Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Batman: The Dark Knight, Volume 4: Clay Review (Gregg Hurwitz, Alex Maleev)


The Dark Knight series has been Gregg Hurwitz’s vehicle for showcasing Batman’s rogues gallery from Scarecrow to The Mad Hatter with varying results - the Scarecrow book, Cycle of Violence, was silly but The Mad Hatter book was unexpectedly brilliant. This fourth volume focuses on Clayface aka Basil Karlo, though unfortunately it’s not very good. 

If you’ve read one Clayface story, you’ve read them all. He used to be an actor, now he’s a poo monster cosplayer who shape-shifts and robs jewellery stores. Usually in these stories there’s a familiar character like Gordon or Alfred acting strangely before it’s revealed – shock poo! – it’s actually Clayface! Same story structure here. 

He’s just not that great a character and his origin is even less interesting. LIke every other kid, he wanted to be thought of as cool, he wanted the ladies, and he thought acting was a shortcut to fame and fortune. None of that happens until he snorts magic clay that the Penguin got from Contrived Plot Device Land, and suddenly he’s able to look uncannily like the character he’s portraying. 

Because that’s what real acting is right? Not bringing the lines to life with your delivery or presence or talent - no, real acting is wearing convincing makeup! Basil goes from being a mediocre actor to a great one just because he is able to look the part. So why do crap actors remain crap with the aid of makeup, costumes, prosthetics and even CGI? Take note, wannabe actors: get really good makeup and you will somehow become the next Daniel Day-Lewis! Clayface’s origin suuuuuucks! 

And one weird detail stuck out about the end of the Clayface story: (view spoiler)

The two-part silent story, Voiceless, about an immigrant mother and daughter who come to Gotham hoping for a better life and encounter hardship and abuse, was the best of the three stories. Alberto Ponticelli’s art brilliantly carries the tale so that the reader knows exactly what’s happening at all times even without dialogue or narration. 

The book closes with the worst of the three, a Manbat story. Like Clayface stories, all Manbat stories are the same: turn the manbat back into human form and then lock whoever, usually Kirk, up until it happens again, exactly the same way, next time, again and again and again. This time it stars Kirk Langstrom’s corporate raider father, Abraham, who decides to transform into a manbat for shits and giggles. 

Hurwitz not at all subtly tells a rich preying on the poor story as this Ayn Randian character literally sucks the blood of the homeless. The 1% are bad, see, they’re preying on the poor of society! Yeesh. But Batman saves the day and Bruce Wayne is definitely in the top 1% himself so, mixed messages Hurwitz! 

I sort of liked Voiceless even though I’ve read Batman stories like it before but mostly I felt Hurwitz’s scripts to be very sub-par in this volume. The artists carry the book. Alex Maleev’s work is wonderful, I love his inky clear Gotham, Ponticelli’s art is great too, and Ethan van Sciver does what he always does, which is to say fine but nothing special art. 

The Dark Knight, Volume 4: Clay is a very unimpressive and boring Batman book about two of his worst villains.

Batman: The Dark Knight, Volume 4: Clay

1 comment:

  1. I read that there were three story arcs and stopped there. I find that multiple arcs spoil a tpb. I know they tend to work better as singles, but the advantage of a tpb is that you can read a fully-realized story, and that doesn't happen with a 3-arc volume.

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