched Barbara Gordon grow up and am now forced to watch a regressed version of her face the same trials and tribulations yet again. It’s also worth noting that when Lonnie first came on the scene, he was not a physical match for Batman. It wasn’t till the end of his career that he was able to successfully challenge the Dark Knight in the physical arena. Prior to that, Lonnie relied heavily on tricks and gadgets to cement his victories. And, seeing as how that’s what he is doing here, I guess that’s fine as well.
So really, it’s unfair of me to say that Lonnie is being portrayed incorrectly as his actions do coincide with early versions of the character. It’s just that, I have moved past that. And seeing a regressed Lonnie is a step back for me. Like I already said, we’re getting a fully realized Tim Drake, so it just struck me as odd that we are getting a regressed Lonnie. Within the time frame of TheNew52/Rebirth, it makes sense. But in my own mind, it’s all screwy, because I know a grown up Lonnie that doesn’t act that way anymore.
A lot of that has to do with my own personal hangups on keeping characters in an infinite loop where they never grow up and things never truly change. But I don’t think it’s an unfair criticism to make. It falls somewhat in line with Hollywood’s tendency to remake/reboot all kinds of franchises/movies. In my case, they are banking on familiarity to sell the product. But the flip side of that would be all the viewers who aren’t familiar with a 30 year old movie, and that this is entirely new to them. My counter to that would be, they’ve already made it. Just re-release it. If it was good enough to capture the hearts and minds of a previous generation and stood the test of time, it’s probably still good enough for today’s audiences. And if you want to apply that to comics…just read trades instead of all the new stuff.
If you want a criticism on the Anarky section that doesn’t involve comparing it to past stories, I got one for you. We don’t get to see Spoiler and Anarky’s relationship evolve. These two parts are basically the tail end of their story. We are getting to see the climax without having been given any of the rising action. It makes Spoiler’s confrontation somewhat hollow because we aren’t seeing the whole picture. And because of that, it’s hard to be invested in it.
- The cliffhanger for this issue shows First Victim plotting their revenge. I’m pretty excited about this. The First Victim story always felt somewhat unresolved to me, so it’s nice that Tynion is coming back around to it.
- You’ve been digging Tynion’s Clayface narrative.
- You don’t mind seeing a regressed version of Anarky.
When it comes to the Clayface portion of this story, I feel like Tynion is retreading on his own work. And when it comes to the Anarky stuff, I’d much rather be reading the Alan Grant stuff. Suffice it to say, this issue didn’t really work for me. It’s got a couple of genuine problems when it comes to things like being able to properly invest the audience in the character’s journey or in presenting valid comparisons between characters. But it also rubs me the wrong way when it comes to my subjective tastes. So that definitely factored into my enjoyment level.
SCORE: 6 / 10