DETECTIVE COMICS #20 Author: Bobby Barrett
May 5, 2013
SYNOPSIS: The superhuman transformation of Ignatius Ogilvy is just the tip of the iceberg when an extremely unexpected character comes to The Penguin’s aid! And in the backup story, Emperor Penguin makes a trip to Blackgate Prison he won’t soon forget!
Detective Comics #20 marks the end of "Emperor Penguin" – the debut story arc from John Layman (story), Jason Fabok (pencils), and Andy Clarke (backup pencils). Batman has dug up enough on Ignatius Ogilvy (aka Emperor Penguin) to storm his home in a grand, dramatic fashion and bring him in to the authorities. He may have underestimated this foe, however, as this turns out to be one bird who has spent his life being prepared to fight to stay on to – -and he has a few advantages up his sleeve that The Dark Knight might not have counted on.
Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot (aka The Penguin) has been released from prison and is determined to take the empire usurped from Ogilvy, his former henchman. This leads to Batman and The Penguin becoming uneasy allies temporarily, as they both want to see their common enemy brought down. There are some good Cobblepot moments in this issue, as he takes some surprisingly heroic actions—once when it could easily be dismissed as working in his own best interest…but yet another later on, in a way that almost comes across as an attempt at a clear conscience. Definitely not believing Oswald has turned over a new leaf, but it's nice to see that there is a person under all that greed and power-lust.
In the backup story, we get one of our first good looks inside Blackgate Prison of the New 52, and get a taste of how the wheels get greased there. It's an interesting bit with some definite seeds for future stories.
This issue has some pretty cool things going for it – the biggest being a direct reference to and appearance of a Bat vehicle from the live action films that should please many a fan. Also enjoyable is how Layman manages to get inside Bruce's head in the narrative to show the reader how he operates. Not the soul-bearing stuff that Scott Snyder does over in "Batman", but procedural stuff that lives up to the reputation of the "Detective" title. Whether the Caped Crusader is searching for clues or strategizing on how to win a battle he's just found himself in, the thought process Layman gives us is realistic and entertaining.
Though the story has been enjoyable, the end is a bit anticlimactic. The saga of "Emperor Penguin" has been building up since issue #13 of this series, but it just feels like not enough has happened to make the story feel important in the scheme of things. To be fair, Layman has admitted to being largely unaware of the curveballs that were being readied for him as he began working on this title – one high-profile crossover, one major "death in the family," and one faux-900th issue later, the writer has finally been able to close out the initial story he started with. Perhaps editorial mandate worked against the writer's original intentions for this story, spreading it out to a more epic length that didn't quite match the content it delivered.
Still, this team has shown enough potential to keep Detective a book to keep an eye on. Hopefully as they are able to spread their wings a little more (not a crossover in sight, thankfully), they will really be able to hit their stride and Detective will reclaim its rightful status as a "can't miss" Batman comic. - Bobby Barrett