The issue starts with Bullock and Gordon facing off against an unknown bank robber. As the criminal comes out with a hostage he is revealed to be Bruce Wayne. Gordon tries to stop him, but is shot by Wayne. Right as Wayne is escaping, Gordon sees that he is wearing his Batman armor under his suit.
Cut to six days ago, where Batman stops the villain Reaper from attacking a funeral service with poisoned flowers. Batman stops the van, and Robin enters, commenting about the ludicrousness of Reaper’s plan. The scene shifts to the Bat Cave, where it is revealed that Batman has been watching recordings of old cases. Alfred reveals that Wade, an associate of Bruce Wayne’s had committed suicide. Batman decides to investigate, after determining that there was no reason for Wade to commit suicide.
He breaks into Wade’s office, and is confronted by a living Wade. Batman tags him with a batarang, but Wade is able to escape. Batman uses the blood on the batarang to determine that it was in fact Wade. However, Batman finds proof that the Wade who attacked him was in fact an evolved Clayface, who has gained the ability to completely transform into anyone he touches, down to the genetic level.
Back at Wayne Towers, Bruce commissions a new suit, one that will keep Clayface from making epidermal contact with him. However, Lucius turns out to be Clayface, and he grabs Bruce before the latter can attack him with a fire extinguisher.
In the backup, written by James Tynion, Batman and Superman investigate several disappearances that seem to have a supernatural cause.
First of all, yay Greg Capullo is back. Not that I had anything against the art in issue eighteen, but I’ve grown just as accustomed to Capullo’s art as I have to Snyder’s writing, so to see the artist switched permanently will be a big disappointment. While I know it will happen eventually, I’m glad it isn’t just yet.
I’m glad we’re getting at least one more story before we go into the Batman Year Zero story that Snyder has planned. I imagine I’ll enjoy that storyline, but I feel that there is far too much looking back in the modern comics industry. I would prefer to move forward, rather than spending too much time looking back at what has already happened. Especially after the death of Damian, it would seem to make light of the event if we didn’t continue looking at the aftermath. And while this issue did not focus much on Damian’s death, having Bruce looking through the archives of footage of him and Damian feels fitting to the tragedy. Rather than Batman going on a rampage, I find that this understated tribute to Damian is much more appropriate.
The opening was excellent, with not only Bruce apparently turning evil, but killing Gordon. While the end of this issue gives the secret away—leading me to believe this won’t be a very long story—I imagine that not many Batman readers didn’t honestly figure out that it would be Clayface in disguise. Though, I could see Snyder using the ending as a way to throw us off the true reveal.
I wonder if there will be a connection between Batman and Detective Comics, where we last saw Clayface. I don’t imagine, but it would be a nice touch to tie those stories together. Though I probably shouldn’t wish for that, the chronology between the different bat books is confusing enough. Even with the most skilled writers that is a mess of plot threads that won’t be untangled. I’ve decided it’s just best to pretend that they’re all happening at different time points, crossovers be damned.
This issue feels much more satisfying than last month, entirely because it’s a chance to move on from the editorially mandated crossovers and events to its own story. Between all the massive events, it feels like we just don’t get the chance to sit back and enjoy a simple Batman story anymore. And while I don’t expect this specific story to last much longer than another issue or two, for now I can enjoy it for Snyder’s solid writing, when it isn’t being hampered by tying the story together throughout all the other bat books.
The backup was excellent, though all other books I’ve seen Superman and Batman together in haven’t really given me the vibe that their friendship is what it used to be before the reboot. However, ignoring that, it’s nice to see Superman showing concern for his friend. The story itself is certainly intriguing, with Superman’s weakness against magic bringing the two heroes to a closer level with each other. This was one of those rare cases where I felt the extra dollar was well spent. Though I will not change my stance that I would rather a dollar less and not bother with the extras in the back.