The Penguin #1 review

One week after the release of the horrible The Penguin #0, issue one is on the shelves. Now that the series proper is underway, Tom King and Rafael De Latorre have taken the reins and the plot jumps off from the previously established status quo, in a new direction. Let’s see if the new team can save this book from its poor setup!

So… yeah. I was into this issue. I can’t say I’m entirely surprised because King has been on a roll recently with his miniseries but I’m always wary of his work on Batman-related projects. For some reason, the Caped Crusader seems to bring out a lot of his worst traits as a writer. Regardless, I didn’t have those problems here.

Now, to be clear, I don’t think this was a perfect issue and I’ll get to my few complaints later but first I need to talk about what impressed me here. Most importantly, the character’s voices. This story is told partially through the internal monologue of several different people Penguin interacts with throughout the story. Besides the fact that I found the juxtaposition of their different views on Penguin very effective, they all had fairly unique voices. This is important to me because I’ve always found one of King’s principal flaws as a writer was giving everyone the same voice. When you can interchange the dialogue of all the characters, they become flat and the emotion is lost, regardless of how impactful their sentiments are. I’m exceedingly pleased to see King growing as a writer and fixing flaws in his craft.

That said, there is one negative to his scripting that pops up a lot in this issue. The swearing. King loves to make characters curse. Constantly. It actually becomes a major personality trait of one character who used to swear but has stopped. Her whole spiel on her history of cussing was actually pretty interesting and went a long way to humanizing the character, but that’s beside the point. It isn’t the swearing that bothers me (though I do think it gets annoying when it’s overused, as King is wont to do), it’s the censorship. Censored cursing is a huge pet peeve of mine. I figure, if you have to censor it just don’t put it in the script, or on the other hand, if DC is going to allow it to be in the comic censored, why not just allow it in uncensored? It actually draws more attention to the words when they are obscured. I always end up spending extra time trying to figure out which word is supposed to be used in context (a huge pain when the number of letters doesn’t match the number of symbols or when it doesn’t make sense no matter which word you try to use). Either leave them out or give the book a mature rating and put them in. These half-measures suck.

I have no idea what the second censored word is.

So censored swearing aside, the scripting was solid and so was the plotting. This comic has me very interested in what is coming and I was not expecting that. I didn’t understand why DC was publishing a Penguin comic, to begin with. Just let the villains be villains, I say. But as long as this series isn’t dragged out too long, I think it could definitely prove it’s worth. The narrative grabbed my attention and built a lot of goodwill with a slow-paced exploration of Penguin’s new life and took the time to build up some side characters before delivering some solid payoff in the end. This story is actually satisfying even though it is also a setup for an ongoing series and I appreciate that.

I will say this issue includes a character that I wish it didn’t, simply because I’m tired of them appearing everywhere and “pulling the strings” but it does make sense enough for the story. My only other possible complaint would be a scene where a character recounts the origin of the term “rule of thumb.” His story is completely apocryphal but fairly widely believed, as the real origin of the phrase is far more mundane. I question whether or not King was aware of the real history behind the phrase. Did he decide to use the false version on purpose because it would make sense for the character to be wrong or did he use the false version thinking it was true and would fit the character because of that? The supposed origin of the phrase is far-fetched enough that I immediately looked it up to see if it was true but I’m not sure what King’s intention was and I think it took me out of the story more than it benefited the narrative as a result. These are small flaws though. All in all, I’m impressed that a comic starring the Penguin could engage me so well.

On the art front, I’ve only good things to say. De Latorre turned in some fantastic work here. I’ll admit I was disappointed to find that Stephano Gaudiano had inexplicably left the book with only one cover as proof that he was ever attached. I’d have loved to get more of his art, which would have been a great fit for this series but De Latorre’s style is somewhat similar and he fits in just as well. There’s a grit to his work that is sadly lacking among most of DC’s recent ultra-slick crop of action-oriented artists. Perhaps more importantly, his work was sequentially strong to the point that I got lost in the story and barely registered it as a series of stills. If an artist can make you involuntarily fill in the frames between what they’ve drawn, you know they’re doing something right.

Probably my favorite panel from the comic. Beautiful linework and coloring.

Recommended if…

  • You’re a Tom King fan
  • You’d like to read something a little more sincere and gritty than most of DC’s recent publications
  • The Penguin is your favorite Batman villain (even if he’s visually unrecognizable here)


This comic handily surpassed my expectations and despite not always being perfect I think it’s well worth giving a chance and will likely only get better as it develops. The art is equally strong and as I guessed last week, you absolutely don’t need to read The Penguin #0 to understand this comic. Hopefully, you skipped that one and saved your money last month, because this month, I recommend spending it on The Penguin #1.

Score: 8/10

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