After the events of Death of the Family, the dynamic duo of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo brings us a simple story involving one of Batman’s most persistent enemies, Clayface. While nothing really new has been brought to the table as far as the villain is concerned, it’s actually the fallout of Bruce’s recent loss that makes this story so compelling.
Clayface’s motivations are pretty standard supervillain fare. It’s never really stated exactly what Clayface needs the money for, but Basil Karlo has never been that complex of a villain. Suffice it to say, all that needs to be known for this tale is that Clayface’s plan is to lure Batman out to finally get rid of him once and for all. This issue is probably the closest he’s come to doing just that, but we should know by now that Batman is much too smart for the one-time-actor. For a more intelligent person with Clayface’s abilities, Batman would probably have much more trouble defeating him, since Clayface can transform himself into just about anyone, right down to their DNA. Fortunately, Karlo is no match for Batman’s mind.
Most of the story takes place in the Wayne Enterprises R&D department, where Bruce Wayne works on his Batman Inc. tech, such as the Bat-Bots or “RoBats,” which were pretty much all destroyed in Batman Inc. #10. The whole Batman Inc. concept has been a bit controversial amongst fans, with many feeling that it puts Bruce’s secret identity in jeopardy. This issue hardly does anything to prove the detractors wrong, since Clayface was able to find his lab so easily. As mentioned earlier, however, it’s a good thing Clayface isn’t exactly intelligent enough to connect the dots. Many fans have also pointed out that there should be more villains targeting Bruce, since he is Batman’s benefactor. Others have countered that argument by surmising that most of Batman’s enemies might fear retaliation from their foe, as Batman is the last person to be trifled with.
Regardless of any problems one might have with the simplicity of this story or the logic problems within (why didn’t Clayface practice more subtlety?), it’s still a great read. Particularly, during a certain part of the story where Clayface gets a bit too personal regarding the loss of Bruce Wayne’s son. The reader feels the punch in the gut about the same time Bruce does after Clayface’s crass remarks and wants nothing more than to see Batman tear him apart. Snyder does a great job in manipulating the readers’ emotions concerning young Damian’s death, as well as showing a rare side of the (usually) cool, calm, and collected Batman.
By now, it should be no secret that Greg Capullo’s art is nothing short of stellar. This issue is no different. His renderings of Bruce’s determined face and Clayface’s grotesque transformations are just perfect, bringing an almost Manga-like quality to the title. He’s easily taken his place as one of the best Batman artists of all time, right alongside the greats. He compliments Snyder’s storytelling the same way Neal Adams complimented Denny O’Neil or Norm Breyfogle to Alan Grant.
James Tynion and Alex Maleev’s backup story is pretty terrific, as well, if a bit short and maybe just a bit too easily resolved. However, it’s the depiction of the relationship between Batman and Superman that makes it so enjoyable. In recent years before The New 52, the duo often found themselves to be at odds. Here in The New 52, however, they are once again more of the World’s Finest team they were decades ago. Batman actually referring to Superman as one of his best friends in this story just might make your heart smile a little. Next month begins Zero Year, which promises to add a whole new spin to Batman’s origins that we’ve never quite seen before, according to Snyder. That’s where this particular title will be for the next 11 months. Until then, enjoy this simple, but fun, two-parter. Things may not be so simple again for a while.