Things have not gotten easier for Bruce Wayne lately. After being left at the altar by Selina Kyle he witnessed his closest ally and little brother-figure, Dick Grayson, get show in the head right in front of him. These events along with several other recent experiences has taken their toll on Bruce Wayne. We saw first hand what kind of toll it took on him as his recent clash with KGBeast resulted in Batman making a questionable decision in the end. That decision created a lot of questions as to where Tom King plans to take the Batman franchise moving forward. Let’s see if we discover some answers in Batman #58.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Penguin’s men apologize for allowing a woman that was close to Penguin be killed earlier that morning. All Penguin tells his men to do is get his gear for him.
Sometime later Penguin is fighting Batman. Batman is able to evade Penguin’s flamethrower umbrella and knock Penguin out with a punch.
Penguin is taken to Arkham Asylum where he is stripped down and gets his head shaved due to a recent lice outbreak.
As Penguin sits alone his prison cell door opens. Penguin walks out of his prison cell and to another larger cell. There Penguin meets with Bane and Flashpoint Batman. Penguin apologizes to Bane for receiving his message late.
Sometime later Penguin’s men throw a party for Penguin after he is released from Arkham Asylum. His crew tell Penguin they didn’t want to hold the funeral for the woman killed without Penguin, even though her parents protested that they don’t know where their daughter is.
Penguin goes to where her casket is and tells his gang he wants to hold a funeral alone.
A little later Penguin is alone in front of the graves for himself and his previously unknown wife, Penny Cobblepot. Penguin talks about how no one understood Penny and treated her as if she was less than a human. He then sadly throws dirt on her grave
Penguin then goes to meet with his gang. Rather than talking about the funeral he tells them that Bane is disappointed by how the Freeze situation turned out but is putting partial blame on Bruce Wayne helping Batman. Penguin reveals that if they fail their next assignment they will bare the brunt of Bane’s punishment. He goes on to say their target is Bruce Wayne’s servant, Alfred Pennyworth.
In the Batcave Alfred cleans up the giant tyrannosaurus rex as it still had Zoom’s blood on its teeth. Bruce sees this and Alfred apologizes for not doing it sooner but Bruce says there is no need to apologize. Bruce then puts on his cowl and heads out in the Batmobile as there has been another murder similar to to those that occurred in the Freeze case.
On top of the GCPD headquarters Commissioner Gordon asks Batman how Nightwing is doing. Batman avoids the subject by showing increase anger when Gordon brings up the topic. Gordon changes the subject by revealing that they found a feather at the recent murder scene.
In the Batcave as the alarm goes off Batman contacts Alfred and tells him he has a lead on the new case and he has to follow it even with the current storm.
At the Iceberg Lounge Batman effortlessly takes out all of Penguin’s gang.
Back at the Wayne Mansion Alfred finds a bird on the floor. When he goes to pick it up he notices a helicopter nearby and a sniper setting a red dot on his head.
Back at the Iceberg Lounge Batman finds Penguin in his office. Penguin’s sniper tell him that he has Alfred in his sights as Batman overhears this. Penguin tells the sniper and pilot to kill themselves. They immediately do as ordered.
Penguin then asks Batman to sit down to discuss something. End of issue.
The Good: With everything that has happened Tom King decided to take the spotlight off Batman and give it to Penguin. This was a risky move since Penguin, while well known, is a character that has shifted into a secondary villain role, at best, in recent years. But that risked paid off with Batman #58 showing how to properly build an intriguing story around a villain.
As a character it is tough to say Penguin has been underutilized. Penguin has had a consistent presence in the Bat-Family titles. But unlike villains, such as Joker or Two-Face, Penguin has not enjoyed the same type of prominence as other members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery. Even when he is a focal point for a story arc Penguin has been portrayed as more of a filler villain. That is no fault to the character or Batman Family writers. It’s just position Penguin has not been able to escape.
Batman #58 does not necessarily move the needle in making Penguin move from his secondary villain role. What this issue does is give some much needed depth and heart to Penguin’s character. The exploration that we get as Tom King peels back the layers of Penguin’s character is a great first step into slowly expanding the characters role within the Batman Family Universe. Its that added depth that makes Batman #58 quickly become a standout issue in King’s run that is filled with memorable issues.
King accomplishes this by efficiently writing the dialogue for all of Penguin’s scenes. There is never a point that it felt like scenes were drawn out due to a bunch of unnecessary dialogue. Everything that is said by Penguin or those he is talking to add context to everything that is going on.
That context created greater stakes by the fact that Penguin is working for Bane, something King establishes immediately in Batman #58. The fact that Penguin is working for, rather than working with, Bane is an important piece to the puzzle that is Penguin. By not being in control of his situate we saw what Bane will do to his allies and recruits if they fail him through the consequences that Penguin is forced to face.
That major consequence made the killing of Penguin’s previously unknown wife have a greater impact than it would have. Because this sudden introduction of an unseen wife, Penny Cobblepot, could’ve easily been an eye rolling revelation. Without ever seeing Penguin relationship with Penny develop on screen this by all past experiences with similar character reveals should’ve not worked.
But the fact is this revelation did work. All the credit goes to how King weaves in Penny’s death with the greater story he is crafting around Bane breaking Batman’s mind, body and soul from the shadows. Having that tie-in instantly elevates the pain Penguin suffers as he and Penny come off as innocent bystanders in a war neither wanted to be involved with. This created greater sympathy for what Penguin said about his now deceased wife during her private funeral.
Having gone through this gave Penguin understandable motivation for why he would go through Bane’s plot to cause Batman more pain. King took an interesting turn by making it seem as though Penguin went rogue once again as he did not order his sniper to kill Alfred, even though he could have. The way it was written there is enough ambiguity to how the ending went down that we don’t know if this is Penguin going against his mission or if it is all part of Bane’s greater plan.
Speaking of Bane, King did a great job letting the villain’s presence be more than enough to show how menacing he is. There is no need for Bane to be given a bunch of dialogue at this point. What Bane has others do for him speaks to how big of a presence he has over Batman and his family. Also, by keeping us in the dark of everything Bane is doing creates greater anticipation for when he does physically get involved with finishing Batman once and for all.
The appearance of Flashpoint Batman next to Bane was also an intriguing visual. What exactly Flashpoint Batman is doing with Bane is one of the biggest questions around King’s run. There has been zero hint if this Flashpoint Batman is Thomas Wayne or someone using the same costume. Discovering that answer and what role Flashpoint Batman has in all of this is something I hope we find out soon.
Though he isn’t the star of Batman #58 there is enough of Bruce Wayne in this issue that we see where he is mentally. Seeing Bruce, as Batman, shut down Commissioner Gordon whenever he brought up Nightwing’s status after being shot in the head showed how he is shutting himself off. He does not want to talk about anything and wants to just stay distracted with whatever case or mission he has in front of him. That shows that there is this great pain that Bruce is suppressing. This suppression of emotion works well into Bane’s plot while giving King the opportunity to explore Bruce’s relationship with others in his current mental state.
What made this even more interesting is that King is continuing to develop the murder case that got Mr. Freeze falsely accused for. One thing we learn that Batman is still in the dark about is that Bane was somehow responsible for the original clues pointing to Mr. Freeze. This seems to indicate that Bane was trying to take out Mr. Freeze from the situation. If that is the case than we may see Mr. Freeze become an ally for Batman, which would be an interesting change of pace if that happens. Whatever the case may be it was fun to see how King continues to craft his long-term storyline by having each story arc build on top of each other.
Alfred’s role in Batman #58 was interesting as well. Though Alfred does not have a lot to do you do feel for how he seems to feel like he isn’t able to properly help Bruce through recent events. Alfred appears to be just as lost in what the right thing to be doing right now, which creates an interesting dynamic to see King explore in future issues.
Mikel Janin’s artwork throughout Batman #58 is just excellent. The way he has characters emote in a way that matches all of the dialogue was perfect. Janin got over how Penguin was doing his best to hold his emotions inside. Through just the way he positioned Penguin’s stance and emotions on his face it showed all the pain he was going through. At the same time, he nailed how big moments like Penguin’s meeting with Bane and Batman finding Penguin to close the issue are.
The Bad: The one thing that keeps Batman #58 from being perfect was the decision to kill off a previously unknown character. Even though King does a great job giving context to the importance of Penny Cobblepot’s death it does not feel as big of a character event for Penguin as it should have. The fact is we do not know anything about Penny’s personality or backstory. All we know is what Penguin told us. That is not the way to build an emotional connection to a character, especially one that was previously not seen. Without that previous connection to Penny Cobblepot all she turns out to be a plot device to push a character forward than a real person Penguin and the reader understand.
This plot device role Penny Cobblepot becomes could’ve been easily avoided by replacing her with Ethan Cobblepot. While Ethan isn’t well known he has recently appeared in Batgirl where we learn he is Penguin’s son. At least by using Ethan as the character that Bane had killed there would’ve been some form of backstory established that is directly related to Penguin by blood.
Overall: Tom King created greater interest around Penguin in one issue with Batman #58 than the character has had in recent memory. In doing so he further developed the major story involving Batman and Bane’s rivalry. These elements came together extremely well to make Batman #58 another strong chapter in the long-term narrative King is crafting in his run on this series.