Just like #19, BATMAN #20 proves that Scott Snyder's team isn't just biding time between big storylines. The Clayface two-parter concludes with plenty of action and intrigue preceding its bittersweet ending.
After the shape-shifting fiend drops Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox into an incineration room that makes the Death Star's trash compactor seem as perilous as a pile of paper towels, he uses Wayne's face to take Gotham's finest on a motorcycle chase featuring an inspired take on Data's slick shoes from THE GOONIES.
But Bruce isn't ready to let himself or Lucius become flattened ashes, using an escape plan that will send the hearts of BATMAN BEYOND fans into orbit. (CLICK HERE to see the cool nod to BEYOND in BATMAN #20! - "Jett")
Donning another special armor designed to keep the creature's muddy tendrils at bay, Batman tests his enemy's new physical limitations while being dramatically forced to face the emotional toll recent days have taken on him.
Snyder writes dialogue for Clayface that's a little heavy on the exposition, but it works with the gooey lug's personality. He also continues to find new ways to keep Batman awesome, this time with an awesome bit about Bruce Wayne's lung capacity. Damian's death hangs heavily over the proceedings, but Snyder smartly keeps the other elements of the story front and center. When he finally chooses to bring Damian into it, it's a gut punch tinged with a glimmer of hope.
BATMAN #20 Cover by Greg Capullo (Click on the image to purchase this issue!)
He also gives artist Greg Capullo all kinds of interesting things to pencil, and Capullo delivers as always. Guest inker Danny Miki helps him give form and function even to Clayface's drippiest extremities, ensuring that every bit of action and emotion is rendered to maximum effect. FCO Plascencia's palette gets a workout, too, from colors that make Clayface seem real to glows and glints that brightly bring Batman's new technologies to life.
Concluding its blend of the science fiction of Superman and the tactical genius of Batman with supernatural spookiness, the backup story by writer James Tynion IV and artist Alex Maleev (who inks himself with moody but magical colors by Nathan Fairbairn) gets a little too talky in a couple of spots but still wins the day with a heart that's firmly in the right place. (Unfortunately, Maleev's deliciously realistic art only accents yet again how utterly ridiculous Superman's armored pajamas are in the New 52.)
Next month is the beginning of ZERO YEAR – the new origin for The Batman in the New 52. (It arrives just two days before MAN OF STEEL in theaters. How exciting is that?!) Though Batman needs another origin story about as much as he needs another Robin right now, Snyder and his crew are just the team to give us something that feels fresh and new. Let's hope they do. I've got a good feeling. - John Bierly
John Bierly still can't believe he gets to write for BOF.
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