Writer James Tynion IV is disassembling Clayface in his latest story arc in Detective Comics and it’s a tragic thing to see indeed. The character has been one of the most interesting of his run, and now the character is paying his dues as once being a supervillain. His villainy has been unlocked and this issue focuses on his powers–and inability to control himself–being unleashed.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
“FALL OF THE BATMEN” part four! Batman might have overpowered the Victim Syndicate, but they had one last surprise for him: a secret weapon that’s made one of his strongest rogues nearly unstoppable!
Why does this matter?
Though this is the fourth part of the arc it’s self contained and easily readable if you want to jump right in. Penciler Miguel Mendonca gets to basically draw a ‘Clayface vs. everyone else’ story and it’s made more dramatic because locked inside this villain is a good person who can’t control himself. It’s tragic, sets the stage for a big climax, and has plenty to chew on in regards to Batman and his sidekicks.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Probably a terrible decision to leave all the villain gear in one room, right?
This issue has a lot of action and moves at a very fast clip. It opens with Batman fighting Clayface and ends with Clayface fighting the Batman team and, ultimately, himself. Tynion IV could have scripted a mindless action story here and fans would eat it up, but thankfully there’s plenty of character angst and internal conflict that brings meaning to the action. In a key scene with Doctor October, Tynion helps the reader understand Clayface can’t help but be in this rage and shouldn’t be thought of as some blind monster, but instead a victim trapped in his own mind. It’s a frightening concept that makes Clayface empathetic even if he’s trying to smash in Batman’s brains.
There’s also a key scene involving Batwoman and her father that should make fans either angry or at least conflicted. She’s always bordered on doing the right thing, even if it requires questionable acts. Given the cover you can guess she’s going to be rubbing Batman and her team the wrong way, but it’s also reasonable considering how dangerous the cliffhanger seems to be. Our heroes are being tested to do the right thing even if it means lives being lost, and Tynion has definitely been pushing the right buttons.
Miguel Mendonca’s art is consistently great. Part of the reason the book is paced so well is due to the art, with well-timed full page splashes (there are three) that help ramp up your heart rate, while the dialogue-heavy scenes calm it back down. Mendonca is also doing a good job with Clayface and his emotions. He’s in full rage mode throughout the issue, but in key scenes you feel for him and want to get this man help. This is a key element that makes the overall narrative work.
Nice to see Batman still trusts him.
It can’t be perfect can it?
While the cliffhanger does ramp things up to 11 it’s also super over the top. I’m reminded of 90s comics where logic can get thrown out the window to serve an outlandish and eye-rolling reveal. I’ll hold full judgement until the next issue, but the big cliffhanger leaves me very worried the story has gotten out of control.
Is It Good?
This is an excellent issue that is well paced and action packed. Clayface has been one of the strongest characters in the DCU over the last year and it appears he’s being put through the ringer here. You’ll feel for him and will be waiting with bated breath to see where DC takes his story.