SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #973, by James Tynion IV, Jesus Merino, Jason Wright and Sal Cipriano, on sale now.
With the advent of DC Rebirth, Detective Comics may have returned to its classic numbering, but the fabric of the Batman’s new team, now known as the Gotham Knights, was a drastic departure from the norm; not because of Tim, Stephanie, Cassandra or Kate, but because of the big, shape-shifting elephant in the room – Basil Karlo, aka Clayface.
Of course, the Caped Crusader has had more than his fair share of team-ups with foes in the past, so for him to recruit Clayface wasn’t without precedent. However, as the series progressed, Basil became far more than just a strange bedfellow of the Bat-family. Instead, he became a valuable member of the team, a close friend and confidant to Cassie, and most importantly of all, a hero.
It sure was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it?
Basil’s inevitable meltdown has been brewing for quite some time, and when the metaphorical pot of molten clay finally reached its boiling point in the previous issue, Batwoman received some unsolicited assistance from her father, Col. Kane, whose motivations still remain questionable. Coincidentally, though, it was Kane’s affiliation with the Colony that ultimately led to him getting his hands on a gun capable of destabilizing Clayface’s molecules, which he gave to his daughter “as a show of good faith.”
Fast-forward to Detective Comics #973: Clayface’s rampage through Gotham continues, the Belfry has been destroyed, and Tim is off the table with a concussion. The team’s only hope at this point is a serum created by Dr. October, which she believes will force Basil’s body back into its human form. However, given his current size, the likelihood of this actually working depends equally on Basil’s ability to keep his emotional state in check as it does on the serum, itself.
That being said, it comes as little surprise that Orphan is the one entrusted with delivering the potential cure. While every other member of the Gotham Knights has shown animosity towards each other at one point or another, the friendship and trust between Basil and Cassie has been the one constant. While he’s been teaching her Shakespeare monologues to help with her speech, she’s been helping him embrace his humanity rather than repress it.
Nevertheless, just as Dr. October feared, the results of the serum are merely temporary. After gazing upon the path of destruction he left in his wake, Basil, with tears in his eyes, begins his heartbreaking descent back to his Clayface form – that is, until Batwoman fires off a single, devastating shot to Basil’s head with the Colony’s rifle, causing him to scream out in agony. And as for Cassie, all she can do is look on in horror at the apparent demise of her closest friend.