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We see just about a little of everything in this one: Arkham Asylum, Wayne Manor, the Batcave, the rooftop where Batman and Gordon have their little tet-a-tets, the at-long-last reveal of the Big Bad we’ve been anticipating forever by now, and rolled into all of that, plenty of action, pathos, and nice character moments. Once again, Tom King sets up a thrilling opener in this first installment of “The Tyrant Wing” and we’re beginning to see how the pieces of what’s been going on since the wedding disaster might fit together.

But first, just a quick acknowledgement to artists Michael Janín and Francesco Mattina for another pair of absolute stunner covers. You can’t go wrong with the regular or the variant. The crows on Mattina’s cover, however tip the scale for me in favor of that one. The sense of foreboding is just irresistible.

Penguin Plasma. Yeah, sure, why not!

The Penguin is always an interesting villain for Batman: savage, calculating, and sometimes downright disgusting. He manages to stay out Arkham–usually–by dint of his wealth and the mob who follows him. King does nicely tearing Oswald Cobblepot down before building him back up in this issue. We see an almost vulnerable old man who is humbled by his incarceration and who serves the bigger and brawnier master, but also we see how he too is a powerful boss in the food chain of Gotham. He also gives him very human and almost noble motivations. Maybe in another world under other circumstances we could see his defense of Penny as heroic. In a way, The Penguin’s white hot desire for revenge echoes Batman’s own simmering rage against what’s happened to Dick Grayson.

And speaking of Nightwing, one of the best scenes in the book is yet another rooftop rendezvous with Gordon during which the GCPD Police Commissioner attempts to inquire after Nightwing’s condition and potentially offer support (or at least commiseration). Batman’s reaction demonstrates that the Dark Knight is still processing this bit of trauma and he isn’t about to let anyone in. It’s a small thing between a conversation that’s really about other plot-driving forces, but it’s a nice way for King to remind us that this is still going on in the back of Batman’s mind–without it becoming some overblown bit of histrionics. Maybe King will continue to remember that less is more. Batman currently has a nice patina of angst without it completely derailing his capacity to do the job. It’s a delicate balance, but it works–especially in a book like this, in which Batman already feels like he may have a critical chink in his armor and he’s about to undergo what may be even a bigger blow.

What are your thoughts on the final moments? Has the trigger been pulled? Will there be compounded tragedy upon tragedy for Batman going forward? Extra points to King for setting up that final encounter in a way that has a certain layered complexity. However silly it is that Bruce Wayne has been able to safeguard his alter-ego all this time, Penguin taking the war to both Wayne and Batman creates a wonderful fresh-feeling tension.

Oh Alfred, so dry, so wry!

Michael Janín takes over all the art duties (including the cover on this one), and his work has a wonderful precision and clarity throughout. The scenes inside the Batcave are amazing particularly for their depth and breadth. Sometimes the Batcave can look like an airport rather than a cave in certain renderings: all brightly lit up and stuffed full of so much equipment and computer systems, but Janín makes sure to keep the lighting subdued and, along with colorist Jordie Bellaire, fades the background in a way to make it look dark, dense, but still speleaen That’s your word of the day, folks. It means cavelike or relating to caves. It’s where we get the word spelunker from. Anyway, the point is the Batcave looks awesome.

Also awesome? Oswald Cobblepot chewing up the scenery with that Capone-esque face and that black-blind monocle. On the one hand he’s almost so ordinary. Gone are the razor sharp teeth, the sagging violet bags under his eyes, and the greasy grizzled locks. His nose is sharp as ever, but so is his top hat and tie–and it suits him. He’s somehow much more dangerous for looking so well put together.

Recommended If…

  • Batman and Alfred are your OTP.
  • You’re ready to get down and dirty with what’s moving and shaking behind the Freeze case.
  • Batman and Gordon should take a coffee break together.

Overall

“The Tyrant Wing” kicks off what may prove to be a nasty showdown between not The Penguin and Batman, but Bruce Wayne!  The fallout from Mr. Freeze’s acquittal is starting to rain down on Batman’s world in an intimate way. And with Bane calling the shots, you know he’ll want to make this a fight to the death. While it’s questionable whether any of the principal players are going to die, King nicely ratchets up the tension and throws Bruce’s most valuable assets into the direct line of fire–let’s just hope the suspense pays off!

SCORE: 8.5/10

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