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The Penguin #1
DC Comics

Comic Books

‘The Penguin’ #1 review: Who is The Penguin?

Tom King and the creative team ask us who is the Penguin really in the all new series from DC Comics.

The Riddler is the smart one. Two-Face is the just one. Poison Ivy is the passionate one. Mr. Freeze is the cold one. Scarecrow is the scared one. Ra’s Al Ghul is the militant one. So, who is the Penguin? That’s the million-dollar question at the heart of the new series from DC Comics. Writer Tom King sets up an intriguing mystery asking the reader how much they know about Oswald Cobblepot in a terrific first issue.

Oswald’s life looks a little different at the start of the new series. After his children usurped his power and he faked his death, Oswald is living a quiet life in Metropolis with a loving wife, far away from the dark underworld of Gotham he once ruled over. And by all accounts, it isn’t a front. The Penguin seems truly happy in his new life until someone begins to pull him back in.

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The Penguin #1

DC Comics

From Rorschach to Strange Adventures, it’s clear that writer King loves a mystery with rich, layered characters. So, it should be no surprise that The Penguin kicks off its opening issue with two pages that make ask all six of the “W”s: Who? What? Where? When? Why? And What the F*%k? By page three, Readers will likely have already invested in journeying along with the story to make sense of what happened.

Luckily, the remaining 30 pages don’t slow down. King works his magic not by putting us inside the head of our mysterious protagonist, but in everyone else’s heads. We get to hear the internal dialogue of his tailor, a law enforcement officer, his wife, and a customer, and more as they share the version of Oswald they see—sometimes terrifying, sometimes kind. King’s choice of style not only builds the mystery around who Oswald is, but also builds the stature of his character. By the end of the first chapter, it’s clear that this isn’t the Penguin we are familiar with.

Right alongside King, the art of Rafael de Latorre stands out on every page. With slight subtleties, De Latorre creates versions of Oswald that can seem menacing, kind, quiet, and sometimes even sweet without losing the character’s essence. The layouts are clear, and the art creates a nice flow bringing the readers along through the story.

The Penguin #1

DC Comics

Thanks to the stunning coloring of Marcelo Maiolo, the artwork reaches another level of visual appeal. Whether it’s the dulled-out grays of a police station or the warm golden sunlight of a metropolis morning, Maiolo brings each scene to life with the perfect energy and color. He also treats us to an explosive final few pages that remind us of how dangerous the Penguin can be.

The whole team, including letterer Clayton Cowles – who gets a few opportunities to have fun with the character’s particular fondness for “good words” – is firing on all cylinders. Some readers may find it a bit dialogue heavy; however, it is very much in line with King’s other work, where each word feels precisely picked.

The Penguin #1 is an excellent start to a new series. The setup is strong, the writing choices are fun and engaging, the characters are interesting, the art is terrific, and the colors elevate the scenes. The idea that a book about a villain who can be pretty campy could turn out this good shouldn’t be so much of a shock as a welcome surprise. The Penguin tells readers how much they don’t know about the protagonist but invites them on the ride to find out.

The Penguin #1
‘The Penguin’ #1 review: Who is The Penguin?
The Penguin #1
The Penguin #1 brings the villain into the spotlight in an engaging, creative, beautiful opening issue of what is sure to be an exciting crime thriller.
Reader Rating1 Votes
King builds up the Penguin character with great uses the supporting characters
The artwork is terrific, creating a visually menacing lead out of an aging Oswald
The opening two pages set up a very interesting storyline
Maiolo's color bring a cinematic quality of lighting to each scene
While it is very much King's style, some readers might find it a bit dialogue heavy
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