Review – DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL #1

Clayface Origin Story!

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SYNOPSIS: “CLAY”! Here it is: the shocking, heartbreaking origin of Clayface, including his first conflict with Batman! Actor Basil Karlo was on the cusp of fame and fortune…the kind he had dreamed of through his painful childhood…until an accident robbed him of the good looks that took him to the top. But scars don’t make you a monster—only the darkness in your heart can do that—and in the wake of the accident, Karlo’s darkness is revealed!

Detective Comics Annual #1 is an instant classic, the origin story that Basil Karlo/Clayface deserves. Tynion teams up with Eddy Barrows once again and it’s a pure treat as they, wonderfully, compliment each other. This dynamic tale takes us through the psyche of Basil Karlo, the reasons for his actions and the promise he made long ago to hide the “monster” inside.

James Tynion is truly at his best when he writes about a character that is conflicted with pain — which makes me wonder what he could produce with a solo Batman book as apposed to the team up style of Detective Comics.

Basil Karlo in DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL #1 (Courtesy DC Comics)

Since Rebirth, we have seen Karlo try to rehabilitate himself. This issue is about the what, why, and how that turned Karlo into Clayface. Tynion crafts a tragic tale about a young boy inspired by his father in the movie industry. Basil Karlo grew up behind the scenes in Hollywood, becoming the next big Hollywood sensation and suddenly he has everything he’s ever wanted and then its taken from him. The irony of the story hits deep and ties in perfectly as Tynion fashions an emotional bond between the reader and Karlo. You can’t help but have your heart break as you witness the tragedy of Karlo’s life — which include, his father’s influence on him, potential stardom and chances for redemption. Witnessing him throwing it all away with every chance he gets is agonizing.

Having Eddy Barrows back drawing the interior art for Detective is always a treasure. The splash pages are beautifully drawn and captivate you; some panels are divided by filmstrips a very nice touch for extra character. Basil Karlo post trauma looks part Two-Face and part Quasimodo, a truly grotesque figure. Two scenes that really impressed me were Gordon’s meeting with Batman a top the GCPD and Basil in the hospital. Both are dark and dreary while the art works in symphony with Tynion’s dialogue. Batman and Gordon exchanging files and talking about the crime scene are perfect. The hospital scene really heightens the emotions; you feel Karlo’s pain through the pages when he realizes he threw away his dream role, devastating.

There are plenty of fantastic lock screen backgrounds and great Batman poses in this book as I have come to expect from Barrows.

Colorist Adriano Lucas cannot be forgotten on this issue as they colored the book to perfection. The fade of the flash backs, bright and bold Californian backgrounds, the right amount of shadow and darkness when Batman is around. Enhancing the artwork with red, yellow and blue is stimulating to your eye. This brings me back to older comics with their solid red or yellow background. These colors can’t help but be noticed and really take Barrow’s artwork to the next level, making the characters shine front and center.

This is another solid addition to Tynion’s Detective run. The creative team hit every nail on the head in this book. Giving us an updated catastrophic story of a boy, his dream and a promise to his father. While I had my issues with issue #973, Tynion rebounded nicely as I knew he would. This re-imagined Clayface has been one of my favorites of this run. It was a pleasure to read this crushing story. This book could be read as a stand-alone origin if you haven’t been reading Detective.

It will go down as one of the greatest Clayface tales ever told and the best $5.00 you will spend this week! – Pete Verra

Grade: A

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Peter Verra
A lover of genre films from BATMAN to FRIDAY THE 13th. A producer of college sports at the world’s most famous arena, MSG. A fool for watching that SCOOBY DOO teaser trailer from 2002 and praying Batman is the one who turns around every time. Backyard BBQ enthusiast & sports fan Yankees, Pacers, Devils, who ever plays the NJ Giants!