NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for "Detective Comics" & "Batman" #8
It takes a great villain to make a great hero, and Batman has no shortage. As owner of one of the most varied and... colorful Rogues Galleries in all of comic books, it's no surprise that the recent DC Rebirth has called upon a few classic villains already. But the relaunch of "Detective Comics" - a title traditionally held exclusively by the Dark Knight - brought with it a new focus, making the extended Bat-Family just as pivotal. And with the emphasis on a new team populated by Batwoman, Red Robin, Spoiler, and Orphan came the addition of a villain: Basil Karlo, better known as Clayface.
Fans were just as stunned as the team members when Batman entrusted Clayface with a second chance, but Basil made good, aiding the team in their mission of protecting Gotham from a growing, powerful, well-funded enemy. Once the enemy was fully revealed and dealt with (at the cost of one team member), the real horror show began, turning friends into nightmares in "The Night of the Monster Men".
If you've been missing out on the event, spread across the many Bat-Family titles so far, it's time to catch up. Because "Batman" #8 just combined Bruce Wayne and Clayface in one of the coolest scenes of the hero's "Rebirth" so far.
Those wondering exactly why a former human being with the ability to form their body into one, or many different shapes and structures would join a team of acrobatic vigilantes got their answer in the pages of "Detective Comics" #936. When the villainous military group known as The Colony successfully infiltrated the Gotham tower holding the team's new headquarters, the heroes found themselves outmanned, outgunned, and out of options. That was, until Tim Drake gave Clayface the cue - to "play ball" - and their secret escape plan flew into action. Using his ability to changes shape and density, Clayface encircled the entire team, protecting them as they dropped down an elaborate series of escape tunnels.
Not only did it provide an undeniably cool conclusion to the issue (conjuring some memories of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, perhaps), but showed that the most unlikely member of the team was more than willing to put his body on the line - literally. We didn't know it at the time, but it was just a taste of what was to come once "The Night of the Monster Men" officially began, requiring Clayface to stretch his powers farther than he had ever tried - and cooler than readers ever imagined.
The Main Event
Writers Steve Orlando, Tom King, Robert Tynion IV and the collective talent behind the event already outdid themselves with Clayface's role in the crossover, spreading himself into dozens of police officers, firefighters and paramedics to aid in evacuating the city. As the exertion started to hinder his efforts, Clayface pulled himself back together to help Batman take on Gotham Girl (transformed into a monster thanks to Hugo Strange's grotesque experiments). After all, only he could pack a big enough punch to slow down the rampaging heroine. But to do that, he'd need to follow Batman's lead... by encasing him in a suit of Bat-armor made up of his own clay.
Giving entirely new meaning to the word "teamwork," the plan goes swimmingly at first, but Gotham Girl's near-limitless strength and crazed psyche eventually shed clay from cowl. But before that, the sheer novelty of seeing Batman swallowed up to control his own suit of Clayface Armor delivers as satisfying a twist as can be hoped for (once again putting Clayface in harm's way as proof of his new heroic alignment).
It may not be the kind of Batman tech that has a chance of being adapted to film, but for readers of the "Batman" comics, it's the kind of epic moment you always hope for, not to mention the kind of storytelling that's making The DC Rebirth a hit.
Batman #8 is available now.