One of the more popular series after DC Rebirth first launched is the newest run of Detective Comics. In that series, Batman recruits vigilantes to help him defend Gotham from a variety of threats. One of the more surprising choices to this team was the supervillain Clayface. The character has been a thorn in the Caped Crusader’s side since the 1940s. Since then, there have been many who have taken up the mantle, but since The New 52, it has been returned to the original character, Basil Karlo. With the reboot in 2011, his origin was assumed to be the same as the one in the ‘40s. This week’s annual we finally see the story told for the modern day! So who is the man behind the clay?
**Some Spoilers Below**
Basil Karlo was raised by a movie makeup artist who specialized in monster design. His father specifically used a chemical from Daggett Industries to mold any face like clay to create terrifying designs. This line of work inspired Basil to become an actor and a successful one at that. He pursues his dream of starring in one movie in particular but those dreams are dashed. A terrible car accident burns and mutilates his face, leaving his part in the film in question. Desperate to keep his film career alive, Basil turns to a life of crime in search of the Daggett formula his father used decades earlier.
There is plenty to like about this issue, especially with the lead character. You genuinely feel bad for Basil and see where he is coming from in his pursuit. We all have had a dream that we would pursue no matter the cost. This man grew up pursuing that dream and it was taken away in a terrible accident. It’s logical for him to use any method to keep the dream alive and you hope that he gets what he wants. Before this series, I honestly never thought I could feel bad for this villain, but James Tynion IV proved me wrong.
The biggest problem with the annual has to be the ending. While it does involve Basil becoming the villain we know today, it wraps up too quickly. It changes him from a relatable person to the mindless monster in the span of a single page. The last three pages of the story had him attacking a film set and scarring the one person who believed in him, rendering him unlikable. It feels like there are five missing pages to this ending that had to be cut due to length. I know he is supposed to be a villain at this point, but when there are 30+ pages making the reader feel for the character, you’d want a better ending than him in the middle of a rampage. A scene of him in Arkham Asylum watching one of his father’s old movies perhaps?
If there is one reason to read this issue, it’s the art. The art team has worked together masterfully to create a beautiful yet horrifying comic. Eddy Barrows penciled the issue with Eber Ferreira on inks to make fantastic illustrations. They range in emotion, creating genuine character emotions and horrific visuals. The image of Basil’s disfigured face is still burned into my mind, days after reading the issue. Adriano Lucas does amazing work with coloring, creating the perfect tone for every scene. Take these aspects and you have a beautiful chapter in the Detective Comics Rebirth series.
Despite the lackluster ending, this annual is a great installment to this series. The story has a relatable and tragic lead that you genuinely feel for. The art is hauntingly beautiful and will stay in your head days after you first open the book. If you want to learn the origin of one of Batman’s oldest enemies, give this a try. You won’t be disappointed.