Detective Comics #963 Cover

Since the death of her boyfriend, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown (a.k.a. The Spoiler) has cut ties with Batman and the rest of Gotham City’s vigilantes. For the past few months, The Spoiler has been fighting a one-woman-war against Batman and the Gotham City Police Department. Stephanie has come to believe that Batman’s war on crime is misguided and inefficient at best and an active encouragement of the so-called super-villains that continually plague the city.

The Spoiler is not alone in this belief and her efforts to expose the inherent corruption of both The GCPD and Batman have won the attention and respect of a kindred soul. One who believes, as Stephanie does, that there has to be a better way to help people than masked men fighting other masked men in a shadow war for control of the city. One who thinks The Spoiler would be a worthy partner in his own crusade against The Powers That Be.

His name is Lonnie Machin. A.K.A. Anarky.

Meanwhile, Basil Karlo – the actor who became the monster known as Clayface – is fighting a different kind of battle. He fights for control – not only of his physical form but of the darker impulses that grow stronger the longer he stays out of his natural shape. Batman and Doctor Victoria October seek to help him, but how long can Basil restrain the beast within?

Detective Comics #963 Page 1

I’ve never liked Anarky much as a character. Even at his best, the character was written as a poor parody of V from V for Vendetta. At his worst – such as his incarnation on the Arrow TV series –  he was a second-rate Joker, who pontificated on chaos while throwing bombs. I mention this only to make the point that writers James Tynion IV and Christopher Sebela had their hands full trying to tell a story that made me give two swift kicks to the rump about Anarky as a character.

Somehow, the two master wordsmiths have managed that impossible task. At least, their take on Anarky does not irritate me as previous versions have. Maybe it’s because this version of Anarky actually seems like a master-planner rather than a know-it-all teenager who is almost as smart as he thinks he is?  Or maybe it’s because he honestly does seem to sympathize with Stephanie’s plight and treats her with respect, if not complete trust.

In either case, I am interested to see where their story is going, just as I am interested in the subplot focused on Basil Karlo. Clayface’s role in Detective Comics to date has been a largely supportive one and while I’ve loved his little bits of business like his bonding with Cassandra Cain by acting out Shakespeare while on monitor duty, it is high time he took the center stage in his own storyline. Pairing him with Doctor October from Night Of The Monstermen is another interesting development that promises some exciting twists in the future.

Detective Comics #963 Page 2

The artwork for this issue is top-notch all-around. Carmen Carnero is one of the hottest talents in the industry and I’ve greatly enjoyed her previous work on Adventures of Supergirl and DC Bombshells. Colorists Ulises Arreola and Kelly Fitzpatrick both do a fine job of matching their respective palettes, so you’d never suspect that two different colorists worked on this issue. Letterer Sal Cipriano is to be commended for giving Clayface a unique font for his word balloons, which is legible while still suggesting a degree of muddiness apart from the brown color. I honestly thought I’d gotten a comic with smudged print when I first saw it!

If you haven’t been reading Detective Comics, you’ve been missing out on one of the best Batman books in recent memory. Despite having a large cast and involved backstory, this issue is easily accessible to new readers and I’d suggesting starting here before you lose any more ground.

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