Review: Detective Comics #20

I’ve been meaning to check out Layman’s run on Detective Comics, but I never spotted the right issue to jump on. Then I saw this issue with the “Emperor Penguin” on the cover and thought that it was already one of the coolest concepts I’ve seen DC attempt since the reboot. Think about that, there’s the Penguin, but now there’s an Emperor Penguin… the simplicity of the concept and yet the awesomeness of the idea hooked me instantly.

I stopped reading this series around issue six, but the nice thing about a Batman title is that you’re never really lost. It was quickly recapped for me that the Penguins right hand man had orchestrated his very public downfall and had quickly taken over his empire. What was more apparent was the fact that he was calling out Batman. Not wanting to disappoint Emperor Penguin, Batman drives his Tumbler through the front gate wall of Cobblepots old house and calls out EP. Expecting a man, he’s surprised when a greyish blue giant with glowing red eyes and elf ears comes out and kicks his fucking ass! Then in one of the coolest moves, he hangs Batman from a tree with the chain he was wearing around his waist.

If this is how every John Layman Detective issue is then I’m going to be going back and grabbing them all. Not only did he make the Penguin cool, but he gave him an adversary that is better than him in practically every way. The prologue which shows EP’s backstory was also incredibly because it he has the exact same back story as Bruce, but his life circumstances guided him differently.  It was a great way to set up a future “nature vs nurture” argument between the two. The only thing I didn’t like was the back and forth timeline jumping that the story had. This was a terrific story and could have been told linear rather than giving us part of the ending and jumping around. Even with that the writing was superb.

Holy hell the art was great. This is the best looking Batman book I’ve seen since the reboot. The scene with Batman in the rain calling Ogilvy aka Emperor Penguin out, was fantastic. It captured everything Batman is with his attitude and personality. It gave me chills it was so stunning to look at. Emperor Penguins design was also jaw dropping. I don’t say this very often about male comic book characters, but he was stunningly beautiful. Not once did I really think “penguin” while looking at him, but then I also couldn’t compare him to anything else in the DC universe and that’s saying something about the uniqueness of his design.

Since the New 52, I’ve yet to read or look at a Batman title and say, “that’s my Batman” but Layman and Fabok have changed that. I gave up on this franchise the same way I gave up on Spider-Man years ago, but I’m happy that I tried this issue and found it to be everything that I know and enjoy about Batman and part of it felt like an honest reboot. What was even better was that I got the impression that Layman doesn’t have long drawn out storylines which reminded me more of how comics used to be before they became obsessed with the trade. Great job all around from the creative team and I cannot wait to see what happens next month.

Last thing, Alfred’s codename is terrible and corny. I’m not sure if I love it or hate it yet though.

Score: 5/5

Writer: John Layman

Artist: Jason Fabok

Publisher: DC Comics

Price: $3.99

Release Date: 5/1/13