Thursday, November 6, 2014

Detective Comics by John Layman Vol. 3: Emperor Penguin

Five weeks ago, I had the displeasure of suffering through a great deal of mild migraines while I was reading the first twelve issues for Detective Comics which were then written and illustrated by Tony S. Daniel. The bitter aftertaste of the two collected editions for those stories had lingered too long than I would've allowed, so I was very eager to wash off my Bat-palette for this title which was thankfully and mercifully cleansed by John Layman who has replaced Daniel as the current writer for the series. This collected volume is composed of issues #13-18 and revolved around the Emperor Penguin story arc and included the Death of the Family tie-ins.

This was a decent collection which focused on Ignaius Oglivy, Penguin's right-hand man who had ambitions of power of his own and therefore seized the throne from Cobblepot for himself on a timely manner. He proved himself just as cunning and opportunistic, even more so than his former master. It was a really interesting tale, though I felt that this collection was ultimately incomplete. For one, it was missing issue #20 which was the finale for the Emperor Penguin arc to begin with so it seemed downright wasteful not to have that here. Second, I was surprised that we did not get the Man-Bats story The 900 at least since said epidemic was part of Ignatius Oglivy's scheme. 

Nevertheless, the issues that were included are some of the most enjoyable stories that featured Batman being an awesome sleuth who does investigate and solve crimes through logic and reasoning as oppose to beating the shit out of criminals until he gets answers. The foremost thing that I could praise for John Layman's work for his run so far is that he's able to keep things simple yet they are all layered enough to guarantee a compelling adventure for readers. As a series devoted to Batman's side adventures (considering Snyder's Batman is a more major title compared to this one), the narrative framework of each of Layman's story could have been unfocused or even grossly disproportionate (which was exactly the problem with his predecessor's writing).

However, Layman was more than able to come up with something cohesive and loads of entertaining for his major arc on Emperor Penguin while still contributing something meaningful to the major events that are happening on other titles such as Damian Wayne's death and the Joker's Return. Artists Jason Fabok brings so much life and energy to his illustrations, giving Gotham landscapes an electrifying vibe that can be sinister and light-hearted in some places. Andy Clarke, who drew the backup stories for every issue, knows how to put great detail in his characters' facial expressions. These backup issues are probably my most favorite part of Layman's run because they were supplemental material that have enough substance and teeth to their narrative and characterization and were even able to enhance the reading experience for me. I just LOVE how John Layman reinvented this title after the colossal mess that it was from before (which felt like ages ago). Everything felt fresh and exciting page after page and you could definitely get the sense that Layman and co. always prioritize that their readers will have a good time by the end of the day after reading their work. This would have gotten a perfect rating if only they included issue #20 and The 900 because those were important pieces for me; the former ended the story arc (and began a possible plot thread for the next issues) while the latter was an amazing standalone story in its own right. Overall, this was a pretty slick accomplishment and a start of something daring!


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