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Cover date: April 2012
"...And The Penalty"
Writer: Greg Weisman
Penciller: Christopher Jones
Inker: Dan Davis
Cover: Christopher Jones
Reviewed by: Adam Dechanel
Kaldur aka Aqualad is paying the price for allowing his mind to wander. Try as he might his first love Tula is someone he cannot forget about. His loss of concentration could have killed his team, fortunately they are a formidable crew of teens; Miss Martian, Robin, Kid Flash and Superboy.
The team gain the upper hand and literally cut their foe down, but as they recuperate Clayface reforms and returns the favor almost drowning the team in sewage. Batman requests a progress report and Aqualad reports in. Kid Flash interrupts asking where Artemis is and why she isn't neck deep in sewage. We journey to Star City where Artemis is in police custody. She is shunted around the station until she is ordered to sit with another prisoner. When they catch each other's gaze the other prisoner, Cameron, reveals himself to be Icicle Jr. With their fathers friendship Artemis catches up on the gossip of a job the Icicles did on Independence Day. It turns out later that this was all an elaborate ruse for information. After revealing what she knows to Green Arrow she spurns his praise and reminds him she signed up to the covert League to be a HERO not a SNITCH.
Back in Gotham, the team now refreshed and cleaned up in new costumes, discuss a new plan of action. Batman wanted them only to track Clayface but now they are hungry for payback and Superboy urges them to take down their prey. Aqualad is still not concentrating and when posed the question of a revenge attack he absentmindedly accepts. Deep in the Batcave Bruce is analyzing the Clayface sample from the attack on him, he is amazed at its adaptive qualities and theorizes that Clayface is a product of both science and magic. Alfred wonders why Batman is playing in his lab and waiting on Zatara while the teenagers are doing all the hard work. Bruce snaps back that Aqualad knows not to engage the enemy as per his orders.
The team mean while are violating that order and track Clayface into his hiding place in a warehouse. Using his amazing abilities Clayface mimics Miss Martian and takes down Superboy. He them absorbs the teen and uses Superboy's voice to lure the rest out of hiding. He uses Superboy and Miss Martian's romantic feelings to trap M'gann and absorb her, then Kid Flash's lust to absorb him during an embrace. Robin was tricky and Clayface demonstrated he could replicate into multiple 'clay-clones' while the junior detective tried to suss out which was the copy they both knocked him out and absorbed him.
When Aqualad arrives only Robin stands in the warehouse and realizing Aqualad was lost in thoughts Robin wasted no time to become Clayface and attack. Aqualad gives up the fight and Clayface is about to kill him when, stung by Alfred's word, Batman arrives and attacks. Batarangs flying and with dual tasers he electrocutes his foe until he loses cohesion and becomes a puddle.
The team, barely alive, return to The Mount where Aqualad and Batman are having a heart to heart. Aqualad reveals that he always dreamed of the surface and being Aquaman's protege but now he is here all he can think of is how much he misses Atlantis and his old life. Batman is no fool and asks the teen if it's somewhere he is torn between or someONE?, issuing an ultimatum. Kaldur can spilt his time between the surface and Atlantis but not his heart. Either he is devoted to the team - or NOT.
Aqualad ponders his thoughts and makes a heartbreaking decision, he is resigning from the team to return home.
To Be Continued...
Story - 4: Although the low point was how easily Batman dispatched Clayface after the build up, the rest of the issue was brilliant. The brief flashes of character and how Clayface was able to utilize their feelings to manipulate them were great touches. I'll admit that Kaldur is my least favorite character, but fleshing out his angst isn't pulling me out of the story. It's been a slow burning secondary story that has built up over time so it's not forced and feels like a natural evolution of his character. The scene with Artemis was also a nice deviation, they kept her origins quiet for so long that it was nice to explore a tiny part of her past and acknowledge she teeters on the brink of being a villain's daughter, a friend of villains and a superhero. Batman seems to be devolving into a very dislikable character here and in the show - maybe he should allow Wonder Woman or Superman to take charge for a while?
Art - 5: The art this issue had its darker, moodier moments but was still true to the series and previous issues. It's desperately important for a companion book to feel cohesive with the show and keep up with its quality and I'm glad that it has been paramount in both the writing AND art.
Cover Art - 4: A tired, overdone, cliche of a cover but even so, including my personal dislike of the Aqualad character, there is still a freshness to it. Maybe it would have been nicer for Kaldur to have pushed Batman over and snarle - "I am through taking your orders, I am done as team leader!".
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.