We open on Penguin complaining about how hard it is to find good reliable muscle and musing that it was time to spring his "number one out of the nuthouse." However, Clayface does not want to work for Penguin any longer, declaring that he has fully repaid his debt to Penguin. Clayface claims that it is now his time.
Meanwhile, at Arkham, Commissioner Gordon is examining Clayface's escape and learns about Clayface's friendship with the prisoner in the next cell, Mogsy, and learns about Mogsy's death. A voice from the shadows declares that "Clayface lost his audience," which startles Gordon, making him yelp and drop his cigarette, a fact pointed out by Batman, but denied by Gordon. Batman states that Clayface "loves to be seen. Admired. Adored. If he doesn't have an audience…you'd better believe he's gonna need to go get one." What Batman does not realize is how prophetic his words are because at that very moment Clayface is abducting people to be his captive admirers in a factory that he filmed the Terror at. Knowing that Clayface is likely to return to a place that once brought him fame, Batman compiles a list of locations that Clayface has performed, auditioned or shot films at. Since the last is too massive for even Batman to cover, he calls in help from Black Canary and Condor to help in the search.
At the theater, Clayface is administering a light liquid dose of "Joker gas" to the crowd via IV, a dose too small to kill them, but big enough to control them. Clayface takes the stage to the sound of laughter and applause. In the meantime, the heroes are reaching the end of their last locations with no luck, until Batman finds Clayface onstage. Batman interrupts Clayface's monologue with a kick to the face. Batman and Clayface continue their fight onto a catwalk, where Clayface is knocked into a vat of liquid. Clayface decomposes till only his eyes and mouth are left floating at the top. Afterwards, Black Canary, Condor and Batman release the kidnapped spectators.
Gordon appears on the catwalk to apprehend the mush that is now Clayface, when from behind him, in the shadows, comes a voice, "It's me. I'm behind you. I'm going to speak now." Gordon replies, "At long last, fair warning." Gordon laments that they have repeatedly tried to contain Clayface at Arkham without success. Batman suggests a more creative approach, trap Clayface in a large, narrow cell over candles to keep him in a liquid state and unable to make himself solid, thus bringing the Clayface arc to a close.
If I had one word to describe this issue, it would be unnecessary, but if I were given an additional three words, I would add entertaining as hell! It is full of snappy, funny dialog and earns every one of its multiple laughs, with my favorite being Batman's warning to Gordon on the catwalk that he was in the shadows and about to talk. I honestly laughed out loud! There were laugh lines throughout the issue, including Alfred using sarcasm and quick wit to combat Bruce's stoic seriousness in the Batcave as Bruce notes that sarcasm suits him. Even Black Canary and Condor get a one liner.
Gregg Hurwitz's writing strikes the right balance between the humor, the horror and the family drama of Bruce and Alfred. The real attraction here for me is Alex Maleev's art. The art is kinetic with multiple lines and inked with muted tones that make it stand out against any other title on the shelf. Alex Maleev ranks up there with the likes of Tim Sale and Jim Lee as one of the great Batman artists to me.
My main fault with the comic is that it felt like filler. There was no reason for it. The Clayface story arc was wrapped up in a much neater way in issue 24, where we got his origin story. This was one issue too many. We learn nothing new about Clayface and it doesn't move the story forward in any discernible way. In addition, Black Canary and Condor serve no purpose other that walk on cameos. The two add nothing to the story, they appear in three panels and show up at the end after Clayface is defeated.
The storyline itself is also completely bonkers. Yes, Clayface is a narcissist that craves attention, but kidnapping an audience and giving them a dose of the Joker toxin seems a little out of character. To get attention, why not rob a bank or commit another very public crime? There is no endgame for the kidnapping. What was the final outcome supposed to be?
For an issue that was completely unnecessary, with a nonsensible plot and guest stars that do not serve a purpose I still enjoyed it immensely and I highly recommend picking this one up, if for nothing other that the laughs and wonderful art.
Batman: The Dark Knight #25:
Reviewed by Adam Martin