One of the major plotlines in the current Detective Comics run is Clayface’s character development. Feeling guilty for a lot of his past sins, he’s trying to be a hero as a member of Batman’s team. He’s also trying to hold onto himself, and is hoping to return to acting someday as his former self, Basil. But thanks to the Victim’s Syndicate, all of his efforts are crumbling down.
Detective Comics 973, written by James Tynion IV, is a potentially tragic entry in the series. The ending isn’t entirely clear and I won’t spoil what happens anyway, but it may forever seal Clayface’s fate. And for a Batman series, that’s just fine. This is a fairly intense comic. The head of the Victim’s Syndicate has clearly planned something big for Batman’s team. The situation brought the fragile team back together for the time being, united against a common enemy/former friend. Each character reacts to the situation organically, with a lot of previous character development paying off. Spoiler is no longer hesitant to work with the team, realizing the extreme lengths that the Victims will take. Cassandra Cain gets really emotional seeing Clayface attack the streets as a giant monster, having grown very close to him. And even an ally of the Victim’s Syndicate has second thoughts, seeing the very people he advocates for being put in danger by the first Victim’s plans.
Somehow, this comic is both complex and simple. The core story is fairly straight forward – Clayface is a monster that one way or another, needs to be stopped. In that sense this is a great starting point for this series. But there’s also a lot of drama behind the story that readers won’t fully appreciate unless they’ve read most of Tynion IV’s run up to this point. Everything seems to be paying off. The action is also fun. I’m really not sure what else to say without spoiling the comic.
Jesus Merino’s art is brilliant. The full page spread when the comic moves to “now” is a terrifying one, with a giant Clayface at loose in the city. His size alone is causing damage through the streets, tearing through the sides of buildings and sending cars flying after every step. The scene is very well detailed, with shattered windshields, bricks flying around and Clayface’s clay dripping off of his hands, arms and feet. This kind of detail continues throughout the comic, whether its protesters with sloppily painted faces fleeing and dropping their signs, Batwing’s lab full of a variety of machines or the aftermath of Monster Town, where the comic’s most dramatic moment takes place.
Facial expressions are convincingly drawn and well varied in emotion. And every time there’s action on the page, it feels appropriately intense. Jason Wright’s colouring is also great. There’s an overall brown tint in the scenes where Clayface is on the loose, balanced out by the various rooftops that Batman’s team survey the situation from and a wide variety of character outfits. There’s also great use of shadows, especially on Clayface to add depth to his monstrous form.
This seems to be the finale of a very intense story arc. The ending is kind of abrupt, but in a way that works. It’s sort of shocking and expected at the same time, and dragging it out afterwards would reduce its effect. In short, this is a Batman team book and you should be reading it. This particular issue, and this story arc, pays off almost everything this series has been building on to this point, and it does so brilliantly.
I also picked up Action Comics 996, but I don’t think I could come up with enough material for a review. It’s continuing Superman’s time traveling adventure with Booster Gold, and I’m honestly finding it hard to care about this story arc. At this rate I’m just going to stick with this series until Action Comics 1000 comes out, and then I’ll just stick to Superman.