It feels a little odd that a artist of the caliber of Alex Maleev has been drawing "Batman: The Dark Knight" for the past few months, and there's barely been a murmur about it. That's a shame, because Maleev's work with Gregg Hurwitz on the title has turned out some beautiful pages of art, and an interesting story that's varied a bit in terms of highs and lows, but has still been worth reading. Their story comes to a conclusion here, and while there's a slight amount of anticlimax in how it's wrapped up, it's still satisfying.
The best thing about this storyline from Hurwitz has been how he's worked with Clayface in terms of being a former actor. His desperation to perform for an audience is a much more interesting hook than the thuggish Clayface we've seen in recent years, and I've greatly enjoyed watching this needy villain get reintegrated into the DC Universe. Hurwitz does a nice job with infusing some humor into the story; when Batman discovers that his sarcastic comment about Clayface getting a new audience has happened, I laughed at the follow-up of, "I didn't mean it literally, Alfred." Batman and Alfred's back-and-forth in that scene is great, and just goes to show that even though this is the "darker" member of the Batman family of comics, there's still room for some chuckles here and there.
The one misstep is how Clayface is taken down; it's so overly easy that it's almost disappointing. I'm not saying that every Batman story needs an intricate plot to stop a villain, but for one who caused Batman so many problems just a few issues ago, this was far too simple. Still, you get some good balance with the idea that Clayface would use diluted Joker gas to keep his audience laughing at his antics without actually killing them. It's a nasty little turn of events for this failed-actor-turned-monster.
Maleev's art is generally pretty great, with highly realistic art that is pretty expressive. Clayface shifting and reforming from one panel to the next is eye-catching, and I think it's probably the best visual part of the title. Maleev and colorist Dave McCaig work so well together, with dull flat colors providing a doom and gloom look to the abandoned parts of Gotham with their crumbling brick facades and huge steel beams. That said, there's occasionally a bit of oddness here and there. When Clayface is kidnapping his new audience, the complete non-reaction by half of the crowd (but not all of them!) is really strange; it's almost like most of them were taken from an earlier drawing of a crowd with a few new, scared people edited in.
"Batman: The Dark Knight" #25 doesn't hit the highs that this book touched earlier in the storyline (last month's issue was quite excellent, a solitary focus on Clayface), but it's a solid and good enough conclusion. If nothing else, having Hurwitz and Maleev team up as been a nice treat; hopefully we'll see it again before too long.