Forever Evil Event: Batman 23.3 (Penguin)
Special “Villains Month” Title: Penguin 1
Frank Tieri, Christian Duce
Forever Evil Crossover
Spoiler alert! You have been warned!
This week, DC Comics gave us something special. Not only is this issue the third week’s crown jewel of Villains Month, it is quite possibly one of the best solo Penguin stories ever told. That’s right. The Batman tie-in (more of a Detective Comics recovery/epilogue, really) to Villains Month and Forever Evil defined what I love about the Batman rogues gallery in a dark and very simplistic way: Every villain, no matter how ridiculous or gimmicky, can be taken serious if he or she acts in such a way that demands respect. And, of course, most of the villains of the DC Universe do so by manipulating others and causing panic and fear. Oswald Cobblepot does so without the misfortune of being insane. He knows exactly what he is doing, he knows it’s wrong, and he simply does not care. Or worse, he feels justified in his actions. And writer Frank Tieri and artist Christian Duce did a superb job making sure we all knew this.
The issue takes place after the embarrassing events of recent issues of Detective Comics, in which the Emperor Penguin came into town, took over Cobblepot’s name, identity, gang, and business, and then was embarrassingly defeated (quite easily) after a very short tenure as Gotham’s top gangster. That story was, to be completely honest, crap. This story, on the other hand, not only makes that story forgivable, but also is braze enough to mention it and acknowledge that the people of Gotham are no longer afraid of the Penguin because of it. One unlucky group of gangsters challenge him in public, which costs them their lives. And another, the current Governor and former childhood friend of Oswald’s, does so over dinner. Then the Penguin shows him just how low he’s willing to go, drugging him, injecting him with venom, and recording him as he murders his assistant in a skeezy motel. But it’s the final pages that deliver the gut punch, which Tieri is famous for always including in his villain tales, whether they be at Marvel or DC. When the Governor takes his own life at a press conference as the Penguin looks through an old yearbook that has become a sort of hit list over the years, he orders that the largest humanly possible flower arrangement be delivered to his funeral. And you know he’ll want everyone to know who sent it.
This final act, paired next to the narration from Oswald himself, is nothing short of a stroke of genius. The Penguin, to me, has always been a favorite character. And even though his appearance is ridiculous and most of his past tales have been “filler” issues, I’ve always thought he could be more. Should be more. And now he is. Marvel and DC both have their fair share of great heroes, but DC has always blown Marvel out of the water with their villains. I’ve always found myself drawn to a few Marvel bad guys over the years, though. But now, thankfully, I can cross the Kingpin off that list. Frank Tieri just made the Penguin the new Kingpin. And I can’t wait to see what he does next. So go show your support. And pay the extra dollar for the awesome cover. It’s worth it.
My Rating: 5/5