The Penguin #0 review

The Penguin #0 is a collection of the three-part Catwoman backup that originally ran from Batman 125 through 127. It’s a story that is now being touted as the setup for Penguin’s ongoing title despite focusing more on its original title character, Catwoman, who is sent to find Penguin’s children and notify them of Penguin’s will reading (He’s “dead”). The most important question though: is this comic any good? Let’s see!

Well, regardless of the quality of the story being told I am immediately confronted with a few unavoidable issues. First off is the format. This comic is made up of three distinct parts but is collected as if it was one continuous narritive. Something similar happened when the Azrael story from Batman: Urban Legends was collected in one issue. It makes for a choppy reading experience and without the context of its original publishing format it’s just a little frustrating. The least they could do is leave chapter markers in the story.

The page flips from this…
…to this.

Now onto a bigger problem: Unlike the Azrael story I mentioned before this feels like a cash grab. In Azrael’s case, the creative team on the “zero” issue was the same as those featured on the upcoming miniseries and the inital story legitimately felt like it was setting up Azrael to make a return to the DC universe. Penguin’s zero issue on the other hand is written and drawn by a different team than the ongoing that is in the pipeline. This story by Chip Zdarsky is also very closely tied to the events that were happening in the main series it was a part of. Azrael was part of an expensive anthology and stood completely alone. It was appreciated that they made the story more accessible to readers. This Penguin story is actually no less essential for understanding the character’s status quo than the Batman story it was originally paired with. When you add the fact that Catwoman is the actual protagonist of this story (despite the new title they slapped on the cover), well, I don’t see why anyone planning to read The Penguin should bother with this.

It doesn’t help that the contents of the story aren’t anything spectacular. There are several ideas in this story that I dislike to the point that they kind of ruin it. First is the Penguin’s children. It’s so painfully lazy to invent and kill nine children of the Penguin in one 26-page comic (off-panel of course) just to make the plot happen. That doesn’t even count the one already existing child who is put into a vegetative state instead of dying. I assume that’s because he “matters.” Oh, and let us not forget the other two new children who don’t die and take over the Iceberg Casino. You know what, it isn’t just lazy, it’s stupid.

These guys have so little page space, we never get to know them.

Moving on from that, Zdarsky also invents another character, as if eleven new characters weren’t enough. The Executor is a robotic lawyer who works with the Underbroker (one of James Tynion’s almost forgotten creations). His reason for existing is executing the wills of criminals but he needs Catwoman’s help to find Penguin’s children because he doesn’t blend in with humans. If this comic didn’t take itself so seriously, I’d almost think all this was a joke. Why is this guy a robot? Batman isn’t a sci-fi comic. Granted, robots aren’t unheard of in the DC universe but within the Batman corner, they certainly shouldn’t be commonplace. (Yeah, don’t get me started on Failsafe.)

Belén Ortega’s art is undeniably pretty and she makes a solid Catwoman artist but the content of this comic isn’t really suited to her style. She should really be drawing lighter-hearted material or at least something a little better written. There isn’t much she can do to help this comic besides making it easy on the eyes.

Ortega certainly draws a cute Selina.

These flaws are at the center of the comic’s plot. It’s a pretty short story and if you removed these elements there would be no story. Everything would end three pages in with Catwoman being shot by the Yakuza. They’d then control the Iceberg lounge. The end. Honestly, that sounds a lot more interesting.

Recommended if…

  • You like Belén Ortega’s art


This is a very inessential comic that is mostly a cash grab. I could be wrong but I expect Tom King’s The Penguin #1 will be easily readable without this. If you already own the Batman issues this story comes from don’t buy it. If you like well-written comics, I’d recommend you skip this as well. The script isn’t terrible and the art is good but it’s just so dumb in concept that everything falls apart.

Score: 3/10

DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.