batwatch's Detective Comics #20 - King For a Day; Empire of the Son review

BatWatch Review: Detective Comics #20

King for a Day

It's time for more na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na na, Batman! Introductions like that are why I should not write intros right after waking up.

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John Layman (current writer of Image's Chew, IDW's Mars Attacks and Detective Comics) has been a blast on Detective Comics, and though we actually have several extremely talented writers working on Bat books these days, I think Layman is my favorite. I'm delighted that he delivers a more or less finished story in every book while building larger arcs between books. It's must be a delicate balance to write, but the satisfaction of having a completed case in each issue makes it well worth the extra work. Now, we are at the conclusion of the Emperor Penguin story arc, and somehow, our beloved thug who made it to the big time goes from being a trim classy looking guy with a bad haircut to a blue, muscle bound brute with a bad haircut. It looks like some twists are in store for both us and Batman in this issue, and I'm not completely convinced that I am on board with those twists, but I am intrigued.

Does Emperor Penguin feel the cold hard hand of justice do does this story leave readers out in the cold?

In this issue, Penguin is set free and Batman takes on a mutated Emperor Penguin, and in the backup, we find out more about Ogilvy's past.

A Justification for Big Blue

My biggest concern going into this issue was how Ogilvy transformed from a run of the mill human to a big blue metahuman bruiser. I originally thought that his transformation was going to be a by prodcut of Penguin's plan for revenge. You know, it could have run the typical, “Let's kill him by dunking him in a vat of experimental characters. Oh no! He's transforming!” That scenario has been done countless times, so I was hoping it would not be the case here. Alternatively, it seemed like a possibility that Ogilvy might have always been a metahuman, and he might have kept it a secret in order to appear as a non-threat, but if that were the case, the Ogilvy would have had a secret advantage the whole time he made his play for Gotham, so it would have made his success slightly less impressive.

Thankfully, the real scenario turned out to fit neither of these templates. Rather than his mutation being something that happened to Ogilvy, Ogilvy was the driving force behind these mutations. Many of the pieces that had been left dangling throughout the story were all tied up in Ogilvy's transformation for he was secretly trying to test out various chemical enhancers over these past six issues. His final form was caused from a mix of Man-Bat formula, venom and some plant mutation by Poison Ivy. I know for certain that Poison Ivy and the Man-Bat formula were shown in the comics, and I believe Ogilvy also hit STAR Labs in a past issue which is where he stole the venom, so it was rather nice that the clues were laid out before us the entire time. By transforming himself, Ogilvy just solidifies himself as a self-determined and fearsome villain willing to do whatever it take to hold on to power.

Art Astounding

As always, the art by Jason Fabok (former penciler for Aspen MLT's Michael Turner's Soulfire, Superman/Batman, and The Dark Knight cover artist for Batwing and current penciler of Detective Comics) and Jeromy Cox (former colorist of Catwoman and Vertigo's DMZ and current colorist of Detective Comics and Justice League Dark) holds up as some of the best in the business. It's a shame that so much of this issue took place in the rain because it obscures the gorgeous visuals provided by these two. There was not a single panel in the issue which pulled me out of the story for a second because of questionable or confusing artwork, and as I've mentioned previously, the vibrancy of Cox's colors never cease to impress. Batman uses some acid and electrical weapons in this issue, and the colors used to convey these are beautiful. It's also nice how bright objects have an aura about them. With the second to last panel of the main story, a glowing object is just off panel, yet you can see the aura of the glow seep into the image from the source just off panel. It's a nice attention to detail.

Empire of the Son

The backup feature shows us a bit about Ogilvy's past. Like Bruce, Ogilvy's parents were murdered right in front of him as they were exiting a movie theater, but unlike Bruce's family, the Ogilvys were not watching The Mark of Zorro. I found it interesting that Ogilvy was instead watching Goodfellas and Death Wish. Goodfellas is a classic mob movie about working your way up the ranks while Death Wish is about a guy who became a lethal vigilante after his wife was murdered. If you watch a movie about a traditional hero right before your parents are murdered, you become a traditional hero. If you watch movies about the mob and vengeance right before your parents are killed, you become a vengeful mobster. That's good to know.

I think Death Wish coupled with the fact that young Ogilvy would not describe the murderer to the police was meant to imply that Ogilvy planned to take care of the murderer himself.

Bat Droppings

1. As I predicted, Emperor Penguin's pride proved his undoing.

2. Is this the first time we have seen the Tumbler in continuity actually being called the Tumbler?

3. The dialogue felt a tad clunky at times. It was not bad, but a few moments, such as Penguin's conversation with Bruce, felt a bit off.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

4. Villains often do the whole, “Hello, Governor. Give me all your power. Thanks. Bye.” Does this ever work? I do not think a politician would ever give up his power.

5. Any guesses who the chick is at the end? I've got no clue except that her armor looks vaguely Amazonian. Also, could we create new female characters who actually wear decent clothes? Who wears a pink sports bra into battle?

6. I enjoyed Ogilvy's backstory though the similarities to Bruce's parents murder were a bit much. Still, I like the justification for Ogilvy's actions. I also liked how he changed his name to Emperor Blackgate. For one thing, it sound better. For another, I think for Ogilvy, the only thing that matters is being at the top of the food chain no matter where he happens to be.

Conclusion 9/10

It's a fun issue. If you've enjoyed Layman's run thus far, you are sure to enjoy this issue. All Bat fans should pick it up.

More Recent Reviews:

Detective Comics #20

Worlds' Finest #12

Batwing #20

Legends of the Dark Knight #45 - #47

Li'l Gotham #9

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