Saturday, May 13, 2017
Detective Comics: Emperor Penguin (comics)
Artists: Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke
Collects: Detective Comics (2011) #13-18
Chew made me a fan of John Layman, so I was interested when I heard he would be taking over the New 52 volume of Detective Comics after Tony Daniel left. The two volumes of the book prior to this had been middling at worst and merely okay at best, leaving a book that didn't have much to offer and hadn't even managed to distinguish itself yet. Unfortunately, the third volume doesn't get the chance either, so we're stuck waiting to see if volume four can pull it out.
Part of the problem is that the first couple of years of Batman in the New 52 were dominated by what Scott Snyder was doing in the flagship book. I don't necessarily mean that in terms of status quo changes, which is fine, but in tie-ins. It seems like every story Batman did through Zero Year saw the line saddled with tie-ins. With some, it was fine. The Night of the Owls tie-ins were a single issue. At worst, it was a brief break between story arcs. Death of the Family, meanwhile, ends up involving itself in several issues, leaving the writer to have to do something related.
It's worked in about as well as you could expect. The main story of the volume, involving a Penguin henchman getting froggy and seizing his empire, takes a backseat for a couple of issues, allowing that to gestate in the background while Joker copycat gangs make some noise in Gotham. The henchman only has the chance to begin with because Joker scares the piss out of Penguin and forces him to assist the clowns latest scheme. I'm not averse to that. It's Gotham. There's going to be overlap sometimes.
The thing I take issue with is that it's not exactly explained enough. Penguin just exits the book for a couple issues a third of the way through, handing everything off to the henchman to look after until he returns. We don't know what Joker asked of him or why he has to hang in Arkham for a bit, just that, judging by the way he's pissing himself after meeting with Joker, he doesn't exactly have much choice. The worst kind of tie-in is the one that interrupts another story, but doesn't explain or give context to the elements that bleed in. It's one thing to work in a tie-in to your story. It might even be the best way. But almost expecting that you've read the other is off-putting. I expect at least enough distance and explanation so I can read it on its own without wondering what was so important a character suddenly blew dodge, allowing the crux of the story to even happen.
Otherwise, it's a perfectly fine comic. Not quite the immediate knockout I'd thought or hoped, but we seem to be playing the long game here anyway. The Emperor Penguin story has only just kicked into gear by the end of the volume, so we'll see where it goes. I do hope something a bit more exciting happens going forward, though. Much of this volume is either playing set-up or involves a lengthy tie-in. It looks nice, though, thanks to the presence of Jason Fabok on art.
If nothing else, Emperor Penguin is better than the preceding volumes and may lead to better things, so we'll see how it shakes out. For now, I'd say it's worth a look if you can find it in the library.
My Opinion: Try It