Criminal Mastermind with an Umbrella
This is already the third week of Villains Month and we have been blessed with many great stories in which the villains take center-stage. Now it's Penguin's turn to prove his worth. Warning: this review might contain some spoilers.
Writer Frank Tieri shows us a story of Penguin’s exploits to maintain his share of control over Gotham. This means that Penguin has already established himself as a criminal lord right at the start. Early on in the issue Governor Carter Winston starts a crusade to bring him down and the rest of the story revolves around Penguin dealing with the allegations of Winston, his childhood-friend. As such Tieri attempts a realistic take on the Penguin. Penguin is portrayed as a criminal mastermind making sure that his business runs smoothly, not as an eccentric millionaire with an irrational love of birds.
Christian Duce's dark art matches Tieri's story very well. Duce uses the concept of light and dark very effectively and it is really cool to see parts of the story being told through the screens of smartphones and tablets. The art is as detailed as it needs to be and some of the best storytelling is done visually. In addition, Duce gave Penguin a human face that shows a lot of expression, while always maintaining a brooding look.
And let's not forget that amazing 3D cover by Jason Fabok and Nathan Fairbairn. After seeing so many of them this month, we would almost forget how brilliant these covers really are and how well they work.
It is a little hard to place this story in the continuity of the Batman-universe. Penguin is clearly in power and has been for quite a while, but there is no sign of Batman anywhere. Carter Winston seems to be a strong Governor, but this is his very first appearance in any Bat-book. And then there is the issue of smartphones and tablets. Not a major flaw, but a confusing annoyance while reading the story.
Be warned: this paragraph contains a big story spoiler! Also Penguin's plan seemed illogical to me. How did he get Winston to check into a hotel room with Miss Collins? While I can still get over that, I am more puzzled by Winston's reaction to the Venom that Penguin has apparently induced him with. Why would this make him kill his assistant, let alone eat her freaking head?!
This week, Penguin takes his rightful place among the biggest villains of the DC universe. Hiding behind another astonishing 3D cover lies a story of a criminal mastermind who uses every trick in the book to keep his dirty operation going. The art is as dark as the story and we see a Penguin with different emotions, although the brooding tone never goes away. On a deeper level there seem to be some inconsistent, or at least illogical, elements to the story and it is hard to place it in time. Nevertheless, Batman # 23.3 shows us that a man doesn't need clown make-up or extreme wits in order to be a serious threat in Gotham. A vast criminal organization and a (long pointy) nose for dirty business get you a long way. And let's not forget the value of a multipurpose umbrella.