WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Detective Comics #981 by James Tynion IV and Eddy Barrows, in stores now.
For the past few months, the Gotham Knights have been at war with themselves. After an elaborate attack by the Victim Syndicate resulted in Batwoman having no choice but to shoot and kill Clayface, Batman’s team was split in the middle. Azrael and Batwing joined the ranks of the Colony alongside Batwoman, while Tim Drake and Orphan remained at Batman’s side. But it only grew more complicated from there, with the arrival of Ulysses “The General” Armstrong, who unleashed Brother Eye and OMAC on Tim Drake in order to push him to become his murderous future self.
Over the past two years, writer James Tynion IV has been constructing an elaborate story that just culminated with all of its separate story threads finally coming together. But while the threat of the Colony and Brother Eye are finally put to rest, the Gotham Knights don’t reunite. Instead, they go their separate ways, for the next step in their own adventures — but that’s not the real surprise. No, the real shock comes when we learn that Clayface isn’t dead after all.
The death of Clayface is the incident that sparked the divide between Batman and Batwoman, and what led to the mistrust between the characters that allowed for Ulysses and Future Tim Drake to make their move against Gotham’s heroes. The death of the malleable mud-based villain was confirmed in Detective Comics #974, when Dr. Victoria October scanned Clayface’s particles after the fateful gunshot. She said that the bond between his molecules had been destabilized and that he was truly dead, left as nothing but cold, dead clay.
But, in Detective Comics #981, Tynion’s final issue writing the dark and moody series, he and artist Eddy Barrows end the run by giving us a ray of hope. A single page is all that it takes to show that Basil Karlo is, in fact, alive. Although he doesn’t reveal this to his former teammates, he tearfully leaves a note for Cassandra Cain, then heads out of town with none other than Dr. October at his side.
While it’s not clear how Basil is still alive, it appears one of two things happened. Either Dr. October was somehow able to bring him back to life, or (an this is the more likely scenario), she just lied to the rest of the team in order to protect her patient.
With all members of the team believing him dead, perhaps Victoria saw the opportunity to get the reformed villain out of this mess and give him a real chance to overcome his condition, far away from Gotham City.
Through Tynion IV’s character work, Clayface became a fan-favorite member of the Bat-family, one who many agreed earned his spot on the team. He may be leaving, but part of us believes that somewhere far outside of Gotham, Clayface will keep fighting the good fight. Until next time, Basil.
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