Warning: this article contains spoilers.
There is no honor among thieves. If “Detective Comics #18” teaches anything, that is its lesson. Don’t give anyone full control of your criminal empire, or they’ll fly the coop with your money and a pound of flesh if they feel like it, too. The Penguin has had his good days and bad days. With the Batman around, there are usually more of the bad days. This time Penguin’s got it much, much worse. Not only is an angry and grieving Batman on his tail feathers, Oswald’s partner has taken all Penguin’s assets for himself! You just can’t trust anyone nowadays, especially when you’re a rich crime boss with a penchant for umbrellas. Somebody’s bound to stab you in the back.
Jason Fabok’s art is a major plus. The scenes are carefully approached and extremely detailed. The faces are expressive and the bodies seem natural, even Penguin’s obese bulk. I was especially impressed by Victor Zsasz. The tally marks on his body all had red tinges of blood, making it look as if they were all fresh, creating a disturbing but effective picture of Zsasz’s mental instability.
As for writing, John Layman focuses mostly on Penguin’s story and a little on Batman’s hunt for him. Penguin’s not a very forgiving character, and Layman shows that to us. But it’s not just Penguin who is unforgiving; he seems to have taught his protégé a little too well. Mr. Ignatius Ogilvy, aka the Emperor Penguin, is one step ahead of poor Cobblepot. He’s left him penniless and defenseless while serial murderer Victor Zsasz is on the loose and actively adding to his already horrific body count.
Though it is rather enjoyable to see the events from the villain’s perspective now and then, we all know Batman’s emotional state at this point, and we all want to see that played out. I’m guessing that just about everyone has either read “Batman Inc. #8” or seen the massive spoilers. Damian Wayne is dead and gone, and Batman has lost his only blood-related son. In light of this, and the fact that this is the first Bat-book to come out since then, one might expect some serious grieving on Bruce’s part, spreading to affect the rest of the story. But that’s not really what we get. There is only a touching scene of Bruce at Damian’s grave, a single rose on the ground, and a lone tear tracing its way down Bruce’s face. It is quietly sad rather than overwhelmingly emotional.
Despite how touching that scene was, there wasn’t quite enough of it. Bruce’s son is dead, it makes sense for the grieving to be played out or focused on a little more. But no, the main story is Penguin, not Bruce. Instead of having a major effect on Batman’s actions throughout the story, the tragedy seems to be just a sad knowledge in the back of his mind, almost as if he was resigned to it already.
As a whole, #18 was an exciting and intriguing look at Penguin’s current problems, but slightly lacking in the expected grieving for Damian. Perhaps other series plan to highlight that more, but Layman didn’t seem to pay much attention to the harsh effects of Damian’s death.