Penguin is a character that can come across as extremely cheesy or dark and menacing. Thankfully we get the latter here. Penguin should have a strong place in Gotham. Because he's from one of the founding families of Gotham, he should be seen in a different light. This is something he realizes and wants to do something to change that. In a change of pace, it turns out that Batman isn't the thorn in Penguin's side to accomplish his plans but rather Bruce Wayne.
Having the focus shift to Penguin adds a new element to the title. We've seen countless Batman stories and seeing more of 'the other side' gives Gotham a new kind of life. Batman does play a role here, obviously, but this is more about Penguin trying to make his plan happen and part of that plan means Bruce Wayne needs to die.
John Layman seamlessly dives right into this title. His depiction of Penguin is spot on and retains the feel from the recent PAIN AND PREJUDICE sereis by Gregg Hurwitz. Layman also allows Batman to show off in a way that doesn't feel forced but serves to show us how his mind works. Having Nightwing guest star adds to the feeling that Batman doesn't fight crime on his own. This was a big outcome from BATMAN: RIP and knowing when he has to ask for help is a good thing.
We also have a great back up from Layman with art by Andy Clarke that does not involve Batman. Again, it gives a delightful look at a different part of Gotham.
Penguin's portrayed nicely here but he's unfortunately never been one of my favorite villains. But Layman (and Hurtwitz) might be changing my opinion.
Penguin's plan and reasoning makes sense. In the grand scheme of evil Batman villain plans, it's almost petty. That does serve to show what his thinking is and what lengths he'd go to for something so trivial.
Seeing Batman operate throughout the city is cool but makes it seem like his life can become pretty tedious.
John Layman steps up to the plate and tackles the job of becoming the latest Batman writer (yes, I purposely mixed the sports metaphors there). Layman shows us a different side of Gotham City. We too often see the events focused on Batman's perspective. Seeing how events unfold around Batman through Penguin's eyes and those of other criminals adds a new element to the story. Penguin's reason for his latest scheme seems a little petty but fits in with who he is and what he wants to accomplish. Having him target Bruce Wayne rather than Batman was a nice touch. Fabok's art is a perfect match for Layman's tone. The back up by Layman and Andy Clarke adds a nice bonus content feel to the issue. Congrats to whoever made the decision to have Layman start writing Batman. I can't wait to see what he has planned next. It's a pleasure having quality Batman titles each with a distinct feel.