Batman: The Dark Knight, Vol. 4: Clay by Gregg Hurwitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is choc-full of evil villains. (It’s BATMAN! Duh…)
So anyhow, The Dark Knight has been one of the 4 main Batman titles, (Batman, Detective Comics, Batman and Robin) yet it’s probably the least known one. It made the mistake of having Gregg Hurwitz not write the first volume, he just drew it. Once he took over, things got better. Most of the Dark Knight seems to focus on villains and their origins (Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, and this one…Clayface) and that’s a cool thing to do when Joker and Riddler (and Penguin to a lesser extent) dominate the rest of the Bat world.
I’m happy to see they’ve decided to go with the “original” Clayface, Basil Karlo, a very plain man who wanted to be an actor, but just didn’t have “it” to get noticed. Eventually he goes to Penguin to get help, and Penguin gives him some native thingy that turns his face to clay like malleability, so he can be a great facial actor. He in turn ends up doing things for Penguin, but things go wrong and he soon becomes all clay, but can become anyone he touches.
We see here that he’s taken as a very dangerous, almost invulnerable force. Arkham needs a special containment unit for him. We also see that he needs people to like him, as he stays calm in Arkham because his neighbour in the cells is a fan and they talk…only when he dies does Clayface go nuts. He takes it to another level, going after Penguin and taking him out, then seeks out the Joker to give him some Joker Gas/Serum. He then rampages thru town and takes people hostage to get an audience who he pumps full of Joker toxin so they laugh at his work non-stop.
What’s different here, is that Batman is written with just the slightest sense of humour…he and Alfred trade wits and barbs, and he even jokes around with Gordon (announces his arrival before he scares the shit out of Gordon in the dark.) The best part is when Clayface impersonates Gordon at the start of the book and kills a bunch of people…then later on, Gordon uses the Bat Signal, Batman appears and bitchslaps him…(sorry Jim, just had to make sure it was you)….HAHAHA effective but funny.
In addition, Batman actually listens to Alfred who tells him to get some help, and we get brief appearances of Black Canary and Condor (who? ya, no, this guy looks like a twat). Eventually Clayface is secured, and the sad chapter closes.
The next 2 books arc is called Voiceless, and is done entirely without dialogue. Alberto Ponticelli takes over the art here from Alex Maleev (who did a very good job with the Clayface arc, very dark muted tones and great use of browns). Alberto does different work, with good facial and body language artwork, but his is even more important in a wordless story.
The story is about a family of Mexicans, the mother works in a sweatshop, and when she accidentally breaks one of the angel figures she’s making, she is fired on the spot. She goes home and her young son is quite ill, she runs to the drugstore, which is closed, offers all her money to the pharmacist, who just drives off…you can figure out what happens next, since this is Batman…
They see advertisments for Gotham, and get into trucks to go there, but are separated. (Granny and young daughter in one, mom in the other) The Daughter and Granny are working in a Gotham sweatshop making Christmas ornaments, when Granny sees that granddaughter is alive, she decides to break out…but one of the captors sees her sneaking out a window, and well…that’s that.
Batman comes upon Granny’s body, and the art on this page is superb.
It gets down to the very essence of what Batman is all about, and even now, looking at it for like the 10th time in the last 18hrs, the raw emotions just hit me very hard.
Well, long story short, Batman kicks the everloving shit out of the sweatshop folks, who of course, report to the Penguin…he rescues mom, has her reunite with the daughter in the hospital (cue more tears, Anne, you better take a box of hankies) and then throws down furious vengeance. Because this is still Batman, we see the Penguin get out of jail due to his many lawyers. Wayne Enterprises attempts to employ many of the workers, and we see the mother has a job there, as Bruce Wayne walks by and smiles at her in one panel.
The last page has Batman checking in on the family, and he smiles and waves to the little girl who waves back to him, then we see the final image…the broken angel on top of the Christmas tree, made up to look like Batman.
The final story is about the evilest villain of all: Abraham Langstrom, father of Kirk Langstrom, and new Man-Bat. Langstrom Senior is a corporate raider, who buys up companies and strips them for parts in a very ruthless manner, we also see that he owns pharmaceuticals and has no problem sending defective medicine to Africa to be used there because “It’s Africa.”. Yup, easy to dislike him. We also see he’s bullied his son, and is obsessed with being the Man-Bat and feasting on Flesh…well there’s a showdown with Batman of course, and the manner in which Batman takes him out eventually is draining…
(And thankfully, even in the midst of this, there’s a couple of jokes! Alfred makes fun of Bruce for saying Ouch while getting stitched up, and Gordon tells Batman people need to stop “Vigilante-ING” to which Bats replies “I don’t think that’s a verb”).
So all in all, a strong collection of 3 different stories, all relating to Batman, and giving us a nice connection to him and deeper understanding, all without extremely long and drawn out storylines. The Dark Knight is a great title to read if you like Batman but only want to dabble, or you want to jump in somewhere.
Sadly, this last volume marks the end of the series…I suppose it wasn’t feasible to carry this many Bat-titles, so we should be glad that this was around while it was. It’s also easy enough to read through separate from the major storylines, and good for filling your Bat-diction.
View all my reviews