The Dark Knight has consistently been the weakest of the Batman titles, and that's a shame since it's chosen field, the criminal denizens of Gotham, should make for a good source for story fodder, but somehow, each villainous issue seems to fall into the same pattern of retelling the origin of a villain which is always steeped in tragedy accompanied by a caper in modern days that is derivative of other better stories and eventually foiled by the Bat. It would be nice if this Clayface story could end this negative trend.
Does The Dark Knight #24 shape up to greatness or is this soggy pile of much toppling towards disappointment?
In this issue, Clayface bonds with another prison inmate and shares the story of his childhood.
A Shape Worthy Spying
Though I was not crazy about this issue as a whole, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself impressed with Clayface's origin. Unlike most villains that have been explored in this series, Clayface was not horribly abused nor did he suffer some terrible tragedy. He chose to be the criminal he became, yet at the same time, I find the plight that led him to this path to be more compelling that the "child that had a horrible childhood" story we saw with Penguin, Scarecrow and the Hatter. What I like about this origin is that it does not make Clayface a victim. I felt for him as a kid, but I don't think he was forced into this life in any way. He chose to do wrong because he was selfish, and it's refreshing to see a story that does not give an excuse for the criminal.
There were definitely some things that annoyed me about the issue though. This is a reboot of the character's origin, and like many reboots, it is both unnecessary and arguably worse than the original. (Spoilers until Conclusion) Clayface now gets his power from a Native American cube of organic clay? Yeah, sure. That was a necessary change that makes the character much more relevant to the modern audience. I'm so thankful for that update! Speaking of continuity changes, Clayface now gained the ability to copy people on a genetic level before he started his crime spree. That was an addition to his power set added by Scott Snyder just six months ago. We can't stick to one script of continuity for six months? Are you even trying, DC? Clayface's choice to become a criminal didn't seem to take much of a push either. As best as I can tell, Penguin told him to start killing people, and he did so without a seconds thought...which makes it seem like we are missing a key scene.
Finally, can we let a villain have a little happiness? There has been a big stir up recently about DC declaring that its heroes cannot be happy, but DC seems to have just as much a problem with letting villains have some relief. If Clayface got a friend out of this issue that he took with him on future crime sprees, would that be such a bad deal? Do we have to have him as a static, miserable character for the rest of his existence?
To my surprise, I really liked most of Clayface's origin, but the unnecessary changes in the origin and return to status quo at the end frustrated me quite a bit.