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For one reason or another, I went into Detective Comics #972 expecting it to be somewhat substandard.  But the fact of the matter is, I actually enjoyed most of it.  Maybe it’s the fact that my expectations were set low going into this.  Since I was expecting something inferior and got more than a halfway decent story, I was pleasantly surprised and happy with the overall content of this story.

The narrative of this particular chapter is pretty simple, it’s Clayface versus everyone!

The story starts of with a nice little showdown between Batman and Clayface that ends with Batman not looking like a total punk.  I’m pointing this out because this is a Tynion story and Tynion has a habit of occasionally making Batman look bad in order to make other characters look good.  But in this instance, Tynion actually showcases a competent Batman doing what Batman does.

Kinda makes me wonder if Tynion got word of the gripes that some fans have with his portrayal of Batman and decided to do something to alleviate their concerns.  In the last issue, Batman entered Arkham Asylum to deal with the takeover.  When presented with facing the entire Victim Syndicate, Anarky, and about 100 armed guards…I naturally assumed it was going to end with Batman getting beaten and the team needing to come in to save him.  At least, that is the kind of plot Tynion’s previous stories have instilled in me, so it was what I was expecting.  When Batman actually came out on top, I was shocked.  And now we’ve got him besting Clayface in combat.  I’m just like…wow…  It seems weird to say I’m surprised to see Batman behaving so efficiently, because he should be portrayed that way.  But given Tynion’s track record with him, these really are surprising moments.

I’m not sure what that says about Tynion though.  It’s nice to see that he’s subverting our expectations, but since they are expectations he created that are typically looked upon as questionable, I’m not sure it shows him in the best light.  If nothing else, this might indicate a change towards a Batman we can actually get behind.  I’m hoping that is the case.  Only time will tell, but I’m hopeful.

But back to the fight…it’s pretty sweet.  Clayface sports his classic cinder block/mace hands, we get a glimpse of the Arkham property room filled with all kinds of recognizable inmate items, and Batman uses Mister Freeze’s gun to deal with Clayface.  Batman pulls a Terminator: Judgement Day move that looked really neat as rendered by Miguel Mendonca, but I couldn’t help but think about the fact that I’ve seen the Freeze gun/technology used half a dozen times in the last couple years to deal with Clayface.  It seems to be the go to answer anymore, and I find that unfulfilling.  The imagery and slight deviation in execution in this particular instance are enough that I was still pleased with it, but they really need to find a new way to deal with him.

Next up, Batman has a short exchange with the mayor, and I think Batman could have handled that a lot better.  I get that a lot of people feel the need to have the last word, especially when someone is being antagonistic towards them, but I’ve always felt Batman was much more of the “actions speak louder than words” kind of guy.  Personally, I’d have been fine with Batman walking past them all in total silence and just driving off.  It would have been pretty badass after what he just accomplished too.  I mean, what does he care what they think.  It would have played better in my opinion.  As it stands, talking to them in that moment didn’t help his situation at all.  In fact, it probably hurt it.  Batman basically just said that he belongs in Arkham with the rest of the monsters and then threatened the Mayor.  Given that the Mayor is already trying to bust Batman in one way or another, it doesn’t make a lot of sense on Batman’s part to give him additional fuel for the fire.

Will Batwoman kill Batman?  That’s the question the cover asks us.  But the cover follows suit with the classic comic cover misdirect that is practically a trope of the genre, as it turns out that this doesn’t happen in the comic at all.  What we do learn is that Batwoman is given a prototype gun by her father that has the capability to destabilize Clayface’s molecular structure, which would kill him.  So, while the cover is misleading, it’s not entirely void of any shred of truth.  Just wanted to share this in the review in case you were one of the individuals looking forward to some kind of Batwoman treachery.  It doesn’t happen, so save your money if that was the only reason you were thinking about buying this issue.

Art for this issue is handled by Miguel Mendonca, and while an occasional illustration looked a little too cartoony at times, I thought most of them were really excellent.  Obviously I wanted you to take note of how awesome his Clayface looks as I used a closeup of his grim visage as the intro to the art section.    But Mendonca was no slouch at depicting the rest of the characters either.  Scrolling back through the article, you’ll see I started off with a nice layout of Batman hiding in the shadows from Clayface.  It’s a creepy shot filled with tension.  I particularly enjoyed Mendonca’s habit of shadowing certain portions of Batman’s face.  In that shot, you’ll see that Batman’s eyes are black pools instead of white slits.  And in other shots, it’s his gritting teeth that appear in the inky shadows of his face.  Just some really nice visual choices in my opinion.

I also really liked the way Mendonca rendered the action.  It feels like stuff is actually moving as opposed to appearing like a paused frame of action.

I don’t typically comment on the colorist when I mention art, but this time around it really stood out to me.  If you look once again at the opening image of Clayface stalking Batman, you’ll see the red/blue haze of the distant police lights through the window.  It’s a very minor detail, but for me, it’s attention to stuff like that I really appreciate.  Likewise, the choice to go orange and yellow as Clayface appears in the Belfry was a nice counter to all the blue that really made his appearance pop.  And seriously though, how cool is it that he was the clanger in the bell and then turns into a spiked demolition ball!

 

Recommended if…

  • You’ve been waiting for Clayface’s “true” nature to be back in the driver’s seat.
  • You want to see a Batman that’s not looking like a total pushover under Tynion’s pen.

Overall:

I like Clayface.  Given his abilities, you can tell all kinds of varying stories with him: creepy, action based, espionage.  With his potential as a villain, and seeing him let loose in this issue the way he does, it kinda just made me want him back as a full fledged villain.  I know we are all rooting for Clayface to be reformed since empathizing with his plight has been one of the key elements of Tynion’s run.   And, at this point, not letting him achieve that goal would be a real let down since the character has put forth so much effort to change his ways.  So, I’m fully torn.  I do genuinely feel sorry for Clayface, but at the same time, I just want to see him go on a rampage.

SCORE: 7.5 / 10 

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