When The Penguin #1 came out two months ago my attitude on this series shifted from one of skepticism to legitimist interest. It seemed at the time that there was the potential for this to be a character-driven story that not only humanized Penguin but introduced a supporting cast that was equally compelling. Then issue two released. I did still enjoy that issue but it was disappointing when it came to most of the things I was hoping it would deliver on. Issue three, then, really needed to get me back on board. Did it? Well…
No. It didn’t. This issue sees Penguin recruiting the former members of the Force of July, a fairly obscure superhero team best known for their antagonistic relationship with the Outsiders, to be his new “goons.” (Because his old ones betrayed him during the Gotham War, you see. Never mind the fact they think he’s dead.) My complaints this month? Boredom and poor dialogue.
Maybe it’s just a personal hangup but I don’t like recruitment sequences. Be it in movies or comics, that inevitable segment, when a team has to be put together always feels like a waste of time to me. Do I need to see the hero (or in this case villain) go through the repetitive motion of asking five people to join their cause? (Hint: no, not really) Many movies make it a montage with music playing over the sequence but that doesn’t make it any better. As far as I’m concerned, it’s generally a waste of time because it’s so entirely predictable and doesn’t add anything to the work that can’t be included in some other way. I understand the purpose is to introduce the audience to a set of new characters in a non-confusing manner. There is the opportunity to connect names and faces but also to make each introduction a moment of characterization, giving us an idea of what the character is all about. However, good writing should continue to characterize these people throughout the narrative so it isn’t strictly necessary to open with characterization and I think if the writer trusts the audience, it can be assumed they’ll figure out who is who. So, clearly, it’s a technique I can do without, but in this case, it’s the whole issue. There is nothing here but a recruitment montage that’s 22 pages long. It looks even worse when you contextualize it with the previous two issues. Issue one is about someone recruiting Penguin and issue two is about Penguin recruiting the Help. I’m beyond tired of this and based on the solicitations the next two issues are more of the same. There is no kind way of putting it, this is boring.
The dialogue and monologues in this issue aren’t helping things either. In a way, it feels like Tom King reverting to type. In the years since his uneven Batman run King’s writing has, in my opinion, significantly improved to the point that I look forward to anything new he does. Unfortunately, the writing in this issue, in particular, leans into the stilted, edgy, somewhat pretentious dialogue of his earlier work.
It’s not awful writing (excepting a painfully edgy opening scene) but it’s not very engaging and keeps me at arm’s length. All the characters feel pretty similar and when the plot already has me bored, there’s nothing to latch onto except the art.
Speaking of which, De Latorre continues to be a great choice for this comic and I don’t expect that to change. He has also remained impressively consistent in his art quality and if there’s one thing having so many characters in this issue proves, it’s that he’s also great at drawing distinct faces and body types.
As you can see above, even out of costume all the characters are very well-defined. I’d just like to see him draw a more interesting comic.
- You’re in it for the art
- The team gathering montage is your favorite part of a story
- You’re one of the three Force of July superfans out there
This is shaping up to be my least favorite project written by Tom King in a long time. With this whole first arc being a boring recruitment plot meant to build up to what I assume will be another overdramatic attack on Gotham, I’ve lost interest. With the exception of my continued enjoyment of Rafael De Latorre’s art, all the goodwill issue one of this series brought me has by now evaporated. I’ll just keep buying Wonder Woman for my King fix and hope he moves on from this project soon.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.