SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #972 by James Tynion IV and Miguel Mendonca, on sale now.
It was too good to be true, or perhaps just too implausible to last.
Writer James Tynion IV has spent much of his run on Detective Comics transforming Basil Karlo, aka Clayface, into a legitimate member of Batman's latest team, the Gotham Knights. While Karlo's physical form is known for its shape-changing abilities, it's his mindset that had been convincingly reshaped by Tynion. Even given his own seat at the literal roundtable, Clayface had seemingly found a permanent home there – that is, until a member of the Victim Syndicate got ahold of him last issue.
In Detective Comics #972, the penultimate chapter of "Fall of the Batmen," Karlo's meteoric moral collapse is what's shaping up to be the decisive blow to the Gotham Knights' crusade.
Clayface vs. His Former Allies
Batman has willingly trained the one-time villain to fight at his side, but that gambit appears to have backfired. Re-vilified, and seemingly more sinister than before, Clayface stalks Batman in the recesses of Arkham Asylum, where Batman falls victim to his deadly power. When the battle fortuitously makes its way into the asylum's storage unit, it's only Batman's clever usage of Mr. Freeze's weapon that saves him. Not long before, this might have won the battle for Batman, but thanks to his training, Clayface is able to effortlessly escape. Worse yet, Karlo has made his way into Gotham's sewer system – which connects directly to his Belfry headquarters.
In those sewers, Azrael and Batwing have been dispatched to intercept Clayface. Karlo gets the drop on them, though, and apparently neutralizes them – although what exactly happens to them remains unknown. While brief, this encounter shows a Clayface who looks to be even more powerful, and correspondingly more deadly. Karlo's ability to blend into the background evokes an even more villainous intent, along with his body sprouting additional disturbing heads and faces along its entirety. Partway through the issue, Clayface's one-time reformation is all but forgotten.