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Comic Review: Detective Comics #15

Detective Comics #15 Batman Clayface Poison Ivy

Batman does some weedwhacking for Clayface and an over-hyped visitor triggers change at the Iceberg Lounge in John Layman and Jason Fabok’s Detective Comics #15.

I’m going to clear this up right away: despite the Death of the Family tie-in cover with the ubiquitous Joker face, this comic is not required reading for the storyline. Joker is in this issue just enough to link the Penguin to the backup story in last month’s Batman #14. He’s shown in the shadows a few times, and there’s one great double panel that layers Batman’s eyes over Joker’s grin, but he’s used more as a plot device to take out the Penguin than as a real antagonist for the Dark Knight.

No, the real antagonist of this issue is Clayface, and he’s in full rage mode. He showed up at the end of issue #14 ready to smash Batman for attacking his wife, and that’s the real through line for him here. There’s no shapeshifting disguises, just hammer-shaped hands and a whole lot of anger for a guy who’s trying to protect his wife. And they are indeed hitched: Poison Ivy’s gotten her roots into ol’ Basil Karlo, thanks to a clever take on the nature of the two characters.

The backup story with this issue, “Love in Bloom,” is a strong supplement to the Clayface narrative. Layman does the writing and Andy Clarke picks up the art. It’s a prison love story that nicely explains Clayface’s introduction to the main arc. Clarke’s rendition of Clayface is a little too reminiscent of The Thing, but for a few pages, it’s acceptable.

Fabok’s Clayface design is more suited to the story, as he looks like a mound of dirt with blazing eyes, ragged teeth, and a few vines running across him. It truly is an excellent marriage of Ivy and Clayface – until Batman decides it’s time for a separation.

Batman dips into his armory to solve the Clayface problem. The result? A badass-looking costume that Fabok teases for a page before unveiling in a great spread that easily counts as this comic’s best panel.

Fabok’s art holds strong in this issue, but the colour palette is a little one-note, and that’s hard to justify when there’s a flower-loving redhead at the center of the story. That’s more a quibble than a real criticism though, as this story is set mostly at night.

On the writer side, Layman continues to unspool a story full of twists and turns. We get a look at some new territory by the end, meaning Detective Comics #16 ought to take the story in an unfamiliar direction. Ivy looks to remain prominent in this storyline, but she may yet be overshadowed by drama at the Iceberg Lounge. With Penguin busy helping the Joker, his blonde lieutnant Ogilvy seems more than ready to take the reigns.

The next issue will either bring this story to a new level or drop it off a cliff; there are only so many turns a plot can take before it gets too convoluted. If Layman can keep a steady hand and work with what he’s set up, it should be worth it.

7 out of 10.

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